An Interview with Paul Mathews

An Interview with Paul Mathews

Today’s guest author is a “Quite Funny Guy” and has written not one but two comedy thriller / mystery series. The first, the We Have Lost series takes place in a near future United Kingdom and follows the trials and tribulations of government employee and wannabe secret agent Howie Pond. The second series takes place in the fictional British countryside town of Upper Goosing – European Murder Destination of 2015 – a town with an unsettlingly high murder rate that trades on its gory past. This series follows Detective Clinton Trump, an investigator with delusions of grandeur with ego of unimaginable proportions. You’ll find reviews for all of these books here on Books and Beyond Reviews. Today, please join me in welcoming Paul Mathews to the blog!

Books and Beyond Reviews: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Paul. I’ll start with some ice breaker questions to help us get to know the man behind the comedy. First up, if you could choose any two famous people to have dinner with who would they be?

Paul Mathews: As I write murder mysteries, I’ll choose one living and one dead person, if I may. In terms of the deceased, it would have to be my favourite author, Douglas Adams, because he was a unique talent with such a surreal sense of humour. Douglas also loved food which would mean that if he was throwing the dinner party, I’d be guaranteed an excellent meal, as well as a steady stream of after-dinner anecdotes. Someone who’s still able to eat dinner? Maybe Greta Thunberg, because nobody like her has come along before and made such an impact at a young age. She’s also very tiny, so if I was paying, the bill would be manageable!

BaBR: If you could hang out with any cartoon character, who would you choose and why?

PM: Dangermouse was one of my favourites when I was a kid. Along with his trusty sidekick, Penfold, there were a formidable crime-fighting team. And they were funny, but not always in a predictable ‘Tom and Jerry’ slapstick way. They could probably solve some of my murder-mysteries a lot quicker than Detective Clinton Trump!

BaBR: I was always fond of a bit of Dangermouse. Classic, comedic crime-fighting capers! If you could see one movie again for the first time, what would it be and why?

PM: I saw the original Terminator movie on a VHS recorder when my brother’s friend brought it round during some exam revision (I think that’s what happened – we’re talking more than 30 years ago). Initially, I was only half-watching it – it was during the day and my parents were at work, so it was on in the background. But I started to become fascinated by the Terminator character. There was just so much tension, it was amazing. And it has that whole ‘Can mankind make it?’ thing going on. Very appropriate, given the world’s current predicaments.

BaBR: Would you rather travel back in time to meet your ancestors or to the future to meet your descendants?

PM: As I don’t have any direct descendants (I only have a cat and dog and they’ve both been neutered!), I guess it will have to be time travel to the past. I’d be interested in visiting a brewery that my father’s grandfather and great-grandfather ran in Surrey in the mid-19th-century – purely because I’d get free beer!

BaBR: And now, the final question before I move on to talk about your books. Who is your favourite author?

PM: I’ve already mentioned Douglas Adams so I suppose my next favourite author is me..! As I never tire of saying, I’ve read all my novels at least ten times and thoroughly enjoyed them all. It may sound odd but I still laugh at all my jokes. I do forget some of what I’ve written and they are the best laughs. It’s a bit like going back in time to when you wrote them. Your past self can really surprise your future self

BaBR: When you set out to start writing, did you always know that it would be comedy thriller / mystery novels, or did you eventually arrive at the genre?

PM: I wrote some short murder-mystery plays for amateur groups before I started on novels, as well as two full-length comedy plays, so comedy mystery / thrillers seemed the most natural genre for my books. I’ve always been interested in comedy writing since I was at school. Sadly, back then, there were zero opportunities for people like me. But self-publishing via Amazon opened up the world of novel-writing to me. It was a natural progression from playwriting and that previous experience means snappy dialogue is one of my strong points.

BaBR: Of Clinton Trump and Howie Pond, which do you identify with the most?

PM: The character of Howie Pond is definitely who I identify with the most. He has elements of my personality (I was always fond of popping to the pub at lunchtime for a Guinness!) and I worked as a UK Government press officer for 16 years, so a lot of what Howie Pond has to suffer in the ‘We Have Lost’ series as a presidential spokesman is loosely based on those experiences. I probably share Clinton’s general lack of patience with the world. I think we all think of ourselves as undiscovered geniuses, so maybe that as well!

BaBR: With two series under your belt, will your next book be something different, or do you have plans to carry on the tales of Clinton or Howie?

