Thursday, July 12, 2018

Interview on Covered

Many thanks to Harry Marks and the Covered podcast (which I highly recommend for anyone interested in learning more about books, authors, writing and the publishing world) for hosting me and letting me ramble on about everything from the trials of writing a trilogy to why I love the storytelling in video games. Cheers and happy listening!


https://hologramradio.org/covered/s4e10-steph-post-walk-in-the-fire

Friday, July 6, 2018

Book Bites: Gale Massey, author of The Girl from Blind River

Today, I've got a local fav stopping by to chat. Gale Massey, author of The Girl from Blind River, also hails from St. Petersburg Florida and her debut novel- out next Tuesday!- is a knock-out. A dark, complex and gritty tale of family loyalty gone wrong, The Girl from Blind River is an unforgettable read.

https://www.amazon.com/Girl-Blind-River-Gale-Massey/dp/1683316401/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1530892879&sr=8-1&keywords=the+girl+from+blind+river
The Girl From Blind River is a part coming-of-age, part redemption story with a razor sharp edge... The plot is twisted and the prose nuanced and graceful, but it's the characters that stick with you... Stellar debut!"
―Kate Moretti





What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

I heard Michael Koryta say, “Keep your head down and keep moving forward.” This bit of wisdom helped me get through the first draft. It’s easy to get distracted by craft books, writing conferences and classes. Those things serve an important purpose but eventually you have to put all that aside, assume you’ve learned enough to get through a rough draft, and get down to business. Of course, there has to be a story in there, a plot with twists, characters that possess depth, a setting that is fully realized. But none of that can happen if you don’t put your head down and write.


How important is the setting in your novel?

Well, it’s crucial really. In Blind River there are broken sidewalks, freezing rain, a diner, a pawn shop. There’s a river that smells of runoff from the town’s only manufacturing plant. Then there’s the Walmart on the highway just outside of town. I love using weather to intensify a scene. Snow and ice, rain, leads to runny noses, freezing fingertips. These things create a scene and an atmosphere for the reader to experience. Jamie feels ensnared by her family and Blind River, I want the reader to feel what she feels, so they’ll root for her to get the hell out of there.


Are there any symbols running throughout your novel?

I use poker and gambling to symbolize some aspects of American culture. Children in this country are sold a dream they can rise from the circumstance they are born into, that the American Dream will come true for anyone willing to work hard enough, that pulling one’s self up from the bootstraps is actually possible. But many people are born into circumstance they will never find their way out of and the dream of making a better life for themselves and their children really isn’t viable. That’s why the lottery system has seen such a crazy boom in the last three or four decades. People living in poverty, such as the kind I grew up in, know deep down that education alone isn’t going to pull them out of their circumstances, that dream jobs have vanished in the tumultuous economy – and matching five random numbers on a ticket bought at the 7-Eleven might be their only solution. Jamie sees poker as her only real avenue to get out of Blind River but the odds are definitely not in her favor.


What single book has been the most influential to you as a writer?

I have to mention two. Connie May Fowler’s Before Women Had Wings and Daniel Woodrell’s Winter’s Bone. I saw myself and my roots reflected in both those books and came to see that stories about girls were important to both our culture and also spoke to some deep yearning inside of me. I read a lot of books in between those two and eventually began to believe I had something to add to the discussion.


What do you wish more readers would ask you about?

Once the book gets out into the world (July10th!) I hope readers will notice and want to discuss the subtle degrees of sexual orientation experienced by a couple characters, and how that plays into the family dynamics. I’d love to discuss that more.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

The Great Fall Book Preview- 2018!

Here we go! All the upcoming books I'm most looking forward to for the rest of 2018. Thanks to everyone who provided suggestions and be sure to check out the Reader Picks at the bottom of the list. Also, take a look back at my Spring 2018 list for some of the fantastic books that have already hit the shelves this year. Ahh! So many books! Happy Reading!

