In Ted Korsmo’s Wayzata the author reaches way back into literary Americana to dust off an old fedora. While the book takes place in the titular Minnesotan suburb, the tale carries all the trappings of a 1920’s era hardboiled LA noir. The protagonist, a dour, serious-drinking gumshoe, is even named Carroll – a clear nod to Carroll John Daly, the founding father of the genre. Wayzata’s pages rumble from beginning to end like a Packard 8 overflowing with smoke, booze, hard luck women, philandering eggs, and quirky ne’er-do-wells.
Korsmo respects the genre, the material, and the framework. He attends all the logic and sensibilities of Carroll LaRue and his contemporaries as best a modern writer can. For those who have a fond attachment to hard boiled detective stories, there is a great deal to love in Wayzata. Korsmo distinguishes his novella by placing it, not in L.A. or New York or Chicago, but in suburban Minnesota, and this offers up whiffs of bucolic charm that are atypical for a noir. Subsequently, the author plays a deft hand with comic relief. Just as the correctly cynical and self-destructive protagonist threatens to swamp the reader, Korsmo careens him right into an oddball local, usually, to amusing effect.
I wouldn’t say this is an attempt at resurrecting a genre, because hard boiled detectives have never truly gone away. Generously, one could say this book is more of a reminder. At it’s best, Wayzata is a new recruit into a club that has fallen somewhere between forgotten legend and simply esoteric. Inherently there are problems with a new entry into such a well stocked category, and they are twofold. Firstly, there is absolutely no dearth of hardboiled detective material – some pieces, in fact, are Iconic American literature – so in 2016 it’s hard to justify a new novella as much more than a nostalgic sandbox. Secondly, the hard boiled detective novel, even as subject of periodic revivals, was at it’s best during the era depicted. The content was meant to be de rigueur. Wayzata suffers from this disconnect because the actual detecting gets short shrift as Korsmo pours most of his creative energy into rebuilding the verisimilitude of a world and a character set that are completely alien to modern readers. Much more effort is expended selling the setting, jargon, and early modern sensibilities than is put toward mystery or suspense. The narrative plot of Wayzata is frequently waylaid by paragraphs of hard-boiling.
Wayzata earns a three-star rating, because when Korsmo is at his best, the story delivers some familiarity, some freshness, some humor, and a bit of suspense, but there is a boundary between an authentic aesthetic and a tableau of that same aesthetic. At points Wayzata is an enjoyable read that flows well and finds rhythm within itself. At other points it is very hard to ignore the performance.
Pages: 186 | ASIN: B00MBOYRVQ
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Return to the Madlands follows Arlo in the final chapter of the Mire Man Trilogy and brings to a close Arlo Smith’s wild and messy journey. What was your inspiration for the wild journey you take readers on in this novel?
Trilogies, by definition, usually sum everything that has transpired throughout the course of the story, if not most everything up in the final entry, and while that was of course my drive for finishing the story, it wasn’t necessarily the inspiration behind it. I once considered not writing it at all, and simply leaving the ending to Book II the way it was, sort of like a… “…and he got away” type of ending. Maybe it was out of greed on my own part that I wrote a Book III, because I wanted more of the character, I wanted him to engage more in the world around him at a different time of his life. I wanted Arlo Smith to finally be presented with the fact that death is in his, quite possibly near, future, and what that would mean for him in terms of deciding which one of these new, completely unprecedented paths he would take. I wanted Arlo to be presented with a final choice concerning Constance, and work in also the idea that there are no actual “final choices” in life, or at least there doesn’t have to be. And I think that reflects in a few of the supporting characters throughout the book.
Arlo often meets many interesting people on his travels. Were there any characters that you especially enjoyed writing for?
Arlo’s father, most definitely, considering the parallels of their individual existences and their already established roughness in what they think/thought of each other. I toyed with the idea of writing more for Arlo’s father in a separate novel, or short story, and even considering throwing in a twist at the end of “Madlands” that tied Arlo’s father to a character in a past novel of mine. There’s so much time that has passed since Arlo’s father left him until now, so much history and mystery that anything could have happened. I like to think though that sometimes it’s best to leave the mystery as it is; the idea of ascertaining the truth is not always as romantic as wallowing in the unknown.
Arlo meets his estranged father and forms a tentative relationship. Why was this event important to Arlo’s development?
