June 30, 2011

Author Interview: JOHN LESCROART

It's an honor for me to welcome John Lescroart, New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty books, including the Dismas Hardy series, and Spotlight Guest at ThrillerFest VI, to Psychotic State Book Reviews.  Welcome, John!

As a New York Times bestselling author whose books have been translated into 16-languages, it’s no wonder that you are a spotlight guest at ThrillerFest VI! How will you be participating in the event this year?

JL:  It’s an incredible lifetime thrill to be one of the Spotlight Guests this year. And to share that honor with Robert Crais and Diana Gabaldon is almost surreal, since I view both of them as major “name brand” authors and honestly have trouble thinking of myself in the same light. Which is not to say that I don’t appreciate being chosen; it was just a huge surprise and delight that I’m still trying to integrate into my world view. As in: “Wow, if I’m up there in the same category with Bob and Diana, I must be a real writer. How cool is that?”

I’m very much looking forward to my interview with Gayle Lynds on Friday, July 8, at 3 o’clock. Gayle has been a great friend for many years, and of course she is an enormous talent in her own right. I’m sure our talk will be fun and informative. Beyond that, I’ll be walking the halls and the bookstore for the entire four days of the Thrillerfest and look forward to spending quality time with anybody who wants to chat.

What is your involvement with the ThrillerFest sponsors, International Thriller Writers?

JL:  I like to think that I’m one of the ground floor members of the ITW. Back when Gayle Lynds and David Morrell were just trying to get the organization off the ground, Gayle called me and asked for a donation and I told her I’d be glad to help. I thought we thriller writers needed an organization of our own, and I wanted to be part of it. But Gayle, in her charming way – I’ve already told you we’ve been friends a long time – said she thought the organization needed somebody to be among the first to step up in a bigger way financially. She bribed me shamelessly saying that my name would forever be on the masthead of the ITW as a Founding Sponsor. And everybody knows how much we writers like to hear forever linked to our names, a la Shakepeare I suppose. In any event, I ponied up, and I am so glad I did, since I think that the ITW is the greatest writers’ organization on the planet.

What can attendees expect at ThrillerFest VI?

JL:  The Thrillerfest is great for any number of reasons, including but not limited to: full accessibility to authors and agents (even famous ones), a fantastic camaraderie, insiders information, panels on myriad aspects of the craft, art, and business of thriller writing, an incredibly entertaining evening of good food, generous drinks, and thriller awards. Ken Follett! Karin Slaughter!! David Morrell!! Steve Berry!! Lee Child!! And on and on. It is simply the best writers’ convention there is, and it gets better every year.

Had you always assumed you’d become a writer?

JL:  I wrote my first novel in college, so I guess it must have been on my mind from an early age, but I didn’t publish until I was thirty-four, and didn’t start making a living exclusively from writing until I was forty-five. Still, I think some big part of me wasn’t ever going to be satisfied with life if I didn’t succeed in writing. And I guess I was just stubborn enough to keep at it when any reasonable person would have given up. Now I’m very glad that I didn’t, but there were days . . . no, there were months . . . I guess the assumption that I’d some day become a writer is what pulled me through.

How did you get “hooked” on writing?

JL:  I was an early reader. Right from the beginning, the magic of the written word enthralled me. I read Tom Sawyer in third grade, and shortly thereafter became addicted to the Hardy Boys, and all the Landmark biographies, and then everything. Writing just seemed like the most important thing in the world to me. When I read Hemingway for the first time, and then Lawrence Durrell’s “Alexandria Quartet,” I knew I wanted writing to be my career. I had no idea how that was going to happen, but I started writing regularly, kept a diary, got used to the rhythm, and did it every day. By the time I started college, I was truly “hooked.”

What inspires you?

JL:  This might sound overblown, but the human condition inspires me. I’d love to understand all of it, and know of course that I never will. But the search for its essence, if there is such a thing, or even its faint shadow, is an overriding and endless passion that I don’t think I will ever outgrow.

Where do you write?

JL:  I write in a house/office in the downtown “core area” of Davis, California, a small university town near Sacramento. It’s a great place to live and work, and I’ve been happy here since 1992.

Some authors are very habitual in the way that they write – do you have any idiosyncrasies you’d like to share?

JL:  I’m one of those “very habitual” writers. I get up about the same time every morning – now closer to 8:00 than the 6:30 I averaged when my children still lived at home. I’m working out by 9:00. I get to the office at around 11:00, and generally check emails and do various other computer stuff until around 1:00 (I refer to this time as “sorting my socks”). Finally I start writing and keep at it until 5:00. No music. No nights or weekends. With this schedule, I’ve managed to put out a book a year for the past twenty years or so.

Before becoming a writer, you were a musician. How did your experiences in the music industry affect your writing?

JL:  I very much loved playing music, which I did until I was thirty. Exactly thirty. I disbanded my band on my 30th birthday, and started writing Sunburn, which won a literary prize and became my first published book. So the two “careers” didn’t really impact one another directly. On the other hand, most of the songs I performed with my band were originals, and in the course of writing those 500 or so songs, I think I got comfortable with the idea of my “creativity,” of writing things I cared about, so that when I made the switch to prose writing, I didn’t feel like I was moving to a different language, so to speak, so much as simply changing my vocabulary.

As someone who got started as a writer with no connections in the publishing industry, do you have any advice for young writers in a similar position?

JL:  Oh my gosh, did I ever do everything wrong! I believe that young writers today are in general much more knowledgeable about the publishing industry than I ever was. Most people know, for example, that one needs an agent. Many young writers also have a game plan in mind for their careers – they’ll be writing two or three books a year, for example, maybe a mystery and a romance, or a fantasy and a stand-alone. They’ll know they can use a pseudonym or two or three and at the same time, write under their own names.

I knew none of this, and back when I was starting out just after the Civil War, I don’t believe much of this information was readily available. Much of it was trial and error, mostly the latter. Today, events just like Thrillerfest combat all of that ignorance and angst. Writers and agents are willing to talk to new writers, to give advice and direction, and to share ideas. So my real advice to beginnings is to ask questions and listen to the answers. The writing life is just that: a life. It is not one published book, at least not usually, but a body of work, of relationships with publishers, editors, agents, reviewers, and other writers. And the great news for the newcomers is that the world of the writer is now pretty generally accessible to one and all.

You write not only books, but screenplays as well. How does your writing process differ when switching between writing books and screenplays?

JL:  Well, I haven’t been too successful as a screenwriter. I’ve written several, but none have been bought or produced, so whatever I’m doing isn’t working. I think my main problem is that I don’t think as a screenwriter. I see a story in novelistic terms and trying to leaven it down in screenplays to simply dialogue scenes, or visual images, isn’t really the way I approach a story. I’m still trying, though. Maybe I’m getting closer.

After your battle with Spinal Meningitis, how has your writing changed?

JL:  As you note, I had a life threatening bout of spinal meningitis when I was forty-one. Up until that time, I had published five novels, most of them nicely reviewed but commercially unsuccessful. I believe that this was probably because I kept largely viewing these efforts as teaching vehicles – I was learning how to fashion a plot, or create a scene, or make a character come alive on the page. After the meningitis, and the eleven-day coma, I realized that if I didn’t know how to write a novel by now, I might as well quit trying. I could easily have died having never given my work a chance to sing confidently on its own. It was time to just let what I was writing become the novel it wanted to me; not to teach myself some lesson in how to write, but to truly express what themes and issues the story itself wanted to tell. The result of these insights and decisions was a different kind of book, a bigger book with a wider palette and finally, a true novel. In fact, a whole bunch of them.

While in college and writing your first novel, did you ever think you would become this great of a success?

JL:  Of course everybody fantasizes about how they’ll take the world by storm, and in college I fit that mold to a “t.” For that reason, I think it’s ironic that even with all my success, it did not take the form that I had assumed was the norm. My initial vision of success was that I would write a (i.e. one) book and it would become a monster hit a la Cold Mountain or The Firm or The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and after that I would be an Author (with a capital A), known far and wide for whatever book it was.

Actually, this was not what happened at all. As I mentioned above, I had written six books before I had my first NY Times bestseller, and while that book, The 13th Juror, did very well and allowed me to become a full-time writer, it was never the kind of blockbuster that turned me into a household name, nor have any of the subsequent books, although all of them since then but one have made the NY Times list. When I was young, I never realized that for the vast majority of authors, the writing life entailed a career of not one but many books – and now I rejoice that I have been so fortunate as to be able to keep writing them. It’s a wonderful life.

