Posts Tagged ‘Author Interview’

Tonight at 5:00 p.m. mountain time, I will be live on Facebook being interviewed by Spotlight. Stop by, join the event, and stick around to ask questions at the end of the interview!!/events/353591518087836/


This Valentine’s Day (February 14th) I will be interviewing New York Times Best Selling author Dianna Love here at


Anyone who leaves a comment on the blog will be eligible for prizes! Dianna will give away a copy of JUSTIFIABLE, Book 1 of the brand new Riley Walker novels, the mainstream thriller she wrote with former NBC News anchor Wes Sarginson, a copy of LAST CHANCE TO RUN, the prequel to her new Slye Temp romantic thriller series, and a Keeper Kase™ loaded with a unique collection of Keeper Cards™


Dianna will be around all day long to answer questions and interact with her readers, so stop by and say hello! You might win something!


As well as being a multi-published author, Dawne Dominique is also a cover art designer. In fact, Dawne is responsible for the cover art for Beautiful Monster (scheduled for release September 1st, 2012 by Damnation Books LLC) written by myself and Mimi A. Williams~ and neither of us could be happier with the work Dawne did for us!

As I’ve been getting to know her, I’ve been struck by Dawne’s kindness, her passion for her work, her flexibility with the authors she works with, and of course, her talent. When Mimi and I saw the draft of the cover art design for Beautiful Monster we were absolutely thrilled. So thrilled in fact, that we overlooked Sterling’s eye color in the picture. When I realized we’d made a rather big deal of Sterling’s piercing blue eyes throughout the novel, I thought I’d probably better see if it wasn’t too late to ask Dawne if we could make the alteration. I was a bit nervous about doing this because first of all, I was worried it was going to be too late, and second, I didn’t want to seem persnickety about the very good work Dawne had done for us. I realized I’d be happy with the cover either way, but finally decided it was worth asking about on the off-chance it wasn’t to late to make changes.

As it turned out, it wasn’t too late. Within a few hours of talking to Dawne about the cover, I received an updated draft of the cover on which Sterling looked back at me with a pair of the brightest, bluest eyes I’d ever seen. I still can’t stop staring at it!

Dawne Dominque will always be a very special person to me. I liken her to a kind of magician. She made my fictional character real. She gave corporeal life to the man I plucked from somewhere in my own twisted mind. If that isn’t magic, I don’t know what else is.

Interviewing Dawne was a ton of fun and I look forward to working with her more in the future. For more about her, her novels, and her cover art, visit her at:

Thank you so much for having me here today, Jared.

Q: Why did you decide to get into cover art design?

A: It was quite by accident. I was designing signs and banners for authors in my writing forum. When I was approached by a publisher to submit a novella for an erotic cowboy anthology, she suggested I do the covers for each eBook submission, and then the print format. It was the first time I became a published author and a cover artist.

Q: Over the course of your career, about how many novels have you done the cover art for?

A: *chuckles* You know, I was just thinking about that the other day. I’d guesstimate well over a 1,000 covers, with the majority of them eBooks. I began as an artist at the start of the eBook emergence. Let’s see:  I do about 30 covers minimum a month (sometimes more), as I work for several publishers: two of them release quarterly, and the majority release monthly. So, let’s multiple that by seven years. I wasn’t doing as many in the earlier days, but now it’s crazy nuts…and I love it.

Q: Are there any covers that you are especially proud of? Why?

A: Geeze!  There’s too many to count. The first one that made me realize I actually had some talent was a book cover called Hard Winter. Each cover is a personal experience for me. I know that sounds bizarre, but I try walking in an author’s shoes, getting inside their heads, so to speak. One of my recent favorites  is a Steampunk cover I did for an Indie author called The Hands of Tarot. Some of my horror favorites (and I’m not saying this because it’s you) is Beautiful Monster and Grim. I like some more than others. It’s way too difficult to pinpoint only one.

Q: What is the best part of being a cover art designer?

A: Hands down…an author’s reaction.

Q: What are the most significant ways technology has changed your career?

A: Well, to be honest, I self-taught myself everything I know. I prefer certain programs for certain formats. I began with a free drawing program called Serif. Then I upgraded to Photoshop. Every couple of years, I purchase an upgrade, which can do more magic. The old days of hand-drawn artwork is gone, and I’m thankful for it, as changes/revisions can be easily done with photo-manipulation.

Q: Along with the artwork, you are also the author of several novels. Which do you prefer: designing, or writing, and why?

A: That’s a tough question. Both are an integral part of me. I’ve always been a writer and artist ever since I could hold a crayon.

Q: What do you think is the most important quality a good writer must possess?

A: Their imagination.

Q: Which of your own novels are you most proud of, and why?

 A: My vampire series called The First. I began writing it well before the Twilights and True Bloods of the world. Hell, I’m still writing it. Unfortunately, the first novel was picked up and released by another publisher, who held it hostage for three years. An absolute horrid experience, which made me shelve the entire project, which was heartbreaking as I’d already had three novels written for it. Although it was a bad experience, it was one I learned a lot from, so in the end, it wasn’t so bad after all. It’s the reason why I work with the authors as I do—getting input with respect to their cover art.

Q: Are you writing anything now, and what can you tell us about it?

A: I’m editing Crimson Cries, which is about a chapter short of being finished. It’s the fourth novel to The First series. Then, there’s Surrender: Sins of the Father, the final novel. These aren’t your usual romance/paranormal novels. They call them “erotica” because there’s sex in them, but it’s not your fluffy, romancing stuff that dreams are made of. I’m a “say like it is” gal, and my writing is an extension of myself. No purple prose for me, thank you very much. With this series, I’ve blended biblical and mythology facts into fiction. The gist is why, where, and how the first vampires came to be. There’s several significant characters and a few “aha” moments.  It may surprise people to learn who was actually nailed to the cross that faithful day.  *grins*

I’ve also started another novel called Hellhound Bound. It’s only in its infancy stages, at about 13k being written, but it’s about a paralegal who gets caught up in a murder trial she’s working on. Of course, it’s speculative fiction, so there’s magic and paranormal aspects involved.

Then there’s several novels I  must get back to. I began as a classic fantasy writer, like Lord of the  Rings, but with kick-ass women heroines. I have an almost 200k fantasy novel that needs major edits. Finding the time is the main obstacle. Once The First series is completed, I plan to do some serious editing on them. My publisher has been itching to release them, but in my eyes, they’re not ready to venture into the world yet.

Q: What is the hardest part of being a writer for you?

A: Right now…finding the time to set my muse in motion. I work three days a week as a contracted paralegal (Thursdays being a ten-hour day). Every night I come home and do cover art. I try my best to use the late night to write. That’s my time. It’s not uncommon for me to look at the clock and realize it’s four in the morning.

Q: Who is the most difficult character you have written? Why was he or she so difficult, and how did you make it work?

A: Sam Ethbert. He’s an inmate on death row who dies by lethal injection and wakes to find himself being interviewed by two very strange men. Sadly, while he’s in prison, he’s convicted of anther crime he didn’t do—murder of another inmate.  It was the first story I posted in my writing forum in order to receive critiques. First, I had to think like man, and not just any man, but a career criminal. A few people who reviewed it were surprised to learn I was a woman.  *snickers* The story is written in first person, and for me, that’s always a challenge to write.

Q: Do you do the cover art for your own books?

A: Remember the horrid publisher experience I suffered? It all began with the cover they designed for me…with my name spelled incorrectly on front. Yes, I design every cover for myself…and man, oh, man, am I anal! I’m never satisfied.  hahahaha

Q: You did the cover art for Beautiful Monster, the novel written my me and Mimi A. Williams. What was your favorite part about doing that cover?

A: The finished product. When I’m nearing the end of the creative process, I always ask myself one question:  Would I be proud to have this as my own cover?

Q: In your e-mail you said that after reading our Author Information Forms you wanted to do the cover art for Beautiful Monster yourself. What made you interested in doing the artwork on this book?

A: It was the complexity of Sterling Bronson’s character that tugged at me, I wanted to show the two dimensions of him at first glance. Taking descriptions and creating the artwork is a challenge I strive on. And yours was certainly a challenge I wanted to delve into. ☺

Q: What was the most difficult part about Beautiful Monster’s cover art?

A: When I finally managed to get both features to blend realistically. *whew*

Q: Have I told you how much I LOVE the cover?!?

A: *blushes*  Yes. And because you love it, I keep smiling. My job is done.

Q: When you aren’t writing or designing, what do you like to do?

A: That’s not too often, let me tell you. I enjoy having a few beers on the deck. I’m a simple Canadian girl. Our winters are long—and damn cold. When summer arrives, that’s where you’ll usually find me…if I’m not chained to my computer in the dungeon.  If a good Blues band comes to the city, you’ll find me there dancing and partying. I really don’t go out much.

Q: Have you ever been stumped and not had any idea what kind of cover you were going to give a book? If so, how did you overcome it?

A: No, I’ve never been stumped, but I will confess that I’ve scratched my head at some ideas authors have given me. I always try to work with it as opposed to against it. If I know it won’t sell, then I design something of my own, trying my best to incorporate a few of those details. 99% of time, authors are stunned at what I’ve come up with. More times than not, we usually never have any changes. When an author tells me to “run with it”, those are best!  I allow my imagination to go wild. It’s why I adore doing horror cover art. I find little restrictions in that genre.

Q: What is the most challenging thing about being a cover art designer?

A: I’m a stickler for details, so I like to get it right the first time, with minor tweaks. More importantly, the artwork has to look realistic. There’s some covers out there that I’ve done that I don’t like, but the authors were adamant about certain aspects they wanted. It’s their cover, right? If they’re happy, so be it. But if it’s right off the wall, I’ll refuse, especially if I know it’s not going to sell. I’ve been in this business a long time, so I’ve learned a few things. Authors trust me, and that is by far the greatest compliment I could ever receive.

