Friday, April 20, 2018

Author Interview: Christopher Bardsley: Author of Jack Was Here


Christopher Bardsley lives and works in Melbourne, Australia. He undertook his studies at the University of Melbourne, where he received a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of
Teaching. In 2012, he was the recipient of the Above Water prize for fiction. While he is primarily an author of novels, his interests also include modern and ancient history, with a particular focus on interpreting extremism. Christopher teaches literature and history at independent schools in Victoria. Jack Was Here is his first novel.


 Jack Was Here
 Hugh Fitzgerald is losing control. In the aftermath of a traumatic end to his military career, his life has disintegrated. Hugh is approaching the end of his tether when a desperate plea for help arrives from a most unexpected quarter.
Nineteen-year-old Jack Kerr, halfway through a coming-of-age trip to Thailand, has disappeared. He has left few traces, little information, and absolutely no answers. As the days turn into weeks, his parents grow increasingly frantic.
They approach Hugh with a simple request; do whatever it takes to find their son, and do whatever it takes to bring him home. It sounds easy enough. The money is right. More importantly, it’s something to do–something useful.
But as soon as Hugh touches down in Thailand, the illusion of control begins to slip through his fingers. Jack’s warm trail is easy to find, but it leads somewhere unimaginable. Finally, as he closes in, Hugh is forced to resort to increasingly desperate measures.
Jack Was Here is an intoxicating glimpse into Thailand’s underworld.
A startling debut from Christopher Bardsley.

How do you come up with your stories, characters, character names, POV, etc? 
I’m always on the hunt. Anybody spending too much time in my vicinity is likely to have their personality harvested for interesting quirks. Character names are plucked from here and there, and mashed together until they seem reasonably plausible. My imagination is a bit of a blender. To be perfectly honest, I don’t actually know where it all comes from. I don’t need to know, either, and it’s not something that I spend too much time contemplating. In terms of point-of- view, most of my work has been in the first person. That’s not a rule by any means, but I do prefer the subjective to that omnipotent third-person voice-of- god that can be so difficult to manage.

When did you begin writing?
As soon as I could, really. If the question is when I began properly focusing on writing, I would say that was around the age of nineteen or twenty. Since then, I’ve constantly had some sort of long-form project on simmer. Most of the early work is wedged safely at the bottom of a drawer, of course, but the apprenticeship in this trade is probably not something to be rushed. I’ve always been vaguely suspicious of the how-to- write industry, and I’ve never had any formal training in writing fiction. 

Do you work from an outline? 
I do work from an outline, but it’s a very nebulous one. I never know exactly how my stories will end when I begin writing them. I think it’s important to give your characters enough room to make their own decisions. The outline evolves as the novel progresses, and the plot can often veer off in wildly unexpected directions. I think the danger of having too much structure in your planning is that you can fall into the trap of designing a story around what you see as its message. Whatever meaning a work of fiction might generate is a rather private interaction between the novel and its readers. This is not something that the writer should curate too deliberately, lest the plot descend into a clunky parable. 

Tell me about your favorite scene in your novel. 
I do particularly like the scenes that revolve around the full-moon party on Koh Samui. This is perhaps the most lurid and violent section of a lurid and violent novel, and I hope the atmosphere does tribute to this fairly remarkable spectacle. Anybody who has ever had the dubious pleasure of attending one of these parties might agree that it makes for an arresting backdrop. I found it both ugly and compelling, doubly so when I made the mistake of returning to the scene of the crime in later years. 

The southern islands of Thailand have been so thoroughly ruined by the tourist industry that it is impossible not to feel a little nostalgia for what they might have been before, even if you were never there to see it for yourself. A reviewer recently (and correctly) speculated that Jack Was Here is unlikely to be endorsed by the tourist board of Thailand. I sincerely hope that the novel doesn’t read as an indictment of the country. I love Thailand, and I have spent a lot of time there over the years. Enough time, though, to get a sense of the dangers particular to the backpacker scene. Westerners have been coming to untidy ends in the tropics for centuries. There is something underneath all that white sand and neon that can send otherwise sensible people unstuck. I’ve seen it myself more than once. 
This is a fairly violent novel.

