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Linda Carroll-Bradd – Author writing with a touch of humor and a bit of sass!!

January 2, 2021 by in category Jann says . . . tagged as , , ,

As a young girl, Linda was often found lying on her bed reading about fascinating characters having exciting adventures in places far away and in other time periods. In later years, she read and then started writing romances and achieved her first publication–a confession story. Married with 4 adult children and 2 granddaughters, award-winning author Linda writes heartwarming contemporary and historical stories with a touch of humor and a bit of sass from her home in the southern California mountains.

To start the new year, we’re spending time with author Linda Carroll-Bradd, who will talk with us about her latest story and more.

Jann: You are an author of both historical and contemporary stories. Which genre do you prefer and why?

Linda: I absolutely love doing the research for a historical story because I always include ethnic elements for at least one of the protagonists. The time period in which I write is the second half of the 19th century, which was such a melting pot time in America. I also rely heavily on my own ethnic makeup of Scandinavian/Irish as a way of exploring my ancestry and those customs.

Jann: On December 9th, Snowflake Cottage had its debut. What prompted you to write a holiday story?

Linda: Before I became an author, I always spent the month of December reading only Harlequin Christmas stories. When I had less time for reading, I watched Hallmark holiday movies. An opportunity arose to write a contemporary in a multi-author series. Almost from the moment I agreed to write the novella, an idea started building, and it came together so fast because I had a smaller amount of research to accumulate.

 

Jann:  Tell us about Jada Beldane and Graham Seaver’s, the main characters from Snowflake Cottage, and their road to HEA.

Linda: Jada received an infertility diagnosis and just wanted to get through the holidays avoiding children. She rents a cottage in a Colorado resort town and believes she’ll find joy again by working through assignments from a self-help book. Fulfilling her first exercise, she encounters the hero who turns out to be a single parent. Graham has already had one bad experience by getting involved with a tourist in his hometown and doesn’t want to repeat that mistake. But being in a small town meant they kept running into one another. In a way, both characters had to work past their prejudices to give the other one a chance. As I wrote, I kept in mind all those Hallmark movies, as well as my favorite book Pride and Prejudice, and I balanced high moments with low ones. I actually teared up a couple times as I created scenes, which hasn’t happened often as an author.

Jann: How did it feel getting invited to write for the Montana Sky series? 

Linda: I felt honored to be invited to contribute a story to Debra Holland’s Sweetwater Springs Christmas anthology in 2013. I’d been editing Debra’s stories for a couple years before being invited to participate in the Montana Sky Kindle World. Writing in a story world that I was familiar with encouraged me to create my eight-book series, “Entertainers of the West.” That first invitation is what sent me on the path of writing thirty-three historical novellas (plus five contemporary ones) since 2015.

Jann: Do you have a favorite that you have written for the series? Which one and why?

Linda: Each is special in its own way, but the first one, Laced by Love, set up the backgrounds for three vaudeville troupe members who ended up being the heroines of the first three titles. The Laced by Love heroine, Cinnia, makes a decision that ends up affecting the lives of her sister, Nola, and friend, Dorrie. Also, that first book establishes the hero, his two brothers, and introduces the hero of the second story. I hoped the initial story would spark others but never thought the total would be eight with another story plotted.

Jann: Are you working on a new story? Can you share with us what it’s about?

Linda: My next novella to be released in February 2021 is a historical and part of the “Cupids and Cowboys” series. Amata, who was an infant in Grayson, from the “Bachelors and Babies” series, is all grown up, and her romance is initiated by a child who brings together the hero and heroine. The setting is Cheyenne, WY, and Amata helped run her lawyer father, Grayson’s, campaign for state senator then went to teacher’s college to learn how to help her brother who suffers from a learning disability. The rancher hero’s son has a similar problem and the boy’s the one who contrives to get the two adults together.

Jann: What kind of writer are you? A page a day or a burst writer?