Arlo’s chaos stems from his youth, and by extension if unintentional or not, his father had a hand in that. At this point in time, Arlo and his father, one has always assumed the worst had happened to the other, and in some ways, assumed they had been dead. So when they finally reunite, neither one of them wants to part with those assumptions because those beliefs have become such an essential part to their existences, that any interruption in said life has the potential to cause an insanity-driven rift. Neither Arlo or his father, in the beginning, wants anything to do with the realization that they are both still alive in the world. But as the story progresses, through intended subtlety and background “what-if’s”, Arlo’s father and Arlo himself in their own way begin to wonder if their reunion is fate, and even if it isn’t, why would that stop them from taking a chance at rewriting their futures?
How do you feel now that the Mire Man Trilogy is done? Did you accomplish everything you set out to?
I think I’ve said what I set out to say. The story’s been told and I don’t have any intentions of returning to Arlo’s world. That doesn’t mean any of the other supporting characters may or may not get a spot somewhere down the line, though it’s mostly unlikely. For me, “The Mire Man Trilogy” is a brief glimpse into the mind and heart of a people-watcher; someone who enjoys the company of people only as much as he can tolerate them. It’s a story within a story within a story within a story, and it could be that, more or less, to anyone who reads it. And even though it was me who wrote the story, I’ll never look at a glass of whiskey or listen to a piece by Miles Davis the same way again. People have said to me that they could never expect Arlo to have a happy ending, and maybe they’re right. I like to think of the ending of the trilogy as a reminder that it’s not important whether or not you leave the world on a happy note, but rather you instill in the people around you, and the people you’ve crossed paths with, some measure of self-inquiry, instead of simply letting the world and everything that it could be, slip through their fingers. Finding life’s answers isn’t as important as never giving up the search for them.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will that be available for readers?
Currently, I’m working on another volume of poetry and short stories alongside a novel. My fourth volume of poetry/short stories is titled “Slaughterhouse After-Party” and the novel is tentatively titled “He Showed Me All the Neon Tombstones and Together We Embraced the Abyss”, which is written in episodic form, in that each chapter deals with a different story in the life of the main character, who writes obituaries from the point of view of the deceased. Every chapter has to deal with a different client/family. The main character also has horrible anxiety and depression, for which he takes medication for. That medication has had a strange side-effect in that it more than occasionally causes him to hallucinate a version of himself, calling himself Chauncey, speaking in an English accent, with skin painted over its entirety, a deep, royal blue. Chauncey basically exists with the intention of mocking or critiquing every move the main character makes. So there’s some psychological bafoonery at play, along with the melancholy, always-present scent of death. Neither of these two books will be available for a while…maybe not for another year or two, depending on the stability of my own particular sanity.
A decade or so following the events of “Paradise City”, Arlo Smith finds that he is still somehow clinging to life. Fueled by the revelation that Constance may also still be alive and waiting for him somewhere out in the world, Arlo Smith, now feeling older than ever, decides to make one last stand against himself. Obliging to the last wishes of a recently-deceased love one, and perhaps succumbing to his own obsessions, Arlo embarks on an open road quest one last time in hopes of finding what he’s been searching for since that fateful day near the end of his high school years. What he discovers is an unexpected , and obligatory companionship with his estranged father, self-exiled in a lonely Nevada town, and more revelations that could either cement his perception of his very existence, or tear it down completely, rendering him beyond saving. Feeling the promise of death in one direction and the lure of Constance in another, Arlo is forced to decide to stay or leave… to obey the itching bones of his lusts, or to do what is right… and finally put to rest what may have started him on his path to damnation all those years ago.
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The Mansion’s Family is the second book by Rose Channing in the Crossworld’s series. While the first book focuses on Ellie and Savannah Senka and how they reset the magical worlds balance, The Mansion’s Family goes deeper into the character’s history and family. The book also devotes a large portion to the Eva’s story. Channing brings the twins back to other world where magic is not known or very strong. It is in this world the girls discover Travis, their father. They find they have a half sister and brother that inherited some of their father’s magical powers as well. The book also brings back Jerome and his escape from imprisonment. This brings out war in their magical world and many hard choices are made by all.
The beginning of the book opens with the start of the Fall Celebration. Everyone is rejoicing in the rebalancing of the magic and you see relationships forming between the main characters. From this point the book jumps between two plot lines; the Senka twin’s quests to find additional magical people that were trapped in the other worlds after the great storm that don’t know magic has been restored, and the story of Jerome and his escape. The twins journey into the other world through the shadow cave brings them more than they could have dreamed, they found magic and their blood family. After some trepidation from Travis he agrees to return with the twins and his new family to the Mansion for a visit. They grow as a family and twins start to really feel like they know their heritage.