Q: What is the most rewarding?

A: As I mentioned earlier, it’s an author’s reaction. Knowing they’re proud to display their covers and boast about it, then I’ve done my job, and I’ve done it well.

Q: Do you find most authors to be easy to work with when it comes to their book covers?

A: In all the years that I’ve been designing cover art, only two have driven me almost over the edge. Needless to say, I survived, but barely. I’m adamant about allowing an author three drafts only. If we can’t get right in three, there’s something radically wrong. I’ve done up to 18 drafts before I pulled the plug. There was just no pleasing this author. There are times when they have this conception in their head about how their covers should look like, and nothing will deter them. No matter how close I came, it wasn’t good enough. Unfortunately, I refuse to work with that author again.

I’ve been absolutely blessed with the authors I’ve worked for and continue to work with. True, some are more pickier than others, but I’m an author, too. I understand where they’re coming from, and that gives me a distinctive edge. They keep coming back, so I must be doing something right.

Q: Were you an author or a cover artist first?

A: An author first and foremost. Without words, a cover can never be accomplished.

Q: What is the one question you wish people would ask you more often, and how would you answer it?

A: Well, you have me stumped there. I’m rather shy and modest, and would prefer talking about anything other than myself.


Not only is Michael Craft one of the coolest writers I know, he’s one of the coolest people I know. I happened upon one of his books at a library several years ago, and although I can’t recall what prompted me to pick it up, I’m glad  did. I’ve been a big fan of his work for a lot of years now, so getting to know him has been pretty exciting for me.  Mike has become a very good friend to me. He has offered me great writing advice, and even listened (very patiently) to me when I have thrust myriad personal frustrations upon him~ so it only seemed natural that I should interview him here on my blog!

Michael is the author of more than a dozen novels, the Mark Manning mystery series, and most recently, The MacGuffin (which I’m honored to have a signed copy of!) You can learn more about him at: or: You can contact Michael at: To get a copy of his latest book, The MacGuffin, go to:


Q: You have written over a dozen books. Does writing get easier or harder as the time goes on?

A: For me, the actual writing does seem to get easier, and I hope it’s also getting better. It would be nice to think that experience brings not only efficiency, but also improvement.

What has not gotten easier with the passage of time is the purely creative aspect of inspiration. I have always found the most difficult and unpredictable aspect of any given book project to be the initial idea. In other words: What’s it about? Once I’ve found an idea that sufficiently jazzes me, I can rely somewhat on technique, craft, and discipline to pull me through the process of committing 100,000 words to paper.

Q: How long did it take you to get the attention of a literary agent or a publisher?

A: My first novel, Rehearsing, was a slim little literary paperback that took 12 years to find a publisher. Over those years, the manuscript was rejected 27 times (I filed them but didn’t have courage to count them till the book finally sold). Some of the rejections were postcards or form letters, but others offered both praise and advice, which I looked upon as golden nuggets of instruction from the professional publishing world. So I was continuously reworking that first book, not merely repackaging it. And it was eventually published by a small press in San Diego in February 1993 — hard to believe that’s nearly 20 years ago.

Rehearsing never achieved much in terms of sales, but it did get me over the hump of being unpublished, which made my efforts with a second book, Flight Dreams, somewhat easier. This time around, I was determined to go the New York route, so I focused my efforts on finding an agent. It took four years, but I finally got lucky when the manuscript landed on the desk of a new agent at Curtis Brown Ltd., a highly respected and long-established agency. Mitchell Waters took me on as his first client, and Flight Dreams was published by Kensington Books in June 1997. I’m proud to note that it was Kensington’s first gay-themed title, and a great many others have followed.

Q: Growing up, what were your favorite games to play?

A: If you’re expecting me to answer “Clue,” sorry. I was always more partial to Monopoly. And no, I did not, as a result, blossom into a Young Republican.

In college, people kept telling me that I would make a good bridge player, and I tried to learn the game at a couple of junctures, but I never got the hang of it. Looking back, I guess card games have always eluded me.

Over the past year or so, I’ve developed a minor addiction to the Sudoku puzzles that appear in the daily paper. It’s become part of my waking-up ritual, along with coffee. The puzzles get more difficult as the week progresses, so Mondays and Tuesdays begin on a happy note, while Fridays and Saturdays do not.

Q: Is your character Mark Manning based off anyone in particular? Where did he come from?

A: At the time I began brainstorming the first of the Mark Manning stories, I was working at the Chicago Tribune as a graphic designer and living with one of the paper’s reporters. So it’s easy enough to see where I got the idea of creating a protagonist who was an investigative reporter for a big-city daily. But the particulars of the character were entirely my own invention.

At the time, I was going through an Ayn Rand phase, and I much admired the “heroic” qualities with which she imbued her protagonists. So you’ll detect quite a bit of that in the earlier Mark Mannings — to the extent that many readers found the character overly smug. But he does evolve over the course of the series, becoming much less sure of himself.

I really enjoy the process of naming my characters. In the case of Mark Manning, I felt the name had three things going for it: The double-M initials are appealing. Mark is a strong, short name with no nickname. And “Manning” seems to make a verb out of “man.”

Q: What can you tell us about The MacGuffin?

A: Snappy response: It’s fabulous! Buy the book!

But here’s a more considered response. After publishing, on average, a book a year for nearly a decade, I simply needed a break. What’s more, my two concurrently running series (Mark Manning and Claire Gray) had reached their natural conclusions, and on a personal level, I was going through a lot of upheaval that involved a cross-country move and a mindset of “starting over.” So the next book needed to represent a departure for me, and it took me six years to pull it together.

Yes, it’s a mystery, like most of the prior books, but The MacGuffin involves more than 30 entirely new characters, including the protagonist, architect Cooper Brant. And I wanted to experiment with telling the story with a more distinctive and focused narrative voice. What resulted is a very-limited omniscient third-person narration that I had not used before. Cooper Brant is the sole character whose thoughts are shared with the reader, so the narration has a first-person feel to it, but it’s not; it’s third-person all the way.

Most readers will have no awareness of the narrative technique, but it’s crucial not only to the story’s “sound” and feel, but also as a delineator of what kind of story could be told. I apologize for belaboring such a technical point here, but it does in fact color every page of The MacGuffin.

As to what the story is “about,” the jacket blurb sums it up nicely:

A cold-case murder 15 years ago halted promising developments in the quest for clean energy when the rumored prototype of a groundbreaking water engine was stolen or destroyed. Now the race is on to repower America, and Cooper Brant, still grieving that long-ago murder of his father, suddenly finds his family visited by a second violent death, raising the stakes to unearth lost secrets. When Coop discovers how the two crimes are linked, a grim message becomes clear. He’s next.

Q: Will there be a sequel?

A: I conceived The MacGuffin as a stand-alone novel, not intended as the basis for a series, but I developed a real affection for some of its principal characters, and now a sequel seems likely. The inspiration — the kernel of an idea for what the story will be about — has been fermenting for some time now and seems both solid and compelling, but I have not yet worked out all the details.

In the past, I have been a strong advocate for outlining fiction, particularly mysteries, as their plotting is so dependent on intertwined details. But many fiction writers bristle at the very notion of outlining, and I have been wondering if perhaps I should try (to borrow a term from music theory) “through-composing” this next one — in other words, flying blind. This would be a significant departure for me.

Then, Jared, not long ago, I read your blog titled “The Sequel,” in which you describe a process of diving right into your next project before the ink has even dried on the first, and I thought: this is telling me to get my butt in gear and just start writing. I always feel better when I’m actually writing, as opposed to thinking about writing, so let’s just say that I felt inspired by your energy.

I’m happy to report that I have actually begun the first few pages of the sequel to The MacGuffin. It’s working title: FlabberGassed. Yes, as the title suggests, there’s a good measure of humor in this one.

Q: Which comes first, the characters or the storyline?

A: Well, that’s a debate that has torn writers for at least a century now. Writers of literary fiction tend to believe strongly that their stories need to be character-driven (which can result in “action” consisting of little more than protracted discussions over the kitchen table). And writers of genre fiction tend to lean toward plot-driven stories (which can result in one-dimensional characters with no more depth than an old-time melodrama).

Obviously, both character and plot are essential to any well-rounded and compelling modern novel. The writer who gives short shrift to either is at risk of producing a thin story that lacks credible actors, or dramatic authority, or both.

Q: Will there be any more Mark Manning Mysteries?

A: No. Each of the seven Mark Manning installments has a self-contained “action plot” (the whodunit) that does not require knowledge of other stories in the series, but there is also what I like to call an overarching “emotional plot” that focuses on Manning’s evolving character. If you read the seven installments in sequence, you see Manning deal first with coming out as a gay man, then committing to a partner, then dealing with temptations that could risk losing the partner, then taking on the responsibilities of parenting an adolescent, and finally adjusting with his partner to the empty nest.

An even more important evolution for Manning regards his deeply rooted mindset and self-identity. At the start of the series, he’s a know-it-all; by the end of the series, he has learned to know what he doesn’t know, and he is far less judgmental, simply exploring the mysteries of life. The seventh installment, Bitch Slap, leaves him exactly where I want him to remain.

Q: Has your identity as a gay writer helped you, hurt you, or not mattered?

A: Early on, when I was first trying to get published, I felt that my gay identity might have been a detriment. Then, when I finally did secure a contract for the Mark Manning series, there was no question that my gayness had worked to my benefit because the series was intended to serve a niche market, the gay market, where I’ve built an audience. But I had plenty of crossover readers, particularly straight women, which encouraged me to try writing stories for a more general readership, and that’s how my Claire Gray series was born.

