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: The Perfect Story: The Tales of Lily

Author: C.D. McKenna
Genre: Horror
Publication Date: 24 October 2022
Pages: 49
Available As: e-book

The Synopsis:
All Eric wanted was to tell the right story . . . the perfect story.

Eric has one chance to prove himself with his publishing firm. With a jealous and bitter boss, the author has one goal: to outdo himself and prove that the company is nothing without him. A best seller, Eric is in talks for one of his works to be adapted to a TV series. To the public eye, Eric has it all together.

But the once popular writer has demons, and plenty of them. He’s got a rocky past and has recently moved into a foreclosed home. Struggling for motivation, Eric has a deadline to meet and if he doesn’t meet it, he’ll lose everything.

When a doll shows up on his front porch, dirty and broken, Eric decides to keep it. After all, it may have inspiration he needs to write the story he’s always wanted to tell.

But every choice has consequences. And Eric is about to learn what happens when you let the demons in.

The Review:
The Perfect Story: The Tales of Lily is a brisk horror novella from noted high-fantasy author C.D. McKenna. It’s the story Of Eric Chaplin, a pretty successful author of psychological thrillers, who is facing a strict deadline for his next story. Having achieved what many authors can only dream of,a literary agent, publisher, and publishing team, and with a possible television adaptation on the horizon, Eric should be riding high but he’s struggling to find the time to write. Normally a very well organised and reliable individual, his life has fallen apart a bit in the last year; his house is a mess, dirty plates are piling up, and he’s medication for his crippling headaches and to curb the voices in his head.

For Eric, writing is a way to give those voices an outlet; his antipsychotics keep him stable, but his writing is his chance to be creative. While some, like his nosy neighbour Ms. Tatum, disapprove of the dark subject matter of his works, it’s proven successful, but that success comes with the additional pressure to live up to expectations. Faced with constant interruptions from his publishing team, advanced deadlines, and distractions from food, television, and even unpacking, Eric’s life takes a turn for the truly bizarre when a mysterious and creepy doll arrives on his doorstep and refuses to leave no matter how often he tosses it out. Creepy dolls are a bit of a cliché in horror and have been done to death; but, while the author doesn’t do too much new with the doll, which Eric comes to name Lily, she does masterfully associate the doll’s unsettling nature with Eric’s degenerating mental state and stifling procrastination. Thanks to Eric being on antipsychotics, a side effect of which is noted to be hallucinations, it’s never truly clear whether Lily is actually possessed by a malevolent spirit or if it’s all in Eric’s head as another elaborate excuse not to get to writing.

Soon, Eric is tormented by gruesome dreams, and this is where the author’s horror chops really shine; dismembered bodies, ominous messages, and an alluring, if ghastly, female figure torment Eric’s dreams and soon spill over into his waking day. However, he finds himself reinvigorated by these experiences rather than terrified; he comes to care for the doll, to carry it with him, to have it near to fuel his creativity, neglecting his personal hygiene, appointments, and well-being to bash out this one perfect story. At around fifty pages, The Perfect Story: The Tale of Lily is easy to get through in one sitting and full of fun imagery, anecdotes, and represents a snapshot of the pressure and difficulty that comes from being a writer. It’s hard to stay focused and motivated even without a possessed doll watching your every move, and there’s a subtext here that really had me thinking the more I read. Not just on the surface level with questions regarding Eric’s mental stability but questioning whether the horrible things he’s written about are somehow avenging themselves against him. Ultimately, the author opted for a monstrous twist at the end but still managed to keep Lily’s true nature a mystery. While, as I say, the haunted doll cliché has been overdone, Lily is really more of an ancillary player to the greater troubles weighing down on Eric and becomes something of an allegory for procrastination and self-doubt, which makes The Perfect Story: The Tales of Lily an enthralling read that I highly recommend.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Fantastic

If you’re interested in checking out The Perfect Story: The Tales of Lily, and to learn more about C.D. McKenna and her journey as an author, visit the links at the top of the page.

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: Orca

Author: Mariëtte Whitcomb
Genre: Thriller
Publication Date: 24 November 2020
Pages: 218
Available As: Paperback and e-book

The Synopsis:
War didn’t change me… Four months as the enemy’s captive did. I returned home broken, scarred, the call to combat echoing in my soul. Haunted by the deaths of my squad, a darkness festers inside me, set on vengeance.