While the twins are building their world back up at the Mansion out in the woods Jerome has used the magic he still had to continue to control his people and to seduce Dece. Dece hid her power of being a builder, or so she thought, but Jerome sensed it and manipulated her. He lied and tricked her into freeing him from the trap June’s army placed him in. Once free he continued to use Dece to further his plans to take back over the world. While planning he was also hoping to get his daughter Eva back from June’s mansion. Eva meanwhile was plotting how she would kill Jerome one day and break herself away from the evil he stood for and carried with him.
When the time comes to go to war, Ellie and Savannah must face some difficult choices, they will be tested more than ever before, it isn’t a matter of if their powers are strong enough to do what must be done, but if their hearts can take it. The war is devastating on many levels, everyone loses someone they love in the battles, not all the main characters will make it through this war. Eva will forever be changed by the things she endures and see.
The Mansion’s Family has complex topics that blur the lines of right and wrong. What is good and right is not always what needs to be done, what feels wrong is what sometimes needs to be done to save the greater good. This book is the changing point for many of the residents in the Mansion, they are no longer children with the carefree ability to learn their magic and grow without fear of the what if’s. Now they have all experienced the good and bad and have a greater understanding of the balance that must be achieved, and that the two are not mutually exclusive of each other.
Pages: 479 | ASIN: B00ZVH4F3U
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The Hungry Monster Book Awards are given to books that have astounded and amazed us with unique writing styles, vivid worlds, complex characters, and original ideas. These books deserve extraordinary praise and The Hungry Monster is proud to acknowledge the hard work, dedication, and imagination of these talented authors.
25 Perfect Days Plus 5 More by Mark Tullius
Legends of Perilisc by Jesse Teller
The Dragons of Alsace Farm by Laurie Lewis
Spikes by Kelvin Kettle
Paralian by Liam Klenk
Lord Athina by Danny Estes
The Hobbymen by Tim Owens
Voodoo Child by William Burke
Thawing AC Nielsen by Paul Carey
Call of the Conjurer by Ryan Grimbly
Deadly Troubadour by Brent Thomas
Drop Dead Gorgeous by Donald Kirch
Paroxysm Effect by Ashleigh Reynolds
American Flowers by Michael McLellan
The Scalian Legacy by Norbert Monfort
The Mansions Twins by Rose Channing
Dominion of the Star by Angelica Clyman
The Alienation of Courtney Hoffman by Brady Stefani
Books have the ability to entertain and inform us. They can make the impossible possible. They are vehicles of time travel and windows into perspectives. In books, authors are gods and imagination is their power. Transforming letters into words; words into characters and places; and these into emotions and worlds. Even if we never meet, we are connected by the stories we tell.
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Paralian follows your tumultuous journey to find your authentic self and happiness through many adversities. What was the moment in your life that you knew you had to write this book?
It was more a process instead of a precise moment. Throughout my childhood and teens I knew one day I’ll have to write a book about my life. So much went wrong, and I kept thinking, “In order for this to make any sense and lead to something positive I’ll have to share it one day with the world.”
What was the biggest challenge you faced in finding a home inside your own body?
The biggest challenge was re-discovering who I was. As a child I knew instinctively. Then puberty hit and I got overwhelmed by societal constructs… people telling me who I am… so for a while there all I knew was something was way off… but I couldn’t quite define it.
Then, thankfully, at age 20, I stumbled over a book with short stories about trans people. Finally, there was the mirror reflecting me back to myself. The final information I needed for all puzzle pieces to fall into place. It was instant recognition. But until getting to this moment I was in a state of constant confusion and desperation.
What is one thing in your life that you regret, and what is one thing that you are happy to have done?
Regret: I miss my grandma and regret to this day that my final gender reassignment surgeries happened during a period in her life when she became increasingly senile. Grandma ended up thinking her granddaughter never visited her anymore. She didn’t recognize the young man who came to visit her so regularly and would always love her with all his heart.
Happy about: I am so glad I ventured out into the world and lived in as many places and cultures as I did. The best way to compassion, understanding, and open-mindedness is to travel the world as widely as possible. I’ll keep being a nomad all my life. It’s the most fulfilling form of existence I can think of.
You’ve traveled and lived in many different places. What has been your favorite place to visit?
There is no such thing. Every place I lived in or traveled to found its place in my heart. In each place there were countless good and bad experiences. In each place I met amazing, inspirational individuals.
Are you working on publishing another book? If so, when will it be available?