 
 
 
JULY:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

AUGUST:


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 




SEPTEMBER:

 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 



OCTOBER:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


NOVEMBER:
 
 
 
 
 



DECEMBER:
 


 



READER PICKS:

The Shortest Way Home by Miriam Parker (July)
Trial on Mount Koya by Susan Spann (July)
Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls by Alissa Nutting (July)
Nightwolf by Willie Davis (July)
The Blurry Years by Eleanor Kriseman (July)
Assisted Living by Erin Murphy (July)
Pretend We Live Here by Genevieve Hudson (July)
The Poisoned City by Anna Clark (July)
The Hazard's of Good Fortune by Seth Greenland (August)
TV Girls by Dana Diehl (August)
Trust Me by Hank Phillipi Ryan (August)
Graffiti Creek by Matt Coleman (August)
Cherry by Nico Walker (August)
Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter (August)
Presiding Over the Damned by Liam Sweeny (August)
When Rap Spoke Straight to God by Erica Dawson (September)
Red Hotel by Gary Grossman and Ed Fuller (September)
Boise Longpig Hunting Club by Nick Kolakowski (September)
Dreamin' in '89 by Todd Monahan (September)
We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix (September)
The Spying Moon by Sandra Ruttan (September)
A Certain Loneliness by Sandra Gail Lambert (September)
The Devil's Wind by Steve Goble (September)
The Last Danger by Rusty Barnes (October)
Adult Teeth by Jeremy Wilson (October)
The Scoundrel's Among Us by Darrin Doyle (October)
Under My Skin by Lisa Unger (October)
Go to My Grave by Catriona McPherson (October)
One Small Spark by Jackie Minniti (October)
Nighttown by Timothy Hallinan (November)
Race, Nation, Translation by Zoe Wicomb (November)
Peach by Wayne Barton (November)
The Place You're Supposed to Laugh by Jenn Rossman (November)
Into the Night by Sarah Bailey (December)
The Day the Sun Died by Yan Lianke (December)

Friday, June 29, 2018

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

Book Bites: Short and Sweet Interviews for Readers on the Go


One of the most interesting, and well written, books I've read this spring is Jared Yates Sexton's The People Are Going to Rise Like the Waters Upon You Shore: A Story of American Rage, a chronicle of the insanity of the 2016 election. Many of you know may know Sexton for his infiltration of and live tweeting from Trump rallies and for his political essays, but Sexton is also a talented fiction writer and all around brilliant and compassionate human being. He graciously took the time to stop and answer some of my more challenging questions. Read on and then be sure to check out his work. You won't be disappointed, I promise you.

https://www.amazon.com/People-Going-Rise-Waters-Shore/dp/1619029561
"Sexton’s is a critical and important voice in helping readers understand the cultural and political sea change the election created." ―Booklist



What drew you to the genre you write in?

Honestly, I always wanted to write. When I was little all I wanted in the world was to make stories, even before I could read. I’d sit there while my family read to me and think about how great it was that somebody could put all their thoughts down in a book. I used to sit on the floor with my tablet and draw characters and then make up stories about them – that was my way around not being able to write. 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.


What piece of your own writing are you most proud of?

There’s a novel I wrote called Southpaw that never got published. It’s about a former Tea Party senatorial candidate who gets disgraced and has a chance to make a comeback in the era of Donald Trump. It got me my first agent and then the political thing took off and with Trump’s ascent it felt reactive instead of predictive, which it was in the beginning. I think it’s good, I’ve been told it’s good, and it’s just…yeah.


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


I have a hard time with this question. Probably a harder time than with anything. The answer is to feel like you’ve done your best job of articulating your thoughts on the world and getting across your philosophy. It’s about the writing, obviously. The other answer is that I don’t think writers ever actually feel successful. I had a decent-sized book in this last one, got to go to places, engaged with readers, some attention, and that should be considered successful, but like everyone else it feels like it’s not enough. It’s a constant struggle.


What single book has been the most influential to you as a writer?


This is such a hard question. I could point to any number of writers who basically taught me how to construct work, how to frame things, who gave me permission to write whatever I wanted however I wanted, but the one that really changed me the most was On The Road by Jack Kerouac. That book takes a lot of grief, but it more or less transformed me as a young man. I came from a very conservative town and when I read that book at the age of 20 I saw that the world was so much different than I ever thought it could be. It challenged everything I knew, made me reconsider the very nature of reality, and ushered me into adulthood.


What do you wish more readers would ask you about?


My fiction. Honest to god, I miss it so bad and I just wish there wasn’t this Trump thing to contend with. I didn’t want to wrestle with Donald Trump and the decline of our democracy. I wanted so much for him to lose in November of 2016 so I could get back to writing, but I feel like as long as this thing is burning I have to try and fight it. My fiction touched on this stuff, the masculine insecurity, the fascist tendencies, the fragility of culture, and I want to fight this war on that front.



