Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Lock & Load: Armed Fiction, an Interview with Deirdra McAfee and BettyJoyce Nash

"Nothing says America louder than a gun." With this bold statement, Deirdra McAfee and BettyJoyce Nash open their recently released anthology Lock & Load: Armed Fiction. It's not even a question that guns, gun violence and gun control are central and imminent facets of the American political and sociological (not to mention emotional) landscape. What is questionable, and fascinating, is how guns shape our identity as Americans, both as individuals and members of a divisive and turbulent society. Through works of short fiction from authors rising and established, McAfee and Nash explore this question, as well as the powerful ties between guns and storytelling. I have to say that I was quite impressed with this collection, both in its mission and its content, and I was thrilled to have the chance to dig deeper and peel back even more layers on this topic in this interview with McAfee and Nash.

https://www.amazon.com/Lock-Load-Fiction-Deirdra-McAfee/dp/0826359086/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1517330363&sr=8-1&keywords=lock+and+load+armed+fiction

Steph Post: Your introduction opens with the bold, if controversial, statement, “Nothing says America louder than a gun.” You go on to discuss American history and pop culture and how gun and weapon language has entered our lexicon, perhaps even without us realizing it. Is there any one succinct reason why you think gun and gun culture has become so intertwined with our identity as Americans?

Deirdra McAfee: Americans have domesticated firearms. Without guns—no matter how you feel about their uses—our country wouldn’t exist. Muskets declared our position at Lexington and Concord. The Spencer carbine maintained our union during the Civil War. Before and after that, firearms insured our westward and southward expansion. Guns were among the tools that tamed the wilderness, put food on the table, and kept predators, animal and human, at bay.

Unlike the plows, axes, traps, and fences that also helped claim the land, guns are direct, effective, dramatic, and final. They entered our national mythology as the everyday tools of the straight-talkin’, straight-shootin’ breed that we Americans believe we are.

They pervade our language—we shoot from the hip, we get shot down, we do shots—and our culture, including video games, movies, and TV. We become familiar with guns as children, starting with “Bambi” and “Old Yeller.”
 
BettyJoyce Nash: I’m no historian, but the USA and guns seem to have grown up together. The French and Dutch supplied guns for the Revolutionary War; later, U.S. government contracts drove domestic firearms technology and production during the run-up to the Civil War. (After that war, I’ve read, guns littered the ground—they were heavy, and soldiers often had to hoof it home.)

Our frontier culture and westward expansion are inextricably linked with guns. The many wars U.S. soldiers have fought and still fight, on our own soil and on foreign soil, and the mass shootings that occur with frightening regularity, also keep guns alive and kicking, in real and fictional arsenals.

Guns and gunplay continue to dominate popular culture, especially TV and film and books. Art imitates life. It’s one reason why we had no shortage of gun stories for the anthology. My grad school professor Pinckney Benedict said, when I approached him with the idea of a craft seminar about “Firearms in Fiction,” if you’re an American writer, sooner or later, a character in one of your stories will pick up a gun.

Steph Post: Gun control, and the arguments for and against it, have been part of the national discussion for decades, but in recent years, and in light of so many mass shootings, these discussions have escalated to include political, moral and ideological identity. In many ways, Lock & Load could not be a more timely foray into the discussion. Did this collection come together because of its topical and timely nature, or was this a subject you were both always interested in building a collection around?

BettyJoyce Nash: Productive conversations about guns and gun control are notably missing from the public sphere. Lock & Load: Armed Fiction was driven not by the “gun debate,” but by the ubiquity of guns that show up in literature because literature reflects society. Curiosity about guns, their roles and treatment in literary stories, fueled the idea for the anthology.

In researching my MFA craft thesis and seminar, I investigated how authors from Chekhov—imagine “The Duel” without Chekhov’s sensory, character-driven prose—to the present used guns in literature. (I started with Chekhov because of his famous dictum: “A gun introduced in the first act must go off in the third.” Symbolic objects must pay off — that is, drive character and story in a meaningful way. Incidentally, the gun in Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard” does not fire.)