Yes, I am. I have dozens of other book ideas. I’ve just started with my next one. With all editing and time to be set aside for my day job it’ll probably be a good 2 years before my next book is being launched. I promise it’ll be worth the wait though🙂
Definition: Paralian – Ancient Greek meaning ‘one who lives by the sea’. Paralian is a memoir narrated through the author’s relationship to water. We follow Liam Klenk’s tumultuous journey to find his authentic self and happiness against more than a lifetime’s worth of adversities. At five months old, Liam was adopted from an orphanage and ushered into a unique journey, which introduced him to the characters that would become both the currents that moved him and the rocks that supported him. Liam, who lives in Zurich with his wife, says: “At three years old I began catching odd glances because I was born in a girl’s body yet began to introduce myself to people as a boy.” Paralian tells the remarkable story of an honest, and at times, challenging life, and offers insight and wisdom from a fluid position – from experience. Liam reveals how exploring the world helped him find a home inside his own body and spirit. Through this ultimately heartwarming and inspiring story, readers learn how Liam never gave up, faced his fears, and always managed to find positivity in each trauma. Written with an engaging sense of humour, this memoir of transcendence and finding oneself will appeal to those who enjoy true stories of courage, resilience, and dedication in the face of adversity. Paralian celebrates life with infectious strength and positivity. Follow Liam’s journey from a small river in Germany to the biggest performance pool in the world, from Switzerland to the US, the Maldives to Macau.
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The Eyes Behold Tomorrow by Ken Hart is fast moving action filled fantasy novel. Ken Hart describes his writing perfectly, “believable, without incredibly ridiculous situations that suddenly appear to solve all the character’s problems” (Hart p166). This novel merges human and a race called the Feletian into an intertwined future encompassing alliances and some galactic waring with other races. Feletian is a matriarchal society where the men are claimed into what are called stables. Women rule and men are expected to defer to them in almost every situation. They are also known for their peace keeping ways. They are non-violent and only use force when absolutely necessary. The two main characters are Robert Teach, a millionaire playboy from Earth, and Kamini a Feletian recruiter and Princess from Feletia. The two of them end up having a volatile relationship with good and bad moments, but always working together for what is in the best interest of Feletia, even if their views and tactics don’t always agree. Robert is a hot shot that likes to shoot first and ask questions later, Kamini prefers a more peaceful approach and always looks to see the good in others.
The story starts out with the recruiting of men from Earth. Typically, the Feletian’s were looking at the best military men Earth had to offer when Kamini approached Robert and asked him to join up. Having nothing better to do with his life at that point he agreed. The character of Robert is your typical arrogant playboy that thinks he knows it all and doesn’t take orders well. He makes an enemy in the first few days with another recruit, Desaris. Robert and Deasaris’s relationship is almost as interesting as Robert and Kamini. They might not like each other but will have to work together to save the Feletian’s and ultimately Earth from the alien races known as the Lyonians and eventually the Grrulagan.
Queen Aphelia is the peace keeper; she takes great interest in Robert from the start. In reference to the title, The Eyes Behold Tomorrow, some of the women of Feletia have what they call the gift. This is an ability to see into the future. She sees Robert’s future and his importance to her world. Because of this, she puts up with a lot from him, his lack of conforming to protocol, and his unorthodox, by their standards, tactics in just about every area of this life. He is a great commander and becomes the captain of their new prototype space craft. His role as captain makes things challenging as his relationship with Kamini and her family grows. Robert develops a strong attachment to Kamini’s little sister Princess Selena. This attachment starts showing Robert there is more to the world than himself and what he wants to do, he starts thinking critically and growing. The transformation in Robert is dramatic by the end, but not so much he loses his charm. Kamini proves to be a strong leader and capable of enduring the worst the world throws at her. Together they set out to create peace in the galaxy they reside in.
Overall the world that Hart has created is original and captivating. The strong female roles show how women can be strong and nurturing and still rule without faltering. I think this book would appeal to a wide variety of readers, science fiction lovers, people looking for strong independent women fiction, and anyone that just want a little less outlandish science fiction. The book does not have happy resolutions, there is no perfect bow to wrap up the story line. The book is open ended enough to leave room for sequels but even if Hart does not continue this story line, there is a satisfying ending. It does end on a happy note for those that want a book that can stand on its own.
Pages: 274 | ISBN: 1629891177
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Legends of Perilisc is a collection of short stories that tell the mythological struggles of royalty, immortal love, unruly wizards, and lost heroes. Did this book always start out as a collection of short stories, or did you write the stories individually and later decided to consolidate them?