Seven little girls died at the hands of the Angel Taker. He thinks himself invincible, taunting the police and the families of his victims with letters. If the police can’t stop him, I will. I’m not bound by man-made laws. Starting with the Angel Taker, I will hunt him and every other vile predator down. The dark web won’t keep them safe; I’m not afraid of the abyss.

I don’t care if this path destroys me, or the police realise a woman is responsible for the bodies found hanging across the city. The victims deserve freedom, and their deaths avenged.

Soon I find myself in the crosshairs of the Marcel Sniper. The worst he does – kiss me. As sure as my name is Finley D. Williams, that kiss is the best I’ve ever had.

Perhaps I’m not alone in this fight after all…

The Review:
Orca is the first book in Mariëtte Whitcomb’s Finley series of thrillers. The story is told entirely through the first-person perspective of its main character, Finley Duncan Williams, a highly-trained and semi-empathetic soldier who has the uncanny ability to get into the headspace of violent killers, rapists, and sadists in order to figure out how they think, their patterns, and where they might strike next. Before joining the army, Finley strongly considered becoming a profiler and many characters, such as her Uncle Tom, a prominent member of the police department, praise her fantastic ability to see what their fully trained and highly experienced detectives and profilers miss. Crucially, Finley is also the survivor of a brutal bout of torture; captured, beaten, raped, and scarred by her tormentors, she was finally rescued and returned home to her sister, Elizabeth (affectionately known as Lizzie), only to find her parents had died and her home life had changed forever thanks to a slew of perverse criminals targeting random innocents but, especially, women.

I feel it’s important to establish some of this groundwork before delving into a review of Orca as the author certainly isn’t pulling any punches here; she describes, in graphic and repeated detail, Finley’s anger and disgust at these individuals, who she refers to impassively as “id”. Haunted by recurring dreams of the victims, Finley is unable to stop herself from trying to figure out the likes of the “Angel Taker” and the “Marcel Sniper” and, against her uncle’s wishes, quickly “goes rogue” and conducts her own investigation, immediately finding leads and gaining an insight into these killers and rapists far faster than the police. There’s a clear sense of purpose behind the author’s writing here; while Finley is relatively respectful to her uncle, she doesn’t take any crap and has no time for the red tape and procedure hampering the cops. Before long, Tom is openly discussing cases with her and allowing her access to the case files so she can continue her unique line of inquiry and, although he and many in the police department are aware that she’s assisting and actively getting involved in these cases, no repercussions are ever brought against her because she conveniently always ends up either being framed as a victim or acting in self-defence. And boy, you better believe that Finley knows how to defend herself! Not only does she rediscover her passion for Krav Maga (igniting a different kind of passion along the way), but she’s keen-eyed, is always aware of her surroundings, has exceptional stamina, durability, and hand-to-hand combat skills, and she is almost obsessed with guns. Handy with a variety of firearms, Finley always has a gun on her and isn’t shy about whipping it out at the slightest provocation or using it to defend herself; it gets a little extreme at some points in this regard as she constantly talks about how much she values a gun at her side, almost as much as she gushes over her beloved Johnnie Walker and her fancy cars.

Thanks to a generous inheritance and Lizzie’s running of the family business, Finley wants for nothing; she has all the money she needs to buy properties, turn them into safehouses for victims of sexual, emotional, and physical abuse, and to kit out her home into a veritable torture chamber for her victims. With an understated ease, Finley trawls the “dark web” using a variety of assumed names, learning the depravity of her targets, and lures a number of perverted sadists to their doom. Thanks to her training, and her own personal experiences, Finley is horrifyingly adept at conjuring and crafting horrendous tortures for her victims, leaving them for days on end to suffer for their injustices until they’re begging to confess and for their deaths. Finley then offers them a choice between a slower, more painful death and a faster but no less agonising end, with her victims always opting for the former; she then spends many a paragraph justifying that she’s different from her victims, and not a killer, because she technically doesn’t kill these creeps herself. But forcing someone to kill themselves is the same as murder in my book, so often Finley came across as a bit of a deluded hypocrite, but this does occasionally tie into the narrative; Finley begins to fear her dark side, and even her family and lover are perturbed when they see how adept she is at assuming the role of a stalker and vigilante. Finley sees herself as an alpha predator, styling herself as an orca swimming among sharks, and delights in teasing them, seducing them, and dragging out their suffering; there’s no doubt that all of her victims were vicious deviants who had committed or wished to commit unspeakable crimes upon others (again, especially women) but there’s never a question that Finley has targeted the wrong person, or is going too far. Instead, she’s almost superhumanly meticulous and consistently able to predict her target’s movements; even when she’s caught off guard, she fights like a wild animal and it’s only after her actions finally catch up to her that she begins to rethink her vendetta, and even then her recovery time is largely glossed.