Friday, June 15, 2018

Book Bites: Robert James Russell, author of Mesilla

Book Bites: Short and Sweet Interviews for Readers on the Go

Today, I'm lucky enough to bring you an interview with Robert James Russell, a literary Jack-of-all-Trades, who just so happens to do incredible work with all of those trades. Author of the novellas Sea of Trees and Mesilla, Russell is also the force behind Midwestern Gothic and Cheap Pop. Oh, and then he's also a talented artist and highly honored short fiction and non-fiction writer and poet. All around, he's a kick-ass writer and literary citizen and I'm thrilled to have him stop to give his take on the necessity of setting, feral camels, Faulkner, and what it truly means to find success as a creative person.

https://www.amazon.com/Mesilla-Robert-James-Russell/dp/0991065743/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1528985534&sr=8-1&keywords=robert+james+russell
If McCarthy and Emerson collaborated on a novella, solicited Herman Hesse to edit it, Jim Jarmusch to film it, and Leonard Cohen to do the score, the result might capture some of the elusive seductiveness of Russell’s work.” —Matthew Gavin Frank, author of Preparing the Ghost





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

Being successful, to me, is, at its heart, a simple thing: to be true to my vision, to write stories I want to tell, stories I think need to be told. Success is, then, not feeling pressure to conform.

But, see, with writing, it’s so easy to compare yourself to other people, especially if you work in a similar genre or have a comparable style—this is doubly so with writers who use social media and are actively involved in the community. I think it’s important then to define what “success” means and that what you get out of it might be something completely different than writer X, Y, or Z. For me, this is a constant battle—reminding myself what I need to be happy and content with my work. I’ve been fortunate to have a couple novellas published; I write the things I want to write, and publishers have decided they were good enough to take on. That, alone—that my words have been shared, that editors have said Yes to my work when there are so many compelling writers and stories out there—is success. At the end of the day, being happy with your creation and your vision has to be enough: even if you are putting down a dozen words a day, those are words that didn’t exist the day before, words you are literally breathing into being that no one else has. That is a miraculous, marvelous thing. That is success.


What was something interesting you learned while researching that didn’t make it into one of your books?

For Mesilla, it was a lot of stuff, to be honest: I love the history of the American West (while recognizing how problematic it has been to mythologize it in popular culture). And yet, I get swept up in all the little nooks and crannies that aren’t readily talked or written about. I had a scene I wanted to put in about feral camels in the Southwest United States—they were part of the very real United States Camel Corp, an ill-fated experiment to import camels to be used as pack animals in Texas and New Mexico territories. Once the Civil War hit, the Corp was disbanded and the camels either were sold or escaped. I loved the idea of my characters coming into contact with them, even in passing, this romantic notion that the camels have flourished out here in the wilds, no longer bothered by humans. I also researched a lot about wild horses, how they were captured in the Old West, and Mustangers especially, specialized hunters whose job it was to find and capture wild mustangs. It was a grueling, dangerous job, and there was a trick called creasing that many of them employed. Creasing involved firing a shot—Oh, you had to be a crack shot!—and piercing the mustang’s neck just below the skin in an exact spot. An inch in the wrong direction and the horse would be killed instantly, but if done right, the horse would be temporarily paralyzed, knocked down, so the mustangers could ride up and collect it. It was a brazen, hazardous, cruel thing that only worked a small percentage of the time—this, to me, exemplifies the foolhardy spirit of The West, the brash pioneer spirit of expansion.

Neither of these made it into the novella, but I loved learning about them and am hoping to incorporate them into future work.


What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received? 

Goodness, perhaps it’s cliché at this point, but the advice that has resonated most with me as a writer comes from Elmore Leonard: Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. For me, this has been a creed: write effectively and don’t lose your audience. It’s taught me to be efficient, to tell the story in 100 words instead of 1,000, and to be able to anticipate the reader’s needs. How can I lay out necessary exposition while not going overboard, and then jump to a thrilling, terrifying scene where the antagonist is closing in and you don’t know what’s about to happen? The way I read this advice, it is constantly about teetering: give just enough, dangle, and then go in the completely other direction for a bit, then back again, and back again. I want the narrative, even in a short literary story, to be twisty, to keep your interest, to give you just enough to help outline the basics and ground rules of the world, but without giving it all away. The best stories, the absolute best work, I think, allows our minds to make a narrative our own. I am desperate to make sure that there’s no parts to skip—that it all means something in the end.  


How important is the setting in your novella?