What are your thoughts on violence in fiction? 
I did have to deploy a certain amount of violence in order to realise the plot of Jack Was Here. Personally, I don’t necessarily object to violence in a work of fiction, but I do think that it has to be there for a reason. I am not interested in bloodshed and suffering as a form of entertainment in and of itself. I think that it’s irresponsible to celebrate or glamorise violence, and I can think of more than a few famous writers and directors who are guilty of this. It must serve a purpose. This novel is ridden with conflict, and killing has completely defined the life of the protagonist. Hugh is already a profoundly traumatised character at the beginning of the novel, and I would hope that readers understand that each act of violence he commits actually takes him further and further from his goal. In certain circumstances, good people are capable of perfectly dreadful acts. This is one of the great conundrums of human nature, and makes compelling subject matter for any author. 

Have you ever tried writing in any other genres? 
I wouldn’t consider myself overly bound to any genre in particular. I have a secret yen to write a sci-fi novel. This would be an undertaking to be approached carefully, though. Science Fiction is a wonderful genre, but terribly uneven. If you’re planning to create an entire universe, then your technique has to be on par with your imagination. Managing exposition is enough of a challenge in the real world. 

What advice would you offer to a young writer? 
Stubbornness is a deeply underrated quality for any writer. To paraphrase Vonnegut, talent is actually surprisingly common. What is rare is the ability to endure the life of a writer. Writing novels is not a pleasant or glamorous pursuit. It can be frustrating, lonely, and there are no guarantees in this business. Your motivation cannot depend on external validation. There will be a million opportunities to quit. Real writers push forward, treat their trade seriously, and believe in themselves. You have to keep the fire burning on your own. 


Christopher's Author Page on his agent's website: andrewlownie.co.uk/authors/christopher-bardsley
Christopher's Twitter: @chriscoburg

Friday, April 13, 2018

April Promo

This weekend only, Renée Pawlish brings us another great 99¢ eBook promo featuring over 35 fantastic mystery and thriller novels for your Kindles®. You can find the promo by clicking here.

My own novel, Common Sense, is included. It's the second novel in the Lupa Schwartz Mysteries series, and if you haven't grabbed one yet, this is a perfect opportunity. Here's the book description:

Common sense tells Cattleya Hoskin that her reporter ex-husband wouldn't have gone out night-fishing by himself in the middle of an investigation. The unaccommodating local authorities see it differently. In an effort to prove them wrong, Cattleya enlists the help of her private investigator friend, Schwartz, to follow through with Dave’s investigation—theft from the power grid in a small Ohio town.
The inquiry is complicated by crooked contractors, a menacing white van, and some long-abandoned coal mines and antebellum tunnels. Aggressively loud church bells and the amorous advances of a bounty hunter Schwartz brought in to help add to an already convoluted situation. Yet Cattleya feels she owes it to Dave to figure out what happened to him, for better or for worse.

The promo ends Sunday at midnight, but I'll be leaving my book on discount for a few extra days in case you don't see this post over the weekend.


Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Author Interview: Shaun Baines: Author of Woodcutter

  Shaun didn't always live in a damp cottage in Scotland.  He once lived in a flat that permanently smelled of pizza. He wasn't always a writer, either. He worked in a factory, a government institution, as a manager in a purchasing department and later as a gardener.
  He has had a gun levelled at him and been threatened by a man with 'Bad Joe' tattooed on his neck. He doesn't knowingly associate with criminals.
  Shaun comes from the north east of England where his novels are set. He is represented by David Haviland of the Andrew Lownie Literary Agency.
  Woodcutter is his debut novel published by Thistle Publishing. It is based on the criminal underworld of his native home, available as an ebook on Amazon. The paperback will be published 7th June 2018.
  These days, he keeps chickens and bees, grows his own fruit and vegetables and wonders where it all went so right.
  You can find him at shaunbaines.com, on Facebook as Shaun Baines Writer or Twitter as @littlehavenfarm

Woodcutter
On the run from his criminal family, Daniel Dayton returns home to Newcastle Upon Tyne when his abandoned daughter is attacked.But his family have problems of their own. Targeted by a brutal mercenary, their empire is destined to be destroyed should Daniel refuse to help.Betrayed by his parents. Despised by his brother. In love with his sister-in-law. Home has become a dangerous place to be.Daniel wants his daughter safe. And he wants his revenge, but in the shadowy streets of Newcastle, things are never what they seem.

Who are your influences?
There are a lot of writers I've admired over the years. The list is achingly long, but includes James Herbert, Jeffrey Deaver, Thomas Harris, Martina Cole, Stephen King and more. They're all very different, but they've worked hard at their craft. Whether you like them or not, that effort comes across in their writing.
The people who influence me the most aren't writers. I live in a rural community where farmers work around the clock just to keep up with the payments on their farm. My Dad had a series of grisly jobs when I was growing up, but he went in every day without complaint. When I grumble about how difficult writing can be (and I do. Bitterly.), I remember there are people out there working twice as hard for half as much.
If that doesn't squeeze another paragraph out of you, nothing will.

