Author’s Spotlight: J L Grice Interview

J L Grice, author of Forbidden and the Dominated series

– First, introduce yourself a bit. What is your name (or pen name) and where are you from?

I am J L Grice, and I am from East Yorkshire, in the UK.

– Next, tell us a bit about your most recent work. Is this your first published book? What is it about and what genre would you classify it as?

My most recent published work is my novella Forbidden. This is my fourth book. It is about a university student whose grades are falling. Her professor notices and he offers to help by giving her a live-in job at his house as a cleaner. The problem is she is smitten with him. The book is forbidden romance.

– Tell us a bit about your main character; what are they like, how did they come about, and what are some of their strengths and weaknesses?

Imogen is one of the main characters in Forbidden. She is a strong character that isn’t afraid to let people know what she thinks. Imogen came about because I wanted someone who was a match for Grey, the main male character. Imogen is loyal, strong, feisty and bright (even though she thinks she isn’t) Imogen is jealous, she can sometimes be childish and quite impulsive.

– What was your hardest scene to write in this (or any) book?

The hardest scene to write was the rape scene. Being a survivor of sexual assault, and rape this was extremely hard to write.

– Do you read reviews of your book and, if so, how do you handle negative feedback?

I read my reviews. Usually I ignore it, but if it is constructive I take it in to consideration.

– What’s next for you? Are you currently working on any new books or stories?

I am working on a horror/ thriller book. I hope to get it finished sometime this year.

– Finally, feel free to plug your social media, website, and links to Amazon, GoodReads, and other relevant sites below, and detail any current offers available for your book/s:

If you’d like to be featured in an interview, please check out the interview submissions page to submit your answers.

Author’s Spotlight: Tobin Elliott Interview

Tobin Elliot, author of The Aphotic series and others

1. First, introduce yourself a bit. What is your name (or pen name) and where are you from?

I’m Tobin Elliott (and yeah, that’s my real name…who needs a pen name when you’re stuck with “Tobin”?) and I’m from the Great White North. I live about an hour east of Toronto, in Ontario.


2. Next, tell us a bit about your most recent work. Is this your first published book? What is it about and what genre would you classify it as?

This is where it begins to get complicated… my most recent work is actually a six-book horror series called The Aphotic.

What it’s about…

The Aphotic is a hexalogy about a Book who seeks out those at the fringe, those that think of the bad things they wish they could do… and the Book finds them and offers up the powers to do so.

What It doesn’t offer is the price each will pay for letting the Book into their mind.

Over the six books, you’ll meet the people of New Hope—some good, some very bad, some human, some demon, werewolf, or vampire—and watch as a century of stories collide at the end, as various characters from each book are drawn into the battle against the one pulling the Book’s strings.

They are all interconnected and should be read in order. It’s the story I’ve been working on telling for a long time, but it’s not my first published work. I’ve had three novellas published about ten years ago through a couple of micro-presses, and a bunch of short stories in various anthologies. All horror.

3. Tell us a bit about your main character; what are they like, how did they come about, and what are some of their strengths and weaknesses?

Over six books, I don’t have one main character, but there is one—Talia—that makes appearances in four of the six books. When we meet her in the first book, Bad Blood, she’s an angry and vengeful nine-year-old, upset that her father has left the family, and she blames her baby sister for it. Then an equally angry and vengeful Book comes into her possession, and suddenly, Talia’s ability to get back at those that upset her is magnified to a dangerous level.

By the last novel, Talia almost fifty and…well…things have changed. I don’t want to say more about that, because her changes mirror the heart of the story. Let’s just leave it as she’s one of my favourite characters to write.

How did she come about? Well, I was casting about for a novella-length story, and I ran across a short story I’d written years before. And while I plucked some of the details out and built a new story around them, the central girl… interesting, angry, and powerless, spoke to me, because, in many ways, I was that kid at one time. We write what we know, right?

Her strength is her unwavering confidence in herself, as is her conviction. She doesn’t think she’s right, she knows it. Her weaknesses all stem from her strengths, as the best weaknesses do. She’s overconfident, because a child trusting and using the Book is like a child trusting a wild horse to obey her. And, of course, she’s not always right. So she needs to learn to temper both of those qualities.

4. What was your hardest scene to write in this (or any) book?

The hardest scene to write came after I thought I’d finished the sixth and final book. I’d literally written “The End” with great satisfaction, then when I went to bed, I started to think about the entire story, and realized that I needed something—some traumatic event—in one of the characters’ backstory to make their ultimate redemption make a bit more sense.

So, the next day, I had an idea and I started to write that scene. Obviously, after I’d gone to sleep, my devious little hindbrain continued to chug along and come up with more material because—and I’m being completely truthful here—I started the scene, and a couple of paragraphs in, I realized what I was now writing was uncharted territory. I honestly wasn’t sure what this was leading up to, until I actually began writing what it was leading up to.

Here’s my thing: when I sit down to write, I will have a rough idea of where I’m starting, and where I’m ending, but I do trust my gut to fill in the details as I go. I find that spontaneity is where the magic happens.

And that’s what was happening here. I wasn’t sure where I was going, but I trust myself enough to just let it pour out.

And what poured out was more trauma for this character than I’d expected to give her. For me, it was awful to write. I, for the first time, was actually crying as I destroyed this character.

Even weirder, I finished the scene, then saved it and walked away. Talking to my wife about it, I started crying yet again.

To me, I think that’s a sign that I’ve done the right thing. If I can get invested in a character that I created… invested enough to hurt for them… then I’m writing something good.

5. Did you go the traditional route when publishing your book or did you choose to self-publish?

I offered up the series to several publishers, but I knew, with some of the subject matter, it was always going to be a hard sell. I did have one publisher express interest, however, the first editor who looked at it—and I’ll stress here that the call was for “horror”—decided it was not for her because it was “too much horror”…

…yeah. Okay.

Anyway, they did say they were passing it over to two other editors who might be a better fit, however, as it’s been over a year with nothing but “hold on, they’ll get to it” promises and nothing else, I decided it was time to put it out myself. I decided that because I didn’t want to compromise on any of the subject matter in the books, and I also had a vision for the covers that, along with my cover artist, have exceeded anything I’d hoped to get created.

6. What would you say is the most difficult part of your writing journey and what advice would you give to other writers?

The most difficult part of my writing journey has always been two things…

First, believing in my writing. I get a lot of fantastic feedback for my writing, but there’s still times when I’ll read something of my own and think, “ugh, that’s terrible.” The funny thing is, I’ll set it aside and, six months later, come back to it and be really happy with it. Self-doubt of your abilities is a horrible, destructive thing.

Second, just building the habit of bum in chair. It’s easy to create excuses to not write.

“I’m still thinking about it.”

“I’m not inspired.”

“I don’t know what to write.”

“I’m stuck.”

I’ve learned that you can’t wait for any of that. Getting in the habit of just sitting down and planting my fingers on that keyboard is enough to get me going. I always find something to write, no matter if there’s inspiration or whatever. Just sit down and write.

7. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

I have always loved how Stephen King interconnects all his stories into one vast tapestry, but not necessarily with interconnected stories, more with just little mentions here and there. Obviously, with this hexalogy, yes, it’s fully connected, with recurring characters and themes. But I do consciously look for ways to add in those little mentions between all my work.

8. Who are some of your favourite authors, what are some of your favourite books, and what inspired you to become a writer in the first place?

That’s a hell of a list you’re asking for!

Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov were my first loves with both their short story collections, Clarke’s A Fall of Moondust, Rendezvous with Rama, and others, and Asimov with his Robot and Foundation series. I was an SF guy before I was a horror guy.

Ray Bradbury, under the guise of SF, introduced me to the wiles of horror. I can still remember the first time I read The Veldt… it’s left a mark on me that, decades later, still remains. Fahrenheit 451 and Something Wicked This Way Comes and The October Country are still favourites that I revisit.

Stephen King is a huge influence, with too many favourites to mention. But I will say, when I picked up Carrie, I remember thinking two things. The first was, Carrie White was me. I was Carrie. I was bullied, I was the outcast. And he captured a lot of my feelings and insecurities in that novel. The second was, hell, this is something I could write. It gave me the courage to try.

Jack Ketchum is another huge influence, and I adore his work. But it was The Girl Next Door that showed me how to be fearless in my writing, and to write stuff that Hurt.