Deirdra McAfee: We did not have any particular personal interest, experience, or affinity for guns. Nor did we have any personal antipathy to or paranoia about them. Each of us researched her own gun story by taking a gun safety course. We didn’t compare notes on, or even discuss, our own gun stories until after they were published.

Our stories taught us that using fictional guns effectively takes almost as much skill as using real ones. A loaded gun dropped into the beginning of a story causes the reader to watch the gun, not the story, while one tossed into the middle makes the reader flinch, caught unprepared; a loaded gun dumped into the end leaves the reader feeling cheated.

And these are simply the narrative problems of introducing the gun. Firing (or not firing) entails its own complications: pulling (or not pulling) the trigger, for example, changes the character’s nature as well as the story’s.

BettyJoyce Nash: In researching Lock & Load, Deirdra and I observed that some writers used a gun to jack up tension and create false drama, but in the best stories, a gun deepens character and advances story. Our anthology demonstrates this literary skill. Marylou, in Bonnie Jo Campbell’s “Family Reunion” is an able hunter who dresses her own kills; when she takes aim at the end of the story, the action surprises the reader, and yet is inevitable and appropriate to her character, to the story. 

Deirdra McAfee: Rip van Winkle’s fowling-piece gave him his excuse to escape his wife and find strange game indeed in the Catskill forests. Guns drive wonderful work by all sorts of American writers, including Twain, Cooper, Sarah Orne Jewett, Willa Cather, Richard Wright, and Norman Mailer, and, of course, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, and Hemingway.

We read widely, seeking the best. Years of reading contemporary fiction as writers, in addition to undergraduate and graduate literary educations, refined our tastes. Although we soon learned that guns are more likely to wound a story fatally than to strengthen it, we did discover a number of extraordinarily skilled writers. We resolved to find their stories a new and wider audience, and Lock & Load was born.

Steph Post: The thing that most piqued my interest about Lock & Load was your deliberate inclusion of women writers. Again in your introduction you write, “women have more often been causes, or spoils, of armed conflict than actors in their own right.” I was even more surprised, and pleased, to see that many of the stories are not just written by women, or from a woman’s point of view, but explore a woman’s agency in relationship to guns and violence. The women in these stories are complicated and developed, not mere victims or dead girls (as has been a disturbing trend in crime fiction in particular as of late). Why was this quality in the writing important to you? 

BettyJoyce Nash: Steph, this question is so well phrased: “… explore a woman’s agency in relationship to guns and violence.” This “agency” is critical in literary fiction, for women and men. We were pleased at the number of men and women authors who submitted character-driven gun stories that reach for the complexity and confusion around guns in literature.

Deirdra McAfee: We didn’t deliberately include women. That was part of the fun of assembling this
anthology—after we secured the first half-dozen stories, a nationwide call brought in another 100. Our standard was simple: we wanted the best stories.

Many of those turned out to be stories women wrote, stories, as you noted, in which women shoot (or don’t shoot) for their own reasons. We wanted stories that took us into new and different worlds. We wanted characters who came alive. Our writers brought us both, and more than half of those writers happened to be women.

That was both ironic and reassuring. Their talent won them places in this volume, and their presence makes Lock & Load reflect the world as it is: more than half of the human population, after all, is female. Although women remain radically under-represented on faculties and in publications—and as main characters, too—they far outnumber men in MFA programs. Paradoxically, too, women have always been American literary fiction’s mainstay, the vast majority of its readers.

Steph Post: This is the sort of question you’re never supposed to ask editors of an anthology, but I love to do it anyway. Do you have a favorite story in the collection? Or a story that you wish received more attention? And while I doubt it needs more recognition, I’ll go on record as saying that Annie Proulx’s “A Lonely Coast” won, and kept, my number one spot throughout the book.

Deirdra McAfee: The question is like asking us to choose among our children. Our great admiration for each other’s gun stories, which appear in the anthology, planted the seed for Lock & Load. The wide reading and long experience we brought to the project kept us alert to nuances of language, setting, and action, and kept us enthusiastic about sharing what we found.