When did you begin writing?
I think everyone enjoyed writing stories when they were a kid, but some of us never grew up. I have a vague memory of writing a Christmas play for my parents when I was six-ish. I persuaded my sister to play an elf while I played Santa Claus returning to his Grotto from the pub. I'm not sure why Santa was drinking on Christmas Eve, but I was very judgemental about it. He certainly shouldn't have been flying his sleigh. The narrative arc started and ended there, but we received rave reviews from our parents. Forty years later, we are still hoping to tour the play at some point.

How do you come up with your stories, characters, character names, POV, etc?
I have to come clean. I am terrible at naming my characters. Conventionally, names should encapsulate the characters in some way, but I'm so eager to get the story finished, I don't stop long enough to give them much thought. Where I write, I am faced by rows of DVDs. There is a direct correlation between my character's names and actors in my favourite films.
Or names simply surface from my murky subconscious.
It wasn't until the third draft of Woodcutter that I realised I'd named the main villain after my wife's uncle, a mild mannered optician. Or the conniving matriarch figure after my best friend's wife. I changed them, of course, lest Christmas get-togethers got awkward, but name-checking has become an important part of my writing process.
I don't want to get cut out of anyone's wills.

Do you work from an outline?
One of my favourite authors John Connolly plans out his first few chapters and uses them as a springboard for the rest of the novel. If it's good enough for him, it's good enough for me and it worked a charm for the first draft of Woodcutter, but the rewrites were a massacre. Huge swathes of innocent words were cut and I was left with a story with more holes in it than a British road.
So I embraced the Post-It note and plotted things out properly. I have since adopted this as my go-to method. Maybe it's a safer option, but it's a lot easier tearing down a Post-It note than deleting whole chapters.
I admire fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writers, but for me, it's like jumping off a roof and then attempting to avoid a sticky mess at the end.

Can you tell us a little about your writing philosophy?
I approach writing as a job. There isn't enough time to wait for the Muse to show up, if it does at all. And there's nothing you write that can't be fixed later so it's about head down, words down. This works best in the first draft stage where I'm carried away with creative fervour. As I progress through my drafts, I pay less attention to word count and it becomes more about replacing quantity with quality.
For a lot of people, money is hard to come by. I owe it to readers who spend money and time on me to take that seriously. I put a lot of hours into getting something right. Readers deserve it.

Have you ever tried writing in any other genres?
I write a lot of short stories and hope to put a collection together some time. It's mainly dark fantasy with shades of folklore. I've tried writing science-fiction, but I can barely work the TV so it always falls flat. I'm way too cynical to write romance and too English for erotica. But I am passionate about commercial crime fiction. I love it. I love the darkness and the light of it, the joy of a red herring, the theatre of the denouement and the complicated characters.
My goal as a crime writer is to put my reader on a rollercoaster, warn them the brakes are faulty and press Go.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Two Sales For St Paddy's Day



It's March madness if by madness you mean free books featuring female sleuths. Anne R. Tan is hosting a book funnel giveaway with 37 titles available. Visit this link from now 'til March 31 for the details.

Meanwhile, this weekend also marks the return of Renée Pawlish's monthly promo. 38 mystery and thriller titles for 99¢ are available from Amazon for your kindle at this link.

Enjoy.


Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Author Interview: Sarah Scholefield: Author of Redferne Lane

Sarah Scholefield initially trained as molecular biologist gaining a BSc (Hons) in Biology from The University of the West of England. After realising she wasn’t cut out for life in a laboratory she worked in numerous schools across the West Country.
She has always enjoyed making up stories in her head and finally began to write them down. In 2014 she gained an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University. Redferne Lane is her first novel.
She lives in Somerset with her husband and children.

 Redferne Lane
Ezra had it all when he died. A good job. A nice house. His loving wife, Grace. 
Grace doesn’t even realise she’s struggling to keep herself together. Until Torin turns up in Redferne Lane. It’s been nearly two years since Grace has seen Torin. Since Ezra’s funeral. Now Torin is back in her life, emotions from the past are resurfacing and Grace begins to realise elements of her life are going wrong. She’s not sure she can take control. 
But Grace isn’t the only one with problems in Redferne Lane. Josie has a husband and young family to contend with. Ada is facing the difficulties of old age. Jerome thinks he’s found the perfect girl. Eliza just wants to grow up. And Torin isn’t sure he should have what he wants. They all begin to turn to Grace for answers. Can Grace look beyond her own difficulties and help those around her, even while she’s trying to save herself?

