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    Q&A Stephen Leather


    Stephen Leather is one of the UK’s most successful thriller writers, an eBook and Sunday Times bestseller and author of the critically acclaimed Dan “Spider’ Shepherd series and the Jack Nightingale supernatural detective novels. Before becoming a novelist he was a journalist for more than ten years on newspapers such as The Times, the Daily Mirror, the Glasgow Herald, the Daily Mail and the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong.

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    Q&A with Faisal Ansari


    Faisal Ansari has spent the majority of his adult life strapped into a suit writing marketing and stuffy legal documentation for M&A transactions in the City.

    Despite growing up in London, Faisal’s overwhelming preference is to be outdoors.  When trapped indoors he reads until his eyes bleed.

    Faisal wrote full time to complete his first novel, The Pestilence.

    With your novel The Pestilence, what can readers expect?

    The story begins when a mysterious electrical phenomenon rolls above the cities of the world. The lightning which comes from the east, shines as far as the west and turns night into day.

    Two brothers of the lightning, Samuel Srour and Victor Pierre Chaput, are gifted powers by the storm.  Their paths intertwined, with enemies on all sides.

    The book is a thriller, a page-turner unfolding over a sixteen day period which counts down the arrival of the Pestilence.

    The Pestilence is my debut novel and is book one of the Jerusalem Chronicles.  I am quietly proud of it.

    Did the book take long to write?

    I wrote The Pestilence from October 2014-June 2015 and was lucky enough to be able to treat it as a full time job.  Following editing and amendments the book was published by Matador on October 31 2015.  It took 12 months from inception to publication.

    What was it like moving from the City into the real world?

    I had been working in the City for 16 years.  It was physically and mentally challenging.  The long hours meant you were away from the people who matter most to you.  Looking back it was an excellent experience, but there wasn’t much scope for creative writing.  The closest I got to being creative was trying to sneak inappropriate words into legal documents such as Listing Particulars.  My favourite sentence was saying that a product had a “banal penetration” rate in a market.  Then on the next draft of the document the “b” would mysteriously disappear.  Unfortunately, I never got it past the lawyers.

    Are any of the characters in the book based on real life?

    Victor is the only one who is based on someone I know; an Investment banker who looks exactly like Louis XVI.

    It says in your bio you are a big reader, what type of books do you read?

    I love reading.  When I am writing I stay away from fiction and read science/social science/ economics books and the occasional biography.  When I am not writing I binge read fiction almost as a catch up.  As long as it captures my attention, I will read any book in any genre from the Song of Ice and Fire to The Alchemist.  I don’t have a favourite book, but I love Murakami.

    I understand there is also an audiobook. 

    Yes as an indie author, I produced the audiobook myself.  My own voice is to high pitched cockney sparrow to be of any use in the audiobook.  I found a brilliant actor in Gareth Pierce who performed the 16 or so voices in the production.  Not only is Gareth highly talented he is also depressingly good looking.

    How do you deal with the fear of your book being rejected or trashed by critics and readers?

    I read somewhere that writing is a strange process of anxiety crowned by pleasure.  Waiting on feedback is indeed anxiety inducing.  I was lucky in that I had a network of people around me that would review and critique the book as I wrote it.  Importantly they had the courage to tell me when something didn’t work or what I wrote sucked balls.

    So far the book has had good reviews and I love what I do.  Like all things, the more I write the better my next novel will be.

    What advice can you give to anyone considering writing a book?

    Dostoevsky said that one must have the courage to dare.  I think any new writer needs to have the courage to sit down and go for it.  If you write from your heart, if you write from within; then the without will take care of itself.



    Q&A with Hugo Negron

    An avid fan of myths and fantasy, Hugo has a passion for reading and writing. His background includes an M.A. in clinical psychology from Roosevelt University as well as an M.A. in industrial/organizational psychology from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. He has also achieved PHR (Professional in Human Resources) certification.
    • What’s your book about?  

    The Stolen Thief continues a sub-plot from the prior book, The Prison Planet of the Mah-Lahkt. Glaive the thief has gone undercover for a special mission for the King which falls apart and he seemingly disappears. Qualtan insists on finding him, but the King, who has some bias against the thief because of his half-orcne heritage (orcnes being these bestial creatures they usually war against), won’t allow it, so the knight decides to go against his wishes and find him anyway.  In the process, he uncovers the truth about the legend of the Dokahlfar and the Vartahlfar, evil elves and their dwarfish companions that controlled an unknown technological magic, and ends up having to forge a truce with a band of servants from Those That Stand in Shadow (evil creatures that are recurring villains in the series), to attempt escape from the clutches of the Dokahlfar, while not trying to kill each other in the process.