What was the inspiration behind your famous character, Dismas Hardy?

JL:  Well, we’ve all be taught to write what we know. When I was thirty-eight and casting about for a protagonist, the person I knew best was myself: thirty-eight years old, a bartender at the (very real) Little Shamrock bar, divorced, living on 34th Ave. in San Francisco. So I plugged this guy Dismas Hardy into that set of facts. And then in the actual writing an interesting thing happened: I gave him a background quite different from my own, making him an ex-cop, ex-Marine, ex-lawyer, and – tragically – an ex-father. From the intersection of those two backgrounds, Dismas Hardy emerged full-blown.

Who are some of your favorite thriller writers?

JL:  I remain a huge fan of the thriller, and many types of them. Among my favorite authors I always count Nelson DeMille, PD James, T. Jefferson Parker, Tim Hallinan, Bob Dugoni, Lisa Gardner, Jeff Deaver, Lee Child, Loren Estleman, and Gayle Lynds. My newer favorites include Justin Peacock, Paul Doiron, John Verdon, and David Hosp.

How did you get started writing your very first novel?

JL:  I was a junior in college and simply decided that if I was taking creative writing classes at Berkeley and wanted in some vague yet real way to become an author, I’d have to tackle the book length work at some point. So I just made a decision to sit down every day and write at least a page and keep going until I had a novel.

At that time, the shortest novel I had read was The Old Man and The Sea, and my version of it was 104 pages long. So I kept writing until I had 104 pages, and that was the end. The funny thing was, it actually ended right then. The novel was a total forgettable dud, but one good thing came out of it: I named one of the characters Dismas Hardy – killed him off after one page, but he was there and the name stuck.

Having never gone to law school, how do you write so accurately about the legal process?

JL:  I am very fortunate that my best friend since high school, Al Giannini, decided to become a lawyer. And not just a lawyer, but a criminal lawyer. And not just any old criminal lawyer, either, but an assistant district attorney specializing in homicide prosecutions in San Francisco and San Mateo. Al vets all of my books for legal and procedural issues before I even hand them in to my editors. Without him, I wouldn’t be able to write the book I do. He is a true collaborator, an excellent critic, a fantastic legal mind, and a great guy whom I sometimes would like to murder. He lets me get away with absolutely nothing – if it’s not right, it doesn’t stay in the book.

What can fans expect in your upcoming novels?

JL:  I’ve just finished my 2012 book, Undertow, which is a story about Wyatt Hunt’s search for his birth parents. It’s a deeply personal and emotional book and digs back into the past and churns up a stew of reactions from Wyatt. After that, I’m trying to come up with an idea for another “classic” Dismas Hardy courtroom drama, which hopefully will appear in 2013. Beyond that, it’s anybody’s guess, but I’d expect a book a year as long as I’m above the ground.

You have written over 20 novels--of these, which was your favorite to write?

JL:  My all-time favorite to write was A Certain Justice.  The Rodney King riots had just recently happened in my own former home city of Altadena, and the opportunity to move many of those tumultuous events to San Francisco was just too interesting to pass up. Plus, the racial tensions that drive the novel found a terrific and personal vein of reference in the character of Abe Glitsky, who suddenly became fully-dimensional and, to me, fascinating as a character. I also discovered Wes Farrell in this book. In fact, San Francisco opened itself up to me in a way I could never have predicted, and the results were just wonderfully satisfying. I have other books that I like as much – The Hearing and The Motive, for example – but for sheer joy of writing, A Certain Justice gets the nod.

How do you balance turning out a steady stream of novels with having a life outside of writing?

JL:  I guess the secret to that is that I view writing as my job. A wise man once said that if you love what you do, you never do a day of work in your life. And that’s how I’ve tried to make my life work. I love coming into the office and putting down pages, working out problems of prose and plot, communicating with my readers by blog and twitter, facebook and email. But it’s a job. Fortunately, it’s a job that is also – to some greater or lesser degree – an art and a source of great personal fulfillment. When 5:00 o’clock rolls around, I close up the office, go home and have dinner with my wife, and in all other ways, live a completely “normal” life. If those darn paparazzi would just leave me alone . . .

As Zak Brown sings: “Life is good today.”

Thank you so much, John, for stopping by, congratulations on being a Spotlight Guest at ThrillerFest and best of luck with your upcoming Undertow!

For more information on John Lescroart, please visit his website

For more information on ThrillerFest, please visit the official website.

June 29, 2011

Giveaway: FLASHBACK by Dan Simmons

BOOK DESCRIPTION:  The United States is near total collapse. But 87% of the population doesn't care: they're addicted to flashback, a drug that allows its users to re-experience the best moments of their lives. After ex-detective Nick Bottom's wife died in a car accident, he went under the flash to be with her; he's lost his job, his teenage son, and his livelihood as a result.

Nick may be a lost soul but he's still a good cop, so he is hired to investigate the murder of a top governmental advisor's son. This flashback-addict becomes the one man who may be able to change the course of an entire nation turning away from the future to live in the past.

A provocative novel set in a future that seems scarily possible, FLASHBACK proves why Dan Simmons is one of our most exciting and versatile writers. 

Doesn't Flashback sound exciting?  I have my own copy and can't wait to delve into the pages!

Thanks to the lovely Anna Balasi at Hachette Book Group and Little, Brown and Company I have TWO copies of Flashback to give away to lucky readers!

To enter, simply leave me a comment with your name and email address (or at least indicate that your email address may be found in your profile). NO EMAIL ADDRESS = NO ENTRY!

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No P.O. boxes. No Military APOs. This giveaway is open to U.S. and Canada only. My apologies to my overseas friends.  Only one copy per household.

Contest to end on Saturday, July 16, 2011 at 11:59 P.M. PST and the lucky winners drawn by randomizer.org on Sunday, July 17, 2011.

Good luck!

June 28, 2011

Author Interview: KARIN SLAUGHTER

Today I am very happy and honored to welcome Karin Slaughter, author of the Grant County series, Triptych and the newly released Fallen, as well as fellow native Georgian, to Psychotic State Book Reviews.  Welcome, Karin!

What is Save the Libraries and how did you get involved?

KS:  Save the Libraries is basically my way of trying to help keep libraries open. Not many people realize how threatened our library systems are right now, and not many remember how vital these institutions are. For over 80% of children in rural areas, the library represents their only access to reading and the internet outside of school. For many adults who are looking for jobs, the library is the only place they can go to in order to surf listings on the internet. Lots of minimum wage companies require applications to be submitted online now. Children’s reading groups, book clubs, ESL classes, community organizers, all depend on the library doors staying open so that they can conduct business. Staff are being fired, doors are being closed, and budgets are being slashed so severely that not many systems can afford to buy new books. The pilot program we did for STL in DeKalb raised $50,000, which was the only money the system had this year to buy physical books. Communities are so short-sighted when it comes to libraries. For every dollar spent, four dollars is returned to the community in higher taxes and educational benefits. We are literally destroying the basic infrastructure needed to advance American interests. That’s why I say that funding libraries is a matter of national security.

How do you feel about receiving the 2011 Silver Bullet Award at ThrillerFest?

KS:  Considering past recipients, I’m wondering how on earth I made the list. It’s a bit like those “which one of these doesn’t belong” puzzles. Linda Fairstein, last year’s recipient has kindly agreed to present the award during the banquet, and I’m going to feel a bit like the red-headed stepchild compared to her. She’s done so much to help women’s causes. She’s a true hero to me; the best kind of human being the earth has to offer.

What is your involvement this year in ThrillerFest?

KS:  I’ve been asked to speak at the opening breakfast and do a panel with Andrew Gross and some other authors. I’m not sure what advice I can offer would-be writers, other than to read—and to read the authors they’ve come to see. It’s shocking how many people come up to me at events and say that they want to be writers, only can’t really name their favorite book or author. If you want to write, you have to read. I can’t name a successful author who isn’t a reader. That’s why it’s such an easy ask when I’ve reached out to people like Michael Connelly, Lee Child or Tess Gerritsen to help the library project. We all got our start there, and we all still love finding new authors.

What can attendees expect to experience at ThrillerFest?

KS:  I think it’s a big mistake to go to ThrillerFest thinking you’re going to get an agent or have your book published. But, then, I think it’s a big mistake in general to think you’re ever going to be published, because it’s very, very rare. There is no magic formula other than loving what you’re writing, and I think that the desperation to get published sort of talks you out of that love. It’s sort of like going to college and studying literature day and night, which means the last thing you want to do when you get out is read another book. If you focus on the passion you feel for writing, and other people feel that passion, then you’re on the right track. If you want to meet authors in their natural state, and talk to people in the business, then ThrillerFest is a great fit. What you should take home is a drive to be the best author you can possibly be. Tune out the rest of the noise. If you are doing your best work, then the rest will follow.