Critical—I often start stories based on settings and landscapes; in real life, I’m captivated by landscapes, by lush forests and wild low deserts and everything in-between. This is where my imagination is at its most raw: I touch the bark of a tree, imagine the possibilities of my characters hiking through these same sceneries, and start to build narratives. How are they here? Why? Who’s after them and how can I make it interesting? For Mesilla, I wanted to write a story in the desert set during the Civil War featuring a deserter. It all started with this basic concept, set in the New Mexico Territory, this lawless, wild place. And then, I answered my own questions: It made it inherently more interesting, I thought, to start the story in media res, where our hero—anti-hero, really—is already gravely wounded, on the run from a mysterious figure relentlessly hunting him down, having to navigate a fairly inhospitable tract of land, trying, desperately, just to survive. To me, right there…that was the story, and it was completely dependent on the setting. It couldn’t take place in California or Alaska—it needed to be after the Battle of Glorietta Pass, in a place that was just so unknown to most Americans, a place to get lost in. That, too, represents one of the themes of the book: Is it possible to ignore our past and start over? What do we carry with us, whether we know it or not?

In my new book, which takes place in northern Michigan in 1943, it was essential to set it in a remote place, removed from the world. I wanted to explore the effects of World War II on a small, detached community, how terrifying that might be, not knowing the extent of the terror in the world, its reach. I had in my mind the lavish forests of northern Michigan, the bucolic beauty unrivaled, far as I’m concerned, and a horse farm there, at the edge of a large, dark, dangerous wood. It was the first thing I imagined when laying out the book, and the central focus of the narrative. I do not want my stories to exist in a vacuum—I want them taking place somewhere specific, and only that place. Maybe it’s a call back to when I was a kid, imagining the trees in my neighborhood as sleeping, towering giants, power lines as portals to other worlds, but landscape is where it all starts: It’s what inspires and awes and terrifies. So, yes, I want the reader to look at it Mesilla, any of my work, and say: Yes, it could only be set right here, at this time, in this space. It couldn’t be anything else. 


What single book has been the most influential to you as a writer?

I am continually finding books that influence me—I think it’s how we grow as writers, to learn and push ourselves to do better. But the one book I come back to that showed me how to expand my ideas of what a novel could be, that it could be anything we imagine it to be, is Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. Oh, it was a marvelous discovery: he completely tore apart everything I thought a novel had to be, created his own, uniquely American world in a rather slim book. I loved that level of creation and creativity, how dependent on place it is to establish identities and relationships and the main narrative arc, and then how many rabbit holes it goes down to further dissect each of its characters’ psyches and inspirations and fears. Even now, writing a book that is completely contrary to the tone and style of As I Lay Dying, I think about it often: How can I use the world I’m creating in the book, around the characters, to help tell their story? How can I keep it interesting? How can I do something, no matter how small, that no one’s seen before? It pushes me, always pushes me, to be thinking about these things as I craft my narrative in ways, I hope, will interest the reader.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Classic Crime, New York Style....

Oh, hey. I'm over at LitReactor today, talking to Terrence McCauley about his latest crime novel, The Fairfax Incident. Have a look.... (and then pick up McCauley's book- it's terrific!)

https://litreactor.com/interviews/classic-crime-new-york-style-an-interview-with-terrence-mccauley

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Our Lady of North Florida Noir: Rabble Lit

Is there anything better than when a reader and reviewer really "gets" your work? So many thanks to Anna Lea Jancewicz over at Rabble Lit for this insightful (and, frankly, kick-ass) review of Walk in the Fire and for giving me the chance to talk a little about why I write the way that I do...


https://rabblelit.com/2018/06/01/our-lady-of-north-florida-noir-steph-post/
 

Friday, June 1, 2018

Book Bites: David Sayre, author of Some Are Shadows

Book Bites: Short and Sweet Interviews for Readers on the Go


It's always a thrill to meet a reader and online supporter of your work in person and it's even more exciting when you discover that person to be an author themselves! This past weekend, I had the pleasure of 'meeting' David Sayre at a reading with Alex Segura at Books & Books in Coral Gables. Sayre is the author of the Miami crime novel Some Are Shadows- a classic mystery tale of a detective searching for a singer's killer- and was gracious enough to stop by and answer a few questions.

https://www.amazon.com/Some-Are-Shadows-David-Sayre/dp/0692659358
 


What drew you to the genre you write in?

I've always felt that the stuff I write should be something I would want to read. I'm always the first person whose interest I want to pique and crime fiction, mysteries, that's the genre I tend to read most. There's also something intriguing in the fact that, in life I want absolutely no part of crime or violence, but fiction allows writers, and readers, to explore that world.

How do you handle writer's block?