    There’s adventure, excitement, and further developments in Qualtan’s growing schism with the King, especially from the way his close friend Glaive has been treated because of his mixed orcne race. In addition, there is the return of a knight that fled from a battle back in Book Two. In each book since then, I’ve been showing snippets on what has been happening to this character. His fate, along with that of a mystery character revealed in the last few pages of The Stolen Thief (a mystery character, by the by, that was referenced way back in Book One that probably no one will ever catch, heh heh), will lead to what happens to Qualtan in Book Five of Forging of a Knight – Knighthood’s End.

    • Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead characters from your book?

    That is a toughie! No one specific comes to mind, but someone along the lines of a David Wenham (who played Faramir in the Lord of the Rings movies) would have the right “look” and presence for Qualtan.

    Glaive the half-orcne thief would be even tougher. Being this sarcastic, distrustful, glass half-empty kind of a character, and yet still loyal to Qualtan and their friendship, would require the need for a combination of the snarkiness and deadpan comedy of a David John Battley (sadly deceased), similar to his role as Ergo the Magnificent from the movie Krull, and Roddy McDowall ala his role as Cornelius in the old Planet of the Apes movies (another great actor that has long since passed). Maybe your readers can help me out on that one, lol… 

    • What are you working on at the minute?

    The rough write-through for Book Five of the Forging of a Knight series, Knighthood’s End! The so-called curse Qualtan has been dealing with since the start seems to finally come through at last. Will he betray his knighthood, become a hunted fugitive, and lose everything he has, all for the sake of a love forbidden? The title might just give it away…

    • What was the hardest part of writing this book?  

    When you build up an ongoing series, you want to ensure that (a) the characters grow and the storyline progresses, built up by sub-plots and the actions of one story to another, but at the same time you want to make sure that (b) the next book in the series can still stand alone and be accessible to a new reader without getting bogged down with too many bits from the books that went before it.  Having all these references to strange names and stranger places from prior tales can only confuse a new reader and make them lose interest.

    • Do you write every single day? 

    I try to – sometimes I can be really productive and get a handful of pages in, other times maybe just a thought or paragraph to expand on later. If I hit a wall, I’ll take a few days off to recharge.

    • Do you have any advice for other writers?

    Write what you have a passion for, and not just to follow a theme or fad – the honesty of your writing will definitely shine through. Also, be patient with your ideas, and take the time to hear what your characters have to say. For some variety, I switched a supporting male knight in Book Two of the series into a female knight, not thinking much beyond that, but she literally took a life of her own, taking the storyline into a whole different area I hadn’t thought of and becoming a bigger part of the overall saga, improving it as well.

    • Is there any person/s that has inspired you to write Forging of a Knight, The Stolen Thief?

    Notwithstanding the aforementioned cartoon, for the entire series, I have given thanks to quite a few people – of course, my wife for giving me the gumption to write the stories now, not later, my mother and father who had always supported and encouraged my voracious reading habits, but especially my 7th grade teacher. She introduced her class to the creative wonder of role-playing games as a means to teach leadership and teamwork, and was also a big fan of fantasy herself. After that, I was really blown away by the concept and never looked back.

    • Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
    There is usually a subtle hint of acceptance and redemption in my stories, where the worst is assumed from certain individuals or groups until they are given a chance – such as Glaive in the first book, a certain Giant in the second, and of course, the wild and crazy band of orcnes in the fourth – another life lesson I wanted to touch upon, and one that really hits hard when you get to book five…
    • What books have most influenced your life most?

    Tolkien, of course, with regards to the introduction it gave me to fantasy. Although I write fantasy, I have always loved the intellectual battles of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, which helped me to think of questioning things in a logical manner and not just be taken in by the passion of an argument vs. the facts behind it, and the atmospheric detail of an H.P. Lovecraft where there was such a blend of invented mythology and real life locales the reader could easily become confused on what was real and what was not if they didn’t dig deep enough – another life lesson to be wary of!

    • What genre do you consider your book(s)? 

