Friday, March 24, 2017

Surviving A Book Tour

My "Book Tour Author Survival Guide" is now live over at LitReactor. This post is close to my heart- my own book tour for Lightwood was a roller coaster whirlwind of events and emotions and I wanted to share what I learned with other authors. I hope that these tips can be of some help or at least let others know that it's okay not to be perfect....

https://litreactor.com/columns/the-dos-and-donts-of-book-tour-an-authors-survival-guide

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Zoologist Turned Crime Poet: Erica Wright


Today I bring you an interview with Erica Wright, author of The Red Chameleon and, more recently, The Granite Moth. Wright's crime novels have been on my radar for a while and I'm glad they finally caught up with me!
Also, if you're heading up to the Virginia Festival of the Book this week, be sure to catch Wright on one of her three panels as she balances discussions on her dual specialties:  crime writing and poetry.
 
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1605988936
 
 
Steph Post: I'm going to go ahead and start with the obvious- the title. The Granite Moth is the second of a series of PI novels featuring Kathleen Stone, a master of disguise. The first book was titled The Red Chameleon and so there's a trend here. Both animals reference Kat's ability to don a new wig and assume a new identity at the blink of an eye, but where did the inspiration come from with using colors and animals? And is this a trend that is going to continue throughout the series?

Erica Wright: When I was twelve, I wanted to be a zoologist. Then I passed out dissecting a frog and was gently encouraged to consider other careers. I’m still obsessed with animals, though, so the titles were an extension of that interest and a logical fit for a character who prides herself on disguises. I started a newsletter because that seems to be the number one piece of marketing advice for writers, but it’s mostly about critters. Did you know that rats in Mozambique helped clear the country of landmines? Amazing. Yes, this is definitely a trend I can’t escape.

SP: The Granite Moth had been on my radar for a little while and a large part of that was due to the cover. The design here just screams that the story inside will be dazzling. It's sort of disco meets old-school pulp which, honestly, mimics the style of Kathleen Stone and your writing. Did you have a hand in the cover selection?

https://www.amazon.com/Red-Chameleon-Novel-Erica-Wright/dp/1605985686

EW: Charles Brock designed the gorgeous cover. I was given a couple of options for The Red Chameleon, but this style was a great fit for the series.

SP: One of my favorite elements of The Granite Moth is the wacky humor that rides alongside the hardboiled storyline. Part of this is due to the plot- the story opens with Kat watching a larger-than-life drag queen float in the middle of a Halloween parade- but much of it comes from the protagonist herself. Kathleen Stone is serious about her job, but also has a wry wit that made this character refreshing in a sea of gritty, hard-nosed private eyes. Where did Kat's voice come from? I'd imagine she's a helluva lot of fun to write.

EW: I was reading a personal essay by Oliver Sacks who had face blindness, a disorder which makes it difficult to recognize faces, sometimes even of people you know well. I wondered if there could be a related phenomena—someone whose face isn’t very memorable or that seems to change depending on the situation. Not exactly a glamorous superpower, but one that Kat has embraced. Some of her humor comes from this reality. She could feel sorry for herself; after all, she’s a young woman who sees the same fashion magazine covers as everyone else. Or she could take advantage of her unique ability to disappear in a crowd. In some ways, this quirk is a stand-in for how she grapples with questions of identify after being undercover for two years. She’s not quite as forgettable as she likes to believe, and yeah, she’s such fun to write. I look forward to spending time with her.

SP: I haven't yet read the first novel in the series, but I felt that The Granite Moth clearly stood on its own. Is it difficult to write successive books in a series, knowing that the reader may not have read about the origins of the character?

EW: It’s easier in the sense that I know the characters better than I did at first. While they still surprise me at times, they also act in ways I understand. I realize that this might sound crazy to non-writers, but after you spend years with fictional people, they don’t seem so fictional anymore. But I definitely needed help from my editor, the brilliant Maia Larson, to show me where more backstory or explanation was required. I always want to be fair to my readers. 

http://www.blacklawrence.com/instructions-for-killing-the-jackal/

SP: In addition to writing crime novels, you are also an accomplished poet. I was surprised, but thrilled to hear this as I love it when I discover a writer who can play across the board. And Instructions for Killing the Jackal is now high up on my list. Do you find any conflict in your writing life as you straddle these two genres?

