Monday, 31 August 2015

Blog Tour / Book Musings - Three Days to Forever by Lauren Carr

Title : Three Days to Forever
Author : Lauren Carr
Series : Mac Faraday Mystery
Genre : Mystery
Source : Free copy from the author for an honest review

Blurb : 

In this latest Mac Faraday Mystery from best-selling mystery author Lauren Carr, readers will embark on a rollercoaster adventure with old friends (including the Lovers in Crime team of Prosecutor Joshua Thornton and Homicide Detective Cameron Gates), but also meet new ones as Mac Faraday’s daughter Jessica Faraday and Joshua Thornton’s son Murphy Thornton join the team in the race to get the love birds to the altar!

With three days left to the year, Deep Creek Lake is hopping with holiday vacationers and wedding guests pouring into the Spencer Inn for Mac Faraday and Archie Monday’s huge wedding ceremony which is being touted as the social event of the year.

But droopy flowers and guests who failed to RSVP are the least of Mac’s and Archie’s problems when a professional hit squad hits Spencer Manor to send the groom, Joshua Thornton, Archie’s mother, and Gnarly running for their lives.

With time running out to the big day, Mac Faraday and Spencer’s small police force have to sort through the clues to figure out not only who has been targeted for assassination, but also who is determined to stop everything … FOREVER!


My Musings : 

This is the first time I have read this author's writing and I have to say that I am going to end up buying all her books. I liked this book that much!

I was literally bombarded with the characters from the start. The good thing is that the author was thoughtful enough to include the cast of characters else I would have been lost. This is my fault since I jumped into the nineth book directly. Inspite of it all, it wasn't hard to recognise the characters after a few chapters.

The characters were complex and well developed and fun to read about. Every one of them has a distinct personality which meshes with the story and with each other. They balance each other out and this added to the readability of the book. My most memorable character was Agnes. I so loved her spunky nature! I couldn't figure out the distinction of the characters into main and supporting cast because everyone had an important role in the story. I loved the dogs' antics which added the much needed humour to the otherwise tense story.

The plot was well thought out and there were no loose ends at the end. The story was fast paced to keep my attention easily. The book is a treat to a reader who loves a mix of genres in their reads. It has the right amount of romance, mystery, action and thrill to keep me satisfied from the start to the end. The only thing which kind of put me off was the very fast romance between Jessica and Murphy.

The book has a light hearted feeling which comes out of fighting against evil and winning at the end. It made a good read for the weekend.

My one line review : A fast paced mystery with a sprinkle of romance and humour and heroic action.

My rating : 4/5

My reread factor : 4/5


Meet the Author : 

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday Mysteries, which takes place in Deep Creek Lake, Maryland. Open Season for Murder is the tenth installment in the Mac Faraday Mystery series.

In addition to her series set on Deep Creek Lake, Lauren Carr has also written the Lovers in Crime Mysteries, which features prosecutor Joshua Thornton with homicide detective Cameron Gates, who were introduced in Shades of Murder, the third book in the Mac Faraday Mysteries. They also make an appearance in The Lady Who Cried Murder.

Three Days to Forever introduced Lauren Carr’s latest series detectives, Murphy Thornton and Jessica Faraday in the Thorny Rose Mysteries. Look for Kill and Run, the first installment in this series, to be released September 1, 2015.

The owner of Acorn Book Services, Lauren is also a publishing manager, consultant, editor, cover and layout designer, and marketing agent for independent authors. Visit Acorn Book Services’ website for more information.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She also passes on what she has learned in her years of writing and publishing by conducting workshops and teaching in community education classes.

She lives with her husband, son, and three dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook


Prizes: ​

1. Win an ebook copy of Kill and Run with a $15 Amazon gift card (open internationally - 5 winners)

2. Win a print copy of Kill and Run (USA only - 4 winners)

3. Win a print copy of both Three Days to Forever and Kill and Run with a $25 Amazon gift card (USA only)

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Book Cover Reveal - Free Spirit by Jennifer Wells

 

Title : Free Spirit 
Author : Jennifer Wells 
Series : New Orleans Magick Series #2 
Publication Date: October 26, 2015
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Fiction, Humor, Mystery, Paranormal


Wild child Rachel is having a week so terrible, not even a pitcher of margaritas will help. When her evil boss shows up on her doorstep with a sob story, her request to stay a few nights turns into a whole lot more. She can’t even escape into some of her favorite haunts in the Quarter since she seems to have garnered the unwanted attention of some rabid readers. When her ghost-hunting assignment goes unexpectedly awry, Rachel unknowing releases a vengeful spirit.

Enduring a wicked houseguest and hiding from an over-enthusiastic fan all while trying to put a spirit back in her grave where she belongs is more challenging than sobriety during Mardi Gras. Can she and her family work some magick to put things right in the Crescent City or has Rachel bit off more veggie muffuletta than she can chew?