    Fantasy, epic fantasy. Action and adventure could be included with that, I would guess.

    Want to learn more: Catch up with Hugo by following him on Facebook


    Q&A Interview With David Litwack


    The urge to write first struck at age sixteen when working on a newsletter at a youth encampment in the woods of northern Maine. It may have been the wild night when lightning flashed at sunset followed by the northern lights rippling after dark. Or maybe it was the newsletter’s editor, a girl with eyes the color of the ocean. But he was inspired to write about the blurry line between reality and the fantastic.

    Using two fingers and lots of white-out, he religiously typed five pages a day throughout college and well into his twenties. Then life intervened. He paused to raise two sons and pursue a career, in the process — and without prior plan — becoming a well-known entrepreneur in the software industry, founding several successful companies. When he found time again to daydream, the urge to write returned.

    In this new stage of his life, he’s published Along the Watchtower in June, 2013 and The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky in May, 2014. His next book, The Children of Darkness, is the first of the Seekers series, a dystopian trilogy, and will be published in June, 2015.


    Q: Tell me a little about your book…

    The seed of an idea is a curious thing. I went for a walk along one of my favorite places on Cape Cod. On one side was Vineyard Sound, with Martha’s Vineyard rising from the fog, and on the other a series of inlets of increasing size. The first is called Little Pond and the next Great Pond. For some reason, I imagined young people growing up in Little Pond and envying those of Great Pond, wanting to find more from life than they had in their small village. From there, the story expanded. What if their limitation was not their small village, but a repressive authority that limited their potential to think and grow?

    At the same time as I was developing this plot, the real world was changing. Increasingly, I saw on the news stories of oppression and rigid limits placed on freedom of thought: modifying school curriculum to restrict the sciences; rewriting history; destroying evidence from the past; restrictions on dress and diet; banning music and the arts; and severe punishments like stoning for daring to think differently.

    Over time (several years), all these thoughts evolved in the Seekers dystopian trilogy.

    Q: Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

    The urge to write first struck me at age sixteen when working on a newsletter at a youth encampment in the woods of northern Maine. It may have been the wild night when lightning flashed at sunset followed by the northern lights rippling after dark. Or maybe it was the newsletter’s editor, a girl with eyes the color of the ocean. The next day, I had a column published under my byline, and I was hooked.

    Q: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

    Of course, everything I write has some basis in my own life. But fiction is less about recording reality than stitching together bits and pieces of things you’ve experienced and combining them with your craft to make a story—one that will hopefully let the reader add their own life experiences to it and be moved in some way. I’m not one to think a writer must only write about what they know (how else do you get alternate worlds?). But you have to write about things you’ve felt.

    Q: Out of all the characters in your book, who is your favorite to write?

    I used to say that my favorite was Kailani from The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky. She’s so mysterious, but at the same time wise, naïve and vulnerable. Now that I’m nearly done with the Seekers series, I think I’d say Orah. She smart and passionate in her beliefs, and a natural leader, yet she always doubts herself and questions her decisions—a trait that would be a good thing in some of our real world leaders.

    Q: Is your book part of a series, and if so, how many will there be?

    The Children of Darkness is Book one of the Seekers dystopian trilogy. The second book, The Stuff of Stars, has just published.

    Q: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

    To each and every reader, we’re partners in the story. I use my craft, and you use your imagination to flesh out your own unique version of the story. If I’ve caused you to re-experience some of the most intense moments of your life, then I’ve succeeded as an author.

    To quote Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

    Q: How did you go about following your dream of becoming a writer?

    I started writing when I was sixteen and took writing courses in college. Throughout my twenties, I religiously wrote five pages a day, until career and family intervened, Then I basically gave up, frustrated with my lack of progress. Thirty years later, with career done and family grown, I had no intention of writing again. But once I had time to daydream again, the ideas started to flow. That’s why I call myself “the once and future writer.”

    Q: Is there a particular author that inspires you?

    There are so many I love that have influenced my writing. I have always read cross genre. When I became an avid reader in my teens, I devoured fantasy and science fiction, but also literary fiction. I loved the works of Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, and of course, Tolkien, but also of Hemingway and Steinbeck.

    If you forced me to name a book I wish I wrote, I think it would be a composite of Clarke’s The City and the Stars and Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls—a story beautifully written, with a fantastic alternate world, lofty themes, and intense characters who believe passionately in their cause.