In what order should your books be read?

KS:  I write my books so that they can be read out of order and things still make sense. I think it’s important to tell long-time readers something new about characters with each story, and it’s equally as important to fill in new readers on their various histories. It’s a delicate balance, but that’s the fun part about writing a series. A character should be like an onion that’s slowly peeled to reveal the core. That being said, I myself am a reader of the OCD school, and if I read the twelfth book in a series and love it, I have to go back to number one and catch up. There is no thrill like finding an author you’ve never heard of and then discovering there are eleventy billion more books waiting in the wings.

Where is Grant County? Does it really exist?

KS:  Grant County floats around South Georgia, in the general vicinity of Macon and Augusta. I made it fictional because I didn’t want people sending me letters saying, “you can’t go left on Main Street,” but of course I get them anyway. My favorite is someone who wrote in—very angrily—saying you didn’t have to pass through Grant County to get to Florida. I kindly wrote back asking him to show me the route on the map. Still haven’t heard back…

Are your characters based on real people?

KS:  I think it’d be really arrogant of me to say that they’re not. All authors are a sum of their total experiences. I’m creative, but I’m not capable of making a character who doesn’t have a bit of someone I’ve met along the way. I’ve never deliberately based a character on a real person with all their attributes. I think of it more as an artist blending different colors to create the correct shade for the story.

What was your profession before you wrote thrillers?

KS:  I owned a sign company for several years, then one day I realized that I was a really successful sign person, but my real dream of being an author was falling by the wayside. I had always thought I was going to have a book published before I turned thirty. This is actually a crazy thought, because I really do believe that it’s impossible to get a book published, let alone be successful enough to have it be your full-time job. So, basically, I was really, really stupid to think that this would happen. Anyway, I was twenty-five when it hit me that I was getting older (oh, the humanity!) so I sold my business to a friend of mine, took a drastic pay cut, and knuckled down every free second to work on my writing. Then, I worked on getting an agent, which took another three years, then, at the age of twenty-nine, I had a three book deal. My first book was published the same year I turned thirty, so that was a goal that I got to meet. Many authors point to their creativity and drive as the reason they got published. I can honestly point to my own stupidity. If you put that plan on an Excel spreadsheet, no one would believe it possible.

Karin Slaughter is a great name for a thriller writer. Is it a pseudonym?

KS:  It’s my real name, and I paid the price through all the teasing I got during my childhood. Unfortunately, GI Joe was big when I was a kid, so Sgt. Slaughter became my nickname. As an adult, I feel really, really lucky. I don’t know if it was destiny, but I’m glad I’m not writing romances.

How do you research police department and the Georgia Bureau of Investigations procedures?

KS:  The GBI has been very generous with their time, for which I am extremely grateful. They’ve let me watch training drills and exercises, shoot rifles and shotguns on the range and talk to their field agents and inspectors. I’ve seen the labs, the morgue, the field offices—basically, I owe them a debt of gratitude for being so kind to me. And I think they know that I will never, ever make them look bad, which is something the police sorely need right now. It’s amazing to me how one or two bad cops can make the public turn against the police. There are so many men and women out there who literally put their lives on the line for us every day. We own them more than gratitude—we owe them our peaceful existence. I might have some stray bad cops roll into a plot, but the GBI will always be the good guys in my book. As a resident of Georgia, I’m really glad they’re out there doing the stuff I’d be too chicken to do!

Have you ever ridden with detectives to observe their work?

KS:  I’ve never done a ride-along, but I’d love to when I have time. I’ve talked to cops and spent time with them in their offices and toured the morgue and labs. Georgia has a great “Sunshine Law,” which means I can ask to look at any jackets I want so long as the case has been adjudicated. I can read autopsy reports and suspect interviews or anything else that they’ve got in their records. I’ve also talked extensively to death investigators, because that’s my bread and butter. The funny thing is that all of the ME’s investigators are women. Men don’t last long in those positions. It’s really tough work and contrary to the sugar-and-spice attitude we have about what women are capable of. As someone who writes about strong women taking charge, I love that.

What do you think makes Lena such a controversial character?

KS:  I think she’s controversial because she’s polarizing. Either readers hate her or they love her. There’s usually no in-between. One of the reasons I made Jeffrey and Sara so likable is because there needed to be a balance with Lena, who is hard to love. But, look at all the crap she’s been through—she lost her parents, she was raised by a drug-addicted uncle, and she was sexually assaulted. In real life, you would expect this sort of woman to be very, very damaged. She was actually my response to what I felt was a troubling trend in crime fiction at the time: a woman who was assaulted (and was allowed to survive) was either a bitch or a saint, and either way, she was only healed through the love of a good man. I wanted Lena to heal herself, which is a much more realistic path. I also wanted to write about a realistic recovery from rape. The truth is that many women who are assaulted punish themselves in horrible ways. They end up in bad relationships. They drink too much or abuse drugs. They put themselves in danger. They lose their sense of self-value. And of course since Lena goes to so many dark places, I had to have Sara, who was sexually assaulted in college, be the answer to that. She had her family close ranks around her. She had her mother, who was strong for her when she couldn’t be. Contrast that with Lena who really had no one and wanted no one, and it makes sense that she’s so screwed up. The thing about her character, though, is even if you hate her, you still want to find out what she does next. That’s the delicate dance, and I love writing her because of it.

On the surface it looked like your debut novel Blindsighted became an instant international success. What was the real story about its path to publication?

KS:  I still remember where I was when my agent and editor called to tell me Blindsighted was on the New York Times bestseller list—sweltering in Scottsdale, Arizona, at an outdoor mall. I’d been at a Walden bookstore with spotty air conditioning. People were standing at the entrance instead of sitting down in the chairs because it was cooler outside than in that kiln of a store. I was in the second week of my tour and so tired I wanted to die, but boy, was it easy to keep touring after that! I was so nervous and antsy that first time out because my life had been on hold for almost a year. My first book deal was with William Morrow, but the ink was barely dry on the contract when my agent told me that Harper Collins scooped them up—and me along with them. Because of contractual obligations about promotion and placement, Harper had to move my publication back several months. In retrospect, I think that’s the best thing that ever happened to me because I actually got to write my second book, Kisscut, before Blindsighted even published. That’s a gift for any writer because the sophomore slump is a killer. And I was very, very lucky that Blindsighted published to such acclaim and success all over the world, because that rarely happens to a first-time author. Usually, you toil away in darkness and maybe five or six books down the road, you get a hint of the light coming through, and generally it’s a train, not the end of the tunnel. To get on the New York Times bestseller list with my fist book was almost too much to believe. Add to that the international success and it was like Christmas morning every day. Those phone calls still give me a thrill.

What advice would you give to a young person who would like to be a writer?

KS:  I would tell them to write what they want to write and assume no one is ever going to read it. If you love books, then you need to write for yourself. Trying to predict the market is never a good thing. There is no formula for a successful book. The idea isn’t even the hard part. Sitting down at the computer and figuring out how to get from A to B, working the plot and making sure that you’re telling something about the characters, is the hard part. And you have to be okay with the reality that you could go through all of that several times over and never get published. Meanwhile, through all this, you should keep reading. Read good books and bad books and mediocre books. This is how you train your mind as a writer. And don’t keep writing the same book over and over again. If one plot doesn’t work, if a set of characters doesn’t interest anyone, then try something new. Sometimes, the best thing that can happen to a writer is to lose a file on their computer. It’s fate’s way of saying, “you have got to try something else.”

You have had the most bestsellers ever on the Dutch bestseller lists. How do you think life in Georgia translates to the Netherlands?

KS:  The Netherlands, like most of America, is just a series of small towns. So, writing about a small town in Georgia is not as foreign as one might think. There are the usual casts of characters: the busy-body, the gossip, the town whore. There is a wrong side of the tracks and a right side. These are universal themes of right and wrong, good and evil. But, I’d say that even writing in a large city, these elements still exist. For instance, you never find New Yorkers saying, “I live in New York City.” They say they live in the Village or the Upper East Side or Brooklyn or wherever. They identify themselves by their individual neighborhoods, not by that massive, eight million-plus island that most of the world uses as short-hand for America. People are wired to be a part of their communities. So, whether it’s the Netherlands or Dubai or Germany or New Zealand, I think my books appeal because I’m writing about people they know in a setting that’s familiar.