Now, 20 years after entering the ranks of published novelists, the market — and society as a whole — has evolved to the point that a writer’s sexual identity is merely a footnote, if that. Since my personal view of gay rights has always been very much that of an assimilationist, I find this literary evolution largely positive. So when I began brainstorming the story that would become The MacGuffin, I really didn’t agonize too much over its intended market or the sexual identity of its protagonist. As the story evolved in my head, it became clear that the protagonist needed to be straight. So he serves the needs of the story, not the needs of a social or political cause.

Still, I am what I am, and even my novels that are not explicitly gay-themed (about half of them to date) still contain a significant “gay presence.” As they always preach to fledgling writers: write what you know.

Q: Does location and/or environment have much to do with your ability write?

A: Location and environment have played a big role in all of my novels, and many readers have commented that the location often seems to be an actual character in the story, particularly those that are set in the desert Southwest, where I now live. I take this as a high compliment.

But your question seems to refer more directly to the influence of my physical writing space. Yes, I suppose my workspace does play a role in motivating me to write. I mean, we all like to be comfortable, and I have designed my home office with care. It’s a comforting place to spend all those hours at the keyboard. And I don’t travel as frequently as I used to, so I rarely need to work on a novel while on the go.

Q: Have you ever had to write under extremely difficult circumstances, and if so, how did you get through it?

A: I find that writing — particularly fiction writing — takes tremendous focus. I need silence and no distractions; I never, for instance, play background music while I write. So if the physical circumstances are difficult or distracting, I just don’t write, as the results would not be my best work. Along similar lines, I never write when I’m tired, and I find writing itself to be a tiring activity; I rarely attempt to write for longer than four hours a day.

Q: What is the nicest thing a reader can say to an author?

A: “Are you single?”

Q: What are some of the most significant changes you’ve seen in the publishing industry since you first got published, and how do you feel about these changes?

A: As discussed above, I think there’s been a significant blurring of the distinction between gay writing and mainstream writing, and I think that’s great for everyone involved.

Obviously, however, the most significant change in the publishing industry has been the advent of electronic publishing and the resulting explosion of self-publishing, both through e-books and print-on-demand paper books. This has rocked the entire industry, and no one can reliably predict how the dust will finally settle. But the entire landscape has changed.

While the stigma of self-publishing as “vanity publishing” is disappearing, it is nonetheless true that self-published books are not subjected to the same vetting and editing process that is undergone by traditionally published books, so the results are very uneven, to say the least. Garbage in, garbage out. At the same time, we are now seeing tons of self-published titles that are fully up to snuff and indistinguishable from their traditionally published counterparts, and I believe the trend will continue in this direction.

The result is that more authors are finding more readers at a time when traditional publishers have grown increasingly adverse to artistic risk and have entrenched themselves ever deeper in the blockbuster mindset.

How do I feel about these changes? It really doesn’t matter how anyone feels about this — the rules have simply changed, and that’s that.

Q: Do you have any storylines that you haven’t gotten around to writing yet?

A: I’ve long thought of plot ideas as my most precious commodity. After all, when a plot notion really grabs me, I commit to it for roughly a year’s work. Having recently begun the sequel to The MacGuffin, I had emptied my idea hopper — until a few days ago.

An old college friend, whom I hadn’t seen in at least 30 years, popped into mind, and I thought it would be nice to send him an e-mail and reconnect, so I Googled him. I typed in his name, plus “New York attorney,” and he popped right up, along with his address. Just out of curiosity, I continued scrolling down the search results, and on the second page I found a reference to him as “Mother Smith’s husband.” (The name isn’t actually Smith.)

This stopped me in my tracks, so I opened the linked site, which belonged to a small-town Episcopal church in Connecticut. Episcopalians address women priests as “Mother” (as opposed to Father or Sister), and it turns out my college friend’s wife had had a later-life calling to the priesthood. I had met her ages ago, before they had married. She was a fashion designer.

But she’s now a graduate of the Yale Divinity School, a priest leading a small flock of Episcopalians in a quaint little Connecticut village, while her husband (my college friend) is a high-power Manhattan lawyer who comes “home” to the parsonage on weekends, when of course she is working.

This isn’t quite a plot yet, but it sure as heck is a promising situation for development, kind of a topsy-turvy spin on that old Cary Grant movie, The Bishop’s Wife.

Q: What are some of your best marketing strategies for getting the word out about your novels?

A: The number one priority is to have a well-designed, well-written, well-edited, well-illustrated, professional-grade website. This makes any author “real.” It allows you to present yourself to the public in the manner you wish to be presented. It allows you to tell your story the way you want it told. And it allows readers to connect and feel invested with you. Conversely, in this electronic age, if you don’t have a website, you simply don’t exist.

An extension of the website should be some sort of presence in the social media. Your success with that aspect of marketing yourself will of course depend on your interest and proficiency in keeping involved with the particular outlet, such as Facebook. A sense of balance is needed here. Obviously, if you’re posting and tweeting all day, you’re not giving much focus to your core writing goals.

Also, if you have some money to work with (such as a respectable advance), you might consider contracting with a professional book publicist for a limited campaign at the time of your book’s release. This is not cheap, and my own experience with this option has been mixed.

Q: Have you ever collaborated with another author? What are your thoughts on that?

A: No, I’ve never collaborated with another writer on a novel, but I did collaborate once on a play script. It was a positive experience, but you really need to have confidence that the two writers are compatible — if not, the situation could get hellish.

Q: You write murder mysteries. What is the most difficult thing about that?

A: Keeping them fresh. Making sure they don’t get too formulaic or predictable.

Readers of genre fiction have a set of expectations when opening a new book, and this is especially true of the mystery genre. Early on, an editor once told me, in no uncertain terms, “I want a corpse by chapter five or page 100, whichever comes first.”

Q: Do you think the authors of mystery stories have inordinately analytical thought processes?

A: Yes, I think that’s a fair characterization of myself, and I presume it’s true of many other mystery writers. A mystery, of course, is a puzzle, with the reader competing with the protagonist, trying to be first to solve the whodunit. Successful plotting is absolutely dependent on subtly intertwined details, so the maker of the puzzle must remain in control of the story at all times.

Q: What got you interested in murder mysteries?

A: I didn’t choose the mystery genre. It chose me. Honest. I set out to be a “literary” novelist, but when I finally secured an agent, he saw strong elements of mystery in the manuscript at hand and encouraged me to push it solidly into that genre. I willingly complied, and then he went out and landed a three-book contract for me with Kensington. That sealed my fate.

Q: What are your thoughts on Agatha Christie?

A: Some years ago, a respected reviewer referred to me as “the gay Agatha Christie,” and it’s a comparison in which I take considerable pride. Mysteries are divided into several subgenres, and Miss Christie is the great master of the “cozy,” which generally involves an amateur sleuth, little violence, and no sex. My gay-themed mysteries, however, contain a fair amount of sex, so I like to describe them as “erotic cozies.” I’ll bet Miss Christie would have approved.

Q: Do you go to writing conferences?

A: Over the years, I’ve attended a number of Bouchercon conferences, serving on various authors’ panels, but those conferences are more fan-driven than writer-driven. In other words, I was there to help sell my books, not to hone my writing skills.

As mentioned above, I took a hiatus from my publishing routine a few years ago, and one of the reasons for this was to step back, assess what I had done, and hone my skills. So I went back to school for a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing, which was, in a sense, a two-year writing conference. I attended the low-residency program at Antioch University Los Angeles, which I found to be a rigorous curriculum with a strong literature component — we not only wrote a minimum of 20 pages per month, but we also read, reported on, and discussed two novels per month. It was intense, and also a revelation. I’ve often heard it said that you have to learn to read before you can learn to write, and now I believe it.

Q: In your opinion, what has been your greatest achievement as a writer?

A: It may sound like a modest goal, but after all these years — and after having published some million words — I feel that I can now honestly call myself “a writer” and, more specifically, “a novelist.”

When I contacted Jack Weyland, asking him if he’d be interested in doing an interview for my blog, he responded to me the very next morning, apologizing for not getting back to me sooner. I’d expected to spend at least a few days worrying over whether or not he’d be interested in this, so I was pleasantly surprised by his quick, kind reply. He has been a successfully published author since I was three years old, and it isn’t every day that you get an e-mail from someone like that, so this was particularly thrilling for me.

Jack Weyland is the author of more than two dozen novels, over fifty short stories, and with his massively popular debut novel, Charly, he is often credited as being largely responsible for the popularization of the modern Latter-day Saint themed fiction genre. Along with a successful career as a novelist, he has spent much of his life as a professor of physics.

For more about Jack, check him out at:

Q: How did people respond when you first told them you wanted to write LDS fiction?

A: One of my English teachers asked, “You’re not serious, are you?” That was certainly a reasonable response since I was a graduate student in physics, had only taken a couple of classes in college that involved creative writing, and certainly had not impressed him with my writing. (For good reason I might add.)

Q: In your novels, we often meet mismatched couples trying to find middle ground despite their personal and extraneous differences. What is it about this theme that interests you?

A: That seems characteristic of most marriages. Husbands and wives often don’t think the same. It’s bridging those differences that brings greater appreciation of each other. And it’s good for their kids. If you can get a husband and a wife to agree on a set of actions for their kids, it’s probably the right choice.

Q: When I read Charly, I admit it… I cried. Was it as emotional for you to write it as it was for us to read it?

A: It was. At the time I was writing Charly, my dad was battling cancer. By the time I finished the book, he had died. My feelings of loss and grief were transferred into the book. I remember one scene, when Charly was near death, where I was crying as I wrote it.

Q: Charly was made into a movie in 2002. How did you feel about that? Were you happy with the movie?