Language often captivated us, as it did in Nicole Louise Reid’s “Pearl in a Pocket,” and John Edgar Wideman’s “Tommy.” Wideman’s story, incidentally, first published in 1981, remains striking and fresh, not only in its keen understanding of the title character’s situation, a sympathy that never slips into sentimentality, but also in the beautiful way Wideman captures the language Tommy heard and used.

Circumstances also resonated, as in Mari Alschuler’s “Revealed,” set in an armed, apocalyptic Manhattan, or Daniel Cox’s “Lady Bird,” in which a damaged veteran returns home to Texas. Sometimes the mood and tone struck us, as in Sara Kay Rupnik’s “An Act of Mercy,” in which an abandoned wife arms herself and broods on her husband’s return, or Elaine Maloney’s similarly situated but shockingly different “The Weight.”

BettyJoyce Nash: All Lock & Load stories are my favorites. That said, one gun story had haunted me for years: Rick DeMarinis’s “The Handgun.” This story felt like my rookie intro to a literary gun story because I heard Rick read it in 1999 at Prairie Lights Bookstore in Iowa City. At one point, he started laughing so hard he could hardly keep reading. If you read “The Handgun,” then you know it’s a layered, masterful piece—“hilariously chilling,” as we say in the intro.

Steph Post: You’ve been bringing Lock & Load to readings and events across the country since its release this past fall. What has the reception been like?

Deirdra McAfee: The reception has been wonderful, beyond anything we imagined. Guns, as we thought, are household objects; they certainly haunt the American landscape and imagination. As we discovered, almost everyone has used or encountered a gun. When we talk to audiences and strip away politics, we find that people are eager to talk about their own experiences, and to think and discuss firearms in a civil, personal way.

Lock & Load’s other purpose was to foster such conversations. Guns are technology; they are valuable, dangerous, efficient, and often beautiful. Before we think about them at all in a political way, we should consider first what they mean as objects, as metaphors, and as symbols.

BettyJoyce Nash: People are impressed with these stories, especially when they grasp the stories’ depth; audiences seem intrigued with the idea that art offers a way for them to talk about society’s touchy topics. People also say these stories have inspired them to consider guns more deeply and differently. 

Steph Post: Have there been any questions or topics that seem to reoccur during discussions with readers?
BettyJoyce Nash: Most people want to know why and how gun stories interested us and why and how literature can enlarge and change readers.

Steph Post: And finally, in a world of anthologies and collections, many of which have been built around crime writer or violence or guns and gun control, Lock & Load stands out, particularly in its inclusion of brilliant writing and storytelling as opposed to simply diatribe. What do wish you more potential readers knew about Lock & Load?

Deirdra McAfee: You’ve exactly expressed what we want readers to know: “Lock & Load stands out, particularly in its inclusion of brilliant writing and storytelling as opposed to simply diatribe.” We wanted the best, and we found them. The concept is original, the anthology is groundbreaking, the stories are compelling.

BettyJoyce Nash: Just what you said—Lock & Load tells compelling stories. The best literary fiction defies definition. Literary fiction lures readers into often odd, troubling worlds, not to teach lessons, not to lecture, condemn, or convince, but to enrich our understanding of who we humans really are and how we connect. As Eudora Welty has said so well: “Not to point the finger in judgment but to part a curtain, that invisible shadow that falls between people, the veil of indifference to each other’s presence, each other’s wonder, each other’s human plight.”

https://www.amazon.com/Lock-Load-Fiction-Deirdra-McAfee/dp/0826359086/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1517330363&sr=8-1&keywords=lock+and+load+armed+fiction


Be sure to pick up your copy of Lock & Load: Armed Fiction, published by the University of New Mexico Press and now available everywhere. If you're in the D.C. area, McAfee and Nash will be at Politics & Prose on February 6th to discuss and promote the anthology, and if you're attending AWP in Tampa this March, they'll be there as well. Be sure to look them up. Cheers and happy reading!