PM: I’ve decided to write a completely different comedy novel for my next effort. Entitled ‘An Accidental Royal Kidnap’, it will be a mystery of sorts but it’s more of a modern comedy adventure. It will follow a week in the life of recently-dumped London schoolteacher George Nearly after he finds a real-life princess face down on his living-room rug the morning after his 39th birthday party. You will see everything from George’s point of view and won’t know what anyone else is thinking or feeling – other than what George perceives that to be – which adds to the general sense of confusion about what is going on. It will include all the usual pondering on life, the universe and everything that my other novels include but this time it will be firmly based in modern-day reality. Well, not completely – there won’t be a global pandemic for George to contend with but apart from that, it will be the real world.

BaBR: Do you envisage any future books breaking away from the comedy thriller / mystery genre, and if so, what other genre would you be keen to try your hand at?

PM: As a Douglas Adams fan, comedy science-fiction would be the natural choice. I did a lot of planning for one, a couple of years ago, but dropped it eventually because I just couldn’t generate enough enthusiasm to write it. I think, once you’re established as a writer in a particular genre, it’s best not to travel too far from your literary home. And outer space is probably a little too far for me.

BaBR: Have you drawn events in either book series from anything in particular from your life or things you have heard, or have they all been entirely thought up?

 PM: I drew on my experiences of working in government, where there are lots of self-important people who often border on incompetence, while the smarter people tend to pick up the pieces. A small number of characters are also based on people I worked with in that environment. But the storylines are all completely original. ‘We Have Lost The President’ was a good choice of title for a first novel and after the election of Donald Trump as US president I think it’s the kind of scenario – a president going missing – many people would like to see happen in the real world!

BaBR: Thank you for taking the time to answer my weird and wonderful questions and I look forward to whatever your next book may be!

An Interview with Tyler Wandschneider

An Interview with Tyler Wandschneider

Welcome to the next instalment of my An Interview With… series here on Books and Beyond Reviews. Today I am speaking with the sci-fi author of Lockheed Elite. I reviewed this fantastic space adventure recently here on the blog. Please join me in extending a warm welcome to Tyler Wandschneider!

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Books and Beyond Reviews: Welcome to the blog Tyler. Thanks for taking the time to talk with me and answer a few questions. To start, I’m going to throw some left of field ice breaker questions your way so the readers can get an insight into the mind of the author. First up, If you could have an unlimited supply of just one thing for life, what would that be and why?

Tyler Wandschneider: A good one right off the get-go! My mind immediately started picturing things like pizza and cash but then smarts took over and I landed on “time”. I would definitely choose an unlimited supply of time. I’m the kind of person that likes to learn all kinds of things. For example, there was a time where I studied tournament poker for a while. When I started winning a lot, I got bored and picked up something else. This type of need means I must give up time on one thing to pursue another. Now with two young daughters that I absolutely love spending time with along with my wife, I find I need much more time not only to write but to just plain keep myself sane while learning other things. We just bought a house that needs a ton of work so the next couple of years will be home projects I’ve never tried before. I guess instead of an endless supply of time, I could do without the need to sleep. That’s an extra 6 hours a day I could use!

BaBR: Fantastic answer. And really refreshing for it not to be the usual answer of money! Next question. Would you rather be chased by a thousand duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck?

TW: Haha. Definitely a thousand duck-sized horses. Those are cute. The big-ass duck sounds scary!

BaBR: I love to ask this next one of authors to really get a feel for their influences. Who is your favourite author?

TW: I love all of the words from Patrick Rothfuss. I love the stories and creativity from Brandon Sanderson. I love the flow from Mark Twain. And I love the adventure and tears I get every time I read Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. I also give a good read to Ender’s Game every couple of years but that’s about it from OSC.

BaBR: If you could go for a drink with any person – alive or dead – who would that be and why?

TW: Any person who perished by freezing while floating in the water after the Titanic sunk. That person must be willing to have several whiskey’s with me and tell me all – leaving out no emotion felt or thought had!

BaBR: Wow, I don’t think I’ve had that answer before. The final ice breaker before we move on to your book. If you could see one movie again for the first time, what would it be and why?

TW: Interesting. This is definitely an age dependent question. I suspect I’d answer differently in each decade. Right now, I guess I’d go with Joker. Joaquin Phoenix did something special with that role that I’ve never seen before. Superhero (or villain) characters these days have a sort of arrogance, subtle or not, in each of the main characters. Phoenix’s portrayal of Joker here had a fierce kind of vulnerability in it that I’d never seen before. I loved it. I’m afraid to watch it a second time for fear of ruining the experience. I still bought the thing though. Definitely a trophy in my case for sure. If I ever met Joaquin I think I’d shake his hand and just tell him all this and thank him for it. I love movies and it’s rare you’re hit with a performance like that.