Joe R. Lansdale quickly stole my heart, whether it was with his goofy horror, his Hap and Leonard series, or his gorgeously written examinations of life in Texas in the 60s and 70s, he’s just a brilliant writer. And right now, my three favourite authors are Eric Leland (if you haven’t read Inhuman, you’re missing out), Matthew Lyons (The Night Will Find Us and A Black And Endless Sky are phenomenal), and finally, the best horror author in the business right now, Philip Fracassi (when The Boys In The Valley is released, you need to read it, it’s brilliant).

9. What would you say has been the best way to market your books?

I don’t know if I’ve actually cracked that nut yet, to be honest. I’ve been pounding the social media trail, and that’s helped, and I’ve reached out to a bunch of bookstagrammers, and that’s helped as well.

But the most traction has been from publishing through IngramSpark, so my novels are available pretty much globally, then working with the large outlets, and specialty shops, to make sure they have some physical copies in their stores.

It’s a lot of work, but it all pays off. It’s all the small streams that eventually lead to a river.

10. Are there any tropes, clichés, or writing styles that you dislike and, if so, what are they and why?

I’ve never been a fan of anything told in second person POV (you did this, you saw that), but, having said that, I have read one book that did it well.

The only writing style that drives me bonkers is the Cormac McCarthy elimination of apostrophes and quotes, leaving you to shake your head at words like “cant” which has a completely different meaning from “can’t” and puzzling out if someone’s actually talking or not. I love McCarthy, but I can only get through a book by listening to audio, because otherwise, I just yell at him for several hundred pages.

I am getting sick of the “hero of a thousand faces”  Joseph Campbell trope that’s been used from everything from Star Wars to Harry Potter where there’s the orphaned child who harbours a power and only needs a mentor to unlock it, blah blah blah. It’s getting old, writers, even if it still sells. In horror specifically, the nice couple who move out to the secluded house only to find it’s haunted with (fill in the blank… anything from vampires to horrible secrets) that they must vanquish to save their lives/marriage/family/sanity… yeah, I could live without that, too.

11. Do you read reviews of your book and, if so, how do you handle negative feedback?

I do, and positive or negative, I love them all. Seriously.

I’ve had people get up and walk out of readings. My cousin told me she was putting my book down and never reading anything else of mine because she could “only handle so much madness”.

Last night, I had a person who’d agreed to review my books message me and tell me, due to one scene, they simply couldn’t go on.

That’s fine. I write horror. I write to horrify. I’ve done my job.

I handle negative feedback the way I handle positive feedback. Writing, like it or not, is art, and it’s highly subjective. I despise authors that everyone loves. I love authors that many can’t stand. We like what we like, and we dislike what we dislike. So, if someone tells me I’m fantastic, I take that with a grain of salt. I’m all right, but I don’t think I’m fantastic. And if someone tells me I suck, again, I’m all right, but I don’t think I suck.

If the feedback can point to specifics, and a case is made in regard to the writing working or not, then I’ll consider it, and hold on to it for future writing. It’s all I can do.

But yeah, I’ll happily take it all. I got into a field where I create something, then share it to the world. I’m not going to hide from those that don’t like it. I want to know. Like Mellencamp sang, I’m here for the full catastrophe of life.

12. What are some of your quirks as a writer? Do you like to plot everything out or do you prefer to just “wing it” and see where the story takes you? Do you listen to music when writing and, if so, what do you listen to?

Here’s the way I describe my writing…

I look at it like I’m planning a road trip. Let’s say I’m planning on driving to DisneyWorld. So, I know where I’m starting, I know where I’m ending up, and I’m pretty sure of a few stops along the way.

But the minute to minute experience of the trip is new experiences and new road under my wheels.

So, in real terms, I bullet out a list of somewhere between 5 and 20 points, and then I write toward each one. I will rarely plan out much more than that, though I’ll have some individual scenes in my head.

Then, as I write, I have a lot of leeway, but I still know where I’m headed. And that, for me, is where the magic happens. Like I described above with that traumatic scene that left me in tears, I often start writing, then just trust my fingers to type out some really good stuff that it finds rattling around in the back of my brain that I didn’t even know was there.

When I write, I can’t have interruptions, but I do want music playing. What I listen to depends on what I’m writing.

When I wrote Out for Blood (book two of The Aphotic series), it takes place in summer of 1981, so I limited my playlist to any music that might have been playing at that time. Nothing past ‘81.

When I wrote a short story inspired by a song, I listened to that song on repeat.

For others, it’s been stuff like Pink Floyd and Airbag, or it’s been loud and angry like Godsmack and Alice in Chains. In a couple of cases, it’s been classical orchestral music by Mozart and Chopin.

It really depends on the mood I’m trying to achieve.

13. What is the best advice you’ve ever had when it comes to writing and what advice would you give to new writers?

It’s all quotes…

“What would you attempt to do if you knew you would not fail?” – Robert Schuller

“The first draft of anything is shit.” – Ernest Hemingway

“Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on.” – John Steinbeck

“If it doesn’t hurt while you’re writing it, you haven’t dug deep enough.” – Unknown

As for advice for new writers… all of the above, and also, read! Read a lot. Read everything. Read good stuff and bad stuff. And most importantly, read outside your genre. You’ll learn from all of it. Oh, and the whole “bum in chair” thing, too.

14. What’s next for you? Are you currently working on any new books or stories?

What’s next?

Over the first eight months of 2023. I’ve got the last four books of this hexalogy to release, one every two months from February 1st for book three to August 1st for book six.

Well, I’m co-authoring a book with a brilliant author that I want to finish this coming year. It’s our second, and we have a third teed up right behind it. They’re all inter-related, but wildly different. One’s very gothic, and involves the classic monsters… Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, etc. The other is much more contemporary and involves the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. They’re a lot of fun to write.

Aside from that, I’ve got a haunted house story that I’m about halfway through that I also want to finish soon.

I’ve got an old novella that I’ve got some ideas on expanding into a full novel.

I was also quite surprised to realize I’ve amassed enough short stories to release two full collections.

And finally, I’ve also got a non-fiction project that unfortunately I can’t say much about, but it’s sad and inspiring, horrifying and uplifting, and just an incredible story. So, yeah, I’m a busy guy right now!

15. Finally, feel free to plug your social media, website, and links to Amazon, GoodReads, and other relevant sites below, and detail any current offers available for your book/s:

If you’d like to be featured in an interview, please check out the interview submissions page to submit your answers.

Author’s Spotlight: Erin Banks Interview

Erin Banks, author of About Rage and
Ted Bundy: Examining The Unconfirmed Survivor Stories

1. First, introduce yourself a bit. What is your name (or pen name) and where are you from?

I’m Erin Banks, and for the main music project I do with musician friends, I go by About Rage. This only happened because we discovered there was already an Erin Banks on Spotify when we released the soundtrack to the novel About Rage.

I was born in Northern Germany and intermittently lived in the US, Sweden, Denmark and the UK over the past twenty years, as I’ve always loved to travel, learn foreign languages and about other cultures.

2. Next, tell us a bit about your most recent work. Is this your first published book? What is it about and what genre would you classify it as?

I just published my debut novel, About Rage, in late October, though it isn’t my first book. I wrote a non-fiction one on Ted Bundy, as I have blogged on CrimePiper about the case, as well as other True Crime cases, going on five years now.

About Rage is a psychological Horror Thriller centered around a ruthless female serial killer, Emily Sand, with a uniquely complex psychopathology. She shows symptoms of complex post-traumatic stress disorder, paired with other specified dissociative disorder, so similarly to Ted Bundy, she has sort of an “entity” that she calls the Rider, who is basically her externalized kill urge or alter ego. Emily soon realizes that someone has been watching her…or watching over her? That’s something she must find out, and for this she employs the help of a therapist. How she goes about this would be a little bit of a spoiler.

Going forth, Emily learns more about herself, including betrayals of her past and present, and she attempts to find out whether the people in her life she thinks of as friends are trustworthy or not, in order to face a seemingly omnipotent enemy.

The novel has twists and turns aplenty, and I’m overjoyed that readers reported to me they could not put the book down, finishing it within a day or two. This is exactly what I wanted to achieve, to “edutain” – to leave readers breathless and wanting for more, while still taking them on a journey into the mind of the killer to facilitate a better understanding of how trauma, loneliness and fantasy life spinning out of control very often plays a part in creating these violent offenders.

3. Tell us a bit about your main character; what are they like, how did they come about, and what are some of their strengths and weaknesses?