Add to Goodreads

-
Magick Charm Book One

Buy it on Amazon

Janie Adler likes her quiet, orderly life reviewing books for a small New Orleans newspaper exactly the way it is. So what if Duke Hot Pants, the hero of her favorite romance novel, is the only man in her life? She has a Pulitzer Prize to chase. That is until her quirky twin sister Rachel moves in, bringing boyfriend drama, a smelly ferret, and irrational belief in all things magickal along with her. Persuaded by a local voodoo priestess-and maybe one margarita too many-the twins cast spells to improve their love lives. Loser-magnet Rachel focuses on avoiding the wrong men and Janie seeks her romance novel ideal. While plenty of eligible bachelors flood into their lives, Janie only has eyes for her coworker who lives in the apartment downstairs and works in the cube next to her. But the twins soon discover the incantations' many unintended-and dangerous-consequences. The increasing number of mishaps and misfortune putting the sisters in grave peril seems more like the work of a curse. Can Janie and Rachel's "twintuition" save them from the menace stalking them?

About Jennifer Wells

JenniferWells
Jennifer has been writing since she was in middle school. When she discovered romance novels in junior high, she knew she wanted to write them someday. Her writing remained a hobby while she studied biology and forensic DNA science. She worked as a molecular biologist and published cancer research before finally leaving the lab and taking up her laptop full time. She currently lives in Northern Virginia with John, her husband of seventeen years. John is a professional tarot card reader and astrologer. John and Jen have two children who happen to be cats: Morgana Madison and Luna. MoMo is a possessive Scottish Fold who loves to knead Jen’s hair. Luna is the baby, an affectionate Scottish Fold who thinks her name is "Cute."


Promo Post - Brain to Books Blog Tour - P.H. Solomon

Fast Fact

What Is Needed 2


Author: P.H. Solomon
Genre: Fantasy
Books:
Trading Knives 
What Is Needed
The Black Bag



Bio

IMG_4163-Edit


P.H. Solomon lives in the greater Birmingham, AL area where he strongly dislikes yard work and sanding the deck rail. However, he performs these duties to maintain a nice home for his loved ones as well as the family’s German Shepherds. In his spare time, P. H. rides herd as a Computer Whisperer on large computers called servers (harmonica not required). Additionally, he enjoys reading, running, most sports and fantasy football. Having a degree in Anthropology, he also has a wide array of more “serious” interests in addition to working regularly to hone his writing. He is currently finishing the first book of a fantasy series and hopes to see it in print soon.






Interview with P.H. Solomon

Q. How did you get started writing?
A. I started writing this book out of high school several decades ago. I almost signed a contract for it with a small publisher in the mid-90's but backed off due to the terms. Since then I've toyed with writing off and on but decided to re-write the book and get serious about writing several years ago.

BOD SM VersionQ. How many books have you written prior?
A. The Bow of Destiny is my first novel-length book. I previously published a short story, The Black Bag, as an e-book.

Q. What genre do you enjoy writing the most and what is this book about? I enjoy fantasy the most so that's what I write. The Bow of Destiny is an epic fantasy whose main character, Athson has seen things that aren't there and suffered fits since being tragically orphaned as a child at the hands of trolls and Kregen the wizard. When a strange will mentioning a mysterious bow comes into his possession, he's not sure it's real. But the trolls that soon pursue him are all too real and dangerous. And what's worse, these raiders serve Kregen and his master, the hidden dragon, Magdronu, who are responsible for the destruction of his childhood home. Athson is drawn into a quest for the concealed Bow of Hart by the mystic Withling, Hastra, but Athson isn't always sure what's real and who his enemies are. With Kregen and Magdronu involved, Athson must face not only frequent danger but his grasp on reality and the reasons behind his tragic past.

Q. Tell us a little bit about your cover art. Who designed it?
A. Chris Rawlins out of the UK designed the cover based on one of his own pieces named: Robin of Loxley.

Q. Why did you go with that particular image/artwork?
A. Once I saw the artwork my cover is based on I knew that was what I needed. Chris was spot on with the design based on my descriptions. I'm looking forward to working with him again.

Q. Just as your books inspire authors, what authors have inspired you to write?
A. Tolkien heads the list but it also includes Patricia McKillip, Ursula K. Le Guin, Terry Brooks, Robert Jordan, Anne McCaffrey and many others.

Q. What does your writing process look like?
A. Write like mad to get the rough draft out. Then make structural changes, followed by my editor's structural changes. Then it's onto nitty-gritty editing until the manuscript is ready for beta reading.

Q. Where do you write?
A. Wherever my laptop lands - it's my mobile office.

Q. Are you a plotter or do you write by the seat of your pants?
A. A little of both. I like a fluid, creative outline (not the structure kind from school, it just doesn't fit fiction). An creative outline allows for easy changes. Likewise, Scrivener is a great way to outline too since you can make structural changes easily.