Finley is surrounded by some interesting characters; Lizzie is much more outspoken and outgoing, to her detriment it turns out, and is the more stereotypically “girly” of the two, encouraging Finley to dress up nice and get laid and to enjoy her life, especially after everything she suffered. Her bubbly naivety contrasts nicely with Finley’s colder, more pragmatic and weathered personality, but even this cold-blooded avenger can’t help but be swayed by her sister’s enthusiasm and enjoy a nice tight dress and a few social events. Her uncle, Tom, is the closest thing either of them have to a father and there’s a huge amount of respect between them; he admires her passion, fortitude, and incredible intuitive abilities and, while he discourages her from putting herself in harm’s way, he can’t help but rely on her as he’s at his wit’s end with the many shocking crimes sweeping the town. Finley has her fair share of passionate trysts throughout Orca; those she falls for are always ex-army, fit and field trained to be her equal. For me, there was a little too much wish fulfilment in these parts; the men she goes for almost too good to be true and that often took me out of the story a bit. Generally, Finley has a fear of commitment due to her dark side; even when she opens up to those she considers her equal, she keeps them at arm’s length and it’s not until a life-changing experience that she starts to consider settling down. Amidst this, she feels a strange and incredibly awkward lust towards the Marcel Sniper, even sharing a passionate kiss with him, all of which were elements that didn’t land for me because they didn’t really paint Finley in the best light.

However, it appears to be the author’s intention to suggest that Finley is damaged. She’s a survivor, for sure, and is written to be the most capable female protagonist ever, rarely coming up short and always bouncing back from adversity, but it’s obvious that her experiences have changed her. Although she initially fights against it, Finley comes to embrace her role as a “protector”; she sees the women under her care as in need of direction, the strength of will to fight back, and stops at nothing to target and end those who have harmed them, or others. She’s ridiculously successful in her ventures, working out her damage on numerous sickos while caught in a crossroads between becoming a full-blown killer of killers and settling down into something resembling a “normal” life. It was pretty clear to me within a few chapters that I am not the intended audience for Orca or this series; there’s an agenda behind Orca that some may find uncomfortable, but there’s also a stark truth laid bare that we live in times that are not especially safe for women. I think others, especially survivors of abuse, will find a stronger connection to Finley, her vendetta, and Orca’s themes; it might be traumatic for them to relive their suffering, but Finley offers a fantastical catharsis through having the uncanny means to track down, brutalise, and dispatch the men who would harm others. Similarly, those who enjoy a bit of whirlwind smut and seeing a bad-ass female protagonist go wherever she likes, say whatever she likes, and do whatever she likes with few repercussions may also enjoy Orca; the only thing stopping Finley is the time it takes her to find, lure, and ensnare her victims but there’s never a question of her being unsuccessful in these ventures and she’s just as driven when it comes to bedding her impossibly buff lovers. Finally, there’s a fair amount to enjoy here for those who are into violence; the torture Finley inflicts on her victims is graphic and brutal and the author doesn’t pull any punches when depicting violence. So, while it didn’t really click with me and I had some issues with the narrative, I’m sure there’s an audience for Orca and I hope that those who read it come away focusing on a positive message; that they’re not alone, there is help and support and life after abuse, and they’re fully capable of finding ways to come back stronger from even the darkest times.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

If you’re interested in checking out Orca, and to learn more about Mariëtte Whitcomb and her journey as an author, visit the links at the top of the page.

Author’s Spotlight: A Season to Kill 

Author: Nic Winter
Genre: Murder Mystery/Thriller
Publication Date: 4 October 2022
Pages: 308
Available As: Paperback and e-book

The Synopsis:
When lawyer Darcy Sinclair discovers the body of local entrepreneur Elle Bradshaw, it’s more than just the gruesome scene that haunts her. All the trauma from Darcy’s childhood, the memories she’s worked so hard to expunge, rush back, and the ghosts of her past refuse to stay buried.

As autumn arrives in the Scottish village of Cedarwood, Elle’s death isn’t the only horrific tragedy that accompanies it. The body count rises, infidelities are exposed, grudges become uncovered, and it soon becomes clear to Darcy that a malignant killer resides within her inner circle.

