Monday, September 22, 2014

Interview & Giveaway: Taylor Stevens

Taylor Stevens is one of my author finds from this past year with her novels The Informationist and The Innocent I could not believe that I had not heard of her before this. Her novels have everything in them for those of you who love the Thriller genre, I think Stevens' books should be a must read. Please welcome to Blood Rose Books:

Taylor Stevens

If there was one author you could co-write a novel with (they can be alive or dead) who would you choose and why?
Oooh, that’s a really hard question. I think maybe Jack London. He was a prolific writer, king of adventure stories, and a master of his craft at a level I can only dream of aspiring to. But more than that, I would like to think that since he and I both wrote our way out of rough-and-tumble, uneducated, impoverished beginnings that maybe we’d have more in common than merely a co-authored novel.
To say you did not have a normal childhood is an understatement, what you have been able to achieve is amazing. Can you describe what it was like when you found out that your first novel, The Informationist was going to be published? And then so well received by readers and other authors?
Mostly I experienced a profound sense of incredulous disbelief. The way it works in publishing is that when a publisher wants a book, the editor will deliver a deal memo to the agent and this deal memo will outline the basic details of the offer. If the author accepts the terms, the agent will confirm with the editor and once that is done, that’s sort of a handshake that seals the deal until the actual contract is signed—and that can take months to finalize. The disbelief was so great that during that period of waiting for the contract to get sorted out, I was terrified every day that the publisher would have a change of heart and say they’d made a mistake. Once the contract was signed and the book entered the production stream and then went on to publication, the disbelief just kept coming—it was like walking in a dream. Of course, to really understand why it was all so overwhelming you have to realize how completely broke and hopeless I was right up to that moment of getting the news that a publisher wanted my work. The difference, one day to the next, was so stark and jarring that it created a lot of mental dissonance.
Due to the nomadic lifestyles and the time spent on the streets during your childhood, do you think this has given you a greater insight in the creation of your main character Munroe or did Munroe take on a life of her own as soon as you put her paper?
I’d like to take credit and say that I was smart enough, or that the difficult life I’d been born into had created some profound depth that gave me an ability to figure it all out in advance, but honestly, Munroe happened a lot by accident. When I started writing, I had no idea what I was doing—had never taken a writing course and had hardly read but maybe 30 novels at that point in my life, nearly all of them suspense or thrillers. I had no plot, no characters, not even a storyline; I simply wanted to use fiction to bring to life the paranoia and corruption of Equatorial Guinea (a speck on the map off the west coast of Africa, where I’d lived for a little over two years) for readers who’d probably never visit. But in order to showcase that difficult political, physical, and cultural environment, I needed people who could handle the terrain in a way that made sense, and so it was drawing upon the harsh realities of that real life environment that brought the fictional character of Vanessa Michael Munroe to life. Readers responded to her with such enthusiasm that the first book has since turned into a series.
Especially in your second book, The Innocent, you explore the Cult world which is the environment you grew up in. Was it difficult for you to revisit this time of your life or did you find that putting it to paper was a healing process?
The Innocent was probably the easiest of the books I’ve written—mostly because, for all intents and purposes, I’m an expert on the subject and there wasn’t much research needed for what has otherwise been a very difficult, research-intensive series. But also, I’d made peace with the past long, long before writing the story. Had things been otherwise, I don’t think it would have been possible to stand back and dissect the issues dispassionately; the writing experience would have become far too personal, bringing with it an overwhelming sense of pain and injustice, and that would have just mucked everything up. Instead what we have now is, in a sense, me taking the reader’s hand and saying “Come, let me show you what it was like from the perspective of children, like me, who had no choice.”
What do you think would be the hardest or most challenging genre to write a novel in and why?
Oooh, that’s another tough one. I think I’d have to say all of them. Every genre has its own difficulties and hurdles, and every author will see those difficulties and hurdles in a different way. Erotica and Romance, for example, which are some of the best-selling genres, are often treated as the ugly stepchildren of the genre family, and the authors who write those books find it difficult to get respect as writers—as if they’re not even writers at all—as if anyone could do what they do. Personally, I don’t think I could. Writing good stories is so much harder than it looks no matter what the genre and I have a lot of admiration for those who pull off any book successfully.
 