Linda: Throughout my writing years, I’ve kept on track by the need to submit to a critique group. For several years, my daughter, Shenoa, my husband, and Sheila Hansberger met two Tuesdays a month at a Panera Bread restaurant. With COVID, we switched to Zoom, went to weekly sessions, and usually averaged three per month. I might have only created five pages but the group created a deadline. I also participate in an online group where I submit new pages on Friday night or revised and enlarged versions of the Tuesday critique pages. But when I’m in crunch writing time, the groups might see only the first two chapters of a story before I finish and release it.

Jann: Have you ever suffered writer’s block? If so, how did/do you get past it?

Linda: During the first five months of this year, I wrote 4 novellas and then just stopped. The COVID restrictions kept me from being with family and prevented any vacation to look forward to–both just blocked my creative energy. I did a whole lot of crocheting as an outlet. I usually start plotting the next project when I’m halfway done writing the current story, but I just couldn’t. So over the summer, I read–mysteries, romances, thrillers, non-fiction writing craft books. The next story on my schedule was to be a love triangle plot, and I’d never written one, which I think was part of the block. Then practicality set in. I checked my preorder deadline, divided the word count by the remaining days, and sat at the computer to start with those daily word requirements in mind. Sheer determination pounded out that first chapter, and the block broke.

Jann: What profession other than your own would you love to attempt?

Linda: I took a career evaluation test in the eighth grade that scored Librarian as the job most suited to my abilities. At the time, I didn’t connect with that profession and focused on business classes in high school then earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. I went on to work in administrative support positions for many years in the educational field and then in a land survey business. When we moved back to California after a dozen years in Texas, I organized the books on our shelves by the Dewey Decimal system…just because I could. I’m happy with being a freelance editor and not looking for a new profession, but the shelves in my office burst with non-fiction books I’ve read as background for stories I’ve written.

Jann: Thank you Linda for being with us today on A Slice of Orange. Snowflake Cottage is a wonderful holiday story. You also had two historical releases in 2020–Between Two Beaus and A Promise for Christmas, which are also great. We’ll be looking forward to your historical release in February. Have a wonderful 2021!!


A Few of Linda’s Many Titles

(Click on the covers for buy links.)

BETWEEN TWO BEAUS

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BETWEEN TWO BEAUS

A PROMISE FOR CHRISTMAS

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A PROMISE FOR CHRISTMAS

SNOWFLAKE COTTAGE

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SNOWFLAKE COTTAGE

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Author Marianne H. Donley–a woman of many, many talents!!

December 2, 2020 by in category Jann says . . . tagged as , , , ,

Marianne H. Donley | A Slice of OrangeMarianne H. Donley writes fiction from short stories to funny romances and quirky murder mysteries fueled by her life as a mom and a teacher. She makes her home in Tennessee with her husband, son, and a new puppy. Marianne manages the multi-author blog, A Slice of Orange. She’s a member of Bethlehem Writers Group, Romance Writers of America, Music City Romance Writers,Sisters in Crime, and Charmed Writers.

You can find all her social media links at https://linktr.ee/mariannehdonley

We’re here today with an amazing woman of many talents: Author, Editor, Wife, Mother, Friend and the woman who is the creator of this wonderful blog site—A Slice of Orange. She’s a featured author in the newest anthology from the Bethlehem Writers Groups’ awarding-winning “Sweet, Funny, and Strange” series of anthologies, FUR, FEATHERS AND SCALES!

Jann: You have two adorable tales in Fur, Feathers, and Scales, which made its debut yesterday. The first, When I Was Your Age and the second, Why Children Have Their Father’s Last Name. How did you come up with the ideas for your stories?

Marianne: From life! When I Was Your Age was based on my grandmother (my dad’s mother). She had so many stories about growing that got worse every time she told them.  Why Children Have Their Father’s Last Name is totally about my husband and my sister, and they were not the good little bunnies.