Sociopath or psychopath? In the end, it doesn’t matter. She is being hunted by a monster hiding in plain sight. If she doesn’t uncover the truth, Darcy might just lose everything.

The Review:
A Season to Kill is the debut novel of Nic Winters, one of the most supportive, hard-working, and enthusiastic writers I’ve had the pleasure to connect with on social media. The story is a murder mystery set in the fictional Scottish town of Cedarwood, a place full of well-to-do types who enjoy their luxuries, frivolities, and gossiping about their neighbours, their lives, and their fashion sense. This fancy town, which is built on old money, deceit, and chatter, is turned on its head when Elle Bradshaw, a prominent member of the social elite, is found dead in her home and rumours of foul play begin to circulate around Cedarwood.

At the centre of all of this is Darcy Sinclair, an everyday wife and mum of two. Darcy is an overworked and undervalued dispute resolution lawyer who is easily the most genuine and honest person in all of Cedarwood. Having inherited her house from her beloved deceased mother, Darcy very much feels like an outsider compared to her friends and social circle: she doesn’t place high value on brands, is well aware that she’s not some catwalk model, and cannot stand the constant two-faced spite that surrounds her at every turn. Yet, Darcy is one smart cookie; she knows that she needs to play the game and bite her tongue in order to have an easy life free from drama, but drama very much explodes into her life when she finds Elle’s body and becomes caught up in the confusion and investigation surrounding her death.

Considering that she’s a fan of true crime dramas, it’s ironic that Darcy stumbles upon Elle’s body, and the nature of Elle’s condition and death send her mind into overtime. Her inquisitive nature riles up Sergeant Jim Burns, an aggressive police officer who grills Darcy in an unusually abrasive interview that almost feels like an interrogation. Just as Darcy is trying to recover from the shock of finding one dead body, a close friend of hers is also attacked and left for dead, and all of a sudden Cedarwood seems to be at the mercy of a potential serial killer. While the social elite delights in spitting venom about the character of those being targeted and fawning over the return of Elle’s estranged son, the wheels continue to turn in Darcy’s head as she stumbles upon clues and further questions that make her think there’s a serious problem in her posh little neighbourhood.

One of the things I really enjoyed about A Season to Kill was the depiction of Darcy and the inhabitants of Cedarwood; the two couldn’t be more contrasting, as Darcy is an authentic and hardworking realist surrounded by people who care more about their make-up and social standing than the fact that the bodies are beginning to pile up around them. When her neighbours brag about their brands, the fancy schools their kids are in, and their brazen infidelities, Darcy is perfectly happy for her kids to go to public school and happily married to a supportive and loving husband. The author excels at crafting some truly reprehensible characters that surround, harass, and put down Darcy (and others) at every turn and it’s a delight to see them interacting, and getting a peek into Darcy’s inner monologue to see just how often she has to bite her tongue to save face and play this intricate game of human chess in order to pick her battles. Thankfully, not everyone in Cedarwood is a despicable, duplicitous sake; Darcy has some true friends who she actually enjoys spending time with, but even they can drive her crazy with their non-stop chatter, first world problems, and flawed personalities.

I think this is a pivotal element of A Season to Kill; these are all very flawed characters, even those who think they are at the top of the social elite. Darcy’s neighbours hide behind their wealth and influence, each of them assuming a mask of conceit in order to hide their true feelings and intentions, whereas Darcy is largely honest by nature and is forced to hide her true opinions so as not to be socially ostracised. This means that A Season to Kill really comes to life as you read it; these characters and this neighbourhood feel and sound real when you read them, and it’s easy to relate to and feel the same frustrations that Darcy feels as she tries to get to the bottom of what’s going on in her otherwise safe little town. Occasionally, the author will write from the perspective of her killer, described as a “hunter”, and deliver some tantalising insight into how they feel about their actions, the perverse pleasure they get out of it, and build a sense of dread as they turn their attention towards Darcy due to her interference. However, in a nice change of pace, the story remains focused on Darcy and is her story to tell, which means that you’re left with a laundry list of potential suspects because everyone in Cedarwood is shown to be a disgraceful person with reasons to go to extremes to protect their reputation.