Q. What book do you wish you could have written?
A. Armor by John Steakley or Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock - both are very under-read and under-valued books that very good and I highly recommend them.

Q. Do you have a pet or pets?
A. Actually, my dogs inspired Spark.

Q. Where is one place you want to visit that you haven't been before?
A. The Outer Hebrides Islands, The Galapagos Islands, Budapest and, well, all the parts of Europe I haven't been to yet.

Q. If you were any plant or animal, what would you be?
A. Cheetah - amazing runner!

Q. If you could have any accents from anywhere in the world, what would you choose?
A. Scottish is a fun-sounding accent but I'd really like to speak Gaelic.

 

Pending Projects

Trading Knives 1Book 1 of The Bow of Hart Saga: The Bow of Destiny releases 9/28/2015. It can currently be found for reservation at these select online retailers: Barnes & NobleKobo & iBooks (via the iTunes app)

Book 2 of The Bow of Hart Saga: An Arrow against the Wind due out1/2/2016. It can currently be found for reservation at these select online retailers: Barnes & NobleKobo & iBooks (via the iTunes app)

Book 3 of The Bow of Hart Saga: The White Arrow is due out Fall of 2016 (links pending).
Prequel short stories to The Bow of Hart Saga:
Champion of the Stone Rats - tentative release 9/30/2015 for free, will be onWattpad during 9/15.

A parallel series to The Bow of Hart Saga is also in process as three novellas.

There will likely be a sequel trilogy for The Bow of Hart Saga and possibly at least a prequel book.

The Black Bag found at AmazonBarnes & NobleKoboSmashwords &iBooks (via the iTunes app).

Guardians of the Gate epic fantasy is also a book/series in development.

The Black Glove adventure-fantasy series is also in development.

 

Connect with P.H. Solomon


See the Brain to Books Blog Tour Giveaways with Lu!

 
 

Promo Post - Brain to Books Blog Tour - Owen Thomas

Fast Fact

Author: Owen Thomas
Genre: Literary Fiction

Bio

Owen Thomas

Owen Thomas is a life-long Alaskan with an abiding love of original fiction writing and storytelling whose ultimate purpose is always to reconnect the reader with humanity. Owen is a product of the Anchorage School District and a graduate of Duke University and Duke Law School. Over the years, while his responsible, wage-earning identity has been busy practicing law and running a law firm, Owen has written three novels:  Lying Under Comets: A Love Story of Passion, Murder, Snacks and Graffiti; The Lion Trees (Gold Medal Winner of the Global eBook Award for new adult fiction; a semi-finalist for the Kindle Book Awards, A winner of The Eric Hoffer Award for fiction, a semi-finalist for The Amazon Kindle Book Award; a Finalist for The Beverly Hills International Book Awards and The First Horizon Book Award and awarded Honorable Mentions at The London Book Festival, The Southern California Book Festival, The Great Northwest Book Festival, The Los Angeles Book Festival, The Great Southeast Book Festival, The Pacific Rim Book Festival, The Amsterdam Book Festival, and the New York Book Festival);  and a novel of interconnected short fiction, including six novellas and four short stories, entitled Signs of Passing winner of the 2014 Pacific Book Awards for Short Fiction. Even as you read this biographical blurb, a fourth and somewhat lighter novel, Henry & Biggs – a political vampire thriller about a literary agent and his pet Beagle (yes, you read that correctly) – is currently in the works and the first dozen chapters have been posted on the Owen Thomas Fiction Blog. Additional short fiction pieces are collected and reproduced in their entirety at Tiny Points of Life. Owen’s short story“Everything Stops” has been selected for publication in an anthology of short fiction published by Fiction Attic Press called “Modern Shorts”, available at Amazon. Owen’s short stories “Nothing To Worry About” and “Island Santa”have recently been released for purchase at Blurb.com and Amazon.com, respectively.

For the fifth consecutive year since he has been measuring his commercial success as an author, Owen has not won the Orange Prize for Fiction. Also, to great acclaim, he has not won the Man Booker Prize. Most recently, in April of 2015, Owen was not nominated for a Pulitzer.

Owen fervently believes our problem is not that life is too short, but that it tends to be much too narrow.  Also, whimsy in living is far too important to take seriously. But both of those propositions are the subject of on-going litigation. In the meantime, Owen is increasingly concerned that referring to oneself in the third-person is dangerously habit-forming.

 BOOK BLURB


The Lion TreesMeet the Johns, a family of five living in Columbus, Ohio in the year 2005. George W. Bush is well into his second term. The Iraq War is raging. Hurricane Katrina has landed. The Johns family is quietly, and then not so quietly, unraveling. In shades of Tom Wolfe’s A Man in Full, Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible and William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, the Johns family story, at turns dramatic and comic, tells the stories of Hollis, Susan, David and Tilly, each in the grips of tailor-made predicaments that threaten the identities to which they cling.