Which book was your favorite to write?

KS:  I think every author I know says that their favorite book is always the next one they’re going to work on. That’s the case with me as well. I’m knee-deep in Criminal, which will publish next year, and loving every second of it. Most of the story takes place back in 1975 Atlanta. I was barely out of diapers during this time, so I’ve been talking to a lot of people and getting their views on the city. It’s really wonderful as someone who makes a living writing about controversy and social upheaval, because there was so much going on back then—the racism, the sexism, the strife. The Atlanta Police force was just awful, and the living conditions inside the city were disgusting.

What thriller authors have inspired your writing?

KS:  Mo Hayder and I were first published around the same time, and I remember quite clearly first reading her and thinking, “holy crap, I gotta up my game.” She’s just freaking brilliant. The same goes for Denise Mina. We’re part of that group of women about whom it is often said, “They write like men,” which I suppose on some level is supposed to be a compliment. I think we write like twenty-first century women. We talk about social issues. We tackle violence—especially violence against women—in a frank way. We are no more or no less violent than men, but because we’re women, and women should only write romances or books where cats knit for their Amish owners, the subject matter of our books is more often than not exclaimed over. We have so many great women authors today who defy categorization, whether it’s Lisa Gardner, Megan Abbott, Tess Gerritsen or any number of others, yet no one has really talked about the fact that we’re transforming the genre. I think that our male counterparts have definitely benefitted from our influence in the field. We’ve made it all right for boy books to have female characters in their stories who are there for more than screwing or saving. Lee Child, for instance, is a great feminist. The women in his books are tough and strong and even if they end up sleeping with Reacher (and who wouldn’t?) he still respects them in the morning. He still has no qualms about going shoulder-to-shoulder with them against the bad guys. Peter Robinson, John Connolly and Mark Billingham are some other examples among many. And while we women still have an uphill battle, it made me feel so proud to see the Edgars list this year and note that for the first time in my memory, at least, there are three women nominated. Generally, it’s four men and one woman, or no women at all.

What makes Atlanta the perfect setting for your novels?

KS:  Atlanta is a city rife with crime, political malfeasance, burglary, larceny, murder—we’re talking 24/7. It’s also an extremely integrated and international city. I think at last count there were over eighty languages spoken in the metropolitan area. We’re also sprawling, with no real center point you can point to and say, “this is the middle of town.” That used to be the Five Points area, but over the years, we’ve developed large city centers in four different areas, separated by miles of neighborhoods. I love flying into the airport, because you can see all the different pockets of skyscrapers dotting the horizon with tons of trees in between (Atlanta has the largest urban forest of any major American city). Unless you know what you’re looking for, you can’t point to one Atlanta. This, of course, is great for a crime writer because it gives me almost unlimited access to places I can hide bodies.

What can fans expect from your upcoming book Fallen?

KS:  First and foremost, they can expect a rip-roaring read. The first chapter came straight out of a training exercise I watched a handful of GBI agents perform. The agency took over an abandoned school building for a day. They set up a simulated school-shooting event, with an actor playing the shooter and others playing hostages, students and teachers. They turned off the lights, had loud music blaring, people screaming and gunshots popping off. Each agent had to go in by themselves and find the shooter. This is a major shift from their regular training, which, pre-Columbine was to set up a perimeter, then go room by room and clear out the innocent and save the injured, and eventually get to the shooter. Now, the directive is to go straight in, ignore everyone else, even the injured, and either kill or arrest the shooter. You saw this shift during the Ft. Hood massacre, where the MP went straight in and, even though she was injured, unloaded her magazine into the shooter to stop him. So, I followed about thirty agents through this school-shooting exercise and my heart was pounding each time, because I knew—as they did—that one day this might actually happen to them. At the end of the exercise, they were so full of adrenaline that they were literally bouncing off the walls. And I do mean literally. I felt that way, too, and when I got home, I knew that I wanted to open a book with something similar. So, in the first chapter of Fallen, Faith Mitchell pulls into her mother’s driveway one sunny afternoon. She hears her baby crying. She sees a bloody hand-print on the door. She gets her shotgun and goes into the house and… You’ll have to read the book to find out, but suffice it to say, what I write about in the book is exactly what I saw that day at the school.

Thank you so much, Karin, for stopping by, congratulations on your Silver Bullet Award and best of luck with Fallen!

For more information on author Karin Slaughter, please visit her website.

To purchase Fallen, please visit my Amazon store here.

For more information on ThrillerFest, please go here.


There’s no police training stronger than a cop’s instinct. Faith Mitchell’s mother isn’t answering her phone. Her front door is open. There’s a bloodstain above the knob. Her infant daughter is hidden in a shed behind the house. All that the Georgia Bureau of Investigations taught Faith Mitchell goes out the window when she charges into her mother’s house, gun drawn. She sees a man dead in the laundry room. She sees a hostage situation in the bedroom. What she doesn’t see is her mother. . . .

“You know what we’re here for. Hand it over, and we’ll let her go.”

When the hostage situation turns deadly, Faith is left with too many questions, not enough answers. To find her mother, she’ll need the help of her partner, Will Trent, and they’ll both need the help of trauma doctor Sara Linton. But Faith isn’t just a cop anymore—she’s a witness. She’s also a suspect.

The thin blue line hides police corruption, bribery, even murder. Faith will have to go up against the people she respects the most in order to find her mother and bring the truth to light—or bury it forever.

Karin Slaughter’s most exhilarating novel yet is a thrilling journey through the heart and soul, where the personal and the criminal collide, and conflicted loyalties threaten to destroy reputations and ruin lives. It is the work of a master of the thriller at the top of her game, and a whirlwind of unrelenting suspense.

June 26, 2011


BOOK DESCRIPTION:  Despite all her years determining the fates of families, veteran family court judge Hope Willis couldn't save her own. She never saw the car containing her kidnapped daughter, struggling to get out. Now she's frantically grasping at anything that might result in Krissy's rescue. Her husband dead-set against it, she calls Casey Woods, the head of Forensic Instincts, a renegade team of investigators, with a reputation for doing whatever it takes to solve life-or-death crimes.

A behaviorist. A techno-wizard. An intuitive. A former Navy S.E.A.L. A retired FBI Victim Recovery dog. All unconventional operatives. All with unique talents, skills, and personal reasons for being part of Casey's team.

Now they're up against what appears to be a precision kidnapping of a five-year-old. A strange distraction belies Hope Willis' desperation. Her husband, a cut-throat defense attorney, has a clear agenda of his own. Together, they have more than their fair share of enemies. Motives and suspects abound. But beneath the surface, lies a decades-old secret that threatens Forensic Instincts' investigation, along with any hope of finding Krissy.

Time is running out, and even with the little girl's life on the line the authorities are working round the clock within the confines of the legal system. Casey knows that staying within those confines is not enough. Not when the difference between bringing Krissy back alive and disappearing forever could be as shallow as a suspect's rapid breathing, or as deep as Hope's dark family history.

Picking up a book by an unfamiliar author and finding an incredible story within its pages is often reward enough but being able to add that author to your "must read" list is an added bonus.  Both feats were accomplished with Andrea Kane's The Girl Who Disappeared Twice

I love mysteries and thrillers.  When I find a mystery/thriller that keeps me involved, that has a good story and doesn't insult my intelligence, I'm happy.  It's been a happy few days around my house with The Girl Who Disappeared Twice.

All mystery/thriller requisites are covered in this slick, tight read.  A missing child, a handful of viable suspects and a clock that is ticking.  Main protagonist Casey Woods is smart, quick on her feet and driven - - the perfect heroine for such a novel  I liked her immediately and I felt I knew her, giving me a quick connection to her.  Likewise her team of private investigators - - I thoroughly enjoyed reading about their technologies and methods of tracking down their prey.  And I love any book that has a dog or cat as a major part of the story! 

The investigation was fascinating to read, in part because the questions were not answered too soon and Ms. Kane defly wove the mystery of the two child abductions together, seamlessly and cleverly.  She keeps the reader on edge, waiting for more, desperately needing the answers to this tale, and feeling intensely for these characters. 

Where The Girl Who Disappeared Twice really succeeds is the writing, which is flawless.  The story reads as smooth as the finest silk and at no point did I question why a character would be acting in such a fashion or speaking in such a way.  No plot points from the story seem forced or driven just to move the story forward; everything is fluid. 