The stories were written individually. Many of them were written many years ago as a way of answering questions. I needed to know things about my world, like how it was created, and where certain things came from. Every world has a creation myth. I needed one of those. I wanted dragons, and I needed to know where they came from. Some stories in here helped me deal with my own demons and come to terms with my past. Some of the stories bind together books I would later write. Others were just dream stories. For instance, I always dreamt of knowing how Clark and Ferallorn met. To Love A Beast came from this desire. The plan was never to publish this book. It shouldered its way in when I realized I wanted to give prospective readers a look at the world to help them decide if they wanted to commit to reading one of my novels.
What is your favorite story from the collection and why?
I have two. The Apprentice’s War showcases a wizard named Saykobar. It is exciting to see his introduction to the world. It gave me a thrill to write the first words of his story because Saykobar goes on to do many great and terrible things. He shapes the course of the world. It was fun to watch him shrug up from the ground like the bud of a poison flower.
Then there’s The Stalwart. This was the first short story I wrote about Perilisc. I wrote it in 2005, sent it out to magazines for publishing, and received a handwritten rejection letter. I was told the story had promise, but there were major things wrong with it, major things wrong with the world it was in. No one source has had a greater impact on the creation of this world than that one letter. It focused me, helped me realize what I was doing. It’s my favorite of my many rejection letters, and I’m lucky to have gotten it.
Simon the Bard seems to be the only consistent character through the different stories. He travels the world claiming to be a simple story teller, but seems to be much more. What were your ideas when creating this character and did he turn out as planned?
In my family, there were fantastic storytellers. I wasn’t concerned with playing with my siblings and my cousins. I wanted to be standing by the poker table in the haze of smoke, listening to the adults tell wildly inappropriate stories. I always wanted to tell those kind of stories, always wanted to tell a story well. So I apprenticed under the great storytellers of my family, learning everything I could about how to craft a description and how to nail a climax. Simon is a result of that training. Stories are important. It’s how we understand who we are and the world around us. Stories give us power, the power of knowledge and the power of understanding. That was the concept behind Simon Bard. He’s a wandering storyteller. But he only goes to the people who need to hear the story. He goes to the heroes that need light cast upon the world around them in order to commit acts of bravery and startling deeds of wonder. Simon has shaped the world. He helped craft it and he loves it. He is trying to provide guidance. He is exactly how I planned him to be, and I’m very proud of him.
Will readers ever get to find out what “The Escape” is?
Yes, The Escape is so important. It is the defining moment of my world. It provides the B.C. / A.D. point for my history. The Escape is a world-changing event. It brings about much hope and much despair. I can’t tell these stories without it. It will be revealed in books to come, and its effect will forever change the face of my world.
Will there be another book that tells more stories of the land of Perilisc?
Oh, man. Is this ever a firm and resounding yes! Perilisc is the platform for 26 books. I have 21 of them written, and today I started the 22nd. In rough draft form, I have written 10,600 pages of Perilisc story. I have five more novels to write before I set Perilisc down for a moment and concentrate on other places. Perilisc is the name of a continent, not a world. These novels tell the story of that continent. But after these books have been written, I cast light on other corners of the world. I have conceived three acts to my career, and after these 26 Perilisc novels, I will have finished Act I. There is more Perilisc coming. I have decided to publish a book every six months for the next 32 years.
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Silverblood Demons follows Kylar as he is plagued by demonic dreams that have turned sexual and led him to father three children. What was the inspiration for this interesting and provocative idea?
Thank you so much for asking that question. Since I was Kylar’s age I have been having ‘exactly’ those experiences. Sometimes they would happen day after day, and at other times it would stop for a year or so. After countless nights of terror I began to realise (I’m British, hence the ‘s’ in realise) that despite the supernatural element to the sexual advances upon my body, I would find myself in a weird and wacky way not entirely ‘unhappy’. Part two of the answer is that after talking about this to a close friend that teaches acting classes at her college, (The character Kat in my novel was inspired by this friend) she suggested that I write a book about my experiences and that led to Silverblood Demons being born🙂
In a whirlwind fashion Kylar is plunged into an unexpected quest to rescue the daughters he never knew he had. What were some influences for the relationship between Kylar and his daughters?
Wow, I never even asked myself that question. Hmm, I guess if I dig really deep, in a flashback kinda way, I’d have to say that the daughter’s my first wife and I lost during her miscarriages may have led to me bringing them back to life in a way that I could reconnect with them again…
There is a lot of well developed characters in Silverblood Demons. Which character was your favorite to write for and why?