 
 



Walk in the Fire, the Movie

Today I'm over at "My Book, The Movie" (with Campaign for the American Reader), casting the film version of Walk in the Fire. (hey, you never know...) If you've already read my cast list for Lightwood, you'll be happy to know that I'm still rooting for Margo Martindale to play Sister Tulah, but the new book brings a host of new roles and new opportunities. Take a look to see who I would love to have play newcomers Everett Weaver, Clive Grant and others.

https://mybookthemovie.blogspot.com/2018/01/steph-posts-walk-in-fire.html

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Walk in the Fire on Writer's Bone's Recommended Reads

Many thanks to Writer's Bone (one of my favorite book/writer websites) for including Walk in the Fire on their "21 Books That Should Be On Your Radar, January 2018" list. And special thanks to Erica Wright, for personally recommending the novel. Cheers and happy reading!

http://www.writersbone.com/book-recommendations/2018/1/17/21-books-that-should-be-on-your-radar-january-2018

Walk in the Fire at Read to Write Stories

Many thanks to Michael Noll over at Read to Write Stories for this lovely interview and analysis of Walk in the Fire!
 
"Creating Your Own Omar or Vito Corleone: An Interview with Crime Novelist Steph Post"
 
https://readtowritestories.com/2018/01/16/creating-your-own-omar-or-vito-corleone-an-interview-with-crime-novelist-steph-post/
 

Friday, January 26, 2018

Book Bites: Sarah M. Chen, author of Cleaning Up Finn

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

Today, I bring you an interview with Sarah M. Chen, author of Cleaning Up Finn, the Anthony Award-nominated crime novel with attitude, and editor of the soon-to-be-released The Night of the Flood, a "Novel in Stories" (the concept of which sounds absolutely fascinating). Enjoy!

https://www.amazon.com/Cleaning-Up-Finn-Sarah-Chen/dp/1946502499/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1516997899&sr=8-1&keywords=cleaning+up+finn
 
“A speedboat ride along the Southern California coastline where the sun shines a light on the lecherous locals. Finn Roose is an opportunistic restaurant manager who finally gets in over his head when he meets an underage femme fatale. Lives are shattered and bullets fly through the salty ocean air in this fast-paced debut from Sarah M. Chen.” —S.W. Lauden, author of Bad Citizen Corporation and Crossed Bones
 


What drew you to the genre you write in?

I read a lot of mystery and P.I. novels thanks to a job I had at a literary agency right out of college. I thought I wanted to write the next P.I. or detective novel but I quickly realized I sucked at writing whodunits. Then I discovered a whole subgenre of crime fiction that I guess you’d call hardboiled or noir, like Sara Gran, Don Winslow, Charlie Huston, and Elmore Leonard. I knew right away this was what I wanted to write: stories that featured regular people who suffered from poor decision-making or misplaced priorities.


Which character in the novel gave you the most trouble?

Definitely Ronnie Havemeyer. She’s what I guess you would call the villain in Cleaning Up Finn, although pretty much every character is up to no good. She’s the main force behind Finn’s downward spiral. He tries to seduce her and things don’t go well, especially when he discovers she’s underage. I wanted Ronnie to be young and naïve yet she thinks she’s savvy and has everything figured out. I remembered when I was her age, seventeen or so, that I felt like my parents wanted me to go down one path yet I wasn’t sure if that’s what I wanted. I had no idea what I wanted really. I tried to capture that frustration with Ronnie and make her somewhat sympathetic. So I had to balance between femme fatale and naïve teenager.


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

For me, I felt “successful” when someone who wasn’t my mom or my friends—basically someone I’d never met—said they read my story and enjoyed it. That, for me, is what writing is all about. Finding that emotional connection with a stranger through a story I made up. I just love that and will never tire of it.


What was something interesting you learned while researching that didn’t make it into the novel?

The last act of the book takes place in Catalina. I’d been there a few times and even sailed there from Long Beach on my stepdad’s tiny sailboat (that was hell!). But I knew little about its history so I started researching. It’s so easy for me to fall down these rabbit holes. I read up on Buccaneer Days which are four days of wild partying on the island and everyone dresses like a pirate. I thought it’d be fun to have that going on when Finn arrives, but it got too complicated so I had him arrive afterwards when everyone’s hungover. I read how bison were transported to Catalina because of a Western that was filmed there and the animals were “extras.” The film crew just left them there and they’ve been on the island ever since. I got sucked into how the island has problems with overpopulation and tried various solutions like shipping them to the mainland to using birth control. I thought this was fascinating but it didn’t really have much relevance to my book.