Nic Winter has a real knack for pacing and crafting relatable, layered characters, and even the most two-faced members of Darcy’s social circle soon reveal that they see, feel, and know more than what was initially evident, but it’s Darcy who fittingly steals the show in A Season to Kill. Possessing a biting snark and a refreshing realism, Darcy is simply a woman trying to keep her life as simple, organised, and relaxed as possible; she doesn’t want to get dragged into the backstabbing games of the social elite and continuously swallows her pride in order to have an easy life…but when she does match wits with the upper elite, she does so with a cutting wit and delivers some home truths that far outweigh the fact that she doesn’t wear Gucci or Prada. Having experienced a great deal of trauma and loss, Darcy is not one to dwell on the darker aspects of life and is always looking forward; but when murder strikes Cedarwood, she is forced to confront some of the ghosts of her past and all of this makes for a very relatable and heartfelt character.

I read A Season to Kill not trying to guess who was the culprit and just wanting to enjoy the writing and the dialogue, which are both fantastically well realised, but Nic Winter did a brilliant job of painting multiple inhabitants of Cedarwood as being either potential suspects or to have the motivation necessary to attack and kill others. Even so, Nic Winter pulled a wonderful twist out near the end that I didn’t see coming and then doubled down by delivering exposition regarding her killer in a really interesting way that acted as a moment of desperation and finding the will to fight back for self-preservation and against being victimised by a sadistic killer. Typically, I don’t really read a lot of murder mysteries, but it’s surprising how many I have read since I started reviewing indie books. A Season to Kill was a highly enjoyable and engaging read; it’s very “readable”, which is a term I usually dislike but I think is more than suitable here thanks to Nic Winter’s well-crafted characters and dialogue. I felt like these characters, especially Darcy, were extremely realistic and well-rounded and the writing was always appealing, alluring, and even amusing at times. The book never feels too wordy, never drags, and there’s always another colourful or conceited character waiting around the corner to upset the applecart, and I found myself really connecting with Darcy and her plight. Fans of true crime and murder mysteries will probably get even more out of it as Nic Winter builds a great sense of mystery and ominous dread surrounding the dark events that descend upon Cedarwood, and I enjoyed the way she painted so many different characters as suspects to craft a very entertaining read.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

If you’re interested in checking out A Season to Kill, and to learn more about Nic Winter and her journey as an author, visit the links at the top of the page.

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: To Eat Their Own

Author: Glen Picotte
Genre: Horror
Publication Date: 1 October 2022
Pages: 78
Available As: Paperback and e-book

The Synopsis:
Kenny just had to get away. He was done with his old life, and as he walked he imagined his new one. Maybe coming to ol’ Charleston was always a part of the plan, or maybe he arrived there by chance, but no matter how he ended up there, stopping at that little pizzeria for a bite to eat may have been the beginning of the end of his life altogether.

The Review:
To Eat Their Own is the debut publication of Glen Picotte; a horror short clocking in at nineteen chapters, the story is a brisk, gore-filled romp that read to me like a nightmarish mash-up of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (Hooper, 1974), The Fog (Carpenter, 1980), and Silent Hill (Team Silent, 1999). Told from the third-person, the story follows Kenny, a young man on the run from his past and some vaguely-defined mistakes and just trying to find a new place to settle down where nobody knows him. Throughout much of the story, Kenny is suffering from a number of ailments; he’s constantly exhausted, ravenous with hunger almost the entire time, and his body is a mess of strange aches and pains. To make matters worse, the rare times he does actually sleep he is tormented either by graphic and gruesome nightmares or the shadows of the life he’s trying to leave behind. There’s an air of mystery around Kenny; the author never explicitly goes into detail about what he’s trying to get away from, and we’re simply left following him at this particularly stage of his life as he tries to cobble together some kind of direction and purpose for himself, making him both a blank slate for readers to project themselves onto and giving him a mysterious aura that makes you wonder what happened to bring him to the foggy, desolate town of Charleston.

Charleston is more of a vague, ominous presence more than anything else; we only really visit a few prominent places in town (a pizzeria where Kenny briefly finds work, the local police station, and a horror house of a motel) but it comes to consume the tatters of Kenny’s life. Swamped by a thick and constant fog and sporting a twisted forest of gnarled and jagged trees, Charleston definitely conjures memories of the gothic, misty towns of H.P. Lovecraft and proves to be a place one does not simply casually visit on a whim. Indeed, Charleston initially seems quite welcoming to poor old Kenny; he’s offered shelter and even a job, but things quickly become suspicious when the specifics of his wages are vaguely defined before the story takes a dramatic right turn into the truly horrific when Kenny is set upon by the sadistic Mrs. Valentine and her blindly (literally and figuratively) obedient son, Jimmy. Subjected to a living nightmare, Kenny’s only thought is to escape; just as he’s running from the ghosts of his past so too does he simply want to flee the macabre trappings of Charleston with what little he has left. But the town and her warped inhabitants won’t let him leave so easily, and Kenny is forced to take a stand, possibly for the first time in his life, and discover a side of himself he never suspected.