Who are your influences?
The first writer that really got me into reading was Sebastian Faulks. I read ‘Birdsong’ and was smitten. At the moment, I particularly enjoy Maggie O’Farrell, David Nichols and for literary indulgence I always go back to Jane Austen.

When did you begin writing?
I started making some primitive scratchings around 2003. I’ve been writing with intent since 2010. In 2013/14 I did an MA in Creative Writing, which really helped my writing.

How do you come up with your stories, characters, character names, POV, etc?
It all usually starts with daydreaming. Perhaps I’ll see or hear something that interests me, maybe something someone says or a picture. Then I’ll go for a wander in my head with that thing and start building a character or a situation. Characters usually come first for me and I can hear them in my head. Then I’ll start writing and play with aspects, like POV and tense and see what feels right. I’ll add some concrete facts, like personal attributes and setting. Then work out what the arc of the story is about and whether I can take that further.

Do you work from an outline?
Yes, but often it’s vague and always changes!

Tell me about your favorite scene in your novel.
My favourite scene in Redferne Lane is when Torin first comes back to see Grace, it’s quite near the beginning of the novel. It was one of the first scenes I ever wrote with Torin and I loved writing him from the moment he hit the page. In that scene I love the tension between Torin and Grace, and all the things that go unsaid.

Can you tell us a little about your writing philosophy?
I try to make sure I sit down to write every day. It’s not always possible, so I try not to give myself a hard time (unless I know I’m slacking!). If I know I can’t write for a couple of days I make sure to give my work some mental time, which is often really beneficial anyway. I don’t reread much of what I’ve written the previous day, just a paragraph or two to remind myself where I am. Only if I get really stuck with a plotline or when I’ve finished the first draft do I go back and start reading and editing.

Have you ever tried writing in any other genres?
I love reading YA fiction (although I am certainly not a YA anymore!) and I’ve been playing with writing some of my own, we’ll see where that goes in the future.

You can follow Sarah here:
Her novel ‘Redferne Lane’ is available from Amazon.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Author Interview: Max McBride: Author of Mink Eyes


Max McBride is a lawyer, novelist, playwright, and poet. He writes. He reads. He works. The bulk of his time is spent at the office.  He will never read all the books by his bed or watch all the shows saved on his DVR. Max enjoys art, design, college basketball, ballet, modern dance, and sacred music. Bob Dylan, Shakespeare, Rumi, and Yeats are just a few of the greats who have had an impact on him.  His book Mink Eyes, a novel he calls “white noir,” and Tenebrae, a collection of poetry centered around the death of his wife (but also including several snapshots of growing up Irish in America) are both available for purchase in print and digital form from Amazon, B&N, and bookstores nationwide, as well as directly from the author. McBride is also a social commentator of sorts, and his occasional observations about culture, travel, and—when he can’t hold it in any longer—politics can be found on his website: www.Max2theMax.com.

Mink Eyes 
October 1986—the tarnished heart of the “Greed Is Good” decade. Private detective Peter O’Keefe is a physically scarred and emotionally battered Vietnam vet. Hired by his childhood best friend, ace attorney Mike Harrigan, O’Keefe investigates what appears to be merely a rinky-dink mink farm Ponzi scheme in the Missouri Ozarks. Instead, O’Keefe finds himself snared in a vicious web of money laundering, cocaine smuggling, and murder—woven by a mysterious mobster known as “Mr. Canada.” Also caught in Mr. Canada’s web is the exquisite Tag Parker, who might be the girl of O’Keefe’s dreams—or his nightmares. Mink Eyes weaves murder, addiction, obsession, sex, and redemption into a fast-paced, compelling detective novel that also brings in themes of duty, fatherhood, friendship and love. Peter O’Keefe is a reluctant hero who struggles every day to choose in favor of life over death.