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

I don’t know if it’s the best writing advice but it’s one that has always stuck with me: write like your parents are dead.

 
 
 
 


Thursday, January 25, 2018

Walk in the Fire, If My Book- Monkey Bicycle

Today, Walk in the Fire is hanging out over at Monkey Bicycle. Many thanks to the folks there for letting me imagine what my book Would Be If... it were something else (Star Wars film, insect, candy bar, etc.). Cheers!

http://monkeybicycle.net/book-walk-fire-steph-post/

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Walk in the Fire Playlist at Largehearted Boy

One of the things I most look forward to when beginning promotion on a book is making a playlist for David Gutowski and his fantastic site Largehearted Boy. I did things a little different with Walk in the Fire's Playlist: instead of giving you a scene-by-scene soundtrack to the novel, I tapped into play and range of emotions coursing throughout the story. Enjoy!

http://www.largeheartedboy.com/blog/archive/2018/01/book_notes_step_18.html

Monday, January 22, 2018

The Coil's 'Books We Can't Wait to Read in 2018' List

So many thanks to Alternating Current's The Coil for listing Walk in the Fire as one of the "Books We Can't Wait to Read in 2018!" There are some fantastic entries on this list and I'm honored to be a part of it.


https://medium.com/the-coil/books-we-cant-wait-to-read-in-2018-6e5a6a9ae176
 
 

"Cannon’s story would fit right in on Netflix along with Ozark or Bloodline, and I’m looking forward to seeing where Post takes it next." -Al Kratz

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Lightwood Rapid Fire Reviews

Many thanks to For the Love of Words for this Rapid Fire Review of Lightwood!
 
http://www.fortheloveofwords.net/rapid-fire-reviews-lightwood-weight-world-wildfire-rules-magic/

"Daniel Woodrell, Donald Ray Pollock, and Cormac McCarthy are all big names of the often lurid genre but Steph Post proves with Lightwood that her name is just as deserving to be listed amongst them."

Would You Rather? The Next Best Book Blog

Today, I'm over at The Next Best Book Blog to answer some rapid-fire questions about my writing habits. Have a read!

http://thenextbestbookblog.blogspot.com/2018/01/steph-posts-would-you-rather.html

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Walk in the Fire- Top Ten Tuesday

Thanks to For the Love of Words blog for listing Walk in the Fire as one of the top ten book titles to look forward to for 2018!

http://www.fortheloveofwords.net/top-ten-tuesday-something-look-forward-2018/
 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Book Launch Party Time!

Today, Walk in the Fire hits shelves everywhere and I want to remind all my Tampa Bay peeps to come out to the Launch Party this Thursday, 7-9pm, at Inkwood Books (1809 N. Tampa Street) for an evening of beer, wine, a reading, a signing, good people and good times. Hope to see you there!

https://www.facebook.com/events/205781809994415/

Monday, January 15, 2018

Coffee with a Canine

Today is all about Juno! Thanks to Marshal Zeringue for hosting me (and my adorable pup!) over at Coffee with a Canine.

https://coffeecanine.blogspot.com/2018/01/steph-post-juno.html

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Walk in the Fire in the Tampa Bay Times

So, so many thanks to Colette Bancroft and The Tampa Bay Times for this fantastic review of Walk in the Fire!


http://www.tampabay.com/features/books/Steph-Post-s-Florida-noir-Walk-in-the-Fire-a-sizzling-sequel-to-Lightwood-_164387925

"Post has a real knack for creating a complex plot that maintains its drive through sweat-slicked settings that range from raucous Daytona Beach strip clubs to the kind of lonesome roads where nothing good happens." -Colette Bancroft, Tampa Bay Times

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Walk in the Fire One of Lithub's Most Anticipated 2018 Titles!