Well, first I have to determine if I just have writer's laziness. In which case I shame myself into sitting in front of the laptop, or the legal pad, and doing some work.

If it's writer's block, I have to get outside. While I don't really experience fear of the blank page, I believe staring at the blank page isn't really productive. I'll drive around, go for a walk, visit other parts of town (get out of the suburbs and into the city), anything. Think about my characters, think about my story. Inspiration is anywhere and everywhere in this world. I will walk around Downtown Miami, go to the public library, sit in a coffee shop and people watch or overhear conversations (which is one of those creepy things that I think writers just have to accept that they do). Ultimately a spark will happen, I'll stumble into something. I always keep a journal or some sort of writing pad with me because I never know when an idea is going to pop up.

The worst thing to do with writer's block is to let it consume you and create a whole other level of anxiety. Writing is a very psychological exercise. The last thing I need is to complicate neurosis by beating myself up for a temporary struggle with creativity.


What piece of your own writing are you most proud of?

At the moment I would have to say my second novel, Dirty Side of the Storm, which has been written, but not yet published. I think because I attempted a story that was larger in scope, intertwining several stories that ultimately come together around one particular incident. I played a little bit with time as it pertains to the narrative, using flashback chapters to tell the stories of these characters that led them to this cross section in their lives and then what happens in the aftermath. Just the fact that I was able to pull it off felt like a great accomplishment. It's certainly a proud moment, as a writer, when you can actually recognize how you have grown in your storytelling.

Another reason that story is particularly meaningful to me is because I had written much of it in the year after my father had passed and there is a thematic element of fathers and sons in it that I didn't fully comprehend until I'd read through it to rewrite subsequent drafts. That realization was a special epiphany that I cherish.


How important is the setting in your novel?

It's pretty significant, especially from a historical perspective. In 1952 Miami was something of a boomtown, on the verge of becoming very rich with tourism and entertainment dollars. But it was also in a segregated state and Miami certainly had those racial separations at the time. The diversity in the history of Miami neighborhoods like Overtown, Richmond Heights, South Miami, Miami Beach, Brownsville and the banks of the Miami River all play into one of the key questions in the story... Are these boundaries that society sets for itself really that important, and what happens when we choose to reach across those perceived borders?


What single book has been the most influential to you as a writer?

I love this question because it's hard to answer. If I had to choose one it would be "A Firing Offense" by George Pelecanos. It was the first of his Nick Stefanos books and the novel that introduced me to his writing. I think it's one of the best origin story private detective novels I have ever read.

It's personal significance to me is that it's the first crime fiction book I can remember reading where the author included everyday life experience. There are basic, unglamorous actions that have nothing at all to do with plot that Pelecanos describes throughout his work. But it allows the reader to really get to know Nick Stefanos, warts and all. We therefore understand him better, relate to him more. Almost as if the reader is observing Nick's life and then we happen to go along for the ride when the action starts. I appreciate that kind of slow build. Seeing that, as a writer, gave me much needed confidence to let my characters live and breathe. Before I may have doubted myself, thinking, "Will anybody really care about this little thing that doesn't pertain to the plot or the investigation?" But the lesson I learned from Pelecanos' work is that you can take the time to let your characters be people and not just servants to your storyline.

I've always maintained that no amount of car chases and explosions can be more fascinating than the absolutely crazy dynamics of a human being. I think the genre is evolving now where we see more and more writers are developing and growing their characters for the long haul, not just putting the emphasis on the ABCs of the mystery plot.

It's a very exciting time to be a crime fiction writer.

 
 

Friday, May 18, 2018

Book Bites: Berit Ellingsen, author of Now We Can See the Moon

Book Bites: Short and Sweet Interviews for Readers on the Go

Today, I'm excited to bring you an interview with Berit Ellingsen, one of my favorite authors. Now We Can See the Moon debuts May 28th and like all of Ellingsen's previous work (including her novel Not Dark Yet and her short story collection Vessel and Solsvart) it is quietly brilliant, foreboding and stylistically gorgeous. Ellingsen's latest offering, full of haunted landscapes, weighted characters and the struggle between nature and civilization at the hands of humanity, is not to be missed.

https://www.amazon.com/Now-We-Can-See-Moon/dp/1943813612/
“This is the best work yet from a truly unique writer who clearly will be a name to conjure for decades to come.” – Jeff VanderMeer
 
 
 


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

In Now We Can See The Moon I had other parts with the rescue/ID-team searching the city for dead people, but these parts were cut because they didn't add much to the story and slowed down the pace.