Lol, I really can’t select just one without upsetting the rest of my novel’s sister’s and daughter’s etc. They are in many ways, different aspects of who I am in my imagination, or would like to be when faced with real life’s challenges. Sometimes when I’m dreaming I think they visit me (Yeah I know it sound like I’m really ‘out there’ and then again, maybe I am?) they seem to give me clues about which direction I should take in my life.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will that be published?
It’s going to be the 2nd book of the trilogy Daughters of Darkness and is going to be called
Silverblood Sister’s (Yup, that’s a Hungry Monster exclusive title reveal!!!)
It’s currently in progress and I’d like for my cast to hurry up and get their collective acts together by midsummer 2017 so that we can all find out what happened to…
Twenty three year old Kylar has finally had enough of the demonic nightmares that have been plaguing him since childhood. Deciding to learn why some of them have turned so sexual, he seeks answers at a close friend’s occult bookstore where she reveals to him that he has been used by demons to father three girls while in a semi-state of sleeping. Soon after, he also learns that he has two estranged sisters that have incredible powers and together they set out on a journey that takes them to literal Hell and back in an effort to rescue his daughters. While embarking on this quest, he struggles internally with an existing relationship with his current girlfriend. It becomes further complicated when an ex-girlfriend, Sin-dy, that has never given up on the idea that one day they would be together again, also joins him as they face off several times with the demon Ophelexa and her sidekicks. One of his daughters, a natural born warrior, fifteen year old Amber, becomes an integral part of the battle to take back home not just her siblings, but millions of other teenaged virgin girls held in a ‘Paradise’ in Hell that are destined to be used in a fiendish plot to give birth to more demons and ultimately control all of Earth’s inhabitants. Risking everything for everyone comes along with a heavy price that is paid by all that set out on this epic battle that has more beginnings than endings.
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Mystery, suspense, reality television and revenge all come crashing together in this entertaining story. Where did the idea for Thawing A.C. Nielsen originate and develop into a novel?
The idea for the book originated with, frankly, my disdain for reality TV and the self-importance of the people on those shows, as well as the show producers making fortunes. When I began the book I thought, who better to take down reality TV than an icon from the past–namely, the real A.C. Nielsen. Of course, once you read the book, you will realize that my original goals shifted quite a bit (can’t say more–spoiler). Savvy readers will notice clues as to the real-world reality TV celebrities that the characters Khail Santana and Dimi Konstantos are based on!
The protagonist joins up with ExitStrategy, a facility devoted to cryogenics and the revival of the dead. Did you do a lot of research into cryonics for this book?
Ah, but they’re not dead- they’re just really cold, haha! I did a lot of research into the strange world of cryonics. There are a handful of cryonics companies and I combed their websites and read a few books. Probably the best resource was a massive website with a lot of scientific detail by a cryonics expert who is a bit of a screwball. Once I read more, I realized I could have a lot of fun with this scenario. I also made sure that just about everything in the book is based on reality. Some of the strangest things in there, the things people may think I made up, are totally fact-based. Also, I had a lot of help from my brother, who teaches medicine at University of Southern California, on the medical-based chapters where test animals and people are revived. I couldn’t have made those seem realistic without his help
When writing Thawing A.C. Nielsen, did you want the novel to be satire first, or science fiction first?
Great question! It is satire first, for sure. The sci-fi cryonics was just a means to a satirical end. Genre-wise it is a mix of sci-fi, satire, medical mystery, and plenty of humor. Overall, I think the mixing of genres makes the book unique. As far as the scifi category goes, I am proud that the book is not one of a million books categorized as dystopian. There also are no spaceships or aliens, but I do work David Brin’s bestseller Startide Rising into the book in a significant way.
I find that good authors have an ear for speech and dialogue. What’s the best way you find to capture natural prose?
I have to believe the characters are real people and I am just eavesdropping on their conversations. I sort of see them in my head and learn their personality from them. I also have to get inside their heads and spy on their secrets, their weaknesses, and then tumble them out to the reader at appropriate times.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will that be published?
I’m 75 percent done with a middle-grade wacky scifi yarn called “The Grandma Apocalypse”, an alien invasion story set in a sleepy central Illinois town during the 1960s. There are humorous threads relating to “The Princess Bride” which tie things together in an odd way. It’s all about DNA-stealing aliens, snickerdoodle cookies, cats &goats, sweet tea, mind control, multiple dimensions and so on. After that I am writing a sequel to “Thawing A.C. Nielsen”, which will be quite a bit darker. The working title is “The Mozart Murders”. Mozart is in the book in sort of a Voldemort way, and he’s a pretty bad dude–not the wacky Mozart of the film Amadeus. I don’t have a publication date yet for these two new creations.Thanks for the great questions!