Jann: I love the book cover. It’s perfect. Who did it?The cover title fur, feathers, and scales sweet, funny, and strange animal tales with a group of animals along the bottom edge

Marianne: Well, now I’m blushing. Thank you. I did the front cover, and my partner-in-crime, Carol L. Wright did the back cover for the print version.

Jann: All the stories are remarkable. What was the experience like being one of the Editors for the book and one of the Authors?

Marianne: Well, we have rules.

Rule number one—you don’t edit your own stories.

Rule number two—all the stories (with the exception of the contest winners) must be workshopped by Bethlehem Writers Group at one of our semi-monthly critique meetings.

Rule number three—editing is not writing. Just because I wouldn’t write a story the way you would write that story does not mean you are wrong. Different is not wrong. We have to let the author’s voice shine through. I hope we have done that.

Rule number four—writing is not editing. If the editor makes a suggestion to me, I need to have a really good reason not to follow that suggestion.

Jann: This book has everything from unicorns to wolves to bunnies. However, the one with ants hit home with me, as I have been battling those beasts for years in my home. Tell us about how this anthology came about and the authors who are contributors from the Bethlehem Writers Group.

Marianne: Ah! The ants–Six Feet Under by Dianna Sinovic. I must say I related to that story as well. Every summer in California—ants.

When we’re brainstorming the “theme” for our next anthology our members all throw out ideas, and we debate the merits of each idea. It’s a pretty lively discussion because we have all stripes of authors–children’s, fantasy, humor, inspiration, literary, memoir, mystery, paranormal, romance, science fiction, women’s fiction, and young adult.

We look for themes that are appealing to most of the members. We also run The Short Story Award in conjunction with the theme of our anthologies. So, we look for ideas that we think will attract the interest of other authors. We always interpret the theme—broadly—so there is a lot of creative leeway for the authors to come up with a sweet, funny, or strange story.

The first anthology was a natural—A Christmas Sampler—because we’re based in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, The Christmas City. Animal stories, I believe, was suggested by Jeff Baird. He writes very heart-felt stories about the dogs in his life.

A bird on a tree branchOur next anthology, scheduled for 2022, is An Element of Mystery, Sweet, Funny and Strange Tales of Intrigue. The Short Story Award opens for entries on January 1st.

Authors interested in submitting to The Short Story Award might like to read some of the finalist for Fur, Feathers, and Scales to see what we like. The second place, third place and honorable mention stories will be published in the 2021 Winter Issue of The Bethlehem Writers Roundtable, our online magazine—also available January 1st.  You, Jann, will recognize one of the honorable mentions—Louella Nelson!  (I may have shouted when her name was announced.)

Any member of BWG can submit a story (or two or three) to our anthologies, providing it has been workshopped by the whole group.  Any member can elect not to submit a story. Since we’re working on our seventh anthology, I think we have a system that works.

Jann: I know you write short stories, romances and murder mysteries. Is any one of these genres your favorite? What are you currently working on?

Marianne: I go back and forth. My mysteries always have a romance sub-plot and my romances usually have a dead body somewhere. Probably from all those Mary Stewart and Elizabeth Peters novels I read over and over. Currently, short stories seem to be the easiest for me to finish. Right now, I’m working on a cozy-ish novel with a romance and plotting a short mystery.

Jann: With everything going on in your life, how do you keep it all together?

Marianne: That made me laugh. So . . .

1) Don’t look in my closets.

2) Dennis does the grocery shopping and birthday shopping and Christmas shopping. He wraps the presents, too. (Okay sort of—gift bags are his favorite and he hates bows. But since I don’t have to do it, I’m good with this.)

3) I only need about 6 hours of sleep every night. No matter what time I go to bed, I walk up 6 hours later. I do work on thinks when everyone else is sleeping.

4) I have a lot of friends who help out.  Look how seamless A Slice of Orange ran when my son had a medical emergency this Spring.

5) I have a lot of family who are also willing to help. All I have to do is ask.

Jann: This was so much fun.  Thank you, Marianne, for spending time with us talking about Fur, Feathers, and Scales, which is available now, and you.