    Q: What is your average writing day like? Do you have any strange writing habits?

    I aim for two sessions a day of two hours each, but it varies with the stage of a novel. First drafts are hard, and I might go days without writing, and then get inspired and do three sessions in a day. Editing is different. I’ll sometimes edit ten hours a day, especially in later drafts and when a deadline is looming.

    Q: Do you plot your books completely before hand or do you let your imagination flow whilst in the writing process?

    I usually conceive of a new book as a series of images and scenes, daydreaming about them while I finish work on the prior novel. I maintain a notes file for the new novel and do a rough draft of these scenes—a  very rough draft, what some people call “scaffolding” or “riff writing” like improvisation in jazz. The file can get pretty chaotic. Every now and then I make a feeble attempt to organize it (when I’m finishing up a novel, I try to avoid distractions and stay focused on getting it out to the publisher). By the time I’m ready to start the new novel, I usually have about 20,000 words of loosely connected prose—20-25% of the eventual novel but probably 80% of its essence. I take a couple of months to read, edit and organize that file into a dense plot outline. Then I start a new file from scratch, cutting and pasting prose as appropriate.

    It’s a messy process in the early going, but unlike those who start with a more organized outline, I need that amount of writing to get to know the characters and live in the story.


    Q&A Interview with Phil Harvey


    Harvey AuthorPhoto-1

    Phil Harvey is an award-winning author, philanthropist and libertarian whose stories won a prize from Antietam Review and were nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His dark fiction and controversial ideas have broadened debate on violent entertainment, relationships and sexuality. At the core of his fiction stand the motives, methods and goals of the characters. Here he talks about his latest novel Show Time and the release of three new collections: Wisdom of Fools: Stories of Extraordinary Lives, Devotional: Erotic Stories for the Sensual Mind, and Across the Water: Tales of the Human Heart.

    Q: Your three new books are collections of short stories in which characters touch something important in themselves or in others.

    PH: The centerpiece of my fiction is always the individual. I like to put characters in demanding physical/psychological settings that force them to respond. Frankly this saves work and imagination because some responses are fore-ordained. Other ideas come from experience. Fly fishing. Sex. Upbringing. And so on. Some ideas even spring from other books. Really, the stories run the gambit. A few end in death, one in time travel, a few in redemption.

    Show Time engages with seven people and their idiosyncrasies, lust, belligerence, and desire to survive. How they are attracted to each other, how they fight with each other, how they sometimes undermine and then strengthen each other. They boil, they confer, they fight, they make love—but overall, they must survive.

    For all my characters, life goes on but is changed.

    Q: Tell us about Show Time. The novel challenges seven reality show contestants with the possibility of starvation or freezing to death.

    PH: My book explores the use of violence and death as entertainment. We already have real-world examples like the potential fatal violence that helps fuel the popularity of car racing. We like violence. It fascinates us. That’s why it leads the news every night. My idea is that policymakers someday will, perhaps without knowing it, encourage certain kinds of violence to keep people satisfied. Presidents like wars—even though they won’t admit it. Wars unify us. We always support the troops. So deliberate steps to encourage controlled violence are not so farfetched.

    Q: Your fiction is occasionally threaded with darker impulses. Why delve into the shadow side?

    PH: A wise writing instructor once said, “People don’t read nice. It puts them to sleep.”

    I write dark-side fiction because that’s the only kind people read. I am not especially interested in venality, violence (which I really do not like), human weakness, etc. but these are essential elements of fiction. Of course we’re all fallible, and some of my fiction reflects this theme.

    In Show Time, the producer arranges for a murder to happen on the show because her entire focus in life is on her ratings. Nothing else matters. We humans can get blinkered that way and occasionally take desperate measures to keep things on track. That’s true reality. But overall, I write in this vein because it is artistically satisfying and readers demand it.

    Q: In Beena’s Story an Indian woman is disfigured by acid, in Virgin Birth a surrogate mother is attacked, and Show Time explores personal and social violence. How do you address violence without becoming graphic?

    PH: Writing that is too graphic turns people off. Different readers (and writers) have different limits; mine are probably about average. Some would say I’m too cautious but bodies run through and guts spilling out simply seem unnecessary and distracting. It comes down to a matter of style. A very clear case is the “cozy.”  There’s always a murder but never a body.