So many thanks to Lit Hub for listing Walk in the Fire as one of their Most Anticipated Crime, Mystery and Thriller Titles of 2018. I'm floored and honored....

http://lithub.com/the-most-anticipated-crime-mystery-and-thriller-titles-of-2018/




A relatively new author in the crime-fiction scene, her first book A Tree Born Crooked flipped my fiction world upside-down. This continued with last year’s Lightwood and I can’t wait to see what she does with northern Florida this time. – Bobby McCue, formerly of the Mysterious Bookstore

Friday, January 12, 2018

Book Bites: Ben Montgomery, author of The Leper Spy

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


Today, I'm excited to finally bring you a non-fiction author! Ben Montgomery is the author of The Leper Spy: The Story of an Unlikely Hero of World War II as well as Grandma Gatewood's Walk and the forthcoming The Man Who Walked Backward. His captivating biographies focus on little known players who made interesting, and important, contributions to history and deserve a closer look. Happy Reading!


https://www.amazon.com/Leper-Spy-Story-Unlikely-World/dp/1613734301/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1515768566&sr=8-3&keywords=ben+montgomery
 
"Yet odds are you have never heard of Joey Guerrero, as she was known (along with several other names). Until a few years ago, neither had Ben Montgomery, but his new book, The Leper Spy: The Story of an Unlikely Hero of World War II, brings her extraordinary life back into the light".  -Colette Bancroft, Tampa Bay Times




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

I can say with certainty that it’s not my best piece of writing, but I have a short story in mind. When I worked the Saturday shift in the Tampa newsroom of the St. Petersburg Times, I was often assigned coverage of fairly lame press events -- “filler,” as we called it, for the Sunday paper. One such assignment was to cover a photo session for the Heart Gallery, the outstanding non-profit that pairs professional photographers with foster children in need of permanent homes. The photo pros make nice portraits of children which are later displayed in shopping malls to tug at the heartstrings of potential parents. When I arrived, several television news crews were at the event and it made for a sort of awkward situation, the orphaned children in line to be photographed, then interviewed for the TV news. Anyways, I noticed a little girl in a cheap dress standing alone and I decided to try to skip the middleman and just write an advertisement for this one little girl. In twenty years of often heady newspaper work, this 300-word story drew the most phone calls.

TAMPA - She can spell cat.

C-A-T.
And flower.
F-L-O-W-E-R.
And teeth.
T-E-E-T-H.
And she is missing a few of those.

She has blue eyes and shoulder-length hair the color of Florida sand. She tucks it behind her ears.

She likes it when people paint her toenails pink.

She can hopscotch with ease, and jump two jump-ropes at the same time while chanting a rhyme called "Ice Cream."

She is 7, almost 8, and in the second grade.

She is quiet. She crosses her legs when she sits.

She loves spaghetti and hates seafood. She doesn't mind eating broccoli.

She has a baby doll. She named it Tianna, because it sounds pretty.

She rides a pink and purple bicycle, likes dogs and cats.

She paints with watercolors.

She is a cheerleader at the city park, but she can't do the splits yet. She shakes pompoms and shouts, "Pump it up!"

She's not great at basketball or baseball, but she would play.

She wants to be a doctor for babies when she grows up, "because it helps people."

Her favorite colors are purple and pink, in that order. Purple because it was her mother's favorite color.

When she is asked what the perfect mother would be like, she says, "My mom, Heather."

She wore a black dress with pink hearts on Saturday to the Botanical Gardens at the University of South Florida.

She wanted to look pretty when they took her picture for the Heart Gallery, a moving display of professionally done photographs of children who want to be adopted. She has been in foster care for more than two years, bouncing from home to home, none of them hers.

Her name is Alexis. She would like a family.



What was the best review you ever received?

One of the very first, from Bill Perkins at Paste Magazine. I owe him for affirming the way I felt about the work. I still read it when I’m feeling blue.

The worst?

Amazon reviewer Julie A. Hankins, one star: “Can't think of one thing I like about this book.”


Do you have a set routine as a writer?

When I worked at the newspaper, I would come home around six, eat dinner, put my kids in bed around 8, then retreat to my writing shed to work from 8:30 p.m. until 1 or 2 a.m. If I had a good day, I would reward myself with a couple of glasses of wine and go to sleep, then do it again the next day. Since I left the Times in October, my routine has been in a state of flux, but I have incredible amounts of creative energy. Focusing exclusively on the book has allowed me to write from about 6 a.m. until 8 p.m., and the only thing that’s routine is that I try to take one long walk in the morning and one in the afternoon. I use these walks to think about particular problems in the work -- pacing, the rhythm of a sentence, the opening line of a chapter, the right tone for a cliffhanger, etc.