What do you think are essential elements that need to be present in a Thriller novel?
To me, it’s that the reader has to feel engaged with the characters—even if they don’t like the character, they still have to feel the character. Without this, then no matter how much action or suspense takes place, the book will ultimately be boring. This sounds simple enough but with thrillers it’s actually quite difficult because the genre expectations call for lots of plot and action, and there are typically limits to how many words an author can use to tell the story. In a thriller, if it comes down to a choice between cutting action sequences or character development, the character development is usually the first to go. Genre authors who are able to successfully blend these elements are incredibly talented, yet they make it look easy.
Munroe is one of the most interesting protagonists that I have ever read. What do you think sets Munroe apart from other female protagonist out there within the Thriller genre? Do you find that most people respond positively to her as she is a dangerous and at times ruthless character?
Interestingly enough, it wasn’t until after the first book had been published and readers began responding to the character that I had any idea there was something unique about her. I was so sorely under-read when I started writing—not just in the thriller genre, but fiction in general—that I didn’t have much of a grasp of what else existed. And I’m still very under-read which makes it difficult, even now, to know what sets Munroe apart from other protagonists—male or female. I didn’t intentionally set out to create a unique character. At the time, I didn’t even know I was supposed to do that, I simply wrote someone who made sense to me, as a woman who’d spent a few years living and working in rough developing countries. As to reader response, I’ve found that there’s either a lot of love or a lot of hate—not much in between—depending on whether someone gets Munroe or not. Either way I see that as a good thing, because it means the character is alive enough and real enough to engage emotions.
Your Munroe series has some very dark theme to it what do you think is the appeal for the reader is to go to the dark side of humanity? What do you have to do to take your writing to the dark place?
If we were to remove the dark themes we’d have no thrillers which means that, by the nature of the genre, all thrillers—whether they’re filled with serial killers, psychopaths, missing people, or terrorists—are dark in some way. There are probably as many different reasons for the appeal of these types of stories as there are readers, but I suspect that ultimately it’s because they allow the reader to experience the adrenaline of danger from a very safe distance. For me as a storyteller, taking the writing to that dark place is mostly a matter of finding a way to describe through fiction what already exists.
Do you have any information on upcoming works or events that you are able to share?
The most recent book in the series, THE CATCH, was released in July 2014, and in that story Munroe’s desire to lay low is thwarted by a lying boss, an aging hijacked ship, illegal weapons, and a captain that everyone seems to want. Coming in June 2015 is THE MASK, set in Japan, where Munroe is pitted against forces just as smart and strong as she is—which is about as much as I can say at the moment.
Do you interact with your readers, and if so, what’s the best way for readers to get in contact with you?
Interacting with fans and readers is my desert to the vegetables and hard work of writing, so I definitely do respond to those who contact me. I’m on Facebook most days but I don’t post much. The best of everything comes through email from the cool kids who find me at www.taylorstevensbooks.com/connect.php , which is a mailing list that I treat like hanging out with friends. I email fairly frequently—like blogging to an inbox—all about the writing process, everything I know about the publishing industry, and personal experiences that have gotten me to where I am. These inevitably result in daily email exchanges, lots of laughs, and friendships as my readers get to know me as a person and I get to know them, too. I’m not able to answer every single email I receive, but I do read each and every one, and I respond as often as I can.
What is one book (other than one of your own) that you think everyone should read?
Probably not a very popular or fun opinion, but right now I have a bee in my bonnet over The Divide, by Matt Taibii, a hefty tome of non-fiction about the wealth gap in the US criminal justice system. As the jacket promo states, “Poverty goes up. Crime goes down. The prison population doubles. Fraud by the rich wipes out 40 percent of the world’s wealth. The rich get massively richer. No one goes to jail.” With nearly 1 out of 30 US adults in prison or jail, or on probation or parole, this is such a pertinent topic that everyone who lives in this country should read it even though it’s a frustrating and infuriating read.