A: Over the years before the movie was made, I had been contacted many times by people who wanted to do a movie of Charly. But for the most part they’d call, we’d talk, and that was the last I ever heard from them. So when Adam Anderegg contacted me, it didn’t occur to me that he might actually do a movie. He did one thing though that none of the others had done. He drove up to Rexburg and took my wife Sherry and me to dinner. So that set him apart from the others! And that was just the beginning. Adam and everyone at Kaleidoscope Pictures did an excellent job! They had me read sample scripts throughout the process of rewriting the script and always asked for my input. I am grateful to them for preserving the story. Janine Gilbert wrote all the versions of the scripts. I am extremely pleased with what she came up with. That’s why I often say that the movie is better than the book.

Q: Adam’s Story is the sequel to Charly and Sam, where we finally get to learn what happened to their only son. When you were writing Charly and Sam, did you know you would one day write Adam’s Story, or was it something you decided to do much later?

A: The thought that I should write about Adam came to me one time when I was watching the movie Charly. I asked myself, “W hat about Adam? What happens to him? How is his life going to be different having had such a remarkable mom as Charly? Or will he even know anything about her?”

Q: When I was in school, I always used to see these kids walking around with books like Charly, Sam, Stephanie, and Kimberly. I also saw a billboard on a freeway for Charly in Salt Lake City a few years back. What does it feel like to have garnered that strong of a response to your work?

A: First of all, we were at that time living in Rapid City, South Dakota when many of my books were published. Few of the people I worked with at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology knew I wrote fiction. Once a year, I’d fly to Utah to sign books. It was like I had a secret life. When I was in South Dakota, writing was my secret identity. When I was in Utah, being a physics professor was my secret identity. So it all worked out! But even then it did occasionally hit me that my writing had touched a lot of lives. I always cherished the letters I received from youth who said my books had helped them with some of their challenges.

Q: Many people have credited you for being largely responsible for the popularization of the LDS Fiction genre. How do you feel about that?

A: lucky! A few weeks before I sent a copy of Charly to Deseret Book, they decided they would start publishing fiction. However, when they read my manuscript, it was painfully apparent it wasn’t good enough to be published, but since for ten years before that time I had several short stories published by The New Era, I had the reputation of being good at revising. So they decided to work with me. For a brief time I was the only fiction writer for Deseret Book! That didn’t last of course. I’m grateful for the experiences I have had as a writer.

Q: What is your writing process like? Do you write outlines beforehand, or do you just find a starting point and go?

A: I’ve done it both ways. When I’m looking for something to write, I often sit down and write dialogue. No descriptions. No plot lines. Just dialogue. It’s like getting to know someone by sitting next to them in a café and listening to them talk (which I also do). Occasionally I realize these fictional characters are interesting people and I should get to know them better. So I start a rough draft, again, mostly dialogue. Here are some novels came from that process: Jake; A New Dawn; As Always, Dave. Some of my books came about when a young woman who’d gone through a difficult experience wrote and asked me to write about her experience I’d hire her as a consultant then built a fictional story around her experience. Here are some in that category: Sara, Whenever I Hear Your Name; Megan; Emily; Brittany; Ashley and Jen.

Q: You are a best-selling author, as well as a professor of physics. Are there any similarities between those two lines of work? And which field of work do you prefer and why?

A: For me the good thing was that physics doesn’t tire me out for writing, and vice versa. They seem to require different parts of my brain. One carry-over for physics is that I wrote silly songs for every physics chapter that made it more fun for the students. The truth is I can write only about two hours a day, so the physics gives me something else to do with my time. Also, I was found that I was able to explain the principles of physics so that anyone can understand. Besides that, physics can be fun! I loved doing demonstrations in class. It’s like bringing a new toy to class every day.

Q: Who are some of your favorite authors?

A: Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Neil Simon and David McCullough. Neil Simon especially was a big influence in my life. The decision to write every day came after seeing a Neil Simon play on Broadway while in New York for a physics conference. I decided, “I think I’ll write a Broadway play.” It never occurred to me that seeing a Broadway play isn’t usually considered a preparation for writing a Broadway play. I tried to sell the play with no success and then decided to turn it into a novel. That novel is Charly.

Q: Of all your characters, do you have a favorite, and why is he or she your favorite?

A: Charly. Why? Because my wife Sherry is a convert from New York, just like Charly.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I have written a Dr. Seuss-like Christmas poem called “Gerald Giraffe.” Natassia Scoresby, a talented artist, has illustrated the book. We are in the process of finding a publisher. Also, I am working with Steven Spiel to adapt my novel “A New Dawn” into a stage musical. I have also recently written a novel for married couples. “Heather 101″ can be downloaded from the Deseret Book website. In addition, I have a new self-published novel called “Mackenzie for Congress.” It can be downloaded from

Q: What do you consider the highlight of your writing career?

A: One of the great thrills has been to be in the audience when the movie Charly was being shown. Also, BYU-Idaho once did a comedy stage play of mine called “Jack Weyland’s Home Cooking.” I love to hear people laugh because of something I’ve written. Sherry and I attended every performance of the play.

Q: When you look back on your life, do you feel like your journey as a writer was pre-destined/meant to be?

A: I have no other explanation for what has happened to me than that. It seems so improbable to me even now.

Q: What makes you laugh out loud?

A: That’s not the right question. The right question is what do you most enjoy from your writing. The answer is: to be near Sherry when she is reading one of my manuscripts. I love to hear her laugh!

Q: What is something about yourself that people might be surprised to know?

A: I once had the calling of being the assistant stake bee-keeper in South Dakota. I loved it! It’s a great church calling because you didn’t have to call the bees together and tell them that the month is nearly over and they need to get out there and collect some pollen. Also, nobody came to check up on us when we were in the field with the bees. To this day I love bees!

Q: If you could pass on one piece of wisdom that life has taught you, what would it be?

A: “Men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves.” (D&C 58: 27-28) It’s good to know that the power is in us to do the things we want to do which may be of some help to someone.

C.J. Cherryh is one of the most prompt, and easy-going people I’ve ever met. When I asked her if she’d like to participate in my recent author interviews, she said, “Sounds great.” I sent her some questions, and within fifteen minutes she’d responded to them all!

She is the author of more than 60 science fiction and fantasy novels, which in and of itself, is astounding. She has several Hugo award-winning novels, and even has her own asteroid: 77185 Cherryh. The folks who discovered the asteroid had this to say about her: “She has challenged us to be worthy of the stars by imagining how mankind might grow to live among them.”  To learn more about C.J., check her website out at:

Q: Was there a defining moment in your life when you decided you wanted to be a writer?

A: Pretty well when they canceled my favorite TV show [Flash Gordon, the old serial] and there were no books like that in the library. I was 10.

Q: When you did start writing, were the people around you supportive of you?

A: My mother heard my ambition of the week and said, sternly, a very eye-opening thing: “Do something to eat.” This made me, at 10, wonder how writers got paid, and how they got to be writers. I decided publishers wouldn’t come to me, I had to get to them somehow, and meanwhile I had to eat. Teachers, I thought, had summers off. So I planned to be a teacher, so I could write.

Q: How long after you wrote your first novel did you get published?

A: Twenty years.

Q: How did you celebrate when you first got published?

A: Nobody I knew was home or would be for a week or so. So I went down and spent 200.00 completely redecorating my little office, repainting, putting up a mural, new carpet. And furniture. It wasn’t much. I invited my relatives in to admire it. They were amazed. My mum asked, “What prompted this?” I said: “I sold a book.”

Q: Is it true that early in your career you had to rewrite several manuscripts because the publishers misplaced them?

A: Yep. Moshe Feder found one at Ace, fallen down behind a cabinet, years later, and took it to an editor, who recognized it had long since been published in more than one language. I received it in the mail and couldn’t think what sort of fan would give you such a gift—I didn’t even recognize the typing: it was that old. Then I realized it was one of the old ones. I didn’t hear the whole story until Moshe told me his half of it at a convention. They lost that one 3 times.

Q: When you first began writing science fiction, was it difficult for you due to the fact that the majority of sci-fi writers were male?

A: I had no idea. I’d never been stopped from being or doing anything because I was female, except being shunted into a detestable home ec class instead of shop (but I still have all my fingers) and realizing I couldn’t fly fighter jets (but my vision wouldn’t let me do it anyway.) I write under initials because that’s the way my addy stamp was made up, because (the third reason) I lived in a rough neighborhood and didn’t like having a solo female name on the door. I’d have met them in the hall with a Persian saber—I competed in fencing—but I didn’t intend to let rascals even get the idea.

Q: Your writing voice is unique and especially powerful. What can you tell us about how you developed your style?

A: The key is viewpoint—understanding how to ‘be’ the person you’re writing about.

Q: You have won the Hugo Award for Best Novel two times, and the Best Short Story Hugo. What has that like?

A: Really, it’s hard being up for something: you do get nervous. And then I felt bad because I’d beat out some friends who also wanted it really badly.

Q: What does your writing space look like?

A: I have a little recliner beside a window in my bedroom, and I face a telly which provides white noise. I am frequently assisted by a cat.

Q: How many languages do you speak?

A: I know Latin, Ancient Greek, my best ones; can get along in French, once I get it going; and Italian [a Latin student is cheating on that one.] I know a little Russian, can muddle through several Romance languages in Latin, as long as it’s not too wild; and a couple of others.

Q: Do you write anything outside of the Science Fiction genre?

A: Fantasy. Jane and I are talking about collaborating on the next vampire book.

Q: What has your greatest moment as a writer been?

A: I think when I went to my first convention and met people who’d actually read my books.

Q: What is your writing process?

A: I outline a little, because I have a life, and travel, and need to pin the bare bones down so I can remember it. Then I don’t look at that unless I need it and just go forward. If I get stuck I start editing from the beginning. A good shower is really essential to the process, too. If you get stuck, shower.

Q: Which of your own books is your favorite and why?

A: Gate of Ivrel remains dear to my heart; Cyteen is one I’m quite proud of.

Q: What is the best novel you’ve ever read?