Fur, Feathers and Scales and Other Book with Stories by Marianne H. Donley

A READABLE FEAST

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A READABLE FEAST
FUR, FEATHERS AND SCALES: Sweet, Funny, and Strange Animal Tales

LET IT SNOW

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LET IT SNOW

ONCE AROUND THE SUN

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ONCE AROUND THE SUN

ONCE UPON A TIME

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ONCE UPON A TIME
UNTETHERED: SWEET, FUNNY, AND STRANGE TALES OF THE PARANORMAL

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Andi Lawrencovna, Fantasy Author, takes us to the dark side of her Fairy Tales!!

November 2, 2020 by in category Jann says . . . tagged as , ,

Andi Lawrencovna is a fantasy and science fiction writer from Ohio. Her most recent books, A Charming Series, the first in her Never Lands Saga, is a re-envisioning of Cinderella with a darker twist. Andi works closely with WriteNow Publishing though maintains her independent authorship. She currently has three novels and two short story to her name, and her next novel, So Sweet, will be out later this year. So Sweet is a tale as old as time, whose characters are as equally ancient and waiting to be released. Happily-Ever-Afters have never been bleaker, though Andi promises there’s always hope for rainbows and unicorns in The Never Lands.

Andi currently resides in Northeast Ohio with her dog and an imagination that has gotten her into more trouble than not. Her education includes a BA in English from Denison University and an MFA in Creative Writing from Pine Manor College. She works as a legal secretary during the day and removes her glasses at night…wrong genre. For more information on Ms. Lawrencovna and her work, please visit her website at: www.AndiLawrencovna.com

Are you ready for a walk on the dark side? We’re here today talking with Fantasy Author, Andi Lawrencovna, who takes Fairy Tales in a whole new direction.

Jann: Who’s the Fairest?: A Sisters Grimm Anthology—Andi Lawrencovna, Rochelle Bradley, Isobelle Cate, Hope Daniels & Alica Dawn, Jennifer Daniels, SE Winters, Genevieve Gornichec, Shaunna Rodriguez and Kali Willows. What a lineup of authors. Can you tell us about how you and your fellow authors came together to produce this anthology?

Andi: It was actually my idea. I love rewriting fairy tales and wanted to get a group of people together to create a collection of them. The “Brothers Grimm” seemed liked a great place to start, lending their stories to dark and twisty and with this “romantic” old-worldly feel to them. Granted, we wanted to kind of modernize them a bit, but the stories in the anthology all have the fairy tale aspects that we loved as kids.

Jann: How did you each select your tale?

Andi: Oh boy…well, I’m a bit of a control freak… I found a bunch of Grimm fairy tales that I thought would be fun to “retell” because not many people had done them before, so I created a list of some to choose from. Mind you, the Brother Grimm wrote hundreds of stories, and we didn’t even comb through nearly half of them, but we had fun choosing through the list I compiled.

Jann: What can readers expect to find when they read this anthology?

Andi: It is a truly amazing compilation of stories and storytellers. I personally write more traditional fantasy novels that harken back to the feel of the original Grimm stories. Some of the authors in the set are more paranormal romance authors, so their pieces are set in modern times, giving the classic tales a modern uplift! There are stories of romances, stories of friendships, a whole bunch of emotions that delve deeper into the characters than the Brothers Grimm ever went. All of us are really excited about the stories that have come out of this project.

Jann: Tell us abut your contribution, The Snake’s Leaves, in the anthology.

Andi: I went “really” far abreast in coming up with my title. The original story by the Brothers Grimm was called “The Three Snake Leaves.” It was a story of a man who loved his wife, who didn’t love him in return. But it was another of those stories of “love at first sight,” like Cinderella, but this time, we got to see a bit of what came after. Unlike the other stories though, my Grimm retelling has a lot more to do with the “what came before,” and why it all happened the way it did. I honestly love the way it came out, have fallen in love with the characters, and hope others do too.