Taylor Stevens is becoming my go to author for suspense thrills mystery and action, her books really do cover all of that, plus I love her main character, so her books will probably always be in the must read column for me. Taylor has very nicely supplied a giveaway (US) to go along with her interview, so fill out rafflecopter information below to enter :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, September 19, 2014

Sean Black: Post

Sean Black is an action adventure author who's newest novel is all about how far the government will go to create the perfect soldier:

Byron Tibor is a war veteran who is exhausted from the amount of combat he has seen. Often working alone to infiltrate where no one else can, on his last mission things get too much for him and he has decided he has had enough. Haunted by a little girl he struggles to maintain his humanity and sanity and when doctors approach him with a cure to help with his PTSD, he doesn't know the consequences of saying yes. Byron thinks that he has become sane again, can return to his loving wife, but there is something very wrong with Byron, past and present are intermingling in his mind and Bryon does not know which war zone he is going to end up in next. Byron is on the run as the cure is not working as it should and there are a string of bodies that he is leaving behind that puts him on everyone's hit list.

I really enjoy action adventure novels that inject a bit of sci-fi into their story as you never know what militaries and governments around the world are willing to do to get the edge on the competition. It was interesting that Black decided to use a process that would overcome PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) as this does occur to many people who serve the public whether it be within the army or police department ect. Having the ability to overcome what has haunted a person in combat would be a great achievement but with anything there can be side effects to the process and for this one let’s just say the body count increases.

Byron is an interesting character, and I was immediately drawn to him in his first chapter. He has so much going on mentally with his memories and whether he is in the past present or even where on Earth he believes he it. This makes the chapters from Byron's point of view very interesting as you never really know what you are going to get. This also affect's Byron's overall state of mind as you can imagine not really knowing what is true can make it difficult to deal with any reality. Also to have to live again some of your worst moments in combat would be hard for anyone to try to deal with mentally. Byron is also very deadly character, what he is able to achieve as one man is amazing.

There are quite a few point if views in this so if you do not like that you're not going to enjoy this book. I think these multiple point of view may have hindered the book some as I feel like the plot was never fully developed; there are still holes in the story that were not filled. I am not sure if this going to be a series or not, but I feel like there are things left over once this book was done. I would read another book in this series, mainly just for Byron and I hope that he would have more chapters from his point of view; and really for being a story really based around him, there were too many other and sometime insignificant, people given more time than Black needed to give them.

This is a short read action packed as it is 259 pages on my nook, so really easy to read this one in one sitting if you can get past all the point of view. I really liked the concept that Black brought forward and found that it was very current for today as more information and people come forward with hoe PTSD has affected their lives. I would read another book by Black and if this is a series I would continue on in it as long as Byron got more chapter time.

Enjoy!!!
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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Interview & Giveaway: Cassie Alexander

I was first introduced to  Edie Spence in Nightshifted and as I continued on in the series, Moonshifted and Shapeshifted, Edie has become one of my favorite female protagonists in the paranormal genre for the fact that she is a nurse and she is human, which means that is long as Edie is around I will continue to read Cassie Alexander's novel. Please Welcome to Blood Rose Books:

Cassie Alexander
 
If there was one author you could co-write a novel with (they can be alive or dead) who would you choose and why? 
That inspired a lot of looking around my office-library, trying to figure out an answer! I think if I had my druthers, I’d co-write a book with Zelazny, because Lord of Light was an amazing, amazing, book.  

Is there a book, author, story or person that inspired you to become a writer? 
D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths – in the third grade. I checked this book out for the entire year, I think, until I’d memorized the thing. I knew wanted to tell stories like that, about epic and crazy things that happened larger than life people.  
 
The Urban Fantasy / Paranormal genres appear to be the genre that everyone is writing in these days (even authors that are well established in other genres), what do you think draws authors to these genres? How do you believe your novels stand out from the rest of the crowd? 
Well, mostly because my protagonist is very level headed, and up until the last two books, had a real job being a nurse. She wasn’t special or fancy, she just cared a lot about other people and wanted to protect them, just like nurses do – only she had to worry about vampires and werewolves. 
 