A: Hard to say: that varies by my mood. Jane and I read each other’s, and of course we love what we’re working on. Vergil’s Aeneid occupied a lot of my college study: he had a great influence on my sense of expression—Latin’s impressionistic and tricky. He was a great ‘sensory’ writer and it doesn’t come across well in English.

Q: What is the most discouraging thing about being a writer?

A: Isolation. There is NO instant gratification in the writing biz. It’s a long battle with white space. But it’s wonderful when it’s going well.

Q: How large of a role do you play in the marketing of your novels, and what are some of the best marketing strategies you know of?

A: Since NY has not been able to keep up backlist—Jane Fancher, Lynn Abbey and I formed our own e-book company for just the 3 of us, to keep our backlist in print and to experiment with books and stories that the bean-counters who try to dictate to publishers what they CAN buy — might not like.

Q: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

A: I garden, I do fish tanks, I figure skate, I travel, I hang out with my friends.

Q: When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A: In the same month I wanted to be a writer? An astronomer and a fighter pilot. Astronauts weren’t on the horizon yet.

Q: Are you working on anything now, and can you tell us about it?

A: I’m working on a Foreigner book, I’m putting out the Rusalka books (3) as e-books, I’m advising the Audible people who are doing some of my books, I’m talking with Jane about that vampire novel, and meanwhile we’re doing our own covers and conversions, and thinking up other stories.

This is an interview of Mimi and I, conducted by Lori L. Clark.

Author Interview: Jared S. Anderson and Mimi A. Williams, co-authors of Beautiful Monster.

Please welcome Jared S. Anderson and Mimi A. Williams, co-authors of Beautiful Monster, who took the time to answer my interview questions!

Q: What genre do you write and what is your favorite thing about writing this particular genre?

JSA: I write mostly horror. I don’t always mean to write horror, but that’s the direction it usually seems to go. I suppose my favorite thing about writing this genre is the creep factor. If I can creep myself out a little, I think that’s a good sign.

MAW: I write Young Adult and Middle Grade, fiction, nonfiction. This is my first foray into horror though I love reading horror. I don’t think I have a favorite thing about genre, I just love creating stories with real people and interesting developments.

Q: Can you tell us a little about your book, BEAUTIFUL MONSTER?

JSA: It’s scheduled for release by Damnation Books on September 1st, 2012!

MAW: It is a really insightful look into human dynamics with two damaged characters: one who needs love for self-value and one who can’t feel love at all.

Q: What inspired you to write BEAUTIFUL MONSTER?

JSA: Mimi and I had been working very closely on my previous manuscript. It just kind of evolved naturally from there. I think the subject matter was actually Mimi’s idea, so really, this is all her fault.

MAW: Oh sure, blame me! Actually, I had an idea where a kidnap victim fell in love with her kidnapper, but what evolved from that was a much deeper, darker story. Jared and I would throw ideas out and just go from there. It was really an amazing process, dare I say – spiritual? – and it was a whole lot of fun as well.

Q: What was hardest (and easiest) about writing BEAUTIFUL MONSTER?

JSA: The hardest part for me was keeping the times straight. We wrote this book in alternating chapters, so I had a hard time remembering what day it was in the story. The easiest part for me was writing the main character, Sterling Bronson. I’m not sure where he came from, but he was fully-formed and rearing to go from day one.

MAW: As to the story itself, I think keeping Brenna likeable and not too sappy or perfect was the challenging part. Keeping her voice believable despite what was happening to her was hard. For me, the hardest part of writing the book was the fact that my husband and I were fighting and actually separated while I was working on it. That’s a lot of emotional turmoil on top of a book that was pretty emotionally intense. The easiest part was the motivation. There was never a time I didn’t want to work on the book. It was an engrossing process that was also a lot of fun at times.

Q: Are you working on anything new?

JSA: Yes. I am currently writing a supernatural thriller called Tyranny Hall. Also, I plan to go back to my first manuscript later this year sometime, put it under the knife, and do some heavy re-writes on it. Additionally, Mimi and I are talking about continuing with Beautiful Monster; maybe making it into a trilogy, assuming we can get the publisher interested in that idea.

MAW: I’m finishing revisions on a YA that is scheduled for release in Fall 2013 – assuming the Mayan prophecy of the world ending doesn’t come first. I also am finishing the first draft of a YA that an agent has expressed interest in, and as Jared said, we are talking about a second and possibly a third book after Beautiful Monster.

Q: If you could give aspiring authors one piece of advice, what would it be?

JSA: Have heroes and surround yourself by them. Also, write what you love, not what you think will get published.

MAW: Perseverance trumps ability. I know a lot of talented writers who gave up due to frustration, and a lot of average writers who reached publication because they stuck it out. It’s like the old Churchill quote: “Never, never, never, never give up.”

Q: What is the best piece of publishing advice you ever received?

JSA: Early on, Mimi, who has more experience in this business than I do, said to me, “Writing the book is the easy part. The hard part comes later.” This was a valuable piece of wisdom to me because it brought my head out of the clouds and gave me an honest sense of the way this business works, so I didn’t go into this expecting anything to be easy. I’m grateful for that because had I believed I was entitled to publication just because I’d finished a book, I would have been very disappointed. I think this is a mistake many writer’s make. You finish a book and it’s painfully discouraging to realize that no one cares. I think this accounts for so many writer’s giving up prematurely. I think you need to go into this knowing it’s going to be a rough ride.

MAW: I was at a conference where the inimitable Jane Yolen spoke. She said, “Love the writing,” and I came to understand that as love the journey of creating the story, because after that, things get really hard and you have no control over them. You don’t control if or when you’ll find a publisher or an agent, if your when your story ever becomes a book, you can only control the creation of the story, so love that, and keep doing it.

Q: What book–or author–has inspired you the most, and why?

JSA: I read avidly and am a little bit inspired by everything I come across, but if I had to pin down a single author or book that really made me want to do this, I would have to give some serious credit to Stephenie Meyer. It was reading those books that made me say, “I really want to do this.” And more so than Twilight, I thought her novel, The Host, was excellent. I don’t mind that I’m not supposed to like her, I do.

MAW: I’ve been so very fortunate to know a number of amazing writers and I couldn’t pick just one, nor just one book. The person who deserves the most credit for my being a writer is my third grade teacher, Mrs. Shirley Saenz Lohnes, because she was the first person to ever put the notion in my head. I am grateful to her still, and I am still in touch with her.

Q: Tell us a bit about your journey to publication.

JSA: I received 192 rejections between two novels before someone said yes, so I’d become accustomed to being ignored. The publication of Beautiful Monster has happened so fast my head is spinning. I really don’t know how to make sense of it. It’s about writing the right book at the right time for the right publisher, I guess.

MAW: Nearly 18 years ago, I was working in PR and advertising. I wrote all the time, but it was for other people. I began looking at writing for myself, and I made a lot of mistakes along the way – a LOT. But I had a few successes, too. About 14 years ago, I met a woman who had published several nonfiction adult books on Borderline Personality Disorder. I made contact with her, and over time she asked me to coauthor a workbook with her. After 12 years, that book is just now being taken out of print. I wrote for online review sites, parenting magazines, and whoever would let me write for them. I had minor successes and near misses with children’s publishers along the way. Then in 2001 I applied to and was accepted into the Vermont College of Fine Arts and earned an MFA in writing. The following year, I had 3 nonfiction children’s books (the Hey, Ranger series from Globe-Pequot) accepted, and a year later, a manuscript I wrote for my Masters Degree (My Brother the Dog from Tanglewood Press) became my first published novel.

Q: Do you have a writing process?

JSA: I light candles and incense, get into my nude, and do a five-minute Calypso dance for good luck before each writing session. Just kidding. I feel like I should have a process, but really, most of my writing takes place in my head while I am doing other mundane things.

MAW: I try to keep a schedule and follow a process, but real life has a way of interfering with that. Instead, I set goals, like finishing a character study or writing a chapter by the end of the week. I try to do something writing-related everyday, which can include reading, or jotting notes, but sometimes “writing-related” gets stretched and I include sorting the mail or doing laundry. On the other hand, going to my laundromat is an excellent opportunity for character study, so I think it does count!

Q: What’s your big distraction or vice while writing?

JSA: As far as distractions, I have two elderly toy poodles. One is blind and epileptic and the other one is convinced that every noise she hears is the beginning of the apocalypse. They can distract me, but the people around me are awesome in that sense. If I’m writing, I don’t get bothered. Also, it’s good to turn my phone off. As for vices while I write… I drink a lot of coffee. It seems to speed up my synapses or something.

MAW: My biggest distraction is the internet, and I have to stop myself from checking Facebook or email. Texting is another big distraction, so I try to resist. Sometimes I just have to take the laptop and go somewhere that has no wi-fi. Again, my Laundromat is good for that!

Q: What are your three all-time favorite books?

JSA: Francesca’s Party by Patricia Scanlan, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, Moonfall by Tamara Thorne.

MAW: Just three? Lamb, by Christopher Moore; Dragon Tears by Dean Koontz; The Complete Works of Edgar Allen Poe (or the Complete Works of Shakespeare – it’s a tie really).

Q: What makes you passionate about writing?

JSA: It’s my world and I can do what I want in it…I can kill the people who bother me! But really…I don’t know what makes a person passionate about writing. I guess, very simply, that it’s a way to express yourself without interruption. Most of all, I think it’s just a kind of a “calling”, for lack of a better term.

MAW: I love words – I always have. I have always written, my mother has the evidence to prove it and I pay her handsomely to keep some of that stuff hidden. I just have to write, whether or not I make a living at it. There is a wonderful book entitled “The Midnight Disease” that talks a lot about the compulsion to write, and I was both horrified and delighted to see so much of myself reflected in that book.

Q: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?

JSA: I am in the beginning stages of the publishing process, so this question is a better one for Mimi to answer.