Jann: Your website is beautiful. You also have such a variety of books and short stories—The Never Lands Saga, Fairy Tales Reimagined, Breath of Fyre and Petits Vignettes. You write Fantasy with a twist. What motivated you to take these fairy tales to the dark side?

Andi: I guess it goes back to this anthology set too, but I’ve always missed having “more” to my fairy tales. I grew up on them. Loved them. Play acted them as a child. But there was so much untold in them. In school, when we talked about “storytelling” and building well-rounded narratives, it occurred to me that all the fairy tales of my childhood were missing the depth of the novels and the stories I had fallen in love with as an adult. And I wanted to give those fairy tale stories the love I’d found in other novels over the years, and make them a bit my own, I’ll be honest.

Jann: Coming soon is Book One of the The Shado Spun Trilogy, The Foresworn King. What can you tell the readers about this novel?

Andi: Secrets secrets…Oh fine, I’ll share a bit. The Foresworn King is the next installment in the NeverLands Saga and starts off the next generation of “fairy tales” in a sense. Rumpelstiltskin, and The Little Mermaid, and Sleeping Beauty…if I were a betting (wo)man, I’d bet you ain’t seen nothing like these before! And that’s all I’m saying on the matter! Lol.

Jann: What do you want the readers to come away with after reading your novels and short stories?

Andi: I hope that after they read them, they’ve fallen a little bit in love with the stories, with the new stories that I created. They’re no longer the fairy tales we know, and I think a part of me has always known that, but I hope it brings a little fantasy, a little memory, and a little bit more completion to the stories we heard as children, and maybe creates new stories to love as adults.

Jann: What’s the best writing advice you ever received?

Andi: Don’t write for anyone else but yourself. You’re not going to get rich writing that way, but it’s the truest way to stay authentically you. Write what you love, and if you don’t know what you’re writing, research it until you do. Write what you want.

Jann: What’s the worst?

Andi: Write what you know. If you wanna write about a murderer, then you should go out an murder someone and get thrown in jail to really feel what it’s like…That just doesn’t seem all that practical to me. That was followed up closely with: “Men don’t cry. They drink beer and eat cookies.” To which I’ve responded by having a man cry at least once in nearly every story I write.

Jann: In your books, who is your favorite character and why?

Andi: This changes with each book I write. BUT, at the moment, I think my favorite character is Eskild and Jaias…Oh, you said character, not couple, my bad…but I can’t decide between them. They get introduced in “A Thief in the Night” and have their sequel coming up soon and I just love their story line together and apart. Two of my favorites, for sure.

Jann: What sound or noise do you love?

Andi: I LOVE the sound of rain falling. Storm. Drizzle. Doesn’t matter, I love the sound of rain.

Jann: What profession other than your own would you love to attempt?

Andi: I think I would want to be a nurse. I enjoy science and learning medical things and helping people, and I just think being a nurse would be a great way to do that.

Jann: What profession would you hate to do?

Andi: A nurse…as much as I would love to be one, I am also deathly afraid of the level of knowledge you have to remember to be one, and I don’t have the best of memories and I wouldn’t want to risk anyone’s life because of my uncertainty. Though I still think it would be and is an amazing career.

Jann: What is your favorite word?

Andi: Oh….I don’t think I can answer this one politely. It’s a “really bad word,” and I don’t necessarily like it for the word itself but for the way it’s used – the sound of it. I am talking about the “f” word here. Think of all the ways that people have adapted to using it. The harsh “ck” at the end of it lends the word this “pop” of emotion even when it’s just being said in a “friendly, unbelligerent manner.” And the number of meaning that we’ve attributed to it is simply astonishing. But I’m not going to say it “out loud” (or typed, as it were) here.

Jann: What’s the funniest (or sweetest or best or nicest) thing a fan ever said to you?