By the same token, Ms. Kane gives the reader solid character development.  You can relate to Casey in the same way that you can ache for grieving mother Hope and frightened child Krissy.  The only weak link in this writer's opinion with the character development is FBI agent Hutch, which I hope will be further clarified in a subsequent book featuring this wonderful team and cast of characters. 

The Girl Who Disappeared Twice is a fantastic read for mystery and thriller fans.  There is very mild profanity in a few areas and a couple of sexual situations but nothing graphic on either front and nothing that would be offensive to the majority of readers. 

For fans of Ms. Kane's who are looking for pure romance, The Girl Who Disappeared Twice will be a letdown as romance is not the first objective of this book.  However, the storyline is so strong - - even after figuring out the identity of the kidnapper halfway through - - your desire for romance will quickly be forgotten. 

I would not hesitate to recommend The Girl Who Disappeared Twice to any reader looking for a good read with memorable characters and something you don't want to put down.  It's an involving read but not so heavy that you can't whip it out at the pool.   So impressed was I with this book that Andrea Kane has been added to my "must read" list and I hope that she decides to make a series out of Casey Woods and her intrepid Forensic Instincts team. 

The Girl Who Disappeared Twice is available for purchase now at major booksellers, including Amazon. I am an Amazon affiliate. If you make a purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission.

For information on author Andrea Kane, please visit her website

Review copy of this book provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. In no way did the provision of the book affect the outcome of my review.

WEEKEND WRAP UP: June 26, 2011

Happy Sunday! I hope everyone has had a wonderful week.  It was a slow week here with my husband home but hopefully this coming week I will be back on track with reviews and a Mailbox Monday. 

On Saturday, I posted my pick for the week's Summer Read Saturday

How did your book week go? 

June 25, 2011


Welcome to another installment of Summer Read Saturday, where we share a good summer beach read with other readers. Please join in by commenting on this post or sharing your own Summer Read Saturday post below. Grab the button above or on the left sidebar to share.

Here is what I am sharing from my beach bag this week:

MASTER OF THE GAME by Sidney Sheldon

BOOK DESCRIPTION:  Kate Blackwell is one of the richest and most powerful women in the world. She is an enigma, a woman surrounded by a thousand unanswered questions. Her father was a diamond prospector who struck it rich beyond his wildest dreams. Her mother was the daughter of a crooked Afrikaaner merchant. Her conception was itself an act of hate-filled vengeance. At the extravagent celebrations of her ninetieth birthday, there are toasts from a Supreme Court Judge and a telegram from the White House. And for Kate there are ghosts, ghosts of absent friends and of enemies. Ghosts from a life of blackmail and murder. Ghosts from an empire spawned by naked ambition! Sidney Sheldon is one of the most popular storytellers in the world. This is one of his best-loved novels, a compulsively readable thriller, packed with suspense, intrigue and passion. It will recruit a new generation of fans to his writing.

Going with the title of this book,  Sidney Sheldon was the master of his game, writing soapy, suspenseful tales with a vengeance.  He had already penned Rage of Angels by the time Master of the Game was released in 1982, a good read in its own right, but I personally feel that Master is his finest literary masterpiece. 
It's a book thick with pages and thick with characters, spanning a full century.  First, we have stubborn Jamie, then his daughter, the tenacious Kate, followed by her son Tony and his daughters, the beautiful twins Eve and Alexandra.  Each section is full of mystery, deceit, lust and rage and is deliciously soapy.  
This is a perfect beach or poolside read because although it's a very involved story, the melodrama has Movie of the Week stamped all over it.  In fact, a miniseries of the book was done back in the 80s when miniseries were all the rage.  Also a wonderful guilty pleasure, by the way.  
Don't let the bulk of the book (500+ pages) scare you.  The pages quickly fly by, especially the chapters dealing with the angelic and devilish twins, which was my favorite section. 
So pull out the sunscreen and settle in for a lusciously luxurious afternoon spent with Sidney Sheldon and his memorable characters. 
If you'd like to add Master of the Game to your library, please shop at my Amazon store here
What is your summer read for this week? 

June 19, 2011

WEEKEND WRAP UP: June 19, 2011

Happy Sunday! I hope this past week has been a good one for all.  My husband came home this week from a 7+ month deployment - - yay!  I am thrilled and, obviously, haven't spent as much time here this past week. 

This was my book week:

On Monday, I posted my Mailbox Monday for the prior week. 

On Tuesday,  I welcomed author Matt Dunn, who talked about his new book Ex-Girlfriends United.

On Saturday, I posted my pick for the week's Summer Read Saturday

How did your book week go? 

June 18, 2011


Welcome to another installment of Summer Read Saturday, where we share a good summer beach read with other readers. Please join in by commenting on this post or sharing your own Summer Read Saturday post by using the link below. Grab the button above or on the left sidebar to share.

Here is what I am sharing from my beach bag this week:


BOOK DESCRIPTION:  It was a case of tender, loving murder.

The four children had perfect lives. They lived in a golden family filled with happiness. But their father dies suddenly, their mother throws themselves on the mercy of her parents - who had disowned her long ago.  

Their mother promised they would stay only long enough to inherit the fortune. But gradually she forgot how much she adored her family. Kept hidden in the airless attic, the children now lived alone except for fleeting visits from their mother. Visits that became increasing infrequent... and increasily deadly...

Flowers in the Attic: the compelling story of a family's betrayal and heartbreak, love and revenge.

I originally reviewed Flowers in the Attic here so I won't rehash every point.  But let me just say that Flowers  is an absolutely perfect beach read.  There is love, there is hate, there is sex, there is violence, there is death, there is survival and, of course, completely, totally illicit love. 

This is the first book that I ever became utterly obsessed with.  It started a series that culminated in five books, spawned an awful movie and had teenaged girls running to the bookstores in record numbers.  It also started a remarkable career for V. C. Andrews. 

What Stephenie Meyers is for this generation of teens with her Twilight saga, V. C. Andrews was for teen girls in the 80s.  Flowers is no literary masterpiece so don't pick up the book expecting to expand your literary horizons - - it's good old fashioned addictive and slightly smutty reading with some of the most memorable characters put to paper.  In fact, while writing this I can still recall the torrent of emotions I felt at fourteen, reading of Cathy's pain and torment. 

So go ahead and grab Flowers - - but be prepared to pick up Petals on the Wind (the sequel and second book in the series) at the same time because once you visit Cathy and Chris and the entire family, you will be craving more. 

If you'd like to add Flowers in the Attic to your library, please shop at my Amazon store here.

What is your summer read for this week?

June 14, 2011

Author Interview: MATT DUNN

Please join me in welcoming Matt Dunn, author of the deliciously funny and newly published Ex-Girlfriends United, to Psychotic State Book Reviews.

Hi Matt! Welcome to Psychotic State Book Reviews. Thank you for taking the time to chat with me and my readers.   You have a new book out - - Ex-Girlfriends United - - which I am reading now at the time of this interview and absolutely loving. What can you tell us about it?

MD:  Thank you! Well, it's the sequel to The Ex-Boyfriend's Handbook, and follows Ed and Dan as they try to navigate the minefield that is the world of dating. Here, Dan has got himself into trouble - his ex-girlfriends have been leaving, shall we say, less than complimentary reviews about him on a new website called Slate Your Date. Worried he'll never find another girlfriend if he doesn't get them to retract them, Dan sets about trying to right all his previous wrongs. Meanwhile, Ed is finding that the course of true love doesn't always run smoothly, especially when your psychotic ex-girlfriend reappears.

Did you have an easier time writing for the love ‘em and leave ‘em Dan or the more sedate and sensible Edward?

MD:  Edward's probably easier to write, simply because there's more of me in him. Dan's a lot more fun to write, though!

Readers were first introduced to Dan and Edward, and other supporting characters, in The Ex-Boyfriend’s Handbook. How did you come up with the idea for the books?

MD:  I initially wanted to write about how it feels to be dumped, and Ex-Boyfriends sort of grew from there. I don't generally tend to plan out my books, and once Ed and Dan became fully-formed, it was fun to see where they'd lead me. I hadn't planned to write a sequel, but then I got a lot of emails from readers asking me what happened to the characters – especially Dan. I'd loved writing about them, too, so it seemed a natural thing to do a follow on, and that's where Ex-Girlfriends United came from. The third in the series, The Accidental Proposal, has just come out in the UK, though that'll (probably) be it - I think it's time to leave them to get on with their lives without any more interference from me.

You write from the male perspective but your books seem geared more so toward women. Would you agree with that assessment?