How Emily Sand came about is a bit of a convoluted story, but I’ll try to keep it short: In late 2017, I had tried to look for Horror and Thriller novels centered around a female serial killer who would be more than just a two-dimensional, Disneyesque villain to hate. I found one series that I enjoyed, but it didn’t go far enough for my taste. So I started penning disjointed chapters about a female serial killer, and in 2018, I learned about a (by now long disbanded) group on social media that was doing a “serial killer role playing game,” for which the admin would give us a setting and scene prompt and the members would finish that story. There had also been plans of co-writing a female serial killer story with someone else but ultimately, they didn’t come through. So I had gathered a lot of material I had to try and combine but didn’t have time to do so until last year.

As for Emily Sand’s strengths and weaknesses, that is a really great question, because at times, they appear interchangeable. She is a cautious and paranoid killer, thinking of anything and everything she would require in any scenario, and she is just as meticulous and obsessive-compulsive when disposing of bodies. She’s unfortunately not as cautious once she meets the man who’s been watching her for a while, and the prospects of what he offers her cast her whole world into disarray. My favorite strength of hers is her willingness to self-reflect, even though she’s not always a reliable narrator.

4. What was your hardest scene to write in this (or any) book?

There were three that were all equally emotionally taxing. The one during which Emily reveals to the therapist what she suffered through as a child and how it impacted her. As someone who grew up with extreme abuse, it left me reeling a bit. Connected to it is a scene during which Emily learns how everything in her life is interwoven. The disillusionment, the sinisterness of it all was something I experienced on a very real level.

Lastly, there’s one scene in one of the last chapters that involves a betrayal not even I had seen coming. One of the characters just forced me into that direction, despite my outlining, and I knew I had to run with it, but it broke my heart for Emily.

5. Did you go the traditional route when publishing your book or did you choose to self-publish?

I had originally intended to go the traditional route. Ultimately, I couldn’t relent control, or rather, the rights, of this story to anyone else. It’s too close to my heart, and I needed to be in the driver’s seat, even if it meant far less exposure.

6. What would you say is the most difficult part of your writing journey and what advice would you give to other writers?

This is probably something I shouldn’t admit, but one thing I learned is that no matter how much and often I edit, I’ll still find things after publishing that make me cringe. Part of it is that, as a non-native speaker, I’m extremely apprehensive about possible mistakes I could make, particularly in terms of punctuation. Being an indie writer without an editor, I am still happy that the second book proved to be a less straining experience than my first one, so I believe I have the capacity to further develop my craft.

7. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

About Rage will have a follow-up, possibly more. It’s a vast universe inside me that just expanded over the years.

My first book, Ted Bundy: Examining The Unconfirmed Survivor Stories, will remain a standalone, though I may write another Bundy book on an unrelated topic in the future. I do already have the material and a general outline for it.

8. Who are some of your favourite authors, what are some of your favourite books, and what inspired you to become a writer in the first place?

My favorite non-fiction author is Kevin M. Sullivan. I read his first two Ted Bundy books years before we became friends, and was immediately enmeshed with what a gifted storyteller he was. He is a true edutainer. Eventually, he asked me to write a chapter for his sixth book, The Enigma of Ted Bundy. I was shocked that my favorite author would ask me if I wanted to collaborate. Me! I look up to Sondra London as well. She’s completely in control of every word, every sentence she produces, and has a very elegant writing style I truly enjoy.

My favorite fiction author is Josephine Angelini. I love her world building and character development, particularly for the Worldwalker trilogy, and her standalone What She Found in the Woods. My favorite book will always be Jane Eyre, though; the ultimate coming-of-age story about independence, self-respect, self-mastery, and how all of this could be balanced and expressed in a romantic relationship setting.

9. What would you say has been the best way to market your books?

I so suck at this stuff. Probably social media. It’s very difficult for me to network because human interaction leaves me extremely drained due to always having to mask. I’m autistic. Plus, it’s always been a bit awkward for me to clap for myself in public, but I want to be read, so that’s what it takes.

10. Are there any tropes, clichés, or writing styles that you dislike and, if so, what are they and why?

I don’t think any trope or cliché has to be bad, necessarily. I’ve read books that played with tropes, and just when you thought you knew where the story was headed, you were thrown for a loop, because the author had just used cleverly it as a set-up.

As for writing styles, be it narrative, descriptive, expository or persuasive, I enjoy them all, though expository is a bit tricky because it can get dull quick, so it takes a very skilled writer to do this in a way that’s still engaging and keeps my attention.

One thing that drives me nuts is clipped sentences and a lack of paraphrasing.

11. Do you read reviews of your book and, if so, how do you handle negative feedback?

I’ve received some great bad reviews because the person shared in-depth what their expectations had been and why my book did not deliver, in their view. Some of these readers’ suggestions stayed with me. For instance, in my first book, the last chapter was supposed to be the big bombshell, but it was advised this would have made for a better first chapter. I found the reasoning for that very interesting and could see their point, so I am always grateful for honest feedback, if presented in a reasonable manner.

I think the most important thing to remember is always that even Stephen King has one star reviews. It’s inevitable and nothing personal, though especially as it pertains to fiction, it can feel almost like a personal rejection, since you pour your heart and soul into these stories, the world-building and characters that you love like family (or at least I do.) But negative reviews definitely help curb the ego a bit.

On the other hand, I’ve had very persistent stalkers in the last three years, centered around a disgruntled ex and his associate. These people have chased me across every platform to leave character assassination reviews, partly even in the name of my dead father. Fortunately those were removed when I contacted the website owners.

12. What are some of your quirks as a writer? Do you like to plot everything out or do you prefer to just “wing it” and see where the story takes you? Do you listen to music when writing and, if so, what do you listen to?

Well, the way this happens with me is usually that either a fully formed story or scene will pop into my head. I really just watch it play out as though it were a movie, jot down what I see, then try to fill in the blanks. This is when I will start outlining things, though never in too much detail, as I learned that the story and characters really do have their own lives.

I can’t write without music, and that is probably also one of my biggest writing quirks. Music puts me in an altered state, almost a meditative one, and I need that to summon the feelings I want to ban onto paper. When I wrote About Rage, I mostly listened to a combination of atmospheric, dark and desperate songs for the interpersonal scenes as well as brutal bass Dubstep and Metal for the action-laden passages. And then, as Peter Douglas, Mirko Swo and I put together the songs for the soundtrack, I would listen to those tracks, too.

13. What is the best advice you’ve ever had when it comes to writing and what advice would you give to new writers?

I see a lot of advice by other writers being presented as ironclad rules, and it can sometimes come across as a bit restrictive, if not even arrogant. I don’t subscribe to the notion that one ought to push themselves to write every day to be a “real writer.” There’s so much implied stress and worry in that notion. The majority of my writer friends struggle with mental health in some form, and with my condition, I sometimes require periods of rest, during which I’ll focus and work on other things related to the book instead. If I push myself, I’ll have a major meltdown or shutdown, and I have observed similar things happening with author friends. I’m not a fan of working yourself sick.

General advice I would offer is to perhaps try and make time to read, because you may enjoy broadening your horizon, add to your vocabulary, play around with different ideas that others’ stories may prompt.

14. What’s next for you? Are you currently working on any new books or stories?

My main project is writing About Revenge, along with the second soundtrack. On the side, I am working on the Murderous (True Crime-related) album franchise with the band Dead Possum, for which I write half of the lyrics and read the intros and outros in different languages, such as Urdu, Japanese, Ukrainian, Spanish, Swedish, German and various others. I am also in the process of putting together a hybrid-genre short story collection, and I’ll be featured in two other True Crime authors’ books that are to be published next year.

15. Finally, feel free to plug your social media, website, and links to Amazon, GoodReads, and other relevant sites below, and detail any current offers available for your book/s:

If you’d like to be featured in an interview, please check out the interview submissions page to submit your answers.

Author’s Spotlight: Mark Towse and Chisto Healy Interview

Mark Towse and Chisto Healy, authors of The Bucket List

1. First, introduce yourselves a bit. What is your name (or pen name) and where are you from?

M: Hi. I’m Mark. I’m an Englishman living in Australia.

C: And I’m Chisto, an American living in America.

2. Next, tell us a bit about your most recent work. Is this your first published book? What is it about and what genre would you classify it as?

M: Our book is called The Bucket List. We’ve done a lot of solo stuff but this is our first together. It’s a horror comedy, emphasis on the horror.

C: What he said.

3. Tell us a bit about your main character; what are they like, how did they come about, and what are some of their strengths and weaknesses?

M: Our main characters are Marge and Alby. They’re old, and off, and dangerous. Their strengths and weaknesses? Wow. Um.. I guess it’s their love and devotion to each other vs their recklessness.

C: Yeah. They’re strength is also their knowledge, I think. They’ve been doing this a long time. As for how they came about, they were destined for each other, soul mates, love brought them together.