You began writing in the Urban Fantasy / paranormal genres and recently you released two Erotica based novels (The House and The Haunted), why did you decide to write within the Erotica genre? What were some challenges you had when writing in a new genre, especially one that can be highly criticized? Did you find out anything about yourself by writing Erotica? 
I’d gotten a fair amount of fan mail that said that people really liked my sex scenes in my Edie books, so I felt pretty confident branching off into erotica. Plus, The House (the choose your own adventure erotica I wrote) was written right after I found out my publisher wasn’t going to continue to my Edie Spence series. It was really nice to work on something that was just for me and didn’t even have to have a linear plot. 
 
After that, I wrote the Haunted because I really wanted to write a girl-and-a-
ghost story, and I’ve written The Hunted, which’ll be my girl-and-a-werewolf novel – it’s been really fun to break with traditional genre expectations and write more soap-opera-y stuff. While assorted relatives have expressed mild disappointment, I haven’t gotten any criticisms yet – and I’m also working on some more mainstream books too. It’s the best of both worlds, really.  

 
What do you think would be the hardest or most challenging genre to write a novel in and why? 
I don’t think I could do military historical fiction ;). I love research, but when I start researching guns and ammo for books my eyes glaze over.  
 
I think the aspect I love about Edie the most is that she is Human trying to make her way in a monster’s world. Why did you decide to keep Edie as a human and not have even a spark of power in her? What do you think Edie’s real power is? 
Her power is that she cares. Shamelessly, openly. You never wonder where you stand with her. You can trust her. You know.  
 
One of the most interesting creatures that Edie comes in contact with are The Shadows. I have not read another book in the paranormal genre that anything close or similar to them. Where did the idea of The Shadows come from? Are we going to see more of them and their manipulative ways? 
They come from the basement of my own hospital. You do not want to go down there in the middle of the night. It’s a creepy place.  
 
The Shadows play a very large role in Deadshifted and Bloodshifted :D. 
 
You obviously use your nursing experience in order write about Edie’s own career. While you are at work and something strange, unusual or gross comes in, do you start to think (of course after helping the patient out), how can I apply that to a paranormal creature or a situation for Edie? Do any come to mind that you would be able to share with us? 
Ha, no…it’s not quite like that. It’s more the moments than any one person. Like I was watching a coworker pull gauze out of a wound, and it was a deep one so there was a ton, and it looked like they were performing some sort of shitty magic trick where you just keep pulling knotted scarves out of someone else’s pocket, only this time it was someone else’s body and the scarves were gauze soaked in blood…things like that ;). 
 
Do you have any information on upcoming works or events that you are able to share? 
My werewolf erotica, The Hunted, will be coming out on 10/1 if you’d like to keep an eye out for it! :D  
 
What is one book (other than one of your own) that you think should be a must read for everyone? 
Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson. 

I was very sad to read that her Edie Spence series will not be continuing on but sometimes this leads you to new ventures in your life and new projects like it has for Cassie. Cassie has very nicely provided an Giveaway (US) to go along with her interview, anyone who like paranormal, urban fantasy or paranormal romance will want to enter this giveaway. Please fill out the rafflecopter information below to enter. Thank
 you once again Cassie
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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Interview: Mark Alpert

I think that Mark Albert and his novel The Furies was one of the most interesting books that I read last year. You can really see the science background that he has and it is such an asset to plot creation. Please Welcome to Blood Rose Book:

Mark Alpert

If there was one author you could co-write a novel with (they can be alive or dead) who would you choose and why?
Final Theory CoverI’d love to write a novel with Stephen King. Brainstorming with that guy would be a lot of fun. So many of his books seem intended to answer the question, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” As a neurotic hypochondriac, I’m often thinking along the same lines. When I walk down the street near our apartment building in Manhattan I automatically catalogue all the things that could kill me – the crazy taxi drivers, sagging tree limbs, open manholes, etc. My wife and kids think I’m crazy, but I bet Stephen King would encourage this kind of thinking. He would say to me, “What about killer dogs? Shouldn’t you worry about them too? Or killer clowns, killer cars? Insane fans of your books? An enormous dome crashing down on your neighborhood? There are lots of dangers out there that you’re totally ignoring! Use your imagination!”
 