EW: I started writing fiction after I finished my first book of poems. That collection took me ten years, and my poetry tank was on empty. Instead of sending the book out and waiting for rejections to roll in (“That way madness lies”!), I started working on a novel. My first attempt was embarrassingly bad, but I still learned a lot from that failure. Now, I rarely write fiction and poetry on the same day, or really, during the same week.

SP: In addition to everything else, you are also a creative writing teacher. What is the best piece of advice or learning moment you ever received from a student?

EW: Oh, I love this question! In the very first session of my very first creative writing class, I was administering an exercise that I hijacked from one of my professors. Basically, I asked a series of unrelated questions, letting students respond to each one. It’s supposed to help with negative capability. Anyway, I was rushing through the questions because I was nervous, and this good-natured group of writers started chuckling and were all like “Take a breath! Slow down!” That was excellent teaching advice, but I apply it to writing as well. It’s not a race, and it’s not a competition. The nice part of this writing business is that there’s plenty of success to go around, which means you can root for others as much as you root for yourself.

http://ericawright.typepad.com/

And that, if not anything else, is why I am a new fan of Erica Wright. Be sure to check out both her Kathleen Stone series and her works of poetry. You can also catch her over at Guernica magazine, where she serves as senior poetry editor. Many thanks, Erica!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

L.A. Noir With Attitude: An Interview with Nolan Knight

Today I'm bringing you an interview with L.A. native and neon-noir author Nolan Knight. His recent novel debut, The Neon Lights Are Veins, is unlike anything I've read before (and that's saying something!). The novel's story is a fast-paced mystery and caper, dragging the reader through the underbelly of the Los Angeles night, but most impressive is Knight's style: in your face and no-holds-barred.

https://www.amazon.com/Neon-Lights-Are-Veins/dp/8293326980/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=
 
Steph Post: The first word that comes to mind when I think of The Neon Lights Are Veins' style is "kaleidoscopic." There's a lot of color, a lot of flash, a lot of snap. It's a style I have seen in noir before, but it's still rare. How did you develop this unique style and how important was establishing this style to the development of the story?

Nolan Knight: First off, thanks for having me here, Steph. Referring to the visual aesthetic of the novel, I think that it is less a stylistic choice than just an authentic rendering of nighttime Los Angeles in roughly 2008. When it comes to the actual design of the narrative, that came out of being patient with the process. I started Neon Lights in 2010 and had a shorter draft (similar to what was published) by late-2012. I shelved it, then came back several months later, needing fresh eyes. I think that the time spent fleshing out the vision I had for it is reflected in the end product. Neon Lights became more fluid and dense with each given pass.

SP: In contrast to all the flash, however, The Neon Lights Are Veins also takes place in a world obviously jaded. The first section is aptly titled "Loveless Gutters" and that line in the opening scene- "too bad this world craved dreamers"- sets the tone for a story set among worldly and world-weary characters. Did you ever worry that this story would be too dark for readers?

NK: No. Fortunately, there’s only one reader I worry about when writing anything—and that’s me. The fact that most of my favorite authors’ books developed strong readerships over years/decades, that’s enough for me to believe that other likeminded folks are out there, ones who could possibly be interested in a story like Neon Lights. That’s all that matters.

SP: One of my favorite things about The Neon Lights Are Veins are the characters and their names in particular. Mongo, Elvira, Rocco- the names are fantastic. Where did they come from? Are any of the characters based on real people?

NK: Most of the characters in the novel are based on random people I would come across in my old East Hollywood neighborhood. Drug dealers on skateboards, crust punks busking for beer, etc. As far as names are concerned… I remember when my wife and I were first dating, introducing her to my friends brought something to light: So many of them had odd nicknames that it made it hard for her keep track of everyone. This was something that I had never even considered growing-up in L.A. It got me thinking of how bizarro names had become household in my everyday life. So, when it comes to naming characters, most of the time I find myself taming down versions of what I’d like to call them.   

SP: Another defining element of your book is the cracking, whip-smart dialogue and slang-filled prose. From the first sentence, the reader is dropped right in the middle of this world, with no narrative reprieve. It's an immersive reading experience, you might say. Do you write your first drafts in this voice or is this a carefully cultivated style?