BaBR: Great shout – I absolutely loved Joker, and the performance was absolutely incredible. Now, let’s discuss Lockheed Elite. What led you to writing a sci-fi novel? Is this a genre you have always wanted to write in?

TW: Yeah it’s interesting. I read sci-fi less than fantasy and general fiction. I get stories in my head and sometimes it sticks like an itch and the only way to resolve it is to get it out. The characters in Lockheed Elite just worked in my head really well and I couldn’t stop thinking about it until I started writing it down.

BaBR: Where did the idea for Lockheed Elite come from?

TW: I’m sure it has inspiration from a multitude of media I’ve consumed. I mean anyone who’s seen Firefly can see that. But ultimately my gut had a desire for a good sci-fi read that was far more character driven than shoot’em up military meathead knocking skulls around. I just simply asked myself if life in space were a reality, what would it look like. Lockheed Elite was that for me. Most work around might just be doing any work available for anyone who can pay. Unless, of course, you wanna be tied to some entity that has strict policy. I saw a crew bent on living free and clear of oppressing rule. Scraping or salvaging seemed ideal for these guys and it gave me a nice avenue for the need for speculative inventions to get the job done.

BaBR: The character of Anders Lockheed feels well thought out and believable. Is he, or anyone else in the book based on anyone you know?

TW: Nope. I needed a captain that everyone respected. Anders fit that bill and felt right. With a large cast of characters, I needed him to be a smart kind of average guy so as to not steal the show from everyone else. They all played a big role and I think that helped make him believable. Most people aren’t extraordinary so making them all ordinary in their own ways, I think, is what made them work.

BaBR: Did you have a complete plan for Lockheed Elite, or was it a fly by the seat of your pants creation?

TW: I discovery wrote this book! I really enjoyed doing it that way. I just wrote until the end. Read it. Asked myself, what’s missing? What does this story need? Are twists working? Then I added Severn and Marko on the second pass. And then I read and edited over and over. I rewrote the beginning several times. I have to admit though that I wish I had rewrote the ending several times. It would go generally the same way, but I think I could have executed it much better.

BaBR: The crew in Lockheed Elite feel well bonded, and as if they have plenty more missions and mishaps in their future – are there plans for further books to continue the story of Anders Lockheed and his crew?

TW: Oh yes!! The second one is well planned out and mostly first drafted. I’m having trouble finding the time to write with work and two kids now. I wrote Lockheed when it was just Maryna and I and the more kids we have the harder it is to find the time. I suspect that I’ll have more time coming up here in the near future, what with working from home now!

BaBR: Once again, thanks for taking the time to put so much thought into your answers and chatting with me!

 

An Interview with Richard Dee

An Interview with Richard Dee

It’s been a long time since I last shared a new edition of my An Interview With… series where I interview authors so we can all get to know the person behind the pages. Today I am bringing it back, hoping to make it a slightly more regular feature than it has been. I’m going to keep them pretty simple – there will be ten questions, the first five will be weird and wonderful ice breakers. The next five will be delving into the work of the author.

With the formalities out of the way, let’s get into this edition of An Interview With…! Today’s author is someone I have worked with now for quite some time, when he first requested a review of his cozy sci-fi mystery Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Cafe. Since then I’ve had the pleasure of reading the two follow up books – Andorra Pett on Mars and Andorra Pett and her Sister. I am looking forward to the fourth book that he is working on. I am currently reading one of his most recent sci-fi novels, The Hitman and the Thief due out later this year. Aside from writing he has also become a brilliant supporter of myself as I work on my own first novel. Without further ado, it’s time to welcome Mister Richard Dee!

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Books and Beyond Reviews: Thanks for joining me here on Books and Beyond Reviews for an interview, Richard! Here’s your first ice breaker. If you were a wrestler what would be your entrance theme song?

Richard Dee: After 62 years, including the 1960s and 70s; I would need to walk a long way to get all the significant songs in. If I had to choose one, and I’ve agonised over the choice for ages, it would have to be Go your own Way, from the album Rumours, by Fleetwood Mac.

BaBR: What is your favourite magical or mythological animal?

RD: That would be the Dragon, there are so many variations in the way they are represented, in a way we have made them as complex as we are. I had to introduce my own species in my Steampunk novels, calling them Drogans. They are very different from the ones you see in Game of Thrones.

BaBR: Which fictional family would you most like to be a member of?

RD: A few of my acquaintances would suggest the Addams family!!! I would prefer to be part of a family of explorers, like the Swiss Family Robinson or even the family inspired by that book, the Robinsons of Lost in Space. Failing that the Famous Five or the Pevensie’s (of Narnia) would do at a pinch.

