Friday, May 29, 2015

Messages and Bottles

Tonight. Wilmington. Taylor Brown, Schuler Benson, Beth Gilstrap, Steph Post. (Hey, that's me!) It's going to be epic..... 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Book Shelfery!

This week A Tree Born Crooked is featured over at Book Shelfery- a killer book site that will definitely help you find your next great read. If you're interested in A Tree Born Crooked, but haven't been able to commit to buying it yet (I get you, I have a huge fear of commitment myself...), here's your chance to read an excerpt. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Songs That Haunt Me: A Writer's Playlist over on Writer's Bone

Writer's Bone is one of my favorite websites. They host killer interviews, book reviews, run a podcast and seek out authors, screenwriters, actors and other creative types. Recently they've started up a music and writing series and I'm honored to be a part of this. Read on to hear about the 10 songs that help me find inspiration, clear my head and put on my writing hat. Be sure to check out the other playlists featured as well as everything else Writer's Bone has to offer. You won't be disappointed!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Final Mad Men Television Workshop

Here we go, the last time. Read on as I talk the final episode of Man Men with Dave Housley and co. over at Barrelhouse Magazine. It's been fun. It's been real.....!Mad-Men-Person-to-Person-Season-7-Episode-14-Barrelhouse-Television-Workshop/cge1/555b739d0cf298b2d3cbd334

Friday, May 15, 2015

Get New Yorked with author Rob Hart- an Interview

This week, I bring you an interview with Rob Hart, author of New Yorked (out June 9th from Polis Books)- a crime thriller drenched in classic noir. Hart clearly knows his genre and has the skill to deliver, as evidenced both by his tale of the brooding and volatile Ash McKenna and this interview. Read on...

Steph Post: Okay, let me just say- I am not a New Yorker. I have never even been to New York City. Just as I'm sure there are many things people find unfamiliar when they read my work, there were parts of New Yorked that were alien to me. I love this, of course, because I love reading and learning about new places, but I have to ask: do you think readers not from New York, or who have never lived in a big city, will 'get' New Yorked? And does it matter if they do? 

Rob Hart: Part of the reason I wrote the book was to preserve my memory and experience. So I hope people will read it and see the message: “This is how I saw the city and this is what it means to me.”

I do think the book will be read differently by non-natives versus natives, and I like that. I like that lifelong New Yorkers might catch a shared experience, while a non-native is seeing something through a new set of eyes.

SP: For me, New Yorked was built upon the strength of two things: a deep, noir plot and engaging, unforgettable characters. When you are actually in the process of writing, does one of these elements trump the other for you? Do you enjoy developing plot more than characters, or vice versa?

RH: Part of this book are pulled from my life and from people I know. So the characters were never really hard—Ginny Tonic and Lunette and Bombay and the Kellis are all based on friends. Ash is my id. I could hear them all very easily.

The plot was a different story. The first draft of this, I wrote on the fly. Then I kept going back, trying to make it work. This is the result of twenty-something edits, and some of them were so big that it changed the fundamental structure of the book.

I wish I had outlined it beforehand. That’s the lesson I learned: For my second book, City of Rose, I went into it with a tight outline. It took me six months to write (compared to five years on New Yorked), and ultimately, I feel like it’s a better book for it.

SP: New Yorked is written in first person and, in all honesty, I am often wary of novels written in this point of view style. Yet, it definitely works here. Do you find writing in the first person p.o.v. difficult? Freeing? Natural? Is point of view something you have to think about before writing or does it become determined organically for you as you go through the writing process?

RH: This is a little funny to me: I hear from a lot of people that they have a hard time writing in first person. I have a hard time writing in anything but that, and try to avoid third whenever possible.

I think I’m an outlier on this, but third person is really hard for me--I feel like I’m using a different, atrophied set of muscles, and it always takes me a little while to find the rhythm.

I like first person because, to my mind, it makes the story more immediate and visceral. Someone’s accountable for everything on the page, and you can filter things their his or her perception. It makes me feel closer to the story, too, to process it through my own experiences, rather than pretend I’m watching someone else do it.

SP: New Yorked is a classic noir tale- dark, gritty and full of underbelly characters. Why do you think readers are so drawn to this genre?

RH: You don’t get the true measure of a person until they’re at rock bottom. And noir is all about rock bottom.

And, too, we read because we’re looking for a little escape. Genre fiction has got escapism locked down. Faced with a 400-page literary meditation on the futility of suburbia and marriage, and a dark crime story about murdering and kidnapping that uncovers the dark beating human heart—I’ll take the latter nearly every time.