MAW: I wrote my first book after traveling to several national parks and hearing the silly questions tourists ask. I sent the idea to several publishers in a nonfiction proposal. Globe-Pequot saw it as a series and created these adorable coloring books for kids filed with fun information based on the questions. Instead of one book, I wound up with three.

Q: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?

JSA: All the time. Writing, in general, is a lot of hard work with little to no recognition. Being discouraged is part of your job description. There are only two ways to deal with it that I’m aware of. One is to have a strong support system composed of friends and other writers. The other is to keep writing the next story.

MAW: Oh – lots of discouragement! I collected close to a hundred rejections over the course of a year on my first book before it was picked up by the publisher. I worked on the book, revising it and tightening the story before sending it out three more times. Then a publisher who had actually had the original manuscript for almost a year contacted me. The real key is to keep writing and working on your craft. There is no other answer than that. One of my favorite stories that keeps me motivated is when Madeleine L’Engle won the Newbery Award. After giving her acceptance speech, she was approached by dozens of editors all saying, “Madeleine, why didn’t you send me this book?” She replied, “I did. Would you like to read the rejection letter you sent me?” I love this! I want to be able to say this!

Q: What is your writing schedule like?

JSA: Right now there is no schedule! I haven’t written anything in almost two weeks. Now that the contract has been signed and the process has begun, I’m looking forward to working on Tyranny Hall between the editorial revisions of Beautiful Monster. Usually, I try to write four or five times a week for a minimum of two or three hours per sitting. I meet with Mimi once or twice a week to go over and critique what each of us has written. On weekends, I usually spend several hours on Saturday or Sunday writing. My limit seems to be about eight hours. After eight hours of writing, I tend to get numb and start writing really poor material.

MAW: Like I mentioned before, I try to do something writing-related every day. It’s hard to keep a set schedule. In fact, as I write this, I’m in the middle of changing jobs and preparing to go out of town. I steal my writing time where I can. Once things settle down some, I’ll try to get back to a more regimented system, but I also know I have to be flexible and grab my writing time where I can.

Q: What do you do to relax and unwind?

JSA: Drive aimlessly. I spend more money on gas than anyone I know. I like the open road and I love not having to be somewhere at a certain time.

MAW: I read, I go for walks (I can’t afford the gas like Jared can!) I also knit and crochet sometimes, but I’m terrible at finishing projects.

Q: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is good enough to write a book about it?

JSA: Ideas come from everywhere. A lot of times, someone says something that triggers a whole series of ideas. My first manuscript, The White Room, came to me one night when I was at a club with some friends of mine. We were downstairs playing pool when one of my friends said to me, “I’ll be right back. I think I left my phone upstairs in the white room.” He called it the white room simply because it had white couches, white chairs and white drapery throughout the room. I knew immediately that “The White Room” was going to be the name of an elaborate club for the story that had been percolating in my brain. The idea for Tyranny Hall came from a nightmare I used to have. As for knowing if an idea is good enough to write a book about, I don’t think you ever really know. I think if you execute it properly, you can write a great book about anything. Stephen King wrote an awesome book called Christine. If he’d said he had this wonderful idea about a story about a haunted car, I think most people would have glazed over, but he executed it well, so it worked.

MAW: I’m a people watcher and a notorious eves-dropper, so I find stories ideas all over the place. I love asking “what if” questions and puzzling through the possible outcomes. As to whether a story idea is good enough for a book, I agree with Jared – nearly anything can be a good story if it’s executed well.

Q: What is your process of brainstorming a story? Do you just sit down and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outline first?

JSA: Mimi and I do a lot of brainstorming together. I also get a lot of feedback from family and friends. I don’t do intensive outlines, simply because I find it too hard to follow. If I know the beginning, the middle, the end, and some important plot points along the way, I seem to have better luck just letting the story shape itself around those key points.

MAW: I have to have some sort of rough outline to work from. If I don’t know the ending to a story, I don’t know where I’m going. I always write with an ending in mind, even though that ending may change later. I love the brainstorming process, whether I do it alone or with someone else. Throwing all the possibilities on the table is like having a big grab-bag of toys to play with.

Q: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer’s block? If so, how do you deal with it?

JSA: Yes, I have hit some very serious snags. One book I was trying to write was nothing but one big snag. I’ll go back to it later I hope, but I finally kicked it to the curb and started something new. As for writer’s block, I have one word: Dodecahedron!

MAW: HAHAH! Yes! Dodecahedron! When I was working on my Master’s degree, I got the worst case of writer’s block in my life. Just sitting at the computer would cause me to shake and cry – very seriously. I had a wonderful mentor – Tim Wynn-Jones – and he helped me to work through the block using small steps, like word collecting and word classifying – things that didn’t seem like writing but were actually helping me. I began to study writer’s block and the creative process, and I came upon the dodecahedron, a 12-sided dice of sorts. I use it all the time as an idea generator, and I have taught it to lots of people.

Q: What is your favorite snack to have while you are writing?

JSA: I don’t eat when I write.

MAW: Jared lies. I’ve watched him eat an entire bag of gummy bears while working on a few paragraphs. I vary between chocolate and potato chips – neither one is good for me, but I can’t help it. They are great for those mid-paragraph thinking moments.

Q: Besides writing what other talents or hobbies do you have?

JSA: I used to do a lot of photography. I still do it a little, but not much. I also like jogging, weight lifting, scary movies, aimless drives, and good books.

MAW: Reading, crochet, knitting. I used to sing with a band. Now I just sing with the radio.

Q: What is the most difficult thing about being an author?

JSA: Making writing a priority in a world that already demands more time than you have.

MAW: The hardest thing is telling someone “I’m a writer,” and they say “Do I know your work?” – Ugh.

Q: What is the best thing about being an author?

JSA: Aside from the elation of writing something you know is damned good, I would say the best part for me has been meeting my heroes.

MAW: Meeting other writers and being with people you don’t have to explain things to – like why there is such a thing as a good rejection!

Q: What are your goals as an author for the next three years?

JSA: To write at least three more novels.

MAW: Keep writing, keep promoting my books, keep moving forward and getting better at my craft.

Q: How do you come up with your character’s names?

JSA: I steal them! I lifted Sterling’s name from a student at the school I was attending at the time. Brytt was the name of a guy Mimi knew. Cadence, in The White Room, was what I always wanted to name my son, and Brooks came from a kid I met in 2005. Sometimes, they just pop into my head. The most recent name that occurred to me is Bronx Treverton. Not sure where it came from or what kind of story might belong to a guy with name like that, but there it is. It sounds like an over-the-top hero from a romance novel to me.

MAW: I used to work at a call center, so I would write down really awesome names for later use. Sometimes I just take bits and pieces from other names and combine them. Sometimes I steal outright, just like Jared.

Q: What is the best compliment you could receive from a reader?

JSA: “That is disgusting!” or “I couldn’t put it down!” Even “What the hell is wrong with you?!” is a good one.

MAW: I’ve had kids write to me or tell me, “This is my favorite book ever and you are the best writer ever.” It thrills me!

Q: Where can readers go to find your books and order them?

JSA: The book is schedule for release on September 1st, 2012 by Damnation Books.

MAW: The “Hey, Ranger” books and “My Brother the Dog” can be found on Amazon or, or can be ordered at any local bookstore.

Q: Besides the stalking method I used, how can people connect with you?


MAW: or my website

Click on the thumbnail below for the full-sized cover image of BEAUTIFUL MONSTER!

John Lutz is the author of more than forty novels and more than 200 short stories. He has written everything from horror and occult, to humor, thriller, mystery and suspense. His novel SWF Seeks Same was made into the movie Single White Female, starring Bridget Fonda and Jennifer Jason Leigh. His novel The Ex was made into the HBO original movie of the same title, which he co-wrote the screenplay for. John is a past president of both Mystery Writers of America and Private Eye Writers of America. He has won such awards as the MWA Edgar, the Trophee 813 Award, the PWA Life Achievement Award, the PWA Shamus, and the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s Golden Derringer Lifetime Achievement Award.

I met John Lutz at a book signing for his novel Serial. He signed a copy of the book for me, which I have to admit, was one of my most exciting rock star moments! I’ve been reading his books for many years, so when I actually met him in person, I was a little nervous. As it happened, I found him to be intelligent, funny in a charmingly quirky way, and very pleasant to be around. I asked him to be a part of the author interviews on my blog because he is one of the novelists who have inspired me to write. He’s a great guy who has taught me much through his excellent novels and his willingness to answer questions about the craft. I am thrilled and honored to pass on some of his views on storytelling, his thoughts on the publishing industry, and a little bit of insight into his own writing process. So… here are my questions, and here are his answers! (For more information, check out John Lutz Online at:

Q: What year was your first book published, and what are some of the most significant changes you’ve seen in publishing industry since then?

A) First short story in 1967. Thieves’ Honor, in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. First novel in 1971. The Truth of the Matter, Pocketbooks.

I don’t think publishing changed much in fundamental ways until the advent of the e-book. Now it’s changing so fast, and in unpredictable ways, that it’s difficult to keep up with it. Scary, but truly interesting.

Q: When you first got published, what did you do to celebrate?

A) Exhaled. Had dinner with my wife.

Q: How many ‘No’s’ before you got a ‘Yes’?

A) “Many ‘No’s’.  Most writers of my time and ilk would say the same. Usually writers’ “first” novels weren’t first efforts. The e-book has made publishing easier, cheaper. Not necessarily a bad thing.

Q: As a writer, what has been your greatest disappointment?

A) There are a few things I’d sill like to see happen (like seeing one of my novels made into a play), but I don’t think in terms of disappointments. All in all, I feel that I’ve been extremely lucky.

Q: Your novel, SWF Seeks Same was made into a movie, Single White Female, starring Bridget Fonda and Jennifer Jason Leigh. How did that come about, and what was it like for you?