MD:  I know I have a lot more female readers than male ones, but I'm not sure I gear my books towards one or the other. I just try and write the kind of books I'd like to read, and I'm pleased that both men and women get some enjoyment from them.

Will women read your books and get a better understanding of how men think?

MD:  So I've been told. Though I'd caution readers not to take Dan's opinions too seriously – he's not representative of most of us guys out there. I hope!

You have the very interesting and unusual niche of being a male writing chick lit. How does it feel holding the testosterone flag on an estrogen field?

MD:  I love it. And if it means I can bring a different perspective to the genre, then that's great.

What part of being a writer do you enjoy the most? What is the least enjoyable part?

MD  Ask me those questions on different days, and I could answer 'the writing' to them both! The worst? I guess sometimes editing can be a bit of a chore – by that time, you've read and re-read your own work so many times that you start to lose the will to live, but it's a minor gripe – I know that I'm extremely lucky to get to make up stories for a living, and I love the creative process. The best part has to be hearing from people who have read and enjoyed my books, or meeting them at readings/signings/events. It makes an author's day when someone takes the time to tell you they've enjoyed what you've written.

Are you working on a project now?

MD:  I'm working on a few: Another romantic comedy, plus something a little more serious, and a stage play. After six novels, it's fun to have a go at something a little different.

When you’re not writing, what authors do you prefer curling up with?

MD:  I like loads. David Mitchell is perhaps my current favourite – Cloud Atlas is one of my favourite books, and I've got his latest on my TBR pile. Nick Hornby is another author I love – his High Fidelity was the novel that made me want to write in the first place. And David Nicholls' One Day is one of the most stunning novels I've read recently.

If you could bring to life one fictional character from a book or movie, who would you choose and why?

MD:  James Bond. I think he'd be an interesting friend to have.

Lastly, what one word would you use to describe Ex-Girlfriends United?

MD:  Onsalenow.

Thank you so much, Matt, for taking the time to answer my questions. Best of luck to you with the delicious Ex-Girlfriends United!

MD:  Thank you. It's been fun!

For more information on author Matt Dunn and Ex-Girlfriends United, please visit his website

To purchase Ex-Girlfriends United, please visit my Amazon store here.

What do you think, gentle readers?  Can a man successfully write chick lit? 

Stay tuned this week for my upcoming review of Ex-Girlfriends United!

June 13, 2011

MAILBOX MONDAY: June 13, 2011

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house during the previous week. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists! Mailbox Monday, which was started by Marcia at The Printed Page, is on blog tour—and The Bluestocking Guide is hosting during the month of June.

This is the goodie that I received last week:

Pacific Heights by Paul Harper, received from LibraryThing Early Reviewers

SYNOPSIS:  The attractive and cunning genius Ryan Kroll is known throughout the private sector as a man who can obtain information by any means necessary — often using creative and violent tactics to get what he wants. In the past, his targets were obvious and his end result was clear. So when he appears in the affluent and seemingly quiet community of Pacific Heights and quickly begins illicit affairs with the wives of two of San Francisco’s most powerful businessmen, his behavior is suspect. But when the psychotherapist treating both women realizes that Kroll has broken into her files and is using the women’s private thoughts and fears against them, manipulating them to the point of insanity, it becomes more than coincidence — it becomes deadly.

The job of capturing Kroll before it’s too late falls to Marten Fane, a retired detective known for his clear head and complete discretion. Haunted by his own demons and employing his quick wit, Fane might be the perfect person to foil Kroll’s mental games and prevent him from committing what could possibly be a traceless form of murder.

With a tight plot and a ruthless narrative, Pacific Heights introduces the Marten Fane series with the breakneck suspense and extraordinary talent only a bestselling author could create.

What goodies arrived in your mailbox last week? 

June 12, 2011

WEEKEND WRAP UP: June 12, 2011

Happy Sunday!  I hope this past week went well for everyone.  I am recuperating from a respiratory infection and laryngitis, plus my husband comes home this week, so my posts may be a bit spotty for the next seven days.  But I encourage everyone to stop by on Tuesday, June 14, when I welcome author Matt Dunn to Psychotic State Book Reviews. 

This was my book week:

On Monday, I posted my Mailbox Monday for the prior week.

On Wednesday, I posted my review of Bianca Turetsky's The Time Traveling Fashionista

On Thursday, author Belinda Roberts stopped by to answer a few questions about her wickedly funny Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard.

On Saturday, I posted my pick for the week's Summer Read Saturday

How did your book week go? 

June 11, 2011


Welcome to another installment of Summer Read Saturday, where we share a good summer beach read with other readers.  Please join in by commenting on this post or sharing your own Summer Read Saturday post by using the link below. Grab the button above or on the left sidebar to share.

Here is what I am sharing from my beach bag this week: 


BOOK DESCRIPTION:  Folksy and fresh, endearing and affecting, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is the now-classic novel of two women in the 1980s: of gray-headed Mrs. Threadgoode telling her life story to Evelyn, who is in the sad slump of middle age. The tale she tells is also of two women--of the irrepressibly daredevilish tomboy Idgie and her friend Ruth--who back in the thirties ran a little place in Whistle Stop, Alabama, a Southern kind of Cafe Wobegon offering good barbecue and good coffee and all kinds of love and laughter, even an occasional murder. And as the past unfolds, the present--for Evelyn and for us--will never be quite the same again. . . .

This one is a bit of an oldie but quite the goodie.  If you like Southern fiction and strong female friendships, Fannie Flagg is your lady. 

Ms. Flagg has the ability to not only weave wonderfully involving stories but to do so with bright, unforgettable characters.  Tomatoes reads like a soapy southern fiction, complete with illicit love, abusive relationships, deep friendships, murder and a resulting trial.  Are you intrigued?  You should be - - this book is as delicious as fried chicken, potato salad and pecan pie.

The book alternates between present day (circa 1987, the time the book was published) when Evelyn Couch listens to fascinating stories of the small town of Whistle Stop, Alabama from elderly Mrs. Threadgoode, and flashbacks to the times Mrs. Threadgoode reminisces about.  Normally when I read books that have present day versus flashbacks I have a preference to one time period or the other.  With Tomatoes, I loved both settings and characters so much I could never choose between the two. 

The book provides wonderful insight into not only small town Southern America but also the special dynamics in female friendships.  We see it with Idgie and Ruth in the flashback scenes but also see it very strongly with Mrs. Threadgoode and Evelyn, who develop an almost mother-daughter bond over their weekly visits.  There are a handful of male characters present, and vital, to the tale but they truly are secondary to the wonderful women in this story.

Tomatoes is a great beach read not just because of its Peyton Place meets small town Alabama nature but also because it will have you laughing out loud.  Pages of the book will tickle your funny bone as people and conversations jump off the page and come alive for you.  Certain characters are simply a hoot and surely while reading this book you will recognize someone you know, or at least a portion of them, in a certain character or characters. 

Tomatoes is a quick and breezy read, not taxing and perfect to whip out while you're getting comfortable on your towel or lawn chair.  This book was the first I read by Fannie Flagg and it led me to her others.  It will likely do the same for you.

As an added bonus, pair the book with the splendid 1991 film (shortened to Fried Green Tomatoes) and have a wonderful day or weekend with Fannie Flagg and her southern ladies.  As an aside, the film follows the book relatively closely but there are a few things the book offers the movie does not.

If you'd like to add Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe to your library, please shop at my Amazon store here

What is your summer read for this week? 

June 9, 2011

Author Interview: BELINDA ROBERTS

Please join me in welcoming Belinda Roberts, author of the newly released Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard, a fun and modern take on Pride and Prejudice, to Psychotic State Book Reviews.

Hi Belinda! Welcome to Psychotic State Book Reviews. Thank you for taking the time to chat with me and my readers.

You have a new book out - - Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard - - which I recently finished, by the way, and found an absolute hoot. What can you tell us about it?

BR:  It's a fun, light-hearted beach read.  Pride and Prejudice with sun, sea and sand; assemblies and ballgowns replaced by boats and bikinis.  Picture (if you dare!) Mr. Collins in swimming trunks, Lady Catherine de Brrr arriving by helicopter, the luxury yacht Pemberley, Kitty and Lydia streaking, Lizzy swimming across the estuary in a wet suit, Darcy, his taut, muscular body, also in a black, rubbery wetsuit, Netherpollock, Rosings on the Rocks, great excitement at the arrival of the lifeguards, Maria choking on lobster, Charlotte Lucas revealing her engagement plans to Lizzy on an upturned dinghy, Bingley making friendship bracelets with Jane . . . all within the plot of the original Pride and Prejudice
Jane Austen has a very devoted following of fans. Were you worried that by modernizing one of her classics you might offend the more serious Janeites?