My writing schedule for all three books -- each of them spanning about fourteen months from contract to delivery -- has been about the same. I do the reporting and research for about ten months, then try to leave about ninety days to write. I mark up a wall calendar with daily word-count goals, aiming for a thousand words a day. My three manuscripts each required 70,000 words, so the idea is that I’ll hit the word count in seventy days, leaving around a month to revise and get feedback from trusted friends. I write in order, so I can’t skip around in the text like some writers. I must admit there are days when I work hard and only have 500 good words on the page, but other days I just go like made and chip off 2,500.

That pace has worked pretty well for me, though I’ve received short extensions for all three books because I can always use a little more time to read and revise.


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

Hard to say, but maybe this three-word phrase: “Butt in seat.” I like it for its simplicity, and actually sitting down to do the work -- even if you’re just staring at the screen -- is the most important part of the process, one which a million people who have book ideas can somehow never achieve.


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


There’s no one book. I’m lately inspired by Gilbert King’s detailed recreation in The Devil in the Grove, the pace and repetition of David Finkel’s The Good Soldiers and Thank You for Your Service, the depth of internal emotion in John Williams’ novel Stoner, the poetic historical exploration in Beth Macy’s Truevine, but I find little nuggets of inspiration everywhere. Sometimes I start a writing session by picking a book from the shelf at random and flipping around until I find an enviable sentence, and I’ll read it a dozen times and let it guide me onto my own page. That’s integral to my process.


 

Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Great 2018 Spring Book Preview!

Here we go, time for the Great Book Preview! As my own novel (Walk in the Fire) drops January 16th, it seems only fitting to take a look at some of the must-reads for the coming year. Many thanks to everyone who chimed in with the books they are most looking forward in 2018 and don't worry, this summer I'll rev up the list for the second half of the year. For now, here are the books I'm most looking forward to, January through July, with many readers' suggestions added in as well. So many books!! So much reading!! Yay!




January


https://www.amazon.com/Christmas-July-Alan-Michael-Parker/dp/1945814462/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1514577889&sr=1-1&keywords=christmas+in+july+alan

https://www.amazon.com/Hang-Time-Greg-Salem-Mystery/dp/194557271X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1514576352&sr=8-1&keywords=hang+time+s.w.+lauden

 
https://www.amazon.com/Other-Side-Everything-Novel/dp/1501167790/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1514579355&sr=1-1&keywords=lauren+doyle+owens
 
https://www.amazon.com/Wife-Novel-Psychological-Suspense/dp/0062390511/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1515101320&sr=8-1&keywords=alafair+burke+the+wife
 
https://www.amazon.com/Andermatt-County-Parables-Pam-Jones/dp/0988206153/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1515104328&sr=1-1-fkmr0&keywords=pam+jones+andermat+county
 
 
 


February

https://www.amazon.com/Daphne-Novel-Will-Boast/dp/1631493035/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1514578920&sr=8-1&keywords=will+boast


https://www.amazon.com/Devil-at-Your-Door/dp/194650243X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1514578167&sr=1-1&keywords=the+devil+at+your+door

https://www.amazon.com/Shadow-Man-gripping-suspense-Sanctuary-ebook/dp/B0786SWBDJ/ref=sr_1_10?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1514578684&sr=1-10&keywords=kristi+belcamino
 
 
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36383879-like-a-champion
 
 


March

https://www.amazon.com/Gods-Howl-Mountain-Taylor-Brown/dp/1250111773/ref=sr_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1514579283&sr=1-7&keywords=taylor+brown


http://www.blackrosewriting.com/suspensethriller/crookshollow
 
https://www.amazon.com/If-I-Die-Tonight-Novel/dp/0062641093/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1514580808&sr=1-1&keywords=if+i+die+tonight
 
https://www.amazon.com/Whiskey-Ribbons-Novel-Leesa-Cross-Smith/dp/193823538X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1515101991&sr=1-1&keywords=whiskey+and+ribbons
 
http://www.press.alternatingcurrentarts.com/2017/12/eats-of-eden-tabitha-blankenbiller.html
 
http://burrowpress.com/
 
 
 