Brilliant young microbiologist and self-professed lab rat Kate Pearson has just landed her dream job, although she worries it might turn into a frozen nightmare. She’s been hired to discover a way to successfully revive people who have been in cryonic deep-freeze stasis for years at the Chicago firm ExitStrategy, a company founded by scientist Mike “Cold Smokey” Burgess, holder of dozens of major patents. Kate is succeeding Dr. Enzo Saltieri, Mike’s partner for years, who has died suddenly under strange circumstances. As Kate sifts through mountains of Saltieri’s scribbled-upon legal pads she finds paths that lead nowhere. Was Saltieri on the verge of great discoveries or just sinking into the illogical world of dementia? Along the way, Kate has to deal with Miles Coleman, a sarcastic idiot savant assistant at the lab who’s hiding his true identity; Gloria Dunham, a famous former Hollywood actress, now ninety years old and bent on taking over control of the company; plus reality show egomaniacs Dimi Konstantos and Khail Santana, megastars who’ve been polluting television’s airwaves for years. After Kate has some success reviving lab animals frozen in the 1980s such as Mr. T, the guinea pig, and John Cougar, the housecat, her attention turns to the first human subject, famous TV ratings guru A.C. Nielsen, who has been frozen at ExitStrategy for twenty-five years. Between Mike Burgess’s lofty expectations, hidden research files, secret medical procedures, switched identities, drugged drinks, randy Irish folk musicians, beefy bodyguards, plus the likes of Miles, Gloria, Dimi and Khail—Kate begins to realize that reviving A.C. Nielsen and stumbling upon a major medical discovery may actually be a stroll in the park.
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Eight years since her grandfather tried to kill her, Courtney has suffered strange dreams and delusions of aliens standing over her bed. What was the motivation to write a young adult book that deals with emotional and mental trauma?
My motivation to write a young adult book that deals with emotional and mental trauma came from my own childhood experience, and the desire to present teen readers with a fantastical story that doubles as a road map out of suffering alone. Alienation is a story that demonstrates what happens when you burry childhood trauma: it comes back, creeps up from your unconscious, and continues to traumatize you until you deal with it. It is also a story about how powerful and resilient the human mind can be. No matter how different or damaged you feel, you are not broken!
I suffered debilitating anxiety as a child and throughout my early adult life. My anxiety was caused by previous traumatic experiences, or more specifically, by my inability as a child to deal with the frightening emotions that resulted from my experiences. Unfortunately for me, as opposed to seeking out help and discussing my growing fears and feelings of hopelessness, I did my best to bury those emotions and any memories that had to do with them. This only resulted in more anxiety, fear, and loneliness. I became afraid of my own mind—the horrible thoughts and feelings it created.
Nobody likes feeling frightened or hopeless or lonely. It’s extremely uncomfortable, and can quickly become overwhelming. Fortunately, we all have these types of feelings from time to time, and they are nothing to be ashamed. Nor is the trauma behind them. The way to make these horrible feelings go away is not to bury them like I did. It is to talk about them and any traumatic experience the feelings are rooted in.
Now, that said, I did not want to simply write a book about girl who is suffering emotionally as a result of past trauma, and show her dig into her past and resolve her issues. While it was important for me to present that story line, complete with a road map out of suffering, I also wanted to challenge the idea of mental illness and the stigma of being different. I wanted to challenge the idea of what is ‘real?’ What is ‘normal?” And what in the world is wrong with being ‘special’ or ‘unique?’ So with this in mind, I wrote a book about a teenage girl who is traumatized by past events and must dig into her past to resolve them. But when she does so, she discovers two things: 1) she is not so crazy after all, but very different in a gifted way; and 2) not only does she have to wrap her head around the discovery that she is different, but she has do it quickly, because the survival of the world depends on her embracing her unusualness.
Courtney, as well as the other characters, are well developed. Did you use anything from your own life to help develop these characters?
Courtney’s mom could be seen as a horrible selfish person who is more concerned with her daughter appearing to be a normal popular high-schooler, than she is with her daughter’s actual mental health. This was a huge exaggeration of my parents. But let’s face it, there are parents who are so concerned with the image their child presents, and with their child’s accomplishments and accolades, and how their child‘s image reflects on them as parents, that they ignore their child’s emotional needs. The same could hold true for teachers, peers, siblings, or the criminal justice system. I’m not playing the blame game here. But kids and people of all ages are hurting. The way to help one another is to talk about how we feel, help one another understand our feelings. So Courtney’s mom, the character who is most criticized by book reviewers as being too mean or too horrible of a parent, is to me, one of the most important characters in the book. By far she has more impact on Courtney’s life and her mental well-being that all of the bad guys Courtney is forced to face off against, and if you’ve read the book, there are some pretty unsavory characters who put Courtney through the ringer.