BR:  No.  There are of course two types of "serious Janeites".  The first group of "serious Janeites" are those who love Jane Austen and therefore must have a good sense of humour - - Jane Austen certainly did.  These "serious Janeites" would not be at all offended at Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard but would enjoy the book as the fun read it is intended.

Now, the other "serious Janeites" are just that:  deadly serious!  Lacking a sense of humour, they probably don't really understand Jane Austen herself and might well be offended - - always taking themselves too seriously and unable to enjoy a little fun!  I'm sure Jane Austen would enjoy poking a little fun at them

Tackling existing characters - - much less beloved ones - - must be very difficult! What obstacles did you encounter creating your own versions of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth?

BR:  It was actually quite straightforward.  Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard is not a Pride and Prejudice follow on - - rather follows the original in plot chapter by chapter.  I simply had to ask myself "What would Darcy or Elizabeth be doing now, in this modern setting?"  I was keen to keep the essence of their characters.  So, for instance, when Elizabeth decies to walk across to Netherfield in the original, I decided she could swim across the estuary to Netherpollock - -an equally headstrong and energetic action.  The fact that she emerges from the sea, masked and in her rubber wet suit seems incredible to the Bingley girls "and they hold her in contempt for it".  Darcy, however, when questioned by Cazza Bingley about his "admiration of her (Elizabeth's) fine eyes" replies that "even through her mask I could see that they were brightened by the exercise".  Hopefully readers will not see them as my versions of Darcy and Elizabeth - - rather Darcy and Elizabeth transposed to a modern, possibly slightly wacky, setting.

What character was the most difficult to grasp or write?

BR:  Lydia's behavior was always going to be tricky.  I felt the Polegate situation was just perfect.  It is shocking whilst maintaining the humour of the book.  It portrays Wickham as the rascal he is, Lydia as fun-loving but foolish and Kitty as a silly girl, envious but completely missing the point: 

"It's so unfair.  Lydia's clubbing and I'm crabbing . . . I mean, what's the difference wearing your bikini on the beach in the day or wearing your bikini in the evening and sliding down a pole?" 

It also gives the opportunity for Mary to whisper wisely to Lizzy the famous:

"This is a most unfortunate affair and will be much talked of.  But we must stem the tide of malice and pour into the wounded bosoms of each other the balm of sisterly consolation."

Lydia, impetuous and bursting with life, goes on to be "saved".  I felt quite strongly about this.  I have always found Lydia's story a bit depressing and I really did not want her to end up frustrated and unhappy.  I wanted to draw on her positive side and maintain the feelgood factor effect! 

What part of writing Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard did you enjoy the most?

BR:  I absolutely loved playing with the language and situation.  For me, the mix of regency and modern is just hilarious and I found myself laughing out loud frequently when writing.  In our family it is not uncommon for one of my daughters to say to another something along the lines "Come, let us take a turn around the room.  I assure you it is very refreshing after sitting so long in one attitude."  Meaning "Take those plugs out of your ears and let's go out for a walk." 

When Lizzy meets Lady Catherine (Lady Catherine de Brrr in Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard) the conversation is drawing room society in tone but modern in topic.  Mr. Collins is overwhelmingly impressed by Lady Catherine's bulletproof windows which prompts Lady Catherine to say:

"I always wear a bulletproof vest . . . in my position you can never be too careful.  Do you wear a bulletproof vest, Miss Elizabeth Bennet?"

"Rarely" (Lizzy replies)

"That is very foolish."

"I find it hard to accomodate under a bikini.  Do you wear a bikini, Lady Catherine?"

The audacity of this remark made other members of the party draw sharp intakes of breath.

"You are a bold and foolish girl, Miss Elizabeth Bennet, but I will excuse you this once, as you clearly are new to such company as occurs at Rosings on the Rocks."

What is such fun is that even though in Salcombe today there are fast cars, yachts, iPods, texts . . . we are the same now as always: ambitious mothers, young lovers, fathers wishing to escape.  It's all there.  My only real worry is that with teenage children myself, I am not cast as Mrs. Bennet!

What led you to write a 21st century version of Pride and Prejudice?

BR:  As a family we have spent many happy holidays in the English seaside town of Salcombe and the thought that it would be just the place where a modern day Bennet family would go on holiday grew and grew.  Salcombe is fashionable, sociable, the place to be seen and perfect for any mother on the hunt for a young Darcy for her daughters.  In my mind, the ballgowns of Pride and Prejudice started to be replaced by bikinis, Pemberley became a sixty-two foot yacht, the famous Netherfield ball the equally famous Salcombe Estuary Swim, the militia the lifeguards - - the links seemed perfect and I couldn't wait to start.  My opportunity came when I went down to Salcombe to accompany my eldest daughter, Sophie, who needed some peace and quiet to write her dissertations on Debussy's Pelleas et Melisande.  This was a serious endeavor.  We both sat at the little kitchen table of our terraced house in Island Street, Salcombe, set up our laptops and started to write.  I was keen that my book should follow Jane Austen's original chapter for chapter in plot and characterisation as best I could.  The combination of reading Pride and Prejudice, translating it into a modern seaside setting and trying to keep quiet was too much and I kept bursting out laughing - - which was not helpful to poor Sophie! 

Prior to writing Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard you were a playwright. How does one segue from writing plays to writing a novel inspired by Jane Austen?

BR:  Writing plays is all about dialogue.  Every line must be true to the character of the speaker - - and reveal that speaker's personality to the audience.  Jane Austen does this superbly in her novels.  No word is ever wasted - - and everything anyone says is so revealing.  So it wasn't too tricky to move from plays to a novel.
Being a wife and mother, you must have a busy life! How does writing fit into that?

BR:  I write about things my children enjoy so they are keen to be involved!  Last summer we made a film of Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard - - you can see a preview at http://www.beetleheart.co.uk/

The plays I have written have also been a rich source of discussion!  Vivaldi's Angels, for instance, is set in 1703 in Venice and is about the time Vivaldi spent at the girl's orphanage Ospedale della Pieta, OTMA's Glory is about the last Romanov family and Starry Night, set in Paris, is about Vincent van Gogh, the artist community at the turn of the century and a group of English girls looking for love!

Are you working on a project now? Any possibility that we will see another Austen inspired work?

BR:  I have two children's books I have nearly finished!  But I do have another Austen inspired work on the back burner.  Will keep you posted! 
I would take it that you are a fan of Jane Austen. What other authors would you consider yourself a fan of?

BR:  Anthony Buckeridge.  He wrote the wonderful Jennigns and Darbyshire books.  Never read them in a quiet place as you won't be able to stop laughing out loud! 
If Jane Austen could read Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard what do you think she would like most and like least about it?

BR:  I think she would enjoy the humour, the mix of language and situation.  The manners of girls stuffing their faces with Chupa Chups would probably not go down too well!
You can sit down to tea with one character from a book of your choice. Who would it be, why and what would you most like to ask him/her?

BR:  Charlotte Lucas has always fascinated and rather horrified me.  How could she have married Mr. Collins? 
Lastly, what one word would you use to describe Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard?

BR:  Sunny!

Thank you so much, Belinda, for taking the time to answer my questions. Best of luck to you with the wickedly funny Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard!

For more information on Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard and author Belinda Roberts, please visit her Facebook page here and her Twitter page here.  

For my review of Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard, please click here

To purchase Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard, please visit here
So readers . . . what do you think?  Do you prefer your Jane Austen straight or will you take her with a slight dose of humor?  Click on the above link for my review to find out what I think!

June 8, 2011

Book Review: THE TIME TRAVELING FASHIONISTA by Bianca Turetsky

BOOK DESCRIPTION:  When Louise Lambert receives a mysterious invitation to a traveling vintage fashion sale in the mail, her normal life in suburban Connecticut is magically transformed into a time traveling adventure.

After a brief encounter with two witchy salesladies and donning an evening gown that once belonged to a beautiful silent film star, Louise suddenly finds herself onboard a luxurious cruise ship in 1912. As Alice Baxter, the silent film star, Louise enjoys her access to an extensive closet of gorgeous vintage gowns and begins to get a feel for the challenges and the glamour of life during this decadent era. Until she realizes that she's not just on any ship-- she's on the Titanic!