SP: Though New Yorked is your debut novel, you've published quite a few short stories in magazines such as Shotgun Honey and Joyland. You're also the author of The Last Safe Place: A Zombie Novella. Do you have a different writing process for novels, short fiction and shorter fiction? Aside from the length, what do you think the differences in these genres are? And do you prefer writing one over the others?

RH: I treat short stories like a palate cleanser between projects. I’ll finish the draft of a book, then nail out some shorter stuff, just to try a new voice, or explore an idea, or stretch a little. Shorts are fun because they’re easier to see the breadth of, so you can play around and experiment.

As for preference--I like them both, really. It’s distance running versus short sprints. Both are good for you. Both of them will make you stronger, just in different ways. There is something to be said for how fast a short can be turned around and published--weeks or months, versus years for a novel. Sometimes you need a little shot in the arm, and a publication credit certainly works.

SP: As always, I want to know what people are reading. So, at this very moment, what are you currently reading and what's at the top of your to-be-read list?

RH: I just read Hit by Delilah S. Dawson and Jigsaw Youth by Tiffany Scandal, both of which were excellent. Currently: The Mercy of the Night by David Corbett. Corbett is a phenomenal author, criminally under read. After that, And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, because I think it’ll help on the third Ash McKenna novel, which I’m starting soon.

Thanks to Rob Hart for stopping by! And don't forget to pre-order your copy of New Yorked. This debut novel drops in less than a month...

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Birthday Orange

In case you missed it earlier this week: my short story "The Birthday Orange" was just published in the Kentucky Review. This story was inspired by an episode of my all-time favorite podcast- Radiolab (though the episode has nothing to with oranges or birthdays). I hope you enjoy....

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Mad Men Roundtable

Watch Mad Men? Want to know what a bunch of writers and editors think about the show? Check out this feature at Barrelhouse Magazine in which I, and several other amazing intellectuals, break down Mad Men from the point of view of a fiction writer. This is a killer conversation, people. Don't miss out...!Barrelhouse-Television-Workshop-Mad-Men-“Lost-Horizon”-Season-7-Episode-12/cge1/554a25000cf21fee136eea54

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A Star Wars Interview with Anthony Breznican!

Check out my latest interview with Brutal Youth author and Entertainment Weekly senior writer Anthony Breznican: "May the Fourth Be With You: A Conversation with Star Wars journalist (and Fanboy!) Anthony Breznican." It's up over on Alternating Current and it's one of my favorites...

Friday, May 1, 2015

A Few Moments with Shelly King: An Interview

This week I had the chance to talk with Shelly King, author of The Moment of Everything- a book lover's dream. King's novel is a tale of love and potential, identity and recovery, but at it's core it is a tribute to the power of books and the connections readers make- with stories, with bookstores and with one another. Keep reading.....


Steph Post: In The Moment of Everything the protagonist Maggie is given a book which is essentially a diary of two strangers falling in love. Within the battered pages of a used copy of Lady Chatterly's Lover, two secret lovers communicate by writing each other notes and their entries become central to Maggie's story. But I wouldn't call The Moment of Everything a romance exactly (though genre romance novels play a part in the story as well). So, is this a book about love? Do you consider your story to be a love story?

Shelly King: I do think it is a story about love of many different kinds. Maggie learns about the love of work, the love of family you're born into, the love of family of friends you build around yourself, the love of books, even the love of a very unlovable cat. While romance of the notes is at the core of this journey for her, her own discovery of romantic love is not her primary journey. Though I often tell people that the Lady Chatterley and Maggie share a common problem when it comes to romantic love in that for both of them sex is easy but love is much more complicated and difficult.

SP: Maggie, though a Silicon Valley techie, winds up working at the Dragonfly- her local used bookstore. As I'm sure most readers did- I felt that I could completely relate to Maggie's reaction to the bookstore. I could see, hear and smell my own favorite used book haven whenever Maggie stepped foot into the Dragonfly. Did you have a specific bookstore that you modeled this fictional one from?

SK: Absolutely. There's an amazing used bookstore in the real Mountain View, CA, called BookBuyers. I adore that store and the people who work there. For a long time, one of my neighbors worked there so I got all the scoop about what it was like to work in a used bookstore. As Maggie says in the novel, all great readers dream of owning a bookstore. But the reality is that bookstores are hard work. I tried hard to capture the romance of a used bookstore while also showing the reality. 

SP: And in the same vein, why Are used bookstores so special to us? Do you think that only hardcore readers feel this way or is this a feeling that is evoked in everyone?

SK: I think people like a bargain and bookstores do sell books at a discount. So there's that. But they also sell books that are out of print and other hard-to-find items that people love discovering. And the discovery is really the romance of used bookstores to me. Used bookstores don't order inventory. They take in what comes to them. So if you think about it, there's something a little mystical about that. And each store is unique. Every Barnes & Noble is very similar to the others. But no used bookstore is ever like any other.