April

https://www.amazon.com/Country-Dark-Chris-Offutt/dp/0802127797/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1514578571&sr=1-1&keywords=country+dark
 
https://www.amazon.com/How-Write-Autobiographical-Novel-Essays/dp/1328764524/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1515101856&sr=1-3&keywords=alexander+chee
 
 
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1501179349/ref=as_at/?imprToken=-q3wQqsWqVUyLvtS6trl6g&slotNum=88&ie=UTF8&tag=boorio-20&linkCode=w61&camp=217145&creative=399349&creativeASIN=1501179349
 
 
 


May


 
 
https://www.amazon.com/Blackout-Fernandez-Mystery-Alex-Segura/dp/1947993046/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1514577334&sr=1-1&keywords=blackout+alex+segura


https://www.amazon.com/Lonely-Witness-Novel-William-Boyle/dp/1681777959/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1514577674&sr=1-1&keywords=the+lonely+witness
 
 
 



June


https://www.amazon.com/Sick-Memoir-Porochista-Khakpour/dp/006242873X/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1515101724&sr=1-3&keywords=sick

 
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1635571529/ref=as_at/?imprToken=-q3wQqsWqVUyLvtS6trl6g&slotNum=98&ie=UTF8&tag=boorio-20&linkCode=w61&camp=217145&creative=399349&creativeASIN=1635571529
 
 
 
 


July

https://www.amazon.com/Girl-Blind-River-Gale-Massey/dp/1683316401/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1514577736&sr=1-1&keywords=the+girl+from+blind+river
 
https://www.amazon.com/Give-Your-Hand-Megan-Abbott/dp/0316547182/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1514580731&sr=1-1&keywords=give+me+your+hand
 

https://www.amazon.com/Potters-Field-Ash-McKenna-Hart-ebook/dp/B075XRT5QR/ref=sr_1_8?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1514578788&sr=1-8&keywords=rob+hart
 
https://www.amazon.com/Three-Beths-Jeff-Abbott/dp/1538728699/ref=sr_1_11?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1514578830&sr=1-11&keywords=jeff+abbott
 




Also!

Pain and Longing by D. Michael Hardy (January)
Red Clocks by Leni Zumas (January)
Life During Wartime by Thomas Pluck (January)
The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn (January)
May by Marietta Miles (January)
Everything You Came to See by Elizabeth Schulte Martin (January)

Cut You Down by Sam Wiebe (February)
Sunburn by Laura Lippman (February)
The Hummingbirds by Ross McMeekin (February)
What Are We Doing Here? by Marilynne Robinson (February)
The Writer's Field Guide to the Craft of Fiction by Michael Noll (February)

Mercy Dogs by Tyler Dilts (March)
The Night of the Flood by E.A. Aymar and Sarah M. Chen (March)
Queen of the Struggle by Nik Korporn (March)
Panorama by Steve Kistulentz (March)
The Vain Conversation by Anthony Grooms (March)
High White Sun by J. Todd Scott (March)
The Barbarous Century by Leah Umansky (March)
Mr. Neutron by Joe Ponepinto (March)



Zombie Abbey by Lauren Baratz-Logsted (April)
Texas Two Step by Michael Pool (April)
Circe by Madeline Miller (April)
The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer (April)

The Ensemble by Aja Gabel (May)
How to Set Yourself on Fire by Julia Dixon Evans (May)
The Pisces by Melissa Broder (May)
Tinman by Sarah Winman (May)
Clean Time by Ben Gwin (May)


A Stone's Throw by James W. Ziskin (June)
Florida by Lauren Groff (June)

The Shortest Way Home by Miriam Parker (July)
In the Valley of the Devil by  Hank Early (July)
What Remains of Her by Eric Rickstad (July)
The Family Tabor by Cherise Wolas (July)
The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon (July)