Hollis Johns, a retired Ohio banker, isolates himself in esoteric hobbies and a dangerous flirtation with a colleague’s daughter. Susan, his wife of forty years, risks everything for a second chance at who she might have become. David, their eldest, thrashes to stay afloat as his teaching career capsizes in a storm of accusations involving a missing student and the legacy of Christopher Columbus. And young Tilly, the black sheep, having traded literary promise for an improbable career as a Hollywood starlet, struggles to define herself amid salacious scandal, the demands of a powerful director, and the judgments of an uncompromising writer.

By turns comical and poignant, The Lion Trees depicts a family tumbling toward the discovery that sometimes you have to let go of your identity to find out who you are.

REVIEWS

 

EXCERPT

CHAPTER 1 – David

“Who is the most important historical figure you can name?” 
They stare at me, bright and twinkling with attention. Soaking me in. Assessing me. Measuring me against the others. And I am ready for them.
                  I sit on the edge of the desk and swing my leg, looking from face to face, letting them take stock before getting down to business. The first-day energy is palpable. Fresh, young, hungry minds.  I roll a stick of chalk from one palm to the other like dice. They blink at me.
                  “Don’t be shy, folks. No judgment here. Who do you think is the most important historical figure of all time?”
                  Swing, swing, swing. Roll, roll, roll. Blink, blink.
                  “Anybody. Anybody at all. Don’t all dive in at once.”
                  Blink, blink.
                  “How about you… over in the back there… what’s your name?” I look at my seating chart. “Ashley? What do you think, Ashley?”
                  She is startled. I smile and nod. I am reassuring. I am encouraging. I am everything a teacher must be. A guide. A shepherd. I turn to the virgin green board behind me with a quickness and uncoiling energy that makes them jump. Beneath “Mr. Johns” I dramatically click chalk to slate, poised to write. A display of trusting servitude.  A humble scribe.
I wait. I wait.
                  “Madonna,” she says, finally, with a pop of gum for punctuation.
                  “M…” I write the first letter and turn. “Mother of Christ?” I ask, hopefully. I am an optimistic person.
                  Ashley screws up her face, rapidly cocooning her forefinger in a spiraling strand of purple glop. “Huh?”
So maybe I’m not an optimistic person. I think of myself as an optimistic person, which is really very different than actual optimism. The irony is, my self-concept as an optimistic person may be the only true claim I have to actual optimism. Every morning I come to consciousness with this belief – this understanding – of who I am today. I stretch and I yawn and I swing my feet from the bed to the floor and so it begins. I am an optimistic person. I feel optimistic. People are basically good. My life is a communion with well-intentioned souls. Everything is, more or less, as it should be. Yesterday did not happen. History is a fiction. Each day I am reborn.
Reborn, apparently, into a life plagued by some cruel, recurring amnesia.  Because yesterday did, in fact, happen. And so did the day before yesterday. And the day before that.
“You mean… Madonna… the, um…”
“Yeah. You know… Madonna.” Ashley says this with enough self-evident incredulity to level mountains. Her neon-frosted eyes roll over and down to a girl in the next row – Brittany Kline, according to my seating chart – who shrugs back at Ashley uncomprehendingly.
“Okay. Madonna.” The name goes on the board. I am unphased. I am young and hip and rolling with it. “Why Madonna?” I roll up my sleeves and cross my arms. I am in the trenches. On the front lines, making a difference.
“It’s not like I listen to her now or anything cuz she’s totally old and everything, but she’s like totally opened a lot of doors for women in this culture and around the world by empowering them to express their sexuality and taking a stand and everything like that.”
Bad start. That’s all. Luck of the draw. This will get better. I keep moving.
“Okay. Okay. Fair enough.” I arch the chalk through the air from left hand to right. “Let’s get some more names on the board. Give me someone important that goes way, way back. Let’s go waaaaaayyyyy back. Pull out all the stops. Whaddaya got? Mr. Onaya, go for it. Who’s your favorite historical figure?”
“George Washington.”
“Yes!” Bam! On the board! I’m rolling. “Who’s next? Ms. Kent. Lemme have it.”
“Abraham Lincoln.”
“Okay. Good. Good. Next. Alicia, who’s your favorite?”
“George Washington.”
“We already have him.”
“Yeah, but he’s my favorite.”
“Okay, good. But give me some other important historical figure I can put up here so we can talk about what makes them influential today.”
“But I like George Wa…”
“You don’t have to like the person, you just have to think they played an important role historically.”
“Abraham Lincoln.”
I underline the name that, like George Washington’s, is already on the board. The pressure between my molars is beginning to show in my temples. “Try again.”
“Indiana Jones.”
My theory is that all optimists are, of necessity, “historically challenged.” Optimism is a kind of dementia caused by a weakness of memory. A pleasant by-product of a serious mental deficiency. Optimists are not to be admired or emulated. They are to be pitied. Wiley Coyote was an optimist.