A) As with some other books that my agent thought had movie potential, the manuscript was sent to his west coast affiliate to shop around. And it found a home.  The rights were bought before the book was published. The entire movie thing was great fun. Yes, I did meet the cast. Watched filming in NYC. Attended premier in LA. Was presented with a screenplay signed by cast and crew. A very positive experience.

Q: Did you meet any of the actors?

A) Met them, watched them work, got to look over the director’s shoulder, tried not to trip over any of the cables. Actually seeing a book made into a movie strengthened my opinion that for best results the movie shouldn’t follow the book chapter and verse.

Q: In researching serial killers, what about them has surprised or intrigued you most?

A) The extent of the violence and physical damage in a stranger-on-stranger rape. And the fact that, according to FBI studies, once a serial killer takes a first step toward his intended victim, if there is no interruption, no matter what the intended victims does, there will be a confrontation. Most serial killers are kind of like guided missiles that have locked onto a target.

Q: What is one question you wish people would ask you, and how would you answer it?

A) “Are you going to write more books?” “Yes.”

Q: You’ve been featured in several of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazines and in several anthologies edited by Alfred Hitchcock. Did you ever meet Alfred Hitchcock, and how did his editing style differ from other editors?

A) I never met Hitchcock. To my knowledge he never did any editing, but there was and is a distinct overarching “Hitchcock type” story, featuring suspense, dry humor, and surprising turns. When someone says “Hitchcockian” I think most people have a pretty good idea of what is meant.

Q: What do you think is the greatest misconception people have about you and your work?

A) I can’t be sure about that, because I don’t know what their misconceptions are. Many people do seem to think that writing fiction is easier than it is. You not only have to learn how to write. You have to learn to write. Like you have to learn how to dance before you learn to dance. Takes a lot of dancing.

Q: What do you think is the greatest misconception new and/or aspiring authors have about the industry?

A) That once their book is out there, it will automatically sell. To sell in large numbers books have to be actively sold, ideally through various kinds of advertising that reach large numbers of people. However, the rules are that there are no rules, and sometimes word of mouth can turn a book into a big seller. Or fortunate timing. And yes, now and then a book is so damned good it simply can’t be ignored. But most of those are heavily advertised as books that are so damned good they can’t be ignored. Having said all that, I am aware that I don’t really understand our rapidly changing industry. At this point, I don’t think anyone really understands, or can predict.

Q: In the course of your career, you’ve undoubtedly done an awful lot of book signings. Do you still enjoy them?

A) Sure. It’s nice to make contact with readers, see before you proof that they are actually out there and enjoy your work.

Q: Of the characters you’ve created, who was your favorite, and why?

A) Hard do say. Maybe Nudger, the star-crossed P.I. more suited to selling appliances, with a suicidal girlfriend, a fear of guns, an office above a doughnut shop, and a constant need for antacid tablets.

Q: Are there any of your books that you feel deserved more recognition?

A) Maybe BONEGRINDER, which got great reviews but remains largely unread. It’s kind of hard to fit into a category. Horror, maybe. Or maybe not. It’s recently been republished as an E-book.

Q: Since beginning your career, what invention has most impacted your life as a writer?

A) Has to be the electronic book, but I haven’t yet figured out how.

Q: As a writer myself, I cannot even imagine the days of writing, editing and revising on typewriters. What was it like having to use one for those purposes?

A) I like typewriters. When you’ve run several drafts through one, you have an intimate knowledge of the content, every letter. However, I like writing on computers more. It’s a lot easier in obvious ways, but it takes some tricky adaptation to make the most of it.

Q: Your novel, The Ex, was made into a HBO Original movie of the same title for which you co-wrote the screenplay. How does writing screenplays differ from writing novels, and how are they similar?

A) I think it seems easier to write a screenplay. Maybe it is easier to write a passable screenplay. But they are deceptively simple. To write a good screenplay, worthy of being translated to film or digitalization, is difficult. Lots of people can, and do, write screenplays, but there’s a reason why not a lot of  people write them successfully, and those people, with that rare ability make a lot of money.

Q: What do you consider the highlight of your writing career?

A) I suppose SINGLE WHITE FEMALE, when it was made into a hit movie. It was the number two movie in theaters, and number one in video sales. Would have been the #1 movie if it weren’t for UNFORGIVEN. Also it inspired a lot of women to get their hair cut and dyed in that hairdo that looked great on J,J, Leigh and B. Fonda. On the other hand, maybe I haven’t yet experienced the highlight of my career.

Q: If you could say one thing to a new writer, what would it be?

A) Write, write, write. Write some more.

When I first met Lori L. Clark, I was immediately struck by her quick wit and awesome sense of humor. Lori is fun, optimistic, and genuinely kind. Having had the pleasure of reading her novel, Tyler Falls, (which you can find on Amazon) I can also say she’s a skilled writer with a knack for damned good storytelling.

When I began doing author interviews on this blog, I did it with a mission in mind: to heighten the awareness of the works written by the author’s I admire. Lori Clark was one of the first people I wanted to ask. As someone who has been on both sides of the publishing spectrum (self-publishing and traditional publishing), I thought she’d give a pretty interesting interview. I was right. Oh… and by the way, I did get her number… 😉

You can find her books on Also be sure to check her out at: and: and:


Q: How many completed novels do you have?

A: I have 3 completed, and one WIP.

Beauty’s Beholder (YA contemporary)

Between the Moon & Shine (MG fantasy)

and Tyler Falls (YA contemporary)

Q: You have recently been accepted for publication by a traditional publishing press. What is that like?

A: I have to be honest here, although I’m thrilled that Between the Moon & Shine has been picked up by a local publisher, it’s not as exciting as getting a call from an agent who has an offer of representation must be. I think every author dreams of having several agents “fight” over your manuscript and then having it go on to receive a 6+ figure deal. I think once the book actually hits the stores, then the reality of it will sink in for real.

Q: What is the basic storyline of this novel?

A: This is (somewhat) the query letter I used:

Fourteen-year-old Bobbi Flowers wishes on a falling star for a summer to remember. Rescuing her twin brother from Trogs and meeting a sixteen-year-old boy who claims he’s over half a century old isn’t what she has in mind.

When her brother is kidnapped one night, Bobbi sets out to find him. Armed with her Louisville Slugger (to wallop those creepy Trogs into the next county) and ajar of peanut butter (in case she gets hungry), her search leads her through a portal in the woods to The Over there — and Michael. Michael’s sixteen going on sixty and wants nothing to do with an outsider. When Bobbi saves his little brother’s life, Michael reluctantly agrees to help her. It becomes a race against time when Michael tells her that each night she spends in The Over there might mean years — if not decades — will pass before she returns home. Staying fourteen forever doesn’t sound like much fun and going home decades in the future doesn’t either.

Q: When are you expecting the book to be released?

A: I have no idea how long it takes these things to come out! Summer of 2014.

Q: Having traveled down both paths, what are the major differences, in your experience, between self-publishing and traditional publishing?

A: Traditional publishing takes so much longer for the book to come out. Self-publishing is much faster. I’ve always been a bit of a self-published book snob. Assuming someone who was unable to get an agent or publisher to take on their work must not be a very good writer. I don’t believe that anymore. I’ve read a huge number of self-published and e-published books lately that are surprisingly very good. I believe there is still an unfair negative attitude toward self-published authors and/or books though.

Q: What is your usual writing process?

A: I get a seed of an idea and then I rough out some of the characters and details in a notebook by hand. Other than these details and minimal outlining, I tend to be a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants style writer. I know some authors painstakingly map out practically the whole book. I am not one of those authors. As close as I come to that is writing in my notebook what I want to have happen in the next few chapters with a few sentences for each chapter.

Q: What inspires you?

A: Books, the success stories of other writers, song lyrics and dreams.

Q: What are some of the books you love?

A: I am a huge fan of YA. Especially contemporary. The Hate List by Jennifer Brown, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, anything by Ilsa J. Bick and Don’t Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala. The list goes on and on.

Q: Do you have a muse?

A: If you promise not to tell anyone… the voices inside my head tell me what to write. It’s more like each main character from my books takes on a life of their own inside my mind and “they” tell me what to write. Is it any wonder so many writers/authors also have had mental issues?

Q: What are you currently working on?

A: A YA contemporary with the working title of Breaker. It’s about an overweight girl with a beautiful voice who can’t get people to take her seriously due to her appearance.

Q: Aside from writing, what do you love?

A: Reading and running are two big time fillers for me. I love going to concerts and my Miniature Pinscher — Barkley.

Q: What is your favorite part of the writing process?

A: Getting the initial spark for an idea is a lot of fun and the excitement that comes with putting pen to paper. After that, seeing “THE END” is pretty awesome too.

Q: What is your ultimate goal in writing?

A: I could say to become rich like JK Rowling or have one (or more) of my books become a household name like “Fifty Shades of Grey” or as wildly popular as the Hunger Games trilogy.

Q: When and why did you decide to become a writer?

A: I’ve always enjoyed writing, and found it easier to express myself through the written word, but I didn’t get serious about it until a few years ago when I moved, which is sort of ironic considering I was born in Iowa City, IA and lived within a few miles of there all my life prior to 2007. Every writer knows why that’s ironic and what Iowa City is famous for.

Q: Who is your greatest supporter?

A: My mom is proud that I’ve finally taken up something she approves of. I also have a good friend in North Carolina who reads everything I write and gives me moral support and suggestions.

Q: Since you began writing novels, what have you learned about yourself?

A: I have a pretty creative imagination and I’m even more impatient than I thought I was.

Q: In your opinion, what main qualities should a book have in order to be damned good?

A: A likeable and interesting main character. Someone people can identify with or empathize with. Unpredictability and pacing that doesn’t make me fall asleep. One of my biggest pet peeves is for an author to name their character something I don’t know how to pronounce. If I can’t pronounce his or her name I stumble over it every time it’s written in the book.