BaBR: If you could be any animal in the world, what animal would you choose to be and why?

RD: A black Labrador. Having owned, rescued and puppy walked them for Guide dogs, I feel like I know their personalities. They are eternally happy, just how we should all be.

BaBR: One last ice breaker before we move on to your books. If you could see one movie again for the first time, what would it be and why?

RD: The first Star Wars film, which I saw in New York in 1977. For one very simple reason. It showed us a sci-fi future that wasn’t perfect. Up to then, the future had been shown as a better now, where everything was clean and shiny. Star Wars changed all that. The technology was old, used, encrusted with dirt. Sometimes it didn’t work. It was a more relatable future, similar to the present with some new inventions. It changed the way I thought about Science Fiction.

BaBR: With novels written in both the sci-fi and steampunk genres, do you have a personal favourite?

RD: My favourite is whatever I’m writing at the time. Coming from a background in world-wide trade, I have a soft spot for my interplanetary trader Dave Travise and his life. Having worked for an Insurance company, I love writing about corporate misdeeds and conspiracies. And the Victorian era fascinates me so much, with its spirit of innovation and infinite possibilities. Put them (and other inspirations) altogether and I’m happy to create a story in whatever setting. What you have to remember is that, as we move out into the galaxy, we will take all our emotional baggage with us. The same tales will play out, only the setting will be different.

BaBR: Having had a rather varied career path yourself, has this in any way informed the characters in your Andorra Pett series where the leads assume a variety of roles themselves?

RD: I think it must have, although I never realised it at the time, I must have been storing up all the experiences in my mind, ready to adapt them and send them out into a new setting. Being on a ship in the 1970s was like going into space in a way, you were cut off from the world for weeks at a time and visited strange places. Plus, being isolated in a small group, you had to learn to be a jack of all trades. In the same way, the people of the future, colonising a new world, will have to be the same sort of people.

BaBR: Are any of your characters based upon yourself or people close to you?

RD: Andorra Pett is based on my wife and three daughters. Which parts of her relate to which person is up to them to work out. And others are taken from my career at sea, which introduced me to such a wide range of personalities.

BaBR: Do you have clear plots in mind when you start your books or do you start with a base idea and build from there?

RD: I have an idea, it might be prompted from an overheard remark in a coffee shop, or a fact that I’ve discovered on the internet. After that, I just start typing, watching a film in my head of what happens next. I let the characters control the action and just type what I see. In that way, I never know what will happen next. I get to the end at the same time as the reader will, so I share their emotions all the way through the book.

BaBR: As a first time author, I have found the support and advice from other authors has been invaluable in the process of writing my first book. If you could only give an aspiring author one single piece of advice, what would that be?

RD: I have been helped so much, by so many people that I’ll never meet. I try to pay it forward as much as I can. Another author once told me, the best thing to do is just WRITE, as much as you can, as often as you can. It’s the only way to develop your style. Not only that, you can’t edit a blank page. Connected to that, make sure that you get a good editor. You can save money everywhere else, by doing your own covers etc. but you only get one chance to make a first impression. Have your work properly edited, a typo on page one is not the way to go. I guess that’s two things, never mind.

BaBR: Thanks so much for taking some time to share your thoughts with us, Richard. Now’s your chance to promote your current book and any links readers can use to connect with you and your work.

RD: My latest release is a Steampunk adventure, set in a place which is not unlike Victorian England. There’s a mad scientist bent on world domination and a motley band set against him. Featuring the latest devices powered by steam and clockwork, The Sensaurum and the Lexis is, according to one advance reader, “definitely a page-turner where the mundane world as we know it, has been turned quite solidly on its head and presented from a delicious new viewpoint.”

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Blurb

Is Jackson Thwaite ready to discover the secret of Makewright Orphanage?

Although he doesn’t know it, he has been selected to be part of something vital to the land of his birth.

Norlandia is a country under threat, as never before. The old heroes are but a memory, while evil forces gather, seeking power.  They are armed with the latest devices that perverted science has devised. Control of Norlandia and everyone in it is their ultimate aim.

Who will stand in their way?

Under the command of the mysterious Mortimer Langdon, all that stands between civilisation and anarchy are Jackson and the rest of The Orphan Detectives.

You can find The novel at mybook.to/The_Sensaurum

 

My links

If you’d like to know more about my writing, my website is richarddeescifi.co.uk. Head over there to see what I get up to, click the FREE STUFF tab or the My Novels and Short Stories tab to get all the details about my work and pick up a free short story. Why not join my newsletter and get a free short story, unavailable anywhere else.