 

INTERVIEW WITH OWEN THOMAS

Welcome to the Tour, Owen. Tell us a bit about your target audience.
My target audience consists of people who enjoy reading and who like pondering and talking about what they are reading with others. The Lion Trees is a very rewarding book club read because there is so much to interpret, process and discuss. My rough, very unscientific sense of the demographics of the readers who have enjoyed the book seems to skew older (it is not a book for young or impatient readers), educated (consistent with character-driven fiction generally), and female (given the focus on family, relationships, and some strong female characters struggling mightily to be themselves). There are plenty of exceptions to that general demographic sketch: many men have really enjoyed this book, as have those without graduate degrees. So, I go back to the single most important common denominator within the target audience: you have to consider reading an important pastime. It’s a big book – 1600 pages – and it takes a certain kind of reader to say, yes, I want to read all of those pages. If there is a phrase to help find that demographic, “modern classic” comes to mind as a possibility. Reviewers have drawn loose comparison to Updike’s Rabbit Run, to Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, to Dr. ZhivagoGone with the Wind, and The Thorn Birds. I am not nearly so vain or delusional as to put The Lion Trees on that shelf. Rather, my point is that The Lion Trees seems to have the “feel” of a modern classic – particularly given its length, breadth of story and thematic depth – and that might be the right way to define its target audience.

Tell us a little about yourself. (How did you get started writing? What do you do when you’re not writing?
My other life, the one that pays the bills, is spent as a lawyer. For the past twenty-five years I have practiced employment and commercial litigation in Anchorage, Alaska, where I manage a medium-sized law firm. Long before I ever went to law school (Duke Law 1990) I have been writing fiction. It is fair to say that creative writing started in grade-school English class and I just never stopped. My novel The Lion Trees took roughly ten years to write, much of it twenty and thirty minutes at a time, sitting in the front seat of my car in between meetings and court appearances. When I am not representing clients or making up characters I am photographing and otherwise enjoying the grandeur of Alaska and the paradise of Hawaii.

Is this your first book? How many books have you written prior (if any?) List other titles if applicable. I have had innumerable false starts; books that I leapt into with a great deal of enthusiasm and then for one reason or another abandoned before completion. Some turned out to be too ambitious while others were simply bad ideas and still others died on the vine because I was not aggressive enough in investing the time. Ten years ago I wrote a novel called Lying Under Comets: A Love Story of Passion, Murder, Snacks and Graffiti. I am still in the process of reworking that book, which has not yet been submitted for publication. I am publishing a book of connected short fiction, entitled Signs of Passing, which I expect to be out later this summer. I am also closing in on the completion of two other novels, one as yet untitled and one about a literary agent and his pet Beagle, entitled Henry & Biggs.

What genre do you enjoy writing the most and what is this book about?My preferred and most natural genre is literary fiction. Even within that already catchall genre, I think I am fairly versatile and can cover a lot of ground, from high drama to suspense to full-on humor. The Lion Trees is about a family living in 2005 Ohio that is, collectively and individually, coming unraveled by circumstances seemingly out of their control. Thematically, The Lion Trees, by turns dramatic and comedic, takes a hard look at the power of self-identity to control the course of our lives.

What inspired you to write this book? Hallucinogenic mushrooms. Kidding. In the most general sense, my purpose is to entertain. As a fiction writer, I want to provide readers with an enjoyable and meaningful diversion that they will carry around with them for a while. On top of that, however, my motivation in writing this particular book was to elucidate the psychological phenomenon at the core of the story and which propels each of the characters along their various arcs. In a nutshell, that psychological phenomenon is this: we tend to work very hard to shape our lives in a way that reaffirms what we think about ourselves. At the core of our motivation is an identity and we will nurture and protect that identity at all costs – in every relationship, in every accomplishment and failure, at every pivotal juncture – even if that identity is maladaptive and based on nothing more than a calcification of misunderstandings we adopted as children. The person who believes he is underserving, or always misunderstood, or wrongly accused, etc., will work very hard in his life to make sure that identity is affirmed again, and again. Even if makes him miserable. Even if it kills him.

How did you come up with the title of your book?The Lion Trees is about, among many other things, a Hollywood feature film called The Lion Tree. One of the main characters in the book is the star of that movie (if it ever gets made). The movie is an adaptation of a short story written by one of the other characters in the book. The name of the short story is The Lion Tree. That short story has at is center a parable about a man whose family is devoured by a pride of lions while out on a safari in Africa. So the title to this novel in part derives from the titles of these works of fiction that fit one inside the other like Russian nesting dolls. More broadly, however, The Lion Trees refers to the metaphor that animates all of the plots and characters in this book: the lion tree marks the place in our lives at which we adopt a self-conception, an identity, that threatens to devour us from the inside out.

