Monday, December 17, 2018

Book Recs at CrimeReads

In case you missed it, I was lucky enough to have CrimeReads ask my opinion on some of my favorite crime, mystery and thriller books of 2018. Ultimately I went with R.O. Kwon's The Incendiaries. If you're looking to see what you missed this year (or ready to start next year's TBR pile), this is the list for you!



Saturday, December 15, 2018

Best of Book Bites! (A Spectacular Extravaganza Emporium)

Every year I try to do something a little bit different to celebrate the End-of-the-Book-Year in style. I ran variations of my Superfluous Spectacular Awards for a few years there and last year I showcased a Best of the Best, highlighting my favorite books over the course of this blog. This year, I'm shining some extra light on ten of my favorite Book Bites interviews conducted over the past year. I had almost 50 Book Bites author interviews up and I've been honored to give a little piece of time to authors new and established, indie and popular and just plain awesome.

That being said, here are a few of my favorites. I have no Spectacular Awards to assign, but if you're on this list, I'm sending you *imaginary* cupcakes, puppy kisses, chicken squawks and a bottle of whiskey. ;) Enjoy!





"I enjoy adding animals to my stories, both as part of the setting but also as symbols or archetypes. Humans share so many of our basic reactions and behaviors with the other mammals, and to a smaller extent, reptiles and birds, so it's very interesting to have animals in stories."




Jared Yates Sexton, author of The People Are Going to Rise Like the Waters Upon Your Shore

"I’m currently doing this political thing, which is a side-effect of my family’s focus on the political world, which was always a topic of discussion and dissection, but the fiction I write and want to write is more focused on trying to make sense of the world, which I’ve been trying to do since I knew there was a world to make sense of."





"On a side note, I keep tweeting at Mr. King with promises of providing my skills as the ringer on his all-author softball team. Curiously, he has yet to respond. I think it might be a collective bargaining thing. He’ll come around."




"I made the switch to genre, mystery, because honestly, the people were nicer."




"I loved the idea of the kingfisher because it’s a stunningly beautiful bird and is quite deliberate in the way it hunts. A kingfisher will find a high perch, then swoop down for its lunch. I’m interested in the idea of haves versus have-nots, those perched highest and those nearer the earth, and how that relates to crime."




"If there is one type of person I do not trust, it is a perfect person. Everyone has a nick or divot in their armor and what that weakness is can be really important. It can tell you quite a bit about that character."





"When I am very seriously questioning whether I have made the right decision to work at this, to really commit to building a writing life with whatever resources of time and energy and finances that I can scrape up, I go back to what I wrote in one of my notebooks during grad school: 'I want to be part of the conversation.'"




"I think I was drawn to writing about crime and mystery because I'm fascinated by the idea of studying characters who are pushed beyond the limits of what society considers acceptable."




"I do simmer over how to best address something I’m contending with, and when this happens, I usually go for a run or a long hike. I voice record lines over and over until I think I have a way into music of the poem."




"However, I am often called upon to write during all times of the day or night, especially in TV, when I may actually have to write on set with a couple hundred people waiting for me to re-write a scene we’re shooting in ten minutes."





Much love to everyone who contributed to the Book Bites Series. See you next year! 












Friday, December 14, 2018

Book Bites: Clea Simon, author of A Spell of Murder

Here we go, folks- the very last Book Bites. Of the year and of the run. I'll be starting up a new feature in 2019 (stay tuned) and tomorrow I'll have my Best Of list out (to replace my Spectacular Book Awards feature- always got to try something new!).

On that note, today's interview is with Clea Simon, author of A Spell of Murder. This is so far off the beaten path for me, I couldn't resist. Cats, witches and a cozy mystery at the center. A Spell of Murder is the first in its series- 'Witch Cats of Cambridge'- and it's already garnering rave reviews. Enjoy!


"[A] fun new cat mystery that effortlessly mixes in paranormal elements with murder and a little romance." - Criminal Element



What drew you to the genre you write in?

The whimsy! While I often read (and now occasionally also write) dark, I have basically made my name writing mysteries with cats in them, some of which are quite dark (the books, not the cats, although …. Well, never mind). I believe this is because I grew up loving smart whimsical writers like Edward Lear, Edward Gorey, and their ilk. I think it is vital to take imagination seriously and keep that childlike spark alive. Plus, in these times, we all need some warmth – some happy endings. Plus, of course, I talk to cats, and most of my books come out of that, and how they respond to me.