M: Do you mean how did we come up with them? They just happened. I think they found us.

C: Yeah, this book was begging to be written. It all just came. None of it needed to be found.

4. What was your hardest scene to write in this (or any) book?

M: None of it was hard to write. I mean I’m claustrophobic so some of that hit home but I enjoy exploring those things.

C: Same actually, though the early bit about Alby’s testicles brought back some childhood trauma for me.

M: As for us, we’re really in tune with each other. Writing together was seamless and easy.

C: He was dominant, and I was submissive. That’s why it was easy. Haha. No we really do work together well.

5. Did you go the traditional route when publishing your book or did you choose to self-publish?

M: We definitely made plans and shopped it around. We were really excited to land with Evil Cookie Publishing.

C: It was a really cool thing because we had both been rejected by them on our own and together we made it. It was a testament to the fact that we bring out the best in each other.

6. What would you say is the most difficult part of your writing journey and what advice would you give to other writers?

M: The marketing. I’m an introvert. It’s really difficult to be a sales person and promoter.

C: Absolutely what Mark said. I have terrible anxiety and all the non-writing stuff that comes with writing is really overwhelming honestly.

7. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

M: It’s pretty open. We wanted to make this a one shot but if people are into it we’ll give the people what they want.

C: We definitely fell in love with the characters so there could be a prequel in the works if people want it.

M: Really, there’s so much we could do if we wanted to continue it. We could do a book for every decade of Marge and Alby’s crazy marriage.

C: Like I said earlier, they’ve been doing this a long time. There’s bound to be a lot of stories to tell.

8. Who are some of your favourite authors, what are some of your favourite books, and what inspired you to become a writer in the first place?

M: The easy answer would be Stephen King but really it was my wife. She saw how stressed I was and said I needed an outlet and I should write. I did, and never looked back.

C: There are writers who inspired me when I was young and made me want to do this like Dean Koontz and Simon Clark. I’ve been writing since childhood, but it took a health scare and a pandemic for me to really apply myself to it. Sometimes good comes from bad I suppose.

9. What would you say has been the best way to market your books?

M: Instagram is a really useful tool, and getting interviews. I think we’re still learning though. We’re both dinosaurs.

C: Seriously. Not tech savvy guys here. If we figure out the best way to market, we’ll let you know haha.

10. Are there any tropes, clichés, or writing styles that you dislike and, if so, what are they and why?

M: I’m really not into splatter but there’s definitely a place for it. People love it.

C: For me, I love the tropes and cliche’s and seeing what new spin people can put on them. I don’t like overly detailed writing styles. I want to know how the characters think and feel not read three paragraphs about the stain on the wall.

M: Oh, me too, actually. I agree with that one. Definitely.

11. Do you read reviews of your book and, if so, how do you handle negative feedback?

M: We read all our reviews and share them with each other. Negative feedback? I don’t handle it well. Haha. No. I don’t know. If you get a one star review but you’ve had ten five stars before it then ten out of eleven people loved it so I think that’s what you need to focus on.

C: I only had an issue with negative feedback when it felt personal, but honestly, I know it wasn’t and it’s just my RSD, rejection sensitive dysphoria, but I didn’t know I had that at the time. Understanding that it’s my own brain sabotaging me actually makes it easier somehow.

12. What are some of your quirks as a writer? Do you like to plot everything out or do you prefer to just “wing it” and see where the story takes you? Do you listen to music when writing and, if so, what do you listen to?

M: We’re actually completely different in this. I like to breathe life into the characters and then see where that life takes them.

C: And I like to have the ending planned so I know the destination and then just wing the journey to get there so if it goes off course I know how to steer it back.

M: The listening to music part of the question is a no. I need to be in my head without distraction. I will actually play storm sounds and write to that.

C: I don’t listen to music as much as watch TV. I put on a movie that is on theme with what I’m writing to set an atmosphere and help create ambiance. It helps me get in the zone.

13. What is the best advice you’ve ever had when it comes to writing and what advice would you give to new writers?

M: I don’t like advice. I want to figure this out on my own. The discovery and journey is part of the fun.

C: Simon Clark told me I was doing everything right and I need to account for the luck factor because it’s real. I think that’s great advice because it takes a lot of the pressure off and allows you to work on your craft and do what you love.

M: Advice I would give? I guess it would be that even if it takes you out of your comfort zone, you need to do the sales and promoting. You gotta do it.

C: Yeah, and write. Write, write, write. You can’t be a writer if you don’t write.

14. What’s next for you? Are you currently working on any new books or stories?

M: We’re both doing a lot. We’re workaholics and people call us prolific. I have 3 novellas and a novel on the way currently.

C: And I have two novels and more in the works and we both write creepy pastas for youtube shows. We’re always doing something.

M: Maybe if we get enough fans we’ll be writing Marge and Alby’s next story.

C: Let’s manifest that and change if to when

M: Deal.

15. Finally, feel free to plug your social media, website, and links to Amazon, GoodReads, and other relevant sites below, and detail any current offers available for your book/s:

Mark Towse:

Chisto Healy:

If you’d like to be featured in an interview, please check out the interview submissions page to submit your answers.

Author’s Spotlight: Nic Winter Interview

Nic Winter, author of A Season to Kill

1. First, introduce yourself a bit. What is your name (or pen name) and where are you from?

Hi, my name is Nic Winter and I’m a Scottish mystery writer, originally born and bred in Glasgow.

2. Next, tell us a bit about your most recent work. Is this your first published book? What is it about and what genre would you classify it as?

My debut mystery is A Season to Kill (A Darcy Sinclair Novel) and is the first in the Darcy Sinclair series. A Season to Kill is a murder mystery/domestic noir. Some have called it a psychological thriller but I will always likely refer to it as a murder mystery.

3. Tell us a bit about your main character; what are they like, how did they come about, and what are some of their strengths and weaknesses?

My main character is Darcy Sinclair. She is a thirty seven year old litigation lawyer and a mum of two. Darcy was in my head for the longest time and most likely, looking back, this was because in a lot of ways, Darcy is absolutely a reflection of self analysis of my own personality which I wasn’t even aware of until I read back the first draft. Freud would have a field day with me! Darcy’s strengths are her methodical and analytical mind, her sharp gut instinct and her ability to to engage in a two minute psych evaluation of people. She is super kind hearted and tends to put others needs before her own which I see as a strength of character. Her weakness are the little moments of self doubt she experiences, feeling not quite “good enough” and having the inability to say no to people when she should.

4. What was your hardest scene to write in this (or any) book?

The hardest scene to write was actually my favourite scene by far to write. Its the penultimate scene where Darcy comes face to face with the killer. I had to dig deep emotionally for this scene as it is where Darcys past crashes with her present, raking up a plethora of unresolved gut wrenching emotions from her childhood which, ironically, helps her out in the end. I went back to this scene many times to not only get Darcy’s reactions to the unmasking of the killer and the emotional issues it dredges up for her but I also had to perfect the actions of the sociopath, the killer in the book. I wanted to be sure the scene packed a punch however, that it also answered questions of how and why for the reader as it is a whodunnit.

5. Did you go the traditional route when publishing your book or did you choose to self-publish?

I choose to self-publish A Season to Kill.

6. What would you say is the most difficult part of your writing journey and what advice would you give to other writers?

I would say there are many difficult parts to writing, depending on your personality. Some writers find it hard to focus on one project or discipline themselves to make the time to write, especially when you are tired; however, fortunately for me, I find this relatively easy. Unfortunately for me I am a complete technophobe, so navigating through practicalities like building a website or social media, reels, etc are way outside my wheelhouse or comfort zone. My best advice to another writer is to focus…focus on one project at a time and devout your full mental and emotional energy to this, until you are happy you have brought it to fruition.

7. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

A Season to Kill is the first in the Darcy Sinclair series and I am currently writing A Deadly Shade of Winter, which shall be book two and so on. Each shall be a stand alone mystery/whodunnit; however, of course Darcy shall remain the main character with reoccurring characters. You could read any one of them as a standalone however, I always feel it is better to start at the beginning, to get a real feel for the characters and the setting and follow along with the characters emotional journey and development. Each of my books shall also have a seasonal backdrop with A Season to Kill being set in the autumn time.

8. Who are some of your favourite authors, what are some of your favourite books, and what inspired you to become a writer in the first place?