Will Louise be able to save herself and change the course of history, or are she and her film star alter ego, destined to go down with a sinking ship in the most infamous sea disaster of the 20th century?

The Time Traveling Fashionista combines some of the themes I love most in books - - time travel, old Hollywood, glamorous fashion and the Titanic - - and it manages to turn out a truly fun, cute book. 

While the book is marketed and geared toward the Young Adult audience (main character Louise is twelve years old) adults can appreciate the book's charm.  I certainly did. 

I thrilled in the descriptions of the mouthwatering fashions circa 1912, which were exciting enough in my mind but the illustrations scattered throughout the book - - nearly 30 of them, I believe - - were absolutely beautiful and provided an additional bonus to the book.  I dare you to read The Time Traveling Fashionista and walk away not feeling the glamour of the times.  The glamorous people, the glamorous clothing, the glamorous travel.  Everything was just so darn glamorous.  If you traveled first class, that is. 

Ms. Turetsky took real people from the actual Titanic disaster and brought them to life through Louise's eyes, interspersing them with fictional characters who plumped up the story and added drama.  Who wouldn't feel at least a tinge of sadness reading about Louise's meeting with Isidor and Ida Strauss, knowing they would not survive the Titanic's maiden voyage?  Or Captain Smith, who was so proud and sure of his White Star lady? 

Louise herself made a nice little heroine for teens and tweens alike.  She's gawky, she has braces, she thinks her hair is frizzy and she wishes real life was more like movie life.  She takes pictures of herself on a daily basis, hoping to see the transformation from girl to woman and feeling disappointed daily with the lack of results.  Waking and finding herself in the body of a seventeen year old silent movie star, one who is elegant, charming and utterly stunning, at first delights Louise to no end but she quickly realizes that movie life isn't everything it's cracked up to be and wants to return to her life as a normal pre-teen girl.  Yes, there is a life lesson in the book, as well as perhaps a bit of a history lesson for those kids who haven't learned about the Titanic,but the story is just so darn cute (I know, I'm repeating myself) it's worthwhile.

What didn't I like about The Time Traveling Fashionista?  I was frustrated that Louise didn't realize she was aboard the Titanic for nearly twenty-four hours - - obviously an adult from today would have realized that in quick fashion.  As her placement on the Titanic is known from the book's jacket, withholding it from Louise didn't make a lot of sense to me.  I think she could have realized where she was and what was going to happen sooner and the story would still have moved along nicely. 

At times I also wished the book was more geared to adult audiences as I thought the story concept was fantastic.  As I don't read a lot of Young Adult books, I had to readjust my brain, in a sense, to remember that I was reading a story from an adolescent's point of view. 

All in all, I found The Time Traveling Fashionista good, old fashioned fun.  I would recommend it to any reader who enjoys time travel, the Young Adult genre and perhaps historical fiction, but light historical fiction.  Titanic buffs might be a bit disappointed that more facts and details about the disaster were not provided.  However, I was left happy and content and looking forward to the next book in the series.  Bravo, Ms. Turetsky.

The Time Traveling Fashionista is  available for purchase now at major booksellers, including Amazon. I am an Amazon affiliate. If you make a purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission.

For information on author Bianca Turetsky or further information on the book, please visit the series' website.

FTC Disclosure: This book was borrowed from my local public library. I was neither compensated nor paid in any way for this review.

June 6, 2011

MAILBOX MONDAY: June 6, 2011

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house during the previous week. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists! Mailbox Monday, which was started by Marcia at The Printed Page, is on blog tour—and The Bluestocking Guide is hosting during the month of June.

These are the goodies I received last week:

Foxy's Tale by L.B. Gschwandtner and Karen Cantwell, received by author for review

SYNOPSIS:  Foxy Anders has a list of problems as long as a shopping spree receipt from Neiman Marcus. She's a retail spender with no money to spare and a former beauty queen with no man in her life. After a nightmare divorce she's left with one asset, a building off Washington, D.C.'s classy DuPont Circle. By turning the ground floor into an antique shop, Foxy figures she has an excuse to spend money ... that she doesn't have.

Foxy also has a teenaged daughter, Amanda, who likes to blog secretly about her biggest problem - Foxy. At least, she thinks Foxy is her biggest problem. But that's all about to change when she hooks up with Nick, a cute guy at school who evidently has a gift for attracting older women. Amanda just doesn't know HOW much older they really are.

When Foxy rents the garden apartment to stylish, shoe-fettishista Knot, who turns out to have a knack for talking wealthy Washington A-listers into Foxy's antiques, it looks as if Foxy will make it on her own after all. Except that Knot is also a genius at creating problems ... in his love life.

They're a quirky threesome to be sure, but when mysterious, bumbling, Myron Standlish arrives on the scene with a suitcase full of Yiddish-isms, he brings along his own set of problems, larger and stranger than all of theirs put together. Oy vey. How will Myron's personal journey affect their lives? Well ... that's Foxy's Tale.

A comic, chick lit, coming-of-age, vampire tale (sort of) where family triumphs over adversity and mother and daughter learn how to face the world as grownups - together.

The Menace Series by Terri Ann Armstrong, received by the author for review

Morning Menace, Book One - Take a neurotic woman with an attention to detail and throw her in the middle of a murder investigation on a farm and you get more than horseplay. Starleen Maddox is thrust—unbeknownst to anyone—into the lives of the Grayson family as they try to figure out who’s stealing their farm supplies and killing their horses. Add to the mix feuding brothers, family honor and a rich hose breeder from Texas, and nothing is as it seems.

Medieval Menace, Book Two - Starleen Maddox no longer has her nose buried in a book. There’s no time. She is living her own nightmare up-close and personal. After being dumped by the man she was in love with, Starleen finds herself spiraling out of control believing she could be the monster who is kidnapping and killing the men who have been disappearing at an alarming rate. The cops are not lacking in suspects, but the evidence is a whole other deal. What’s the thread that links all the men together? Is that thread what drives the culprit to commit unspeakable acts? If so, why? The questions mount and the answers are fleeting. Can the police find the medieval menace before more deaths are left at their doorstep?

Highway to Vengeance by Brian Springer, received from the author for review

SYNOPSIS:  When ex-Navy SEAL Thomas Highway's wife is murdered right in front of his eyes, he sets out to find the men responsible. His investigation leads to Ferdinand Montoya, the former kingpin of a powerful Mexican drug cartel, but before he can exact justice, the Department of Homeland Security steps in and orders him to back off.

Despite threats from the DHS, Highway presses on, and soon finds himself caught up in a conspiracy involving Weapons of Mass Destruction, underground cross-border tunnels, and a shady government agency intent on using Highway to execute their own agenda.

From the sun-drenched beaches of San Diego to the crime-ridden streets of Tijuana, Highwy to Vengeance combines a hard-boiled, neo-noir, first-person POV with modern thriller elements and a dash of real-life SEAL training to create a twisting novel that explores the darkness within us all, the lengths one man will go to avenge his lost love, and the very nature of revenge itself.

Pride and Prejudice:  Hidden Lusts by Mitzi Szereto, received from the author for review

SYNOPSIS:  Imagine that Jane Austen had written the opening line of her satirical novel Pride and Prejudice this way: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a good romp and a good wife — although not necessarily from the same person or from the opposite sex." In Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts Mr. Darcy has never been more devilish and the seemingly chaste Elizabeth never more turned on.

The entire cast of characters from Austen's classic is here in this rewrite that goes all the way. This time Mr. Bingley and his sister both have designs on Mr. Darcy's manhood; Elizabeth's bff Charlotte marries their family's strange relation and stumbles upon a secret world of feminine relations more to her liking; and, in this telling, men are not necessarily the the only dominating sex. And of course there's some good old fashioned bodice ripping that shows no pride or prejudice and reveals hot hidden lusts in every page-turning chapter.

Love on the Big Screen by William J. Torgerson, received from the author for review

SYNOPSIS:  Meet Zuke, a college freshman whose understanding of love has been shaped by late-eighties romantic comedies, and who attends a school so strict it's against the rules to go to the movies. Zuke and his buddies, separated from the women on campus and forced to entertain themselves, form a club called the Brothers in Pursuit, which holds weekly meetings during which all the members dress in matching and embroidered boxer shorts, stand at attention to Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors," and report back to one another on their objectives: God,
knowledge, compassion, and women. Love on the Big Screen is a novel of friendship, the dangers of romanticized love, the complexities of faith and real life, and what happens to one young man as he finds out that life is nothing like the movies he loves.

What goodies arrived in your mailbox last week?