Who are your influences?
I am able to say who my “inspirations” or “admirations” are, but I am reluctant to call them “influences” because they all wrote so differently, and so much better, than I do.  In poetry and drama (and everything else), Shakespeare above all.  In poetry, Wordsworth and especially Yeats.  In prose, Dickens, Turgenev, Joyce, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Salinger, Donleavy, Joyce Cary, Simone Weil, Joseph Campbell, Robert Stone, E.L. Doctorow.  In detective fiction, Chandler and the MacDonalds (Ross and John D) showed me how good it could be, and Elmore Leonard showed me not only how good but how funny it could be and how ordinary people could be its heroes.   
When did you begin writing?
Since high school I have felt the strong and persistent “call” to “write.”  But, due to an unfortunate combination of not knowing how and where to enter and not having enough confidence in my abilities to take the risk of plunging into it as a full-time vocation, I instead pursued a career in academia and then in law, both of which involved a lot of writing, creative in its own way but not of the imaginative variety.  Yet I have periodically managed to find enough time to actually finish a creative writing project.  I have written several plays, one of which received a staged reading at a theatre in NYC, but it didn’t go anywhere from there.  I have written a few short stories that I have just kept in a drawer, an occasional poem, and two other plays.
Finally, the “call” was just too strong to resist any longer, and, while continuing a very busy legal practice, I wrote and have now published, a novel called Mink Eyes and a book of poetry called Tenebrae.
How do you come up with your stories, characters, character names, POV, etc?
The milieu of Mink Eyes—lawyers and courts and bankers and financial manipulations, both legal and otherwise–is one I have worked in all my life, but the plot itself is pretty much pure imagination (although I did get involved with a failed mink farm once, although it was far less exciting than the events portrayed in the novel), which I worked out very deliberately, knowing how I wanted it to end but working hard to figure out the best way to achieve that end and asking myself at every step—is this realistic, could it really happen in the real world?  It’s easy enough to have a message but so much harder to embody it in believable characters, situations, and outcomes.  I am not sure where the names of my characters come from; they often change and more than once, as the writing proceeds.  The main characters are in my mind from the start although some good ones “pop up” as the plot moves along, and characters have their own way of evolving as the book evolves.  As for POV, although it can be very tricky, I like the omniscient with fairly frequent changes in POV.
Tell me about your favorite scene in your novel.
That’s a really hard one, and I am afraid to give too much away, but three stand out in my mind as I answer this—the Halloween scene, the interview with Ullman, and the last chapter of the book.
Can you tell us a little about your writing philosophy?
Make it interesting, with main characters that people will care about; make it worthwhile in terms of themes and message; and make it real—believable in every way--believable characters with believable reactions, thinking and saying believable things, in believable situations with believable outcomes.
Have you ever tried writing in any other genres?
A screenplay of Mink Eyes.  I have written several plays, in fact my original efforts were all plays, one of which has enjoyed a staged reading in New York, and several of which I still hope to get produced.  Also a few short stories, no publications. 
I have also recently published a book of poetry, Tenebrae.  The lead poem in the collection, Tenebrae: A Memoir of Love & Death, is an interlocking chain of 15 verse and prose poems that amount to a single narrative of my wife’s final sickness, her life under a death sentence, and her death itself, a hero’s journey (heroine’s in this case) if there ever was one and one that we all are fated to take.  My effort in poetry is to be as clear and direct as possible, but to use poetic techniques of concision, rhythm (and even rhyme occasionally, violating the contemporary notion that rhyme is puerile), and relatively simple, but hopefully exalted, language to reach as personal and as deep an emotional level as I can. As in Mink Eyes, I try to convey the way that the foundation literature of the West—myths and fairy tales—are still with us and how the grand rituals of Western religion, even emptied of their original theological content, still can connect us with the sacred in our everyday lives.
Do you have any interesting writing-related anecdotes to share?
Writing itself is pretty uninteresting really.  Often painful too.  Best I can come up with is this bit of irony:  One of my specialties as a lawyer is business bankruptcy.  Mink Eyes was accepted by a publisher that was unable to complete the publication because it had to file bankruptcy.  The world can give with one hand and take away with the other.

Again, Max's website is www.Max2theMax.com

Friday, January 12, 2018

January Promo

Hey, gang, it's time again for Renée Pawlish's monthly thriller and mystery promo. This month, all of the titles are 99¢. My short story collection, 8 Tales of Noir, is featured; so if you haven't picked up a copy yet, this is the perfect opportunity.

Renée is considering giving up her hosting gig, and there definitely won't be a give away in February, so this go 'round is possibly your last chance at some of these titles at this low price. Also, I am currently in the process of recording and editing the audio book for 8 Tales, and I could really use some honest reviews on the ebook version before I release the audio.

For your copy and to check out the other titles, visit ReneePawlish.com/Promo