How do you handle writer’s block?

I was a journalist for too long to believe in writer’s block. As long as you can physically hold a pen or sit at a keyboard, you can write something. I do go through spells of feeling dull and uncreative. The secret to getting through those is giving myself permission to write badly. I mean, really badly. Like, “she looked at the clock. Only ten minutes had passed. ‘Why is time going so slowly?’ she asked.” And then adding adverbs to up my word count. This works in a few ways. First, I think of writing as kind of like a tap. You have to let the rusty water run before you get the clear. And, second, odds are whatever you write isn’t that bad. You might be able to use some of it. Finally, it works because writing is a habit, a muscle that you use or lose. If you write everyday, your mind will expect it – and even if one day is awful, the next day you’ll want to get back at it.


Have you ever given up on a writing project?

Yes, for a few decades. My last dark mystery, World Enough, came out of a novel I was trying desperately to write in my twenties. I was a music critic at the time, with aspirations of being a novelist and documenting the punk-rock subculture that I called home but … I just could never get beyond 100 pages. For years, I kept at it and kept scrapping it. When I returned, something like 30 years later, I saw something salvageable there – at least in the first few chapters. But by then I’d both developed the writer chops to be able to pace and produce a long-form work, and, probably more to the point, I had the distance to recognize what I was really writing about – which was my own infatuation with and denial about that little subculture that I loved.


In your eyes, what does it mean to be a “successful” writer?

When readers respond to me wanting to engage with my characters, as if the characters were real people and I am simply their translator. That’s the best. That’s what I go for, in large part because that’s how I respond to books I love. If someone wants to know more about Clara’s background, for example, then I’ve done my job. If someone has a case for Becca, then I know I’m a success.


Who was your intended audience for the novel?

I’m hoping that anyone who loves a good yarn will give it a try. One problem with so-called 'genre writing' is that people who would actually enjoy the work are put off by the label. I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard, “Oh, I don’t like mysteries. I only like novels.” But a mystery is a novel, and not just in the sense that it is a work of fiction. A good mystery, like any other fiction, relies on characters that you develop feelings about, characters who go on some kind of journey – whether it is a personal quest, a voyage of self-discovery, or on the trail of a murderer. And, yes, I believe my feline characters are as fully fleshed as my human ones, and will provoke their own responses. Reading any fiction requires a leap of faith – these are all made-up stories, after all. I wish that people would look beyond the label and try my mystery – or any mystery. A Spell of Murder is intended for anyone who enjoys a good read.


Friday, December 7, 2018

Book Bites: S.A. Cosby, author of My Darkest Prayer

It's the next-to-the-last Book Bites post of the year (and I'll be moving on to a different author feature next year). It's a good one, though,- an interview with S.A. Cosby, author of My Darkest Prayer. Cosby's crime novel- on shelves January 1st- has been getting a ton of buzz lately and with good reason. With everything from funeral homes to dangerous preachers to crooked cops, Cosby's debut is set to make a mark on 2019 and the crime fiction world....

"A compelling character, a tangled mystery and crisp writing make this southern-fried investigation a hit. Rarely have I read a debut so self-assured. On nearly every page was a line I wish I’d written. S.A. Cosby has arrived fully formed." —Eric Beetner




What drew you to the genre you write in?

I think I was drawn to writing about crime and mystery because I'm fascinated by the idea of studying characters who are pushed beyond the limits of what society considers acceptable. The idea of pressure both external and internal and its effects is extremely interesting to me and the crime and mystery genres allow me to examine these themes.


Were there any parts of your novel that were edited out, but which you miss terribly?

Yes, there were some chapters that delved into the relationship between my main character Nathan Waymaker and his friend Skunk. How they met, how their relationship developed . I know why it was cut but it had some really great passages in my opinion.

Have you ever given up on a writing project?

I never truly give up on any project. I tend to step away from projects  to let them marinate and then come back to them later. I like to say I have multiple works in progress over several decades.


How important is the setting to your novel? 

Setting is incredibly important to my writing. I grew up in rural Virginia and I love the area. There are a multitude of beautiful, grotesque and mysterious stories in the South that haven't always been told. I'd like to think I'm telling a few of them.


How do you handle writer's block? 

I go on Pinterest and look at pictures of cats. I'm kidding, I usually talk to other writers. I workout. Lifting weight seems to unravel the knots in my subconscious.