Andi: This is going to sound random, but I was reconnecting with a college friend and we were talking about what we’d been up to and I said I’d just published “Charming.” She stopped the conversation. Said: “What?” So I said I’d published Charming again, and her response was: Oh my God! I just read that! I loved it. I didn’t know that was you!” And it was true genuine enjoyment in her voice. For someone who knows me, but didn’t “know that part of me,” to say they loved my work, meant a lot to me. That’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said.

Andi, it has been great to have this time with you. Your take on fairy tales is so intriguing. I know I want to take a walk on the dark side!! 


A Few Books by Andi Lawrencova


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Author Melanie Waterbury Debuts Her Sweet Holiday Romance!

October 2, 2020 by in category Jann says . . . tagged as , ,

Melanie is proud to live and write in Iowa City, IA, the only UNESCO City of Literature in the United States, with her husband and four children. She graduated from the University of Iowa with a B.A. in Latin American Studies and Spanish. She loves languages, history, and goofing around with her kids. She’s been writing stories ever since she could put pen to paper and reading romances since she was old enough to sneak her mother’s books from her. Melanie loves a HEA and isn’t afraid to admit Hallmark Christmas movies play all year round in her house!

She’s a member of Romance Writers of America and a founding member of the Sassy Scribes writers’ group.

Jann: Your debut sweet romance, Healing Her Heart for the Holidays, is part of the Snow In Love: Sweet Romance Holiday Collection available October 14th. How does it feel to have your first story published?

Melanie: It’s so exciting, of course. You put all this work into building characters that you love and to get to share them with other people is awesome.  I hope this is just the first of many stories I get to share.

Jann: Which came first when writing this story—character or plot?

Melanie: They really just grew together. I loved the idea of two broken people, one who knows they are and one who doesn’t, finding each other in the midst of a Christmas season neither wants to celebrate. And in that connection finding a reason to celebrate. I also knew I wanted to have a bed and breakfast in an old Victorian because I love those, and I wanted to pay homage to the Czech heritage of my husband’s family. And then everything just flowed from that.

Jann: Would you tell us about your characters Izabela Dobry and Mark Novak?

Melanie: I love these characters, and I was so mean to them making them so broken and needing each other so much but not wanting to need anyone. Izabela is born and bred Iowan. She lives in this big Victorian home that’s been in the family for generations and because of that she’s really rooted in traditions and heritage, all of which she’s avoiding at the start of the book. She’s thinks she’s weak and has nothing to offer anyone, but she’s completely wrong. She’s actually a very strong person and has such a capacity to give.

Mark is a workaholic from Florida, where he just fills his life with his job as a financial advisor. It’s how he sees himself contributing to the world. He doesn’t have much of a personal life, but he’s a really caring and generous person. He’s just never met anyone to make him think about what he’s missing and that his priorities might be wrong. Until, of course, he ends up on Izabela’s doorstep.

Jann: Are you working on something now that you can share with us?

Melanie: I’m working on a romantic suspense where the heroine is a security specialist and the hero is an action-film star. He’s being stalked by a cult who think he’s the reincarnation of their god, which he doesn’t see as a real threat while the studio wants to secure their investment and hires a woman bodyguard. I actually really like writing fight scenes. I was raised on 80s and early 90s action movies and I think it’s influenced me there.

Jann: Who are the Sassy Scribes?

Melanie: The Sassy Scribes is a group of romance authors that connected mainly over Facebook. We did some Nanowrimo challenges together and from there it just organically led to the idea of writing collections together. We’re hoping to publish at least 2 a year. And we have all types of writers, from those who do more romantic suspense to rom-com to paranormal/sci-fi. And those who will write steamier too. They’re awesome and we just have a blast when we get together on Zoom calls.

Jann: In your books, who is your favorite character and why? 

Melanie: I love my heroine in the romantic suspense I’m working on named Autumn. She is a take-charge, fierce woman who doesn’t back down from a fight. And she’s super smart. She’s ruled by passion and very intense. I love writing her. The book is tentatively titled Chased Down and I hope to have it out shortly after the New Year.

Jann: What profession other than your own would you love to attempt? 