Tell us a little bit about your cover art. Who designed it? Why did you go with that particular image/artwork? I worked with a consultant (Taughnee Stone at Launch the Book) to come up with an image that captured both the title and literary feel of the book. The Lion Trees, while very funny and contemporary in its style, also has a romantic, philosophical, modern-classic feel. We wanted the dominant image to be simple and iconic and for the cover to have a weathered, well-read look to it.

If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters? It is an interesting question, since one of the major storylines in The Lion Trees is about adapting a piece of literature to the Silver Screen and finding the right actors to play the various characters that inhabit the written work. The author of the fictional work on which the movie is to be based is a guy named Angus Mann. One of the stars of the movie declares that Angus bears a passing resemblance to Robert Forrester, so I suppose Angus would have to be played by Robert Forrester. As for the other characters, I will forego this opportunity to superimpose my own visual conception of the characters. I would prefer that the readers form their own conceptions of, and relationship with, the characters.

Just as your books inspire authors, what authors have inspired you to write? That is one of those questions that is fair to ask and, for me, nearly impossible to answer. I have been inspired by so many writers and books that to name one or a few does an almost unpardonable disservice to all of the others. So let me answer it this way. The Lion Trees as a literary creation was inspired by several different writers and books. The structure of the novel as a story told in a variety of different voices and tenses each handing off to another was inspired by Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible. Some of the social-satirical elements of the book, as well as the hubristic aspects to Hollis Johns was at least partly inspired by Tom Wolfe’s A Man in Full and his brilliant character Charles Croker. Aspects of the arc of Tilly Johns, the sexual rebelliousness of her character and the relationship she has with her brother Ben owe something to William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. The nesting of a story within a story (a novel called The Lion Trees about a movie called The Lion Tree, based on a short story called The Lion Tree, which is written around a parable of The Lion Tree) had its first inspiration from Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin. The Johns family as a study of intimate, history-driven dysfunction was at least partly inspired by Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections. The short story by Angus Mann (a fictional character) and all of its circa 1960, stripped-down science fiction born of nuclear paranoia was inspired by the incomparable Ray Bradbury. The list goes on. There is no better fuel and inspiration for writers than good writing.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?  I am confronted with this question every time someone asks “So what do you do?” It’s a question people seem to ask me a lot when I travel. I am increasingly torn by this question. What do I do? A year ago, when my life as a fiction writer was still largely a secret, I would not hesitate to answer, “I’m a lawyer,” usually followed by some mildly informative qualifier like, “mostly employment litigation,” or, “I manage a medium-sized law firm in Anchorage, Alaska.” I wouldn’t deign to call myself a writer, even though I did write a lot of fiction. Even though I wrote all the time. Even though writing is the thing I most enjoy. Well. Not counting sex and coffee ice cream and a good bourbon and a long list of other indulgent diversions. The point is that introducing myself as a fiction writer was always a quickly stifled impulse. It felt somehow wrong – dishonest, vain, pretentious – like I was laying claim to something not rightfully mine. In that split second before thought becomes an actual sound slipping the larynx, the lawyer in me always managed to elbow his way to the opening of my mouth, right hand raised, and took the oath of occupation. “What do I do? Well, I’m a lawyer.”

But then, in one giant step, The Lion Trees moved from the novel living and growing in the privacy of my laptop to a published work of fiction. Two volumes. Sixteen hundred pages. Six pounds of words. Reviews have been embarrassingly good. In less than a year The Lion Trees has racked up a dozen international book awards. People are now actually purchasing the fiction I write (fiction-fiction, not legal-argument fiction). They want to know where they can find these books and if I will sign them. It has been an experience like no other; like watching some chartreuse peony open up outside your window. So when a fellow passenger asked me on a recent trip to Seattle, “so what do you do?” what do you think I told him? “I’m a lawyer,” I said. “Mostly employment litigation.” I was baffled by my own response. If I cannot lay claim to being a writer now, after all that has happened, then when? By the time we landed in Seattle, I was working on a minor epiphany. I realized that the lawyer in me has been counseling the writer in me to hold out for a better question. Questions usually imply answers, or at least types of answers. Every lawyer knows that. The writer in me has been unwilling to stoop to pick up the question, “so what do you do?” and try to make something respectable of it. I “do” all kinds of things. Writing is not something I “do.” It’s who I bloody am. I don’t remember when that identity first took root; it has been coming on quietly for a very long time. But whenever it may have started, it’s here now. I just haven’t yet gotten comfortable declaring that to others. The next time some guy in an aisle seat leans over and asks, “so who are you, deep down in the pit of our soul?” I’m swinging for the fences. I’m going to nail it. Writer. That’s me.