One of my all time favourite authors is Agatha Christie. She was and still remains one of the masters of the mystery and by the time I had finished reading her collection of books, around age twelve, I knew I had found my genre. I was always scribbling away little stories when I was a kid, add in loving to solve puzzles and being a keen observer of human nature then the mystery genre was perfect for me. I also enjoyed Elizabeth Peters mystery books when I was growing up. Then I picked up everyone from Patricia Cornwall to Michael Connelly and Stephen King to James Patterson. I have always been a fan of Ann Rule, the true crime author. At the moment, I am enjoying the American authors Lyndee Walker and Melinda Leigh who write fabulous psychological thrillers.

9. What would you say has been the best way to market your books?

I wish I could answer what has been the best way to market my books with more clarity and self assuredness. However, marketing is a little outside my wheelhouse and I am just learning the ropes.

10. Are there any tropes, clichés, or writing styles that you dislike and, if so, what are they and why?

As I tend to read more mystery and psychological thriller, the only one thing that annoys me as a reader is when I have invested time trying to figure out whodunnit it and it turns out to be a complete stranger. I understand this if it is, say a serial killer book, however, when I am expecting the killer to be one of the characters and then the killer’s introduced in the last three pages, I have to admit, this drives me mad.

11. Do you read reviews of your book and, if so, how do you handle negative feedback?

As my debut is just releasing, I havent had much interaction with many reviews as yet, with the exception of Beta and ARC readers however, I shall read any and all reviews and if any are negative, I shall have to take it on the chin. I will carefully consider if there is merit in any negative feedback as I believe this is a great way to learn and hone your skill as a writer. However, I am sure I will also have a good cry!

12. What are some of your quirks as a writer? Do you like to plot everything out or do you prefer to just “wing it” and see where the story takes you? Do you listen to music when writing and, if so, what do you listen to?

I have many quirks as a writer, too many to mention. However, one of my main ones is that I have to have the ending completely plotted out on my head before I start to write. A lot of it I completely wing, however the killer and the victims and the ending are all there. My favourite saying about writing mystery is feeling that I am playing a game of chess against myself, therefore I have to know exactly where all of my players, or characters are placed at all times, for the mystery to work. I also have to write chronologically, so even if a great scene comes to mind I don’t write it, I file it away to memory and continue on. I cannot hop about. I also cannot write multiple stories at once! I am strictly a one book at a time writer. I love to listen to music that reflects the mood that I am writing at the time, so for example, if I am writing an emotional scene then I will tend to listen to something lyrically dark.

13. What is the best advice you’ve ever had when it comes to writing and what advice would you give to new writers?

The best advice that I ever got as a writer was to know when you need a good editor, do your research and make sure you find an editor that you work well with and you understands your voice and one who will tell you exactly what works, and most importantly, what doesn’t. My advice would be to make sure you find your genre, write what piques your interest psychologically and emotionally; for example, what do you love to read? What are you passionate about? I think this makes your own writing flow so much better, as it is then something you are familiar with and authentically you. I also feel finding your own voice extremely important, by this I mean finding what POV you prefer to write in. I think some writers have struggled with this because they try to write the same way their favourite authors write but it might not suit their own dialogue. I lie to read some third person POV books but I could never write a full book like this, my own voice is always first person narrative.

14. What’s next for you? Are you currently working on any new books or stories?

I am currently working on the second Darcy Sinclair novel, which is A Deadly Shade of Winter.

15. Finally, feel free to plug your social media, website, and links to Amazon, GoodReads, and other relevant sites below, and detail any current offers available for your book/s:

The best place to find me hanging out is on Instagram where we have a great little writing community. I can be found there and love to connect with other writers and readers.

If you’d like to be featured in an interview, please check out the interview submissions page to submit your answers.

Author’s Spotlight: J.M. McKenzie Interview

J.M. McKenzie, author of Wait for Me and Trident Edge

1. First, introduce yourself a bit. What is your name (or pen name) and where are you from?

I write under the pen name J.M. McKenzie. I’m Scottish but live in the UK Midlands.

2. Next, tell us a bit about your most recent work. Is this your first published book? What is it about and what genre would you classify it as?

I’m the author of Wait for Me and Trident Edge, which are both set in the UK after a bio terror attack and tell the story of an ordinary woman on an extraordinary journey to survive and get home in a world that has changed forever and is now dangerous and unpredictable. My genre is zombie apocalypse.

3. Tell us a bit about your main character; what are they like, how did they come about, and what are some of their strengths and weaknesses?

Lisa, my main character, is introverted and analytical. She is not your typical machete wielding, gun toting, alpha male zombie apocalypse survivor. I wanted to write a story about how an ordinary woman would react and behave in an apocalyptic scenario.

4. What was your hardest scene to write in this (or any) book?

The hardest scene to write was a chapter in the first book involving an evil and violent group of survivors. The scene did not feature in the first draft but was added after feedback from Beta readers – against my better judgment.

5. Did you go the traditional route when publishing your book or did you choose to self-publish?

After dipping my toe into the lottery of traditional publishing I decided to self-publish and have no regrets about my decision. I have more control over my content, a bigger share of my royalties and people are reading and enjoying my books!

6. What would you say is the most difficult part of your writing journey and what advice would you give to other writers?

I think the most difficult part of my writing journey was getting the first book finished. It was a slog, a constant battle with confidence and self-belief and a steep learning curve. I’ve very much been on a roll since then.

7. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

The first two books are a series. Trident Edge is set six months after Wait for Me and is a continuation of Lisa’s story. My current work-in-progress, Amenti Rising, is a stand-alone story about a different group of survivors in a different location but in the same zombie apocalypse.

8. Who are some of your favourite authors, what are some of your favourite books, and what inspired you to become a writer in the first place?

I read a lot in many different genres. A few of my favourite non-horror authors include Margaret Atwood, Donna Tart and Emily St. John Mandel. In the horror genre I like Stephen King and Paul Tremblay. In the zombie genre I like M.R. Carey, Chris Philbrook, Rhiannon Frater, Sarah Lyons Fleming, Mira Grant, Max Brooks and Carrie Ryan. I love all of their books but a few stand outs are Alias Grace, A Secret History, Station Eleven, The Stand, Survivor Song, The Girl with all the Gifts and Adrian’s Undead Diaries … I could go on but I’ll stop here.

9. What would you say has been the best way to market your books?

I have done most of my marketing on social media, Facebook and Twitter in the main. Just starting to have a go on Instagram. This year I’m going to come off KUP and try a Book Bub ad!

10. Are there any tropes, clichés, or writing styles that you dislike and, if so, what are they and why?

I don’t like the fact that many zombie apocalypse books are so macho with lots of guns and very big knives and people who adapt to extreme violence so easily and quickly- real life is not like that and neither are my books!

11. Do you read reviews of your book and, if so, how do you handle negative feedback?

I read all my reviews and use the best ones for marketing purposes. Generally they have been positive but I’ve had an occasional negative comment. I don’t take it to heart- you can’t please all of the people all of the time. Sometimes I even agree with them. Reference “evil” scene in Wait for Me. I’ll follow my own judgement in the future!

12. What are some of your quirks as a writer? Do you like to plot everything out or do you prefer to just “wing it” and see where the story takes you? Do you listen to music when writing and, if so, what do you listen to?

I write in silence. I hate being interrupted! When I get into the zone I can write for hours without a break. I used to be a “pantser” but I have plotted out every scene in Amenti Rising and am loving the process. I think the book will be all the better for it!

13. What is the best advice you’ve ever had when it comes to writing and what advice would you give to new writers?

The best advice I got as a writer was from Chris Philbrook, author of Adrian’s Undead Diaries. He said that whoever you are and whatever you write there will always be someone out there who loves your book.

14. What’s next for you? Are you currently working on any new books or stories?

I’m currently 40K words into Amenti Rising and I think it’s going to be a corker! I already have the cover!

15. Finally, feel free to plug your social media, website, and links to Amazon, GoodReads, and other relevant sites below, and detail any current offers available for your book/s:

If you’d like to be featured in an interview, please check out the interview submissions page to submit your answers.

Author’s Spotlight: Ambrose Stolliker Interview

Ambrose Stolliker, author of The Strange Nighttime Journey of Father Stephen Marlowe and others

1. First, introduce yourself a bit. What is your name (or pen name) and where are you from?

My name is Ambrose Stolliker. I grew up in the New York Metro area but have lived in the Seattle area for the last twenty-three years.

2. Next, tell us a bit about your most recent work. Is this your first published book? What is it about and what genre would you classify it as?