Melanie: I’ve always loved acting and was a theater major at one point.  Someday I’d like to have time to get involved in the local community theater but with four kids, working, and writing there just isn’t time right now!

Jann: What’s on your To-Be-Read pile? 

Melanie: American Queen by Sierra Simone, Soul of Valor by Ann Malley, and Murder at Mistletoe Manor by Holly Tierny-Bedord.

Thank you so much Melanie for spending time with us on A Slice of Orange. Congratulations and good luck with the debut of Healing Her Heart for the Holidays!


Order Melanie’s Debut Novel


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Author Laurie Stevens and her chilling psychological thriller series!

September 2, 2020 by in category Jann says . . . tagged as ,

Laurie Stevens is the author of the Gabriel McRay psychological suspense novels. The series has been critically-acclaimed and won twelve awards, among them Kirkus Reviews Best of 2011 and a Random House Editors’ Book of the Month. All four books have reached the Top 10 in the thriller genre of Amazon best-sellers.

In regards to writing thrillers, Suspense Magazine says she’s “the leader of the pack,” while International Thriller Writers claims Laurie has “cracked the code” of penning psychological suspense. Laurie is active member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and a former board member of Sisters in Crime. Recently, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors appointed Laurie as a director on the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains – the parkland setting of her books.

Laurie lives in the mountains with her husband, two snakes, and a cat.

We’re talking today with author Laurie Stevens about her award winning Gabriel McRay novels.

Jann: The books in your Gabriel McRay psychological suspense series, The Mask of Midnight, Deep into Dark, The Dark Before Dawn, and In Twlight’s Hush have received great reviews. When developing this series, did you start with character or plot?

Laurie: I developed the series around two characters: Gabriel McRay and Dr. Ming Li. Psychology and forensics interest me, and both characters epitomize my interests. Not only that, but given the traits of the two characters, I could have fun playing with the stereotypical roles of men and women. Gabriel must explore his inner mind, while Ming is the more brazen and the steadier of the two.

Jann: Gabriel McRay is such a rich and brilliantly flawed main character. What can you tell us about him?

Laurie: Gabriel suffered a trauma as a child and brought his issues into adulthood. Men, historically, have been taught to cover their weaknesses, which Gabriel did for many years. But his symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder influence his behavior, his relationships with women (in particular Dr. Ming), and his general outlook on life, which in the first book is pretty dismal. Through  Gabriel, I wanted to highlight a journey to recovery. What makes Gabriel unique is his desire to become a more content man. He wants his relationship with Ming to work, he wants to feel accepted and have friends. He’s honest with himself in that regard and it spurs him on to find different ways to heal. In fact, the murder cases he solves in each book trigger a pivotal point in his healing process.

Jann: Book 4 in the series, In Twlight’s Hush, recently debuted. What is the premise of this story? What challenges did you set for Gabriel?

Laurie: Very good question. In book 4, Gabriel achieves a sense of enlightenment. I’ve been told (and I’m glad for it) that the entire feel of the book is “lighter.” Gabriel has done a lot of work on himself; he’s heeded his life lessons, and now it shows. He is able to solve a cold case involving a teenage girl who went missing over thirty years ago because he has developed a more open mind. That is the premise of the book.

Jann: Villains!! You create great villains. How do you do it? What’s your process?

Laurie: Mark Twain said, “Everyone is like the moon and has a dark side, which he never shows anybody.” Scary as that sounds, it’s probably true. While I’m not sure how much of myself is reflected in those “bad characters,” I can say that I have put a lot of research into the faulty human psyche.

My process begins with deciding what psychological issues the character has. With one female villain (no spoilers here), she’s mostly a space cadet. But what makes her act so spaced-out? Her issue, of course. She lives in a fantasy world, and has some good reasons to be there.

I will read lots of articles or even a book that highlights the particular issue. The research gives me the bones of the character. All I have to do is flesh her out. I’m not going to say the research can take you to a very dark place.