What does your writing process look like?  Given the other professional demands on my life, my “writing process” includes trying to find as many spare minutes laying around to string together and actually be creative. Sometimes that is quite difficult. I wrote a great deal of The Lion Trees sitting in my car in the middle of fast-food restaurant parking lots between meetings and court appearances. In an ideal week, I am able to devote Saturday and Sunday mornings to writing; maybe four to five hours each day. That writing time is important because it allows a deeper focus. On those days I try not to do anything before writing – I do not open the newspaper. I do not turn on the radio or television. I avoid conversation. The less of the everyday world that is in my head, the better I am able to immerse myself in the world of whatever I am writing. If I am able to write in the afternoons and evenings, I tend to spend that time editing simply because by then the real world has invaded my thoughts to such an extent that filling the blank page with fresh thoughts and new words is much more difficult. I tend to write and edit in layers as I work my way through a book (as opposed to writing one draft and then going back to the beginning and writing a new draft, etc.), so once I finish that last page, the book is really about 80-90% complete. Thereafter, I comb through the book several times, but the edits tend to be fairly minor.

Where do you write? There is a couch in my den at home that provides me with a comfortable, out of the way, space. Sometimes too comfortable. It is not uncommon for my ‘writing time’ to look an awful lot like ‘nap time.’ As I have already mentioned, I have written a frightening percentage of my books in the front seat of my car sitting in some parking lot outside any number of sandwich shops. Having a mobile writing studio has allowed me to steal some valuable writing time from the little spaces over lunch and between meetings and court hearings. Every so often I will go to the local library with a set of headphones and a laptop and camp out for a while. For editing and book marketing work, various coffee houses around Anchorage have sufficed. It is probably worth noting that, for me anyway, the process of “writing” involves more than the process of typing. Writing for me requires a lot of pondering and problem solving and, to that extent, I spend a lot of time “writing” as I walk around a lake near where I live, or drive nowhere in particular, or sit in some public place staring out into space or watching people do whatever it is they are doing. Put to good use, all of that time is integral to my creative process. Not put to good use, all of that time starts to look a lot like idle daydreaming. Or suspicious loitering.

Are you a plotter or do you write by the seat of your pants? I’m more of a seat-of-my-pants guy although it is more a combination of both and I don’t really have a formula. A concept or idea will take root in my head and I will carry it around with me, usually for a long time. Eventually, I start to get ideas onto a computer screen. Then, like drops of water on a window, those ideas start to coalesce into something larger. Before long, the book starts to develop its own voice; its own presence in the world. I tend not to prepare detailed outlines because I think there is a real danger of creative confinement. The book can change out from under me and I want to allow that process as much as possible. If written organically (a term I use to distinguish my idea of creative writing from a kind of reverse-engineered, plot-manufacturing process), the characters and the story will tell you where they want to go. For me, writing is a very dynamic process that moves forward in the interplay between the writer and the story. If the writer tries to set it all down in stone at the beginning of the process, he or she is missing out on what to my mind is the best part. There is an awful lot to learn about the story you are telling that you simply do not know in the beginning. Getting to know your characters and their situation is like getting to know anyone else. It takes time and a willingness to adapt to new information and jettison preconceived notions.

What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors? My advice would be this: don’t worry about selling. Kick the commerce part of it out of the room for the writing phase and lock the door. Don’t write what the market expects you to write. Don’t write something you think will sell. Write with the sole purpose of doing justice to the creative vision in your head. Write something good. Write something authentic. Write something that moves you and you will move others. Have fun. Worry about selling later.

What can readers who enjoy your book do to help make it successful?Reviews! The single most helpful thing readers can do is to write a review of the book – it does not have to be long and detailed – and then post the review on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes&Noble, and/or LibraryThing. After that, sign on to the social media platform of your choice and recommend it to your friends.

What are you working on now? You mean aside from staying employed, married and solvent? I am on the verge of releasing a collection of short fiction called Signs of Passing. The book is comprised of four short stories and six novellas, all loosely connected to each other through characters and all organized around the theme of knowing when your life is no longer working and having the insight and courage to pick another direction. I am also about half-way through an as yet untitled novel set in south Texas, a second collection of short fiction entitled Tiny Points of Life, and an odd political-vampire-adventure-romp called Henry & Biggs, starring a New York literary agent and his pet Beagle. All of those projects (except the untitled novel) are represented on my author website (OwenThomasFiction.com).

What do you want your tombstone to say? “Edited for length without permission.”

If you had a supernatural power, what would it be? I host a fiction blogthat has previously included a feature in which I pose thought-provoking but generally useless questions to followers on social media and then compile the most original answers. The first question in that series was this: if you had the power to fly or to be invisible which would you choose and why? One of my favorite responses was “If you’re invisible, you can fly anywhere you need to go. Pick the Lear jet of your choice and go. Who needs to fly as a superpower? Invisibility gets you both.” For anyone who is interested, the other answers are collected here. My own preference would be to have the power to pick up a book and instantly absorb the entirety of its contents. At my current rate of literary consumption, I’m never going to finish all the good books in the world. Sigh.