Is there a book, author, story or person that inspired you to become a writer?
Yes, The Lord of the Rings inspired me. I read it when I was a very impressionable teenager. I loved the world Tolkien created, all the fictional cultures and languages. Immediately after finishing the book I tried to write my own fantasy novel. It was a disaster – I wrote only a couple of pages before giving up. But the dream stayed with me.
 
From astrophysics to fiction author, can you explain how this transition occurred?
Extinction by Mark AlpertAstrophysics and fiction really aren’t so different. They’re both methods for understanding and exploring the universe. I majored in astrophysics in college and enjoyed learning about the fundamental laws of nature. But I also liked to read and write poetry, which can reveal fundamental truths too. I tried to combine my interests by becoming a science journalist. I was a staff editor at Scientific American for ten years and I’m still a contributing editor for the magazine. And the work there inspired my imagination. While editing an article about Albert Einstein I got the idea for a thriller about his quest to discover the Theory of Everything. That became my first published novel, Final Theory.
 
You began your writing career with poetry and then short stories, why did you change to writing full length novels? Did you have additional challenges of writing a full length novel?
I’ve always loved reading novels but I didn’t make a serious attempt to write one until I was 27. The challenge, then and now, is to keep the book interesting. It’s so easy to get bogged down. If the chapter you’re writing isn’t the most interesting thing in your life – more interesting than any book you’re reading, any TV show you’re watching, any story in the newspaper – then you should think about revising the chapter, shortening it or cutting it completely
 
What do you think would be the hardest or most challenging genre to write a novel in and why? 
I think humorous novels are the most challenging to write. That’s why I admire authors like Carl Hiaasen and T.C. Boyle and John Kennedy Toole. You know the saying: Death is easy, comedy is hard.
 
I personally found to story of the Furies very interesting and what they are willing to do to make sure their gene pool and culture survive at all costs. Where did the idea for the story come from?
The Omega Theory CoverMy son wrote a term paper about the Salem witch trials and discovered that it was just a minor affair compared with the witch hunts that raged across Europe during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Mobs led by secular and religious leaders killed tens of thousands of suspected witches – the great majority of them women – in France, Germany and Switzerland. Historians still argue over what caused the homicidal hysteria, which didn’t start until the 1400s and mostly burned out by the 1700s. I thought it would be interesting to imagine a specific trigger for the killings, a large, extended family of accused witches who were feared and hated by their neighbors because they were genetically different. That was the inspiration for The Furies.
 
In your novel The Furies, you begin the novel during the witch hunts in Europe and then later refer to different times in history for America was it hard to merge fact and fiction together? What type of research did you do in order to get it right?
Yes, I did some research to ensure that the historical references in The Furies were accurate. For example, I’ve become something of an expert on the Battle of Brooklyn, a Revolutionary War battle whose outcome was influenced by one of the witches in my novel. I’ve attended reenactments of the battle at Green-Wood Cemetery, which now occupies one of the sites where the fighting took place.
 
After reading your novel The Furies, I can tell where your science background has come into play with your storyline, how real is the possibility of the science for immortality? Is it important for you to include your scientific background in your novels and have science aspect have a hint of truth to it?
Many, many scientists are studying the mechanisms of aging and the possibility of developing treatments to slow the process. I put some information about this field in The Furies because I like to weave real science into my thrillers. Slowing the aging process will be a difficult feat because the deterioration of certain types of cells seems to be unavoidable. But if researchers manage to find ways to significantly increase the human lifespan, the effects on society would be enormous. Writing The Furies gave me a chance to explore some of the possible repercussions.
 
Do you have any information on upcoming works or events that you are able to share?
My next book will be a Young Adult novel. We haven’t chosen a title yet, but it’s about a group of terminally ill teenagers whose minds are transferred to robotic bodies. It’s like a mash-up of Harry Potter and the Transformers. It’ll be published in June 2015.
 
What is one book (other than one of your own) that you think should be a must read for everyone? 
Everyone should read The Grapes of Wrath. What an amazing book.

I just want to say Thank You once again for Mark taking the time to answer the questions for his interview. Make sure to check out his books if you are looking for a fantasy or sci-fi book that edges with what could be real.