    Q: These three new books include one that has a more erotic tone yet you don’t shy from sexual activity in stories that aren’t specifically erotic. Is there a line here, too?

    PH: As to sex, I think I provided the appropriate amount of detail in Show Time and, very differently, in Vishnu Schist, Swimming Hole, and Devotional. Sex scenes can be sexy, even graphic as in Devotional, but clichés must be avoided like the plague. In Charlie Stuart’s Car got a little close to that, I think. I’ll let readers decide.

    Q: How do you align your dark fiction with your Huffington Post article about the world getting better?

    PH: The reality is that dark impulses, especially violence, will always be there. The world is getting better in part because we are learning to curb our natural violent instincts. We sublimate by watching violent sports. Boxing. Football. NASCAR. We punish. Murderers and rapists are jailed. And so on.

    Backing this up must be the rule of law. People are capable of unspeakable horrors. And that includes nice, civilized people. See the enforcers of the Holocaust. See Uganda. See North Korea. The fact that the government has a monopoly on legal violence (wars, executions, etc.) is a good thing. The great majority of citizens want violence curbed, and only a governmental entity can do that consistently.

    So, yes, humans will always love violence (see video games), and in the societies that function best, violence will be sublimated. Hence my novel Show Time. Hence my short story Hunting Dora.

    Q: You support the rule of law but some of your stories demonstrate abuses of power. Should readers beware authority?

    PH: No society can exist without rules that prevent people from harming others. But the government can be a poor purveyor of justice. Where’s the justice in the War on Drugs?  Where’s the justice in taking (by force) billions from hardworking taxpaying Americans and giving it to rich farmers and agricultural corporations?  And on and on.

    The government is necessary for some things, and I appreciate that. An army. Rule of law. Enforceable contracts. But it is not such a stretch to depict the government as complicit (behind the scenes!) in a brutal scheme to satisfy Americans’ lust for violence as in Show Time. Readers should worry, because government’s perfidy is backed by government force. The worst perpetrators of violence have been governments. Stalin. Mao. Hitler. Pol Pot. Dystopian fiction is perhaps popular because in the digital age it seems more feasible. Big brother is watching.

    On the other hand, people are generally very good about making decisions for their own lives. Over two centuries or so we’ve seen that life can be pretty successful and satisfying in democratic, free market societies. That’s why messy democracy is so terribly important.

    Q: What’s the takeaway for readers of your fiction?

    PH: I would hope they have journeyed to a place they would not have seen without the novel or one of the stories…that they experienced it and enjoyed being there, became engrossed, and had the pleasure of a good read. I always welcome emails with serious and thoughtful questions. I invite readers of Show Time to think about the complexities of violence. Perhaps this is worth considering: “War unites us. Love divides us.”

    Q: It’s interesting that some of your stories revolve around activists. Your own efforts range from philanthropy to utilizing social marketing to distribute birth control, yet some of your characters view “do-gooders” with sharp cynicism.

    PH: We compassionate humans so love to think highly of ourselves that we do “good” things without using the brains god gave us. For a decade the U.S. sent huge amounts of grain to India. Result: Indian farmers couldn’t make a living, Indian agriculture stagnated, Indians were generally worse off than they would have been without our “help.”

    Doing stuff that feels good instead of stuff that will acutely help is something I really abhor. Feel-good giving is self-indulgent and occasionally cruel. It’s great to feel superior to that panhandler on the corner, so give him a dollar (and assure the future of panhandling) and think how morally superior you are. Whatever you do, don’t think about how you could actually be helpful. Not emotionally satisfying!

    So the cynics in my stories are right, only it’s not really cynicism. It’s clarity. It’s intellectual integrity. If you want to help people then empower them to take control of their lives. And don’t expect gratitude. You’re doing your job; they’re doing theirs.

    Q: What’s next for you?

    My most promising novel is Just In Time, in which a Wall Street trader is deposited back in the Pleistocene era. The other, Indian Summer, follows a Peace Corps volunteer’s transformation fighting famine in India during the 1960s. I plan to write more short stories focused on the transformative powers of sex and alcohol.

    As for myself, I will continue enjoying my married life, being a stepfather, and nurturing my very promising grandkids. And, of course, I’ll continue organizing projects that promote civil liberties through the DKT Liberty Project, work to end the War on Drugs, and debunk yahoos who ignore the reason and science behind immunization and the genetically modified crops that can relieve suffering worldwide.