There was one part I regret cutting, though. I wanted to show that society had started to break down in various ways long before the hurricane arrived.

In the cut section, Jens, the emergency physician, describes how he used to work as an ambulance doctor, but quit because the ambulance would be attacked by mobs when it arrived in certain areas of the city. The people there would call the emergency services to lure them into ambushes.

Emergency service personnel have nearly been killed in such attacks, even here in Scandinavia. I wanted to hint that these experiences were the reason Jens started working as a rescue physician in the distant Southern Ocean instead, before he joined "The Corpse Counters".


What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

Right when I started writing novels, which was a very different process than the short stories I had been writing until then, I was discouraged by seeing how bad my first drafts were and how much editing they needed, to even get close to how I wanted them to be.

But a coder friend told me: "First you write it. Then you tweak it. Then it becomes perfect".

As a coder, he was familiar with the process of getting the ideas down on paper first, and then slowly refining it into a working whole. I wrote down those words on paper and had it over my desk until I changed writing spot and unfortunately lost the note.

But by that time I had gotten used to the slow process of novel writing and multiple rounds of edits. Today I really enjoy the first draft as it mostly feels like reading a book for the first time. Was it you who said that "The first drafts are for me"?

I feel like that too. The first draft is opening a book you didn't know you had and reading it for the first time.


How important is the setting in your novel?

I love to write settings. To me, the setting is a character of its own, and more, because it determines much of the tone and feel of the entire story.

In visual design they say that form follows function and that the two must work together for the same purpose. That's how I think of setting, too. It must work together with the rest of the story to enhance or emphasize the atmosphere and feel of the story. And sometimes the plot and characters, too.

Or you can do the complete opposite and use setting and plot that really clash or contrast with one another, on purpose for an interesting or unsettling effect.

I love to write weird settings, rarely used settings, or realistic settings but viewed in unusual ways. I think the reason is that I love landscapes as well as interiors, and environments that are either completely wild and natural, or 100% designed by human minds.


Are there any symbols running throughout your novel? Do readers recognize them?

In Now We Can See The Moon, animals such as snakes, leeches and eels appear, and hummingbirds, herons, seagulls and sparrows. Maybe interestingly, many of the creeping animals appear in the first half of the story while many of the flying animals are mentioned in the second half.

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.

Like you, I share my life with an animal, and I've learned so much about communication, intelligence and humans and animal life from that.

When you get to know an individual animal, you discover they have a wholly individual and sometimes very strong personality. That we can recognize personality and specific demeanors in animals show how much we share with them.

I always assume readers will get symbols, if not all of them, then most of them, on a conscious or unconscious level. And if they don't, it's not a disaster. They'll see other parts of the story that are important to them.


What single book has been the most influential to you as a writer?

In 1967, Swedish-Finnish writer Irmelin Sandman Lilius, published Bonadea, a collection of short stories set in a fictional Finnish town during the Crimean War (1853-1856). These stories are not typical historical fiction, nor are they the entirely realistic, but somewhere in between. A mix of historical fiction, speculative fiction, and literary fiction.

The book's title refers to the name of the young girl who is the main character in the stories. Their plot and structure are quite simple, but also wise and have a very home-like atmosphere. Maybe because they are very Scandinavian/Nordic in a way I can't explain.

I guess these stories would be considered Young Adult today, but to me they seem to be written for adults in mind, but at the same time being accessible to younger readers.

Something about the setting and the mix of the fantastical and the poetical realism really makes me treasure these stories. It's a slim volume, just 155 pages, but I take it out at least once a year to re-read one or two stories from it.

Unfortunately, this collection has not been translated to English. But a novel trilogy, called Gold Crown Lane, which this collection is strongly connected with, was translated to English. These novels are set in the same village as Bonadea and are about three sisters and their mother's life in the village. Like the collection, the novels are a poetical mix of realism, historical fiction and fantasy. Sadly, all of these books have been out of print for years.

The closest I can compare Lilius' style and sensibility with is Ursula LeGuin. Her collection Orsinian Tales, one of her less known works, which are realistic stories set in an imaginary country, is also one of the books I keep returning to.
 

Monday, May 14, 2018

Sunshine Noir: An Interview with Jeffery Hess

So, Jeffery Hess, one of my favorite author-people, has a new book out! Check out my interview with Jeff over at LitReactor and then be sure to pick up a copy of his latest: Tushhog. Happy Reading!

https://litreactor.com/interviews/sunshine-noir-an-interview-with-jeffery-hess-author-of-tushhog