What book are you reading now? I never seem to be reading just one book. Currently, I am reading Orfeo by Richard Powers and The Luminaries by Eleanor Cotton. I just finished Lexicon by Max Barry and I have The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins cued up on

MAIN CHARACTER INTERVIEW (DAVID JOHNS):

So, David Johns, what seems to be the problem?
Problem? What makes you think there’s a problem?

I read the back cover of The Lion Trees.
Oh. Right. Well, in that case, the problem is that life as I know it is over.

That doesn’t sound good. What’s the issue? Work? Relationship? Money?
Yes. Yes. And yes. Also, I’m likely to be showering in prison for the rest of my natural life.

Wow. Not good.
 Right? Believe me, you don’t want the details.
 
Sure I do. Let’s have it.
Okay. Where to start… I’m a high school history teacher living in Columbus, Ohio. I teach in the same school from which I graduated, so I haven’t really advanced very far in life. My father hates that I don’t have a business degree and that I never followed him into banking. Well, “hates” is probably the wrong word for what he feels because “hates” implies a certain active energy and my father basically gave up on me actually accomplishing anything in my life a long time ago. I live in a condo he paid for just to get me out of the house. He pays my mortgage most months, which really has not helped any.

Okay, not ideal, but not so terrible. What about your mother?
Mom spends most of her time taking care of my younger brother, Ben, who has Down Syndrome. When she’s not doing that, she obsesses over my sister’s movie career and keeps rigorous track of my father’s drinking. She thinks I try to avoid them on a regular basis.

Why would she think that?
Who knows? Probably because I try to avoid them on a regular basis. I went over to their house the other night to take Ben out to a movie. I snuck him out a back window rather than going in through the front door. That didn’t go over so well with Mom. She likes to worry. She worries that I’ve become a pothead.

Why is she worried about that?
I… I really have no idea.

So your sister is in the movie business?
Yeah, Tilly’s out there in Hollywood. Her career is really taking off. Just nominated for an award at Sundance. Mom is kind of star-struck with the whole thing. Dad hates it, of course.

Really? Why does he hate it?
 Well, partly because mom is so enthralled with Tilly’s success; they can never agree on anything where Tilly is concerned. A lot of hard feelings there. But I think it’s mostly because Tilly kind of… sort of… just a little bit likes to sleep with her directors and show up on the grocery store tabloid racks as a sex monster. Dad doesn’t like that much. Neither does mom. But all of my students love it. My sister’s sex life is the only thing they want to learn anything about. They sure don’t want to learn anything about history.

Look, David, you seem to be a smart, good-looking man with a good job and a family that still accepts your phone calls. If you don’t mind me saying, it sounds to me like your life has some of the same basic family, career and self-concept issues that most people have in some form or another. I’m not sure why you think your life is so bad.
You’re right. I know, I know. You’re right. I’m probably over-reacting to all of the little things. Like my girlfriend secretly sleeping with one of my colleagues. And the fact that the Columbus School district wants to fire me for teaching the truth about Christopher Columbus and George Bush. Oh, and that little, niggling problem of the Columbus Police Department trying to lock me up for possession of narcotics with intent to distribute and – not to be forgotten – for abducting and morally corrupting one of my female students. Silly to worry about that kind of thing, I know. All I need is a really good criminal defense lawyer and I’ll be fine. In fact, I already have a good criminal defense attorney. Glenda Laveau. Three hundred pounds of silken, jewel-toned courtroom aggression. Sadly, what I do not have is any money to pay Glenda’s fees. My current options seem to be trading sex for legal representation or asking my father for a whole lot of extra money. Did I mention my home has been destroyed and all of my pet fish are dead? I don’t know why I can’t just roll with these things. Like you say, everyone has these kinds of problems. Like the body of the teenage girl they just found in a dumpster, burned beyond recognition. How silly of me to just automatically conclude that it must be my missing student and that people carrying guns will think I had something to do with it. Right? Silly. Anyway, I’ve got go. Someone’s at the door.

 Connect with the Author

FACEBOOK:Owen Thomas
TWITTER:@OTFiction
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INTERVIEWS:           Moterwriter.com Interview

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Owen's Giveaways!

Amazon Giveaway (five copies of The Lion Trees, Part I: Unraveling and five copies of The Lion Trees, Part II: Awakening will be available for free from Amazon on a first come, first serve basis, from September 1 through September 7. Reviews are encouraged.).
Discounts – 50% off Paperback and Kindle Versions (for the month of September, reviews encouraged)
 

See the Brain to Books Blog Tour Giveaways with Lu!

 
 
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