SP: Going back to the mystery of Lady Chatterly's Lover... The conversation between the two strangers beings with "Hello? I am Henry. Who is there?" followed by "Hello, Henry, it is Catherine." and "Catherine, thank you for writing. I grow curiouser and curiouser- Henry." (which is a wonderful Alice in Wonderland reference, of course). When I read this beginning I was immediately reminded of a similar experience I had in high school. I started a conversation in history class with a stranger in another class period by writing song lyrics on one of the desks. Whoever sat in the desk the next period commented on the lyrics and we began a dialogue that lasted for a few months (that teacher must have hated us). It was strange because it was our secret, but obviously other people were reading our conversation as it progressed. I was wondering then- did you have an experience of some kind like this that prompted you to invent the story of Henry and Catherine? Or did it come from somewhere else?

SK: I'm so jealous!!! I would have loved to have had something like that happen to me. Wow. Sadly, that wasn't the case. My idea for the notes came from two different experiences. One, since I was a teenager, I've always been fascinated by things people write in books. Because I was always told you're not supposed to write in a book, this act seems reckless and rebellious to me. The other thing is that when a book has been written in, it takes on a whole other story other than the one the author intended. It has a story of itself as an object and the person who owned it before. The other thing that happened to me was a while back when I was going through a difficult time in my life, I used to walk over to BookBuyers, my favorite used bookstore, and sit on a kik-step stool back in the dark stacks and read late at night. I always had plenty of books at home, but this became sort of a routine I developed to force myself out of the house when I was going through this difficult time. I was in the middle of Lady Chatterley's Lover when I went down to the store one night and it was gone. It was no big deal for me because there were other copies, but I got to thinking about what it would mean to me if there was something important about that book. What if I were leaving notes for someone in that book and it disappeared? What if that was my only connection to the other person? As you know, this is what it's like to be a writer. We're always taking something ordinary and turning up the volume to see what happens.

SP: You have such a snarky, witty voice and it plays out beautifully in one of my favorite scenes: Maggie's introduction to her friend's book club. I've never actually been to a book club meeting before. Are you part of one? Or have you ever attended a book club that was reading The Moment of Everything?

SK: I've been in several book clubs! I love them. I started one way back before they were a thing, before we even knew to even call ourselves a book club. Sadly I haven't been in one for a very long time due to time constraints. I love the idea of book clubs. This particular book club was based on one a friend of mine told me about. I thought it sounded horrible! But then here again my writer brain kicks in and sees all the delicious possibilities. And it was a perfect way to also show the reader a little bit of what it was like to live in Silicon Valley. 

SP: One of the minor characters, Nimue, makes a comment that I had to underline in the book. She says at one point, "I mean, to find your love in a book? How amazing is that? Books are so sexy. Bookstores are sexy." I think that many people can relate to The Moment of Everything because they love books, but I'm going to ask you to back Nimue up here: what's so sexy about books?

SK: I think people associate reading with intelligence and intelligence with sex. As the saying goes, you can fix ugly but you can't fix stupid. But seriously, books touch our emotions and ignite our minds. They make us vulnerable to someone else's story. They make us laugh. They make us angry. We experience all these emotions when we love as well. And our choice of books is so personal. So when you find out what books someone likes, it feels a little intimate especially when it's surprising. My husband is a Sam Elliot type of guy who does applied physics for a living. On our first date, he told me he liked to read a lot of different things, but when he traveled for business, he liked reading things that made him laugh like Janet Evanovich and Sue Grafton novels. I loved that this tall man with a deep voice and a big nerd brain read fiction that was targeted to women and this wasn't a "guilty pleasure" for him that he hid on a Kindle. He bought these books in the airport and read them on the plane and shared them with his fellow passengers. That told me a lot about him and made him super sexy.

SP: The Moment of Everything is your debut novel, so what's in the works now? What and when can readers expect from you next?

SK: I can't share much because it's still too early, but I'm working on a novel about women and technology. I'm one of those writers who needs someone to read her work and tell her what it's about so I'm afraid that's the best I can do!

SP: And finally, give me three books you've read in the past year that you can't believe you hadn't read sooner.

SK: The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud was an amazing character study of an angry woman which we don't see often. I also loved Long Man by Amy Greene. And I just finished the 2014 Best American Short Stories collection that was edited by Jennifer Egan this year. I read this collection every year and this is by far one of my favorites. The stories in this collection blew me away. And it included stories from two of my favorite writers: Karen Russell and Lauren Groff.


Learn more about Shelly King and her work by visiting her at and be sure to pick up your copy of The Moment of Everything today!