As for Agatha, I never had a friend like her, but I certainly wish I had. She is a badass, alien and Norwegian black metal obsessed chick with mad sleuthing skills and enough life experience to know that the first step in healing is to tear off the bandage start repairing yourself from the inside out.
As to Courtney’s character, I have to admit that I chose to tell the story through a female protagonist, as opposed to a male, because it was too painful for me to write the panic attack and nightmare scenes in first person point of view using a male teen character. It was too close to home. And Courtney being female bought me just enough separation from my own past experience to allow me to dig into the dark areas.
I understand that you have a graduate degree in law. How did you think that has helped you in your writing?
A law degree, or let’s say the experience of law school—where you spend three years learning to be analytical and precise—had a great impact on my story developing skills. My fiction doesn’t involve law, or courts, or crime investigation. Yet, what I took away from law school was that there are not merely two or three sides to every story, but more like one hundred and three sides. So, in my writing and story development, the analytical part of my brain developed in law school helps me keep asking ‘what if’ over and over and over, until I find exactly what I feel a scene or character’s decision should be.
That said, I may have been better off spending those three years in a doctoral or masters of fine arts creative writing program. Who knows?
What is the next book that you are working on and when will the book be published?
Currently, I am working on a couple projects. But my main focus is a sequel to The Alienation of Courtney Hoffman. I left a few balls up in the air at the end of that book, and I am really excited to pick up the story where Alienation ended. Alienation was written as a standalone book. By that I mean there is certainly resolution of the conflict by the book’s end. But at the same time, I spent quite a bit of time (or words) setting up a situation for my characters that is not going to go away overnight. So, I have a really great adventure I am writing where the bad guys strike back, and some of the same protagonists, now more mature but also damaged, use what they learned in Alienation to conquer great obstacles. I think it is going to be a really exciting read. Given that the stage was set (the world-building laid out) in Alienation, in the second book I am able to focus more on the meaning of things, and the psychology of the characters. As I mentioned earlier, the universal difficulty and often confusion that is involved in developing psychologically from a child to an adult is of great interest to me. While Alienation is the fast-paced story of Courtney’s journey of self-discovery and her physical battle to save herself and the world, I tried to allow the reader to discover along with Courtney the emotional impact that past events were having on her. That is what rings true to me in a good story: Not defeating the bad guy, but letting readers in on what it feels like for a teenager to be forced to push themselves to explore and overcome their fears to achieve a higher level of self-awareness. So, to put it bluntly, after having written Alienation, I cannot just sit around and wonder what psychological impact the events of Alienation had on Courtney and the other characters. They went through a traumatic ordeal of epic proportion. They are no doubt affected. But rather than hide from their new understanding of the world, and burry their painful emotions and memories, these characters have learned there is a better way through. Courtney is a unique person, with unique gifts, and she has a calling. But like every other human being, in order to tackle new dilemmas, be they epic and otherworldly or not, she needs to digest what has happened to her, and take care of her emotion needs. Unfortunately for Courtney, I throw her right back in the fire, forcing her to heal and grow while on the fly. But heal and grow she will, because the world is falling apart around her!
I don’t know when the sequel will be published. But I am working at a furious pace.
Fifteen year old Courtney wants to be normal like her friends. But there’s something frighteningly different about her—and it’s not just the mysterious tattoo her conspiracy-obsessed grandfather marked her with before he disappeared. She’s being visited in her bedroom at night by aliens claiming to have shared an alliance with her grandfather. And imaginary or not, they’re starting to to take over her mind. “Mental illness is a slippery slope,” her mother warns her.
The last thing Courtney wants to do is end up crazy and dead like her grandfather did. But what about the tattoo? And the aliens trying to recruit her? With her new alien-savvy friend Agatha and her apocalyptic visions, Courtney begins connecting the dots between the past, present and future—of her bloodline, and the ancient history that surrounds it. Is she going insane, like her family claims her grandfather did, or is she actually a “chosen one” with ancestral connections to another world? Either way, Courtney has a mission: untangle her past, discover the truth, and stop the apocalypse before it’s too late for everyone.
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