The Strange Nighttime Journey of Father Stephen Marlowe is a supernatural horror novel and was released by indie publishing house Muddy Paw Press in late May 2022. Here’s the back of the book summary:

In the year since his brother, Chris, committed suicide, Father Stephen Marlowe has not been able to pick up the pieces. He is racked with guilt over what he believes was his part in Chris’ death and his once-meteoric rise through the Catholic Church in New York City has come to an ignominious end. Haunted by disturbing dreams of his brother suffering in a hellish underworld, Marlowe is at the breaking point. At the behest of his superiors, he goes to St. Michael the Archangel Church in the Bronx to seek counsel from a mysterious priest who specializes in helping spiritually troubled clergy. There, as he reluctantly attempts to make confession and unburden his soul, the church is rocked by a powerful earthquake. The confessional disintegrates, the floor crumbles away beneath him, and Marlowe is plunged into a world both wondrous and terrifying where he must fight to save his brother’s immortal soul.

3. Tell us a bit about your main character; what are they like, how did they come about, and what are some of their strengths and weaknesses?

Father Stephen Marlowe is a Roman Catholic priest who serves as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church in Queens, N.Y. When we first meet Father Marlowe, he is in a profound state of spiritual crisis and is doubting his ability to continue on in his vocation as a priest. Deep down, Marlowe is a good and decent man, but he has his failings, one of which is an imperfect understanding of what it means to love unconditionally.

In earlier iterations of the story, Marlowe was portrayed as a much younger man, a priest fresh out of seminary who sees the world in very black and white terms and with a confidence he probably has not earned. As I developed the story through subsequent drafts, I felt like he needed to be an older, perhaps middle-aged man who has been beaten down by the harshness of the outside world and weighed down by the guilt and shame associated with what he sees as his own failings. I felt that in order for him to be a more compelling character readers would empathize with, he needed to be in a dark place when the story opens so he can evolve into a different and, hopefully, wiser and more hopeful person by the time his journey ends.

4. What was your hardest scene to write in this (or any) book?

That’s a tough question. There are a lot of scenes in the book that contribute to Father Marlowe’s character arc, but I’d say my favorite one is the opening scene. The story begins with Marlowe arriving on a pediatric cancer ward in New York City so he can administer Last Rites to a young girl dying of cancer. I’ve heard some readers describe the scene as “an emotional gut punch” that sets the stage for the central conflict of the story, which is Marlowe’s profound crisis of faith. By the time the scene ends, it is very clear that Marlowe no longer believes in God and the only course of action he can see is to leave the priesthood for good.

The scene was difficult to write, not only because of the emotional impact of trying to portray the death of an innocent child, but because there’s a fine line between drama and melodrama. I probably put the scene through at least three drafts before I was satisfied with it, though, like most writers, I’m NEVER completely satisfied with anything I write.

5. Did you go the traditional route when publishing your book or did you choose to self-publish?

I went the traditional route. The Strange Nighttime Journey of Father Stephen Marlowe was submitted to around thirty or forty literary agents, and didn’t get a single sniff. Not one. After a while, I began to suspect it MIGHT be because, as a novel, it IS on the short side at only 47,000 words. That’s just a guess though. It’s such a subjective business as all writers know, so perhaps the premise just didn’t resonate with the agents I targeted.

In any case, I eventually gave up on trying to secure an agent and instead began submitting it to independent and small horror presses. At first, it was tough going, but, eventually, I had a press ask for the full manuscript. My hopes were dashed when, several weeks later, they told me they enjoyed it but they wouldn’t take it on. I remained undeterred, however, and continued to submit it.

Then, one day last summer, Tyler Hauth, founder of Muddy Paw Press, called me on the phone and told me he had read half of the novel and he wanted to publish it. I was really caught off guard because no publisher or editor had ever taken the time to actually pick up the phone and call me about anything I’d written. We had a great conversation and, as we talked about the story, it was very clear Tyler understood what I was trying to say. He was a great editor and his feedback really helped make the story better, especially in terms of pacing. He’s been a great partner and I highly encourage all horror writers who don’t have traditional agent representation to give small presses a chance. These indie houses are much more likely to take on stories that don’t fit into the mainstream of what sells and what doesn’t sell. So, a short novel like Father Marlowe probably had a better chance with the indie presses than the traditional big publishers.

6. What would you say is the most difficult part of your writing journey and what advice would you give to other writers?

This should not come as a surprise to anyone who has been writing and trying to get published for a while, but the hardest part is dealing with the rejection.

For my part, I feel like my career as a newspaper reporter and magazine journalist trained me for the constant rejection from editors, agents and publishers. To be honest, it never really phased me enough to make me think about giving up on a career as a fiction writer. That said, I did, of course, have moments of doubt, especially in the years before I landed my first publishing credit (a short horror story entitled Ghosts of Annapurna, which was published in Ghostlight Magazine around 2010.) They say getting that first writing credit is the toughest nut to crack, and it is, but I just always kind of believed my stories were pretty good and there was an audience out there for them somewhere, I just had to find it.

So, I guess if I have one piece of advice to writers, it would be, if you really love to write, don’t ever give up. The only way you can fail is if you stop writing. And, of course, practice your craft as often as possible by writing on a regular basis and by reading both within and outside of your chosen genre.

7. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

As of today, I’ve published more than a dozen short horror stories, two horror novellas and one horror novel. None of them are connected. That said, the ending of The Strange Nighttime Journey of Father Stephen Marlowe makes it clear that his story is just beginning, and there MAY be more stories to come. I haven’t thought of a new story for Stephen yet, but if there’s one out there for him, I’ll find it and write it.

8. What are some of your favourite authors and books and what inspired you to become a writer in the first place?

I read a lot of different types of fiction and nonfiction. On the fiction side, I tend to read a lot of horror, obviously. I’m a huge fan of Edgar Allan Poe, Ambrose Bierce, H.P. Lovecraft, Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, Shirley Jackson, William Peter Blatty, Susan Hill, Clive Barker, Dan Simmons, Thomas Ligotti, and Stephen King. On the more contemporary front, I’ve very much enjoyed the books of Stephen Graham Jones, Paul Trembley, Brian Keene, John Langan, and V Castro.

I am also a big fan of fantasy. My favorite all-time book is The Crystal Cave by Lady Mary Stewart, who died a few years ago. That book, more than any other, inspired me to become a fiction writer. Her vivid use of language and innovative re-telling of the Arthurian legend through Merlin’s eyes was captivating. Marion Zimmer Bradley, George R.R. Martin and J.R.R. Tolkien are also favorites of mine.

I also LOVE good historical fiction – the work of John Jakes (the North & South trilogy), Sharon Kay Penman (Norman, Welsh and Scottish history), Herman Wouk (The Winds of War and War and Remembrance) are among the best historical fiction writers out there.

On the non-fiction front, I read a great deal about American history, especially the Civil War and WWII. Bruce Catton and William Shirer come to mind. I also love the history of baseball, especially the so-called “golden age” of baseball of the 1920s-60s, so Roger Kahn (The Boys of Summer), Doris Kearns Goodwin (Wait Till Next Year) and David Halbestrom, who we just lost as well (Summer of ’49 and October 1964 are two of his best) also sit on my shelf. The history of Negro League baseball has also become a passion of mine, and I have excellent biographies of Satchel Page, Josh Gibson and many other African-American greats who never got to play in the big leagues that I’ve voraciously consumed over the years.

9. What would you say has been the best way to market your books?

This is the toughest aspect of getting published. Once your book is out there, it’s incredibly difficult to rise above all the noise and get your book noticed. I’m a digital marketer in my day job, so I know how challenging it can be to make your voice heard.

Most of the success I’ve seen has been in engaging directly with book bloggers and reviewers on social media and finding podcasts that will give indie authors an opportunity to come on their shows and talk about their books. It’s a time consuming and somewhat thankless job, but you have to do it. Book signings are fun and I’ve done a few over the course of my three books getting released. It’s a great way to get out there and talk to readers at local bookstores.

10. Are there any tropes, clichés, or writing styles that you dislike and, if so, what are they and why?

Not particularly. The thing is, it’s all already been written before. There aren’t really any purely original stories to tell. What makes your story worthwhile is your personal spin on tropes and clichés we’ve all seen countless times before. As a writer, you just have to try and find a way to make those tropes and clichés your own, and you do that, I think, by injecting some of yourself into every story you write. There’s only one you – only one – and that is what makes your stories unique.

11. Do you read reviews of your book and, if so, how do you handle negative feedback?

I read all of them. Again, maybe my career as a journalist prepared me for harsh feedback, but, in my humble opinion, there is only one appropriate response to a negative review: Thanks for taking the time to read my work. That’s it. The bottom line is this – reviews are subjective and you can’t take it personally. I don’t see any upside to responding to negative reviews. Just move on to the next thing. You’re never going to write something that EVERYONE likes. It’s just not going to happen.