Q: Who do you most hope will really love your upcoming novel?

A: Everyone who reads it. I’m so sensitive, I’m sure the first bad reviews I read are going to crush me.

Q: Do you have any particular marketing plans for this novel?

A: I think it’s important to have an online platform in place. I have an author’s page, a book review blog, a twitter account, etc. I plan to do a lot of word of mouth online promoting. I also would love to spend time at the local indie book stores.

Q: When your novel is released, I’d love to get you in for a book signing. Sound good?

A: I would love that!

Q: You’re pretty cute. Can I have your number?

A: Ha! If I were younger I would have already been your number 1 stalker. See me hiding behind those parked cars over there? 🙂

Syrie James is the bestselling author of Dracula, My Love, The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, Nocturne, Jane Austen Made Me Do It, and most recently, Forbidden, a young adult novel she wrote with her son, Ryan M. James. The release of a new novel, The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, is scheduled for release in January of 2013.


Syrie began writing novels after a successful career in Hollywood, in which she wrote nineteen screenplays and teleplays for Tri-Star Pictures, NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox TV, Fox Family Films and The Lifetime Network. Her novels have gone on to be bestsellers and have been translated into sixteen foreign languages.

I made Syrie’s acquaintance last summer after reading her novel Nocturne. I loved the book so much that I wrote a blog about it! (Real Men Read Romance:  She was kind to me then, as she is to me now. Syrie is friendly, down-to-earth, and she writes some seriously good stuff. When I asked her to do an interview for my blog, she was enthusiastic about it and more than happy to oblige me. She has become a good friend, and I hope her insights into the world of writing give you as much inspiration as they have me. For more information on Syrie, check her out at:

Q: What inspired you to write The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë?

A: I have always adored the novel Jane Eyre. I felt compelled to know and understand the woman who wrote it. I wondered: who was Charlotte Brontë? How did she come to write this remarkable book, which is still so popular all over the world more than 160 years after she wrote it?

As I started researching Charlotte’s life, I was astonished to discover how many parts of the novel were inspired by her own experiences. I was also captivated by the engrossing saga of Charlotte’s family. Charlotte lived in Victorian England in a tiny village in the wilds of Yorkshire. Her brother became an alcoholic and a drug addict. Her father, a clergyman, was going blind. Her sisters Emily and Anne were also very talented writers. All three sisters, despite the difficulties of their circumstances, became published authors at the same time. Emily’s novel Wuthering Heights is considered one of the greatest masterpieces ever written in the English language. I can’t think of any other family in history who’ve achieved a similar literary feat, and I wanted to explore that and show how it happened.

Add to that the true story of Charlotte’s romance! Her father’s curate, the tall, dark, and handsome Arthur Bell Nicholls, lived right next door to the Brontës for more than seven years, and carried a silent torch for Charlotte all that time, before he had the nerve to propose. Charlotte greatly disliked him for many years, but her feelings eventually changed, and she grew to love him. I knew that would make a fabulous story—and it had never been told!

Q: Which parts of The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë are true?

A: The novel is based almost entirely on fact. All the details of Charlotte’s family life, her experiences at school, her friendship with Ellen, her feelings for Monsieur Heger, the evolution of her writing career, and her relationship with her publisher, George Smith, are all true and based on information from her letters and biographies.

All the critical notices the sisters read about their poetry and novels are real. The details about Mr. Nicholls’s childhood and Charlotte’s experiences with the Bell family in Ireland are factual. Most of the characters in the book—even the girls at Roe Head School—are based on real people.

The details of Mr. Nicholls’s passionate and agonized proposal of marriage, as well as its stormy aftermath and Patrick Bronte’s vehement opposition, are all based on fact, and were meticulously recorded in Charlotte’s correspondence. Charlotte and Mr. Nicholls’s strolls from Haworth to Oxenhope during those bitingly cold days in January 1854 are so well known, that the path came to be called “Charlotte’s Lane.”


Q: You also wrote a book about Jane Austen. Did you find any similarities between the two women?

A: Both Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë were daughters of clergymen, had very close relationships with a sister, and felt frustrated in their search for true love. Both were extremely well-read, and were educated for a majority of their lives at home by their fathers.

The timeless issues which Charlotte wrote about in Jane Eyre were all dear to Jane Austen’s heart, and central themes in Austen’s novels. Both women enjoyed gothic novels, and wrote torrid and passionate stories in their youth.

Both published their books anonymously or under a pseudonym during their lifetime. And of course both were incredibly imaginative and brilliant writers!

Q: Why do you think Jane Austen continues to be so popular with modern readers?

A: Readers are drawn in by her sense of realism, her superb narrative technique, her brilliant understanding of character, her wonderful sense of humor, and the topicality of her subject matter. Her characters all wrestle with social and emotional problems we can recognize, and still confront on a daily basis.

Reading Jane Austen’s novels makes us feel we are in communion with a rarely gifted, wise and subtle mind. Her books are witty and ironic, and, at a time when people worry that the past is being lost, they provide a pleasurable way of connecting to it. But ultimately, what attracts us to Austen now is probably what’s been attracting people to her for two centuries: anyone, at any time, can relate to falling in love.

Q: What inspired you to write The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen?

A: I have long been a Jane Austen fan. One of my all-time favorite books is Pride and Prejudice. There are few novels which can match it for pure brilliance of plot, characterization and dialog. I adore the A&E mini-series starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, and the films Sense and Sensibility and Shakespeare in Love. One day, I thought: what about a love story for Jane Austen?

Although Jane Austen’s biographers portray her basically as a spinster with a great imagination, I refused to believe that! We know that Jane had a brief flirtation with an Irishman named Tom Lefroy when she was twenty, but his family rapidly sent him away because she had no money.

I was more intrigued, however, by the story that Jane’s sister Cassandra confided to her niece: that the only man Jane ever truly loved, was an unnamed gentleman she once met at an unspecified seaside resort. This tantalizing anecdote is known as the mysterious “seaside romance.” Everyone wonders: who was that man? What happened to him? I decided to invent him.

Q: Jane Austen has a large male readership. Do you think that would have surprised her?

A: Not at all. Sir Walter Scott loved her work, and the Prince of Wales was one of her biggest fans; he even asked her to dedicate a book to him (which she did: Emma.) I think Jane knew she was writing books that would please readers of both genders. She had a gift for portraying the feelings of what women and men are like, and what they’d like each other to be.

Q: What was the most difficult thing about writing Dracula, My love?

A: The most difficult part for me was dealing with Mina Harker’s dilemma and still keeping her real and sympathetic: she’s in love with two men, which would be hard for any woman to handle, but this is the Victorian era with all its sexual and moral taboos, which made it even more complicated.

I wanted this to be a standalone book, so that readers could enjoy it and fully follow the action without having read Stoker’s original. It was important to me to stay true to the facts of Bram Stoker’s classic, while giving it a new spin (as it’s all told from Mina’s point of view.) At the same time, I was interweaving a brand new, romantic story, and creating what I hope are compelling and fascinating back stories for the main characters. Balancing all that was very tricky! I hope you enjoy the result.

Q: Dracula, My Love is very romantic, but there is little or no romance in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. How do the main characters in your novel compare to–or differ from–Stoker’s characters?

A: Stoker’s Mina is smart, strong, logical, and sensitive–a woman with a “man’s brain,” as Van Helsing puts it. I strove to retain all these lovely, essential qualities, while at the same time fleshing out Mina’s character arc and reflecting her evolution as a woman. To that end, I focused on two major elements: the invention and exploration of her personal history, and her inner struggle between her affection for and loyalty to her husband, and her intense desire for that powerful being, Dracula, to whom she is drawn despite herself.

I wanted Dracula to be a central character and love interest–which meant he could not be Stoker’s hideous, selfish, elderly recluse. Neither did I envision him as the suave but evil charmer so often portrayed in the movies. I envisioned Count Dracula not only as an attractive, charismatic, and highly intelligent supernatural being, but a sympathetic one: a man who had a very different explanation for every terrible act attributed to him. A man who’d been completely misunderstood. An accomplished man who’d taken full advantage of his gift of immortality to expand his mind and talents, and who would do anything to win the heart of the woman he loved. Mina would fall madly in love with that man, and so would I.

Stoker’s Dracula can vanish at will, morph into a bat or wolf, and appear decades younger. Given these abilities, I reasoned, he would surely appear in his most attractive form to the woman he wished to woo–just as the female vampires at his castle appear to Jonathan as ravishing beauties.

Q: As a bestselling author what would you say is your secret formula to successful novels?

A: I work long and hard on every book, pour my heart and soul into it, sometimes for years. While I’m researching and writing, I obsess about the book in progress, eat, sleep, and breathe it, and never stop thinking about it. I think that’s the formula to success in anything: be passionate about what you do, give it your full attention, and don’t settle for anything but your very best work.

Q: Any advice to budding authors?

A: Read everything. Study hard. Join writing groups. Write what you love. And: don’t get bogged down by trying to make the beginning perfect. Even if you change your mind midstream about a story or character or book’s direction, just jot down a few notes about it and keep going with that new direction in mind. When you get to the end, then–and only then–should you go back and revise. Reaching the finish line of that first draft is an indescribably satisfying feeling, and you don’t want to derail yourself by constantly revising the first few chapters.

Finally, I believe that the secrets to success are threefold, and they all begin with P: passion, patience, and perseverance. No matter who you are, how old you are, what you do, or what you wish for … I believe that if you press on, keep your goals in sight, and put in the hard work, you can achieve your dreams–no matter how impossible or unlikely they may seem to others.

And remember: Syrie’s next novel, THE MISSING MANUSCRIPT OF JANE AUSTEN, will be published by Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Books, in January 2013.  Be sure to get a copy!