NK: This is just the voice that I feel most comfortable with. Anyone can look back at my short fiction catalog and see the footprints. Immersive is a good way to describe Neon Lights. Sink or swim. If I’ve done my job, the story will hook a reader and remove their safety net at the same time. For me, there’s nothing more satisfying than reading a book where I can trust that the writer is in complete control while he/she takes risks with a progressive story.   


SP: The city of L.A., particularly it's underbelly scene, really functions as its own character in The Neon Lights Are Veins. How important was this specific setting to the storyline? Could this story have been told in another city?

NK: Los Angeles is a predator in Neon Lights, another antagonist that lures characters with beauty into a doomed existence. When I look at the story overall, I see the main characters as puppets, their strings popping to the fingers of L.A. The City as The Beast was imperative to the text. I’m not sure that it could be told in another city—only for the fact that I don’t know any other cities as well as I know Los Angeles. Born and raised. Thirty-six years. I’m still learning great things about this city every day and plan on growing old with it.

SP: You are clearly a noir writer. In addition to The Neon Lights Are Veins, you've written stories published in Shotgun Honey, Thuglit, Needle and other noir-friendly or centered outlets. What draws you to the noir genre?

NK: When it comes to literary interests, I’m not drawn to any specific genre. If it’s a solid story, I’ll devour it. Most of the shorts I’ve had published definitely have a noir tendency, and Neon Lights is a noir novel; however, the novel I’ve just finished doesn’t read like noir to me, but I bet it will to readers. I think it’s just the setting that I’m drawn to. I like to be out late at night and so do my characters. Not much good happens in Late-Night-Los Angeles, and that’s often the tone reflected in my writing. Call it noir, call it whatever—just have a peek and see for yourself.

http://www.nolanknight.com/

And you'll need to read The Neon Lights Are Veins for yourself. Be sure to pick up a copy and check out the other killer lit coming from indie press 280 Steps. Thanks so much to Nolan Knight for stopping by!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Writer's Read Recommendation

So many thanks to David Joy for recommending Lightwood in his featured column on Writers Read (and many thanks as well to Marshal Zeringue for hosting him). Here's a snippet:

"She reminds me of a cross between Ace Atkins and Megan Abbott, all that to say: read this novel, read the one that came before, and keep your eyes peeled for what’s coming next."

http://whatarewritersreading.blogspot.com/2017/03/david-joy.html

Also, if you haven't yet, be sure to check out David Joy's debut novel Where All Light Tends To Go and it's follow-up, just released, The Weight Of This World. Cheers!


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

This Book Will Change Your Life

So many thanks to Ben Tanzer and his fantastic blog "This Blog Will Change Your Life" for a killer, thoughtful review of Lightwood. Here's a peek:

"...Always pushing and churning all at once, everyone filled with conflict, loyalty or rage, or all of it all at once, because that's what crime novels are, the push and pull of doing the right thing, while constantly trying to define what the right thing is..."

http://www.changeyourlifethiswill.com/book/14247912/post-lightwood


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Shouting Out Nine Badass Women Writers

As today is International Women's Day, I thought it was the prefect time to highlight some of my favorite female authors. These ladies are as badass as they come and if you're not yet familiar with them and their work, that needs to change...



Beth Gilstrap
https://bethgilstrap.com/about/


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Natalie Harnett
http://natalieharnett.com/

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Berit Ellingsen
https://beritellingsen.com/2017/01/30/great-review-of-vessel-and-solsvart/

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Kathy Fish
author of Rift
http://www.kathy-fish.com/
 
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Hasanthika Sirisena
author of The Other One
http://hasanthikasirisena.com/
 
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Mira Jacob
http://mirajacob.com/

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Carmiel Banasky
http://carmielbanasky.wixsite.com/carmielbanasky
 
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Sheryl Monks
https://www.sherylmonks.com/
 
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Leah Rhyne
author of Heartless
http://www.leahrhyne.com/
 
 
 
Have some badass female authors you think deserve some recognition? Feel free to add them in the comments. The more, the better!
 
 
 


Andrew Hilleman Interview at LitReactor

Just in case you missed it,  I've got an interview up over at LitReactor.... I'm talking with debut author Andrew Hilleman, author of the brilliant World, Chase Me Down about history, memory and telling a true story. Take a look!

https://litreactor.com/interviews/the-tale-must-be-greater-than-the-truth-an-interview-with-andrew-hilleman-author-of-world