12. What are some of your quirks as a writer? Do you like to plot everything out or do you prefer to just “wing it” and see where the story takes you? Do you listen to music when writing and, if so, what do you listen to?

I rarely “wing” it. In most cases, I know the rough outlines of the beginning, middle and ending of my stories. I do often get stuck because I don’t know always know the answer to “and then what happened”, but I just write through it until I get the characters where they need to go.

Do I listen to music while I write? Never. It’s too distracting. I need quiet.

The only quirk I can think of is that, on occasion, I’ll have a glass of whiskey while I write, but those occasions are few and far between.

13. What is the best advice you’ve ever had when it comes to writing and what advice would you give to new writers?

Again, just don’t ever give up. And write for yourself, not what you think the market wants.

Also, when I was a English Literature and Creative Writing student back in the mid-nineties, I learned pretty quickly that you really have to be judicious about what feedback you listen to when you’re working on something. Again, it’s all incredibly subjective, and the honest to God truth is that there isn’t really anyone out there who knows what you’re trying to say or the best way to say it better than you do. You have to trust your instincts as a writer.

So, when I see writers on social media saying they have a dozen beta readers on their current work in progress, I have to wonder how much true value they get out of that. I have three or four beta readers, people I have known for many years, that I trust, and that’s it. And I don’t even act on all of their feedback. They’re there as a sounding board. That’s it.

14. What’s next for you? Are you currently working on any new books or stories?

I am just about to wrap up a collection of a dozen or so short horror stories (okay, one is actually now heading into novella/novel territory) set just before, during and after the U.S. Civil War. I feel like these are some of the best stories I’ve ever written and I hope they find an audience.

15. Finally, feel free to plug your social media, website, and links to Amazon, GoodReads, and other relevant sites below, and detail any current offers available for your book/s:

This is so kind of you! Thank you so very much for giving an indie author like me the chance to pontificate and share my experience with other writers.

Thank you again, Dr. K! You’re wonderful!

If you’d like to be featured in an interview, please check out the interview submissions page to submit your answers.

Author’s Spotlight: Chris Jones Interview

Chris Jones, author of the Mean Lou Green series of flash fiction

1. First, introduce yourself a bit. What is your name (or pen name) and where are you from?

My pen name is Chris Jones and I’m from Massachusetts USA. Maybe once I become famous I’ll be forced to reveal my true name…

2. Next, tell us a bit about your most recent work. Is this your first published book? What is it about and what genre would you classify it as?

I just released the first three volumes of a brand new style of fiction. Each volume has ten separate super-short flash fiction stories about the same characters. This series is called Mean Lou Green: Only Outlaws are Free, and it’s a raucous, untamed Wild West pulp fiction series. It’s only digital right now, but once I have six volumes I’ll release them together in paperback.

3. Tell us a bit about your main character; what are they like, how did they come about, and what are some of their strengths and weaknesses?

Mean Lou Green is a rambling gunslinger who turned to bounty hunting after his family met a grisly end. He’s on a quest to reach the Pacific and dip his dead son’s silver dollar into the salt water to fulfill a promise he made to his wife, but his lifestyle and fears about what comes after that keep him running in circles, jumping from one hair-raising adventure to the next.

4. What was your hardest scene to write in this (or any) book?

I wrote a scene/story about Lou getting a bullet dug out of his guts without anesthetic by a local sawbones. I did a lot of research about Civil War era medicine and amputations, and that was a horrifying process… Made me thankful to have all my limbs intact!

5. Did you go the traditional route when publishing your book or did you choose to self-publish?

Self-publishing. Both because I’m too small at the moment to work through a publisher and because I like to have complete creative freedom over my writing, distribution, marketing, and everything else… Especially since my work isn’t exactly PC or made for the masses.

6. What would you say is the most difficult part of your writing journey and what advice would you give to other writers?

Writing consistently every day. A quote by Faulkner I always keep in mind is: “I only write when I’m inspired. Luckily, inspiration hits at 9am sharp every morning.”

7. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

I’ll be writing in all different settings and genres so the series will be disconnected, but I’ll be writing many volumes in each series. I want my readers to know that whether it’s cowboys, pirates, Vikings, or knights, they’re in for an action-packed fun ride.

8. What are some of your favourite authors and books and what inspired you to become a writer in the first place?

Robert E. Howard’s Conan is a huge inspiration. Raymond Chandler’s pulp novels are the best and set the standard for my style. It’s a bit cliché, but I didn’t decide to become a writer… I’ve actually run from it my whole life, but I’ve always known since I wrote my first story about sea-raiders ransacking a medieval village when I was around eight or nine that it was what I was born to do. I wrestle back and forth with it, but in the end, it feels like my inescapable fate.

9. What would you say has been the best way to market your books?

I’ll let you know once I’m a bestseller 😉

10. Are there any tropes, clichés, or writing styles that you dislike and, if so, what are they and why?

I don’t like long, difficult writing that I have to slog through. I quoted Faulkner earlier, but his books are actually the worst I’ve ever (not) read. I like fast, fun, and easy. If I wanted verbose intellectual meanderings and cumbersome vocab (like that) I’d read a textbook instead.

11. Do you read reviews of your book and, if so, how do you handle negative feedback?

Yes, the negative ones are actually the most valuable, especially if they’re from someone you know. I’ve made enormous improvements in my writing after getting negative feedback. Positive feedback is a little hit of pleasure, but negative feedback is a GOLDMINE.

12. What are some of your quirks as a writer? Do you like to plot everything out or do you prefer to just “wing it” and see where the story takes you? Do you listen to music when writing and, if so, what do you listen to?

I’ve tried plotting and failed… Tried again and again, failed… I can’t do it. It’s not how my brain works. That’s why I’m developing a completely new style of fiction around the way I write. I get a quick idea, then I sit down and hammer away at the keyboard while the story tells itself in my head. I never plan events, endings, characters, nothing. I just let the story unfold in my mind and try to put it down accurately on paper. I think that’s what gives my writing such a light and wild feel. I rarely go back and edit storylines, rarely spend much time polishing. I let the story tell itself. I’ll never write a Game of Thrones, and that’s just fine by me!

13. What is the best advice you’ve ever had when it comes to writing and what advice would you give to new writers?

I think it’s crucial to prioritize execution and not try to be the next Cormac McCarthy. Writers often get caught up in trying to put out some grand Shakespearean masterpiece and agonize over every little detail, and 9/10 times it never even gets released. I try to live by the Pareto Principle and focus on action, speed, and RELEASING my work, even if it’s only 80% perfect. There will be plenty of time later to edit and release second editions. An imperfect work that gets released is infinitely better than a “masterpiece” that you never hit the Send button on. You’ll keep learning and improving as long as you’re releasing and getting feedback, and eventually the masterpieces will flow out effortlessly. Everything is all about just building up that momentum and never letting it die.

To put it very bluntly: Perfectionists never get anything DONE.

14. What’s next for you? Are you currently working on any new books or stories?

I’m slamming out as many of these short volumes as I possibly can, across all different settings and genres. I’m starting a new pirate series now. Adventure and conquest on the high seas. I plan to completely revolutionize the modern fiction and entertainment industry and bring back the epic, fun, heroic tales from the 20th century, in a format specifically designed for modern readers who are losing their taste (and attention spans) for long-form.

I’ll soon be bringing on other writers, as well as artists and designers and storytellers of all kinds. Together we will spearhead a new era of entertainment and make fiction great again.

15. Finally, feel free to plug your social media, website, and links to Amazon, GoodReads, and other relevant sites below, and detail any current offers available for your book/s:

Right now I’m most active on Instagram as I’m growing my new business. I post lots of art and cool graphics that I like to create an awesome and aesthetic atmosphere on my page.

You can check out my work at my website. It goes to my Gumroad store for now, where you can download my various flash-fiction volumes for dirt cheap. Mean Lou Green Vol. 1 is FREE, so anyone can check it out and see if they dig my style. They’re formatted super clean for mobile, PC, or e-reader so you’ll be able to read them easily.

You can also snag the first three volumes of Mean Lou Green on Amazon (Kindle only). Each volume is $1 on Amazon since I can’t make it free there.

So if you like lightning-fast stories, high adventure, and pulse-pounding action, then strap in for a wild ride with Chris Jones Pulp Fiction Empire.

If you’d like to be featured in an interview, please check out the interview submissions page to submit your answers.