To Eat Their Own was an easy read for me; the chapters, each carrying their own sub-title, are short and easy to digest and the author makes great use of his words and the story’s length to tell craft a mean and bloody appetiser of a tale. The story has the horror, appeal, and randomness of a nightmare; Kenny stumbles and is battered from one ghastly situation to the next, encountering allies and new obstacles in each chapter that force him back into town and to face another horrifying situation. The scares are built up nicely; at first, it’s the fear of the unknown and the strangeness surrounding Charleston and the behaviour of Roy, the overly welcoming and accommodating pizzeria owner. Then it seems like fatigue, paranoia, and hunger and causing Kenny to hallucinate, and then he finds himself being knocked out, tied to a chair, and at the mercy of an unnervingly polite psychotic cannibal. When describing scenes of extreme horror and gore, the author certainly doesn’t shy away; To Eat Their Own is awash with dismemberments, arterial spray, stabbings, gunshots, and all kinds of vivid and gory elements as Kenny is not only put through the wringer physically and emotionally but also gathers his wits to fight back against his tormentors.

Because of this, the squeamish need not apply here; while To Eat Their Own isn’t as graphic as some horror stories, it certainly contains a fair amount of splatter and uncomfortable situations, from torture to manipulation to more physical scenarios. As the story develops, the mystery of Charleston, its nature, and its inhabitants only becomes murkier not just from the oppressive fog but also the Lovecraftian elements the author weaves into the narrative. There’s an eldritch flavouring to the proceedings that really reminds me of some of Lovecraft’s shorts, which followed relatively mundane people suddenly enveloped in an aeons-old ceremony of gruesome, inescapable, and often unspeakable violence. While To Eat Their Own doesn’t jump head-first into Lovecraftian territory, it definitely dips its toe in there and the end result is an intriguing little bite-sized horror that left me both wanting to know more and happy to make my own conclusions. Overall, I quite enjoyed this twisted little nightmare; the pacing and intrigue were just right for me, the mystery and horror elements were well-balanced and depicted in shocking fashion, and the sadist in me enjoyed the bleakness of story so I’d absolutely recommend it to horror fans, or those seeking to branch into more obscure horror offerings.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

If you’re interested in checking out To Eat Their Own, and to learn more about Glen and his journey as an author, visit the links at the top of the page.

“To Eat Their Own” follows Kenny, a young man on the run from his past and who suffers from a near-constant exhaustion, hunger, and strange aches and pains. There’s an air of mystery around him; we never find out what he’s trying to get away from, which makes you wonder what happened to bring him to the foggy, desolate town of Charleston. Charleston is quite the vague, ominous presence; swamped by a thick fog and surrounded by a twisted forest, Charleston conjures memories of H.P. Lovecraft’s gothic, misty towns. Things quickly take a dramatic turn when Kenny is set upon by the sadistic Mrs. Valentine and her blindly (literally and figuratively) obedient son, Jimmy. Kenny’s only thought is to escape; just as he’s running from the ghosts of his past so too does he simply want to flee the macabre trappings of Charleston. But the town won’t let him leave so easily, and Kenny is forced to take a stand, possibly for the first time in his life, and discover a side of himself he never suspected.

“To Eat Their Own” has the horror, appeal, and randomness of a nightmare; the scares are built up nicely, escalating from the fear of the unknown to being at the mercy of an unnervingly polite psychotic cannibal. The author certainly doesn’t shy away from extreme horror and gore; “To Eat Their Own” is awash with dismemberments, arterial spray, and all kinds of vivid and gory elements as Kenny is not only put through the wringer physically and emotionally but also gathers his wits to fight back against his tormentors. Because of this, the squeamish need not apply here as To Eat Their Own” contains a fair amount of splatter and uncomfortable situations, from torture to manipulation to more physical scenarios. While “To Eat Their Own” doesn’t jump head-first into Lovecraftian territory, it definitely dips its toe in there and the end result is an intriguing little bite-sized horror that left me both wanting to know more and happy to make my own conclusions. Overall, I quite enjoyed this twisted little nightmare; the pacing and intrigue were just right for me, the mystery and horror elements were well-balanced and depicted in shocking fashion, and I enjoyed the bleakness of story.

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.