While researching the character of Victor Archwood, I spoke with one of the top forensic profilers in the nation. He determines if a criminal is competent to stand trial. This doctor has interviewed infamous and dangerous people. I asked him, “As a psychiatrist, do you see the human in the monster?” His reply surprised me. He said, “No. Some people are truly evil.” That confounded me. As an author, I had to decide, do I make Victor simply a demon? Evil for evil’s sake? That didn’t sit well. I’ve always heard that if you’re going to create an adversary, make him or her a worthy adversary. I decided to create a character that, bad as he is, has issues that someone, somewhere will identify with and have sympathy for. To garner sympathy can make a villain more interesting and possibly scarier than a monster.

Jann: I understand that the series is currently be shopped for adaptation to episodic television. Can you share anything about this venture?

Laurie: I’d like to share something I think will be interesting to book authors. The producer and agent asked my help in creating the sales pitch. First, I was asked to condense each book into a one page synopsis. If you’ve ever done this, you’ll know it’s not easy. Still, I did it and thought, whew! Finished.

Then, they asked if I could forget the idea of 4 separate books and revise the synopses into one long overview of the plot. So, I revised each synopsis and created “one long overview” — again, in about four pages. I thought, whew! Finished. Then, they asked, “Where do you think you would place cliff-hanging breaks in your “overview?” So, I quit thinking of what I’d written as a book plot and instead viewed it as the plot of a screenplay. That’s when I had fun. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be, and I broke the “overview” down into 5 episodes. Would I prefer 30? Of course, but that might be a harder sell. Now, you authors should get to work with these 3 steps and create screen episodes out of your opus!

Jann: What’s next? Another book for Gabriel? Are you working on something new? 

Laurie: I have been asked to create another Gabriel book, one that brings back the villain Victor Archwood. I did leave an open door in “In Twilight’s Hush” that allows me to do this. In the meantime, I switched genres. I’m working on a literary fiction novel, which challenges me to ramp up my game as a writer.

I also co-wrote (and just completed) a rom-com/thriller screenplay.

Jann: On a personal note, I hear you found a rattlesnake coiled in your closet. I have a fear of snakes of any type. What did you do?

Laurie: I heard what sounded like a sprinkler running or a punctured soda can about to explode. I could not figure out where the darn sound was coming from. I looked around, and there it was: coiled and shaking its rattle. I called to my husband, “Steven! We’ve got a rattler in our closet.” He produced this pole with a pincher on the end and carefully gripped the snake. I opened a big plastic container. My husband placed the snake inside, let it go, and I closed the lid. We then hiked up our hill and let the critter loose. When my cat came into our room, I could tell he’d been after that snake because he went around the room sniffing then jumping back. Sniffing, then jumping back. Yes, this could have gone wrong in many ways. Thankfully, no one was hurt, including the snake.

Jann: What’s the best thing about being an author?

Laurie: We can, and are encouraged to, live in our own little worlds.

Jann: What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Laurie: Music, reading a book or watching a show I admire. Oftentimes, I get frustrated with politics or a societal issue, and that will drive me right to my writing.

Jann: Where can we get your books?

Barnes & Noble, Kobo, or Amazon

Jann: Do you have a website, blog, twitter where fans might read more about you and your books?

Laurie: Would love to connect:

https://lauriestevensbooks.com

https://www.facebook.com/lauriestevensbooks

Jann: What’s the best writing advice you ever received?

 Laurie: Write as if your words make a difference. They do.

Jann: Thank you so much for talking with us today Laurie. This has been so much fun. All four novels in your Gabriel McRay thriller series are terrific and take the reader on a great ride. For more information on each book in the series, click on the covers below.


The Gabriel McRay Thrillers

DEEP INTO DUSK

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DEEP INTO DUSK
IN TWILIGHT’S HUSH (A GABRIEL MCRAY NOVEL BOOK 4)

THE DARK BEFORE DAWN

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THE DARK BEFORE DAWN

THE MASK OF MIDNIGHT

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THE MASK OF MIDNIGHT
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