Author’s Spotlight: Kerry E.B. Black Interview

Kerry E.B. Black, author of Spring of Spirits, Carousel of Nightmares, and other short stories

1. First, introduce yourself a bit. What is your name (or pen name) and where are you from?

Hi. And thank you for conducting these interviews! My name is Kerry E.B. Black, and I am a writer living in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, PA USA.

2. Next, tell us a bit about your most recent work. Is this your first published book? What is it about and what genre would you classify it as?

My most recently published book is a YA paranormal thriller called Spring of Spirits. It’s the second in a series that follows Casey, a shy college freshman at Ol’NorEastern U, where an Autumn Equinox awakening ceremony changed the participants in subtle ways – and might have released something murderous.

The main character, Casey, bears a lot of burdens. Her home life leaves much to be desired, yet she does all she can to help there. She works and attends school. She’s a hard worker who also faced mental health issues. She’s someone to admire, truly.

3. Tell us a bit about your main character; what are they like, how did they come about, and what are some of their strengths and weaknesses?

How she came about? I have many friends in different special needs communities. They’ve served as partial models for Casey.

Later this year. I’m releasing a book of scary poetry called Poetic Nightmares (my already released collections of short scares are named Carousel of Nightmares, Herd of Mightmares, and Fairy Herds and Mythscapes). I adore reading and writing short fiction, with its encapsulated experiences. Often in my busy life, I haven’t enough time. So I appreciate intoxicating, brief interludes.

4. What was your hardest scene to write in this (or any) book?

I’m working on a novella that’s stymied me because I dread the latest scene. It’s set in the ambiguous past, when midwives and herbalists we’re persecuted as witches. This particular herbalist lead character has cerebral palsy – and a surprising relationship with another character in the story. I hope to finish it before the end of the year.

5. Did you go the traditional route when publishing your book or did you choose to self-publish?

I work with a dear woman named Deb Sanchez at Tree Shadow Press to publish most of my work. She’s a one woman hybrid press dynamo, and I love her!

Terry M. West curates a magazine called Weirdsmith, and I was honored to be a featured author for his volume five. Those two stories remain the goriest I’ve ever written. Otherwise, a number of amazing lit mags and anthologies have kindly published some of my stories.

6. What would you say is the most difficult part of your writing journey and what advice would you give to other writers?

Imposter Syndrome cripples. It kept me from writing for far too long. Life’s short, and tomorrow is not promised, or so common sense tells us. So, write if you want to, tell stories and leave a mark. Not everyone will enjoy your work, but don’t allow that to stop you. Write what you enjoy.

7. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

Good question. Many of my stories come from a shared universe. I sometimes have a character in a story refer to another character or experience from a different story, so although the stories stand alone, they often contain “Easter Eggs.”

8. What are some of your favourite authors and books and what inspired you to become a writer in the first place?

Some of my favorite authors include C.S. Lewis, Neil Gaiman, Shirley Jackson, Stephen King, Joe Hill, Alice Hoffman, Grady Hendrix, Gwendolyn Kiste, Edgar A. Poe, Holly Black, and Cynthia Pelayo. But there are so many more! I think my mom inspired me to write. I started early with ghost stories I’d write and illustrate and share with underclassmen at my elementary school. Through writing, I am marginally more eloquent than my normal, tongue-tied and awkward self.

9. What would you say has been the best way to market your books?

I am not sure about the best way to market my books. My Twitter following is largest, but I think I have more actual engagement on Instagram.

10. Are there any tropes, clichés, or writing styles that you dislike and, if so, what are they and why?

I am not a fan of erotica or extreme gore.

11. Do you read reviews of your book and, if so, how do you handle negative feedback?

I do read reviews and try to look at anything negative constructively. That’s not to say it doesn’t sting, but I try to turn it into a learning experience. As Hemingway explained, we’re all learning as we go. There’s something magical about always striving to be better.

12. What are some of your quirks as a writer? Do you like to plot everything out or do you prefer to just “wing it” and see where the story takes you? Do you listen to music when writing and, if so, what do you listen to?

I always know the beginning and the end of my stories. The action has to progress toward that conclusion. For longer works, I know plot points that must be reached. The business of getting there is often something of a mystery to me, though.

I don’t usually pay attention to the world around me when I write. I tune everything out by necessity, I suppose. My house is tiny and overly populated, and thus noisy and distracting.

13. What is the best advice you’ve ever had when it comes to writing and what advice would you give to new writers?

Join writing groups. Support your fellow writers and listen to their suggestions about your writing. Objective opinions are invaluable.

14. What’s next for you? Are you currently working on any new books or stories?

I am always writing. Even when I don’t write things down, my mind seizes and elaborates on ideas. I’ve that novella to complete. I use submission calls for publications I admire as muses for short works. I write a drabble weekly for https://www.carrotranch.com.

15. Finally, feel free to plug your social media, website, and links to Amazon, GoodReads, and other relevant sites below, and detail any current offers available for your book/s:

Thank you again for conducting this interview! I’ve boosted your offer of interviews on my Instagram (where I discovered it.)

If you’d like to be featured in an interview, please check out the interview submissions page to submit your answers.

Author’s Spotlight: Lynda McKinney Lambert Interview

Lynda McKinney Lambert, author of Songs for the Pilgrimage, First Snow, and others

– First, introduce yourself a bit. What is your name (or pen name) and where are you from?

Lynda McKinney Lambert, Ellwood City, Pennsylvania. I am a retired professor of Fine Art and Humanities, Geneva College, Beaver Falls, PA. I retired in 2007, after sight loss. I am currently writing full time, now that I am retired from my teaching career at the college. I balance my days between writing and making art in my studio though the use of adaptive technologies for the blind.

Next, tell us a bit about your most recent work. Is this your first published book? What is it about and what genre would you classify it as?

My newest book is Songs for the Pilgrimage (DLD Books, 2021). This is a collection of poetry, journal entries, reflections, and non-fiction memoirs. The work in this book spans a period of writing from 1988 to 2021. I began writing poetry while working on My BFA degree in painting in the mid to late 80s.

Eventually, I spent an entire year in 2020 reading through my journals from 1988 to 2020. I developed this book over the year of exploring my art and writing history through my journals and memories. Themes are travel, dance, music, art, history, nature, faith

Did you go the traditional route when publishing your book or did you choose to self-publish?

Three of my five published books were created by DLD Books, Denver, Colorado. The three books edited and designed by this team are:

Walking by Inner Vision: Stories & Poems, 2017
Star Signs: New and Selected Poems, 2019
Songs for the Pilgrimage, 2021.

My chapbook, First Snow, was published by Finishing Line Press and is a collection of thirty wintry-themed poems, 2020.

My first book is Concerti: Psalms for the Pilgrimage (Kota Press, 2002).

– What would you say is the most challenging part of your writing journey and what advice would you give to other writers?

My writing journey evolved naturally because I earned three degrees in Fine Art and English. My academic work was at different universities over eleven years, Writing papers and doing research is a significant part of that training. I loved writing about art, artists, art history, poetry, and poets.

As for advice, I’d say to cultivate patience. Never be in a rush to get your book done. Instead, allow the manuscript and your thoughts to mature during the writing process. Keep in mind that you want your collection of writings to be a cohesive body of work. I think of this as a work of art because it is art.

– What are some of your favourite authors and books and what inspired you to become a writer in the first place?

As I worked on my MA in English degree, my focus was poetry. My final project was focused on three poets who wrote during three different periods: John Donne, Willian Carlos Williams, Robert Bly,

I also studied the beat poets and abstract expressionist artists. My favorite art is German Expressionism and American Abstract Expressionists.

– Do you read reviews of your book and, if so, how do you handle negative feedback?

I don’t read reviews very often. I think the best reviews are by editors who specialize in non-fiction and poetry. I appreciate the honest and thoughtful consideration by people who have read my books. Unfortunately, negative remarks are typically left by people who are not knowledgeable about non-fiction, memoir, or art.

– What’s next for you? Are you currently working on any new books or stories?

I write a blog, Walking by Inner Vision. I published articles three mornings a week at 7 a.m. Monday is “Poem: From the Professor’s Journal.” That is a poem and the backstory of the poem Wednesday is “Garden Songs,” my little poems inspired by my gardens and nature. Friday is “The Evergreen Journal,” a series of memoirs. I’ll do fifty for this year. I think these will be collected and turned into a book in 2023.

– Finally, feel free to plug your social media, website, and links to Amazon, GoodReads, and other relevant sites below, and detail any current offers available for your book/s:

I invite visitors to stop by and let me know what you think about any comments or advice I have offered on this interview. Thank you for this opportunity to share my writing life with all of you today.

If you’d like to be featured in an interview, please check out the interview submissions page to submit your answers.