I’m on Facebook at RichardDeeAuthor  and Twitter at Richard Dee Sci-Fi

My Amazon author page is here.  

My Goodreads page is here.

 

An Interview with J.M. Richardson

An Interview with J.M. Richardson

Today it is my pleasure to bring you an interview with a talented author, and all round nice-guy, only too happy to work with me in reviewing his books and being accommodating enough to take part in this interview. Please be upstanding and welcoming to J.M. Richardson! Richardson is the author of The Twenty-Nine, A Line in the Sand, The Apocalypse Mechanism and his upcoming release, The Barataria Key – out on December 21st 2016.

Richardson and I crossed paths when he stopped by Books and Beyond Reviews, and asked if I would review The Barataria Key. Having read the blurb, I jumped at the chance, and when I discovered it was book two of a series, I had to buy the first part. You’ll find my review of The Barataria Key on the blog soon, but in the meantime you can check out my review of The Apocalypse Mechanism. Now, lets meet the man behind the books!

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Books and Beyond Reviews: Welcome to Books and Beyond Reviews, and thank you for joining us for this interview. We would love to start out by getting to know you a bit better, so first up – who is your favourite author?

J.M. Richardson: I always have a hard time picking a favourite anything—colours, songs, movies, books. I have a handful of favourites. I’ve always liked John Steinbeck and Stephen King. I enjoy the imagination of Michael Crichton. I’m currently reading George R. R. Martin and loving it. But I think one of my all-time favourite writers is Anne Rice. It doesn’t hurt that she also uses New Orleans as the backdrop for much of her storytelling. She’s so imaginative and writes beautifully. She seduces you into her world like the vampires she creates.

BaBR: E-readers seem to be on the rise, allowing hundreds of books to be carried in a small, portable device. They seem to be loved and hated in equal measure. Do you see them as a positive step in the evolution of books?

JMR: I think they’re convenient. I’ve never really gotten into it. I’m one of those people who likes the page and binding. I like lugging around a bulky book to read in the waiting room of the doctor’s office, and I know I’m not alone. But I can see the benefit of having a hundred books in one lightweight device. I think paper and print will always exist, so I don’t know that I’d call this evolution. I think the invention of the e-reader has done more to evolve the industry. Big publishing houses with literary agents as the gatekeepers…that was the standard. As soon as Amazon and Barnes and Noble launched their ebook self-publishing projects, it was off to the races. Every aspiring writer in the world uploaded and were finally able to call themselves authors. Is this a good step? I don’t know. I think there are pros and cons. We have gotten to see some great work from some undiscovered authors, and frankly, they might never have been discovered. It’s damn near impossible to woo a literary agent. Sometimes it’s not even about the quality of your writing. It’s about your pitch. Then again, without any vetting from agents and publishers, unfortunately, there have been a lot of bad ebooks to come out. Bad writing with no editing. I’m not sure if there has been any detriment to the publishing/writing world from this. Perhaps the bad ebooks detract from the good ones. I could see a great ebook author getting less respect because of the rubbish that gets uploaded alongside it. I could see people making false assumptions that being self-published means that you’re not good enough for Random House to pick you up. Fortunately for me and many of my contemporaries, the ebook wave has sparked a publishing revolution where small publishing houses like mine have popped up all over to challenge the industry giants. There’s no need for an agent anymore. And these are traditional publishers operating with less capital, but with professional editors and smart business plans, they’re really challenging the big houses and offering an opportunity to people like me who have found it impossible to find an agent.

BaBR: When the spark of an idea for a new book pops up in your mind how do you approach it?

JMR: When I suddenly have a cool new idea for a book, it’s exciting. So I can’t wait to get it onto the page. But of course it’s more complicated than that. Honestly, I’ve found that the best thing to do is to just jump right into it. I write a first chapter or prologue to set the stage. I want it to be intriguing and to spark the imagination, not just for some future reader. It’s for me, as well. I’m trying to inspire myself. I’ll usually get two or three chapters into the book before I sit down and plan anything. And even then, it’s very bare-bones planning. I know where the story starts, where it ends, and usually a few milestones in between to give it backbone. But as I plan chapters, I’m just jotting down goals in the development of the story. The action is the product of spontaneity. All dialogue is spur-of-the-moment. Emotions are too. The actions of the characters are impulsive so the plot is driven by in-the-moment decision making. I choose their paths as if I were there making those decisions. To me, I feel that all of this gives the characters a realistic quality. This is how we all operate—organisms navigating life as we respond to our environment. So I approach my story and my characters this way with some structure to the plot along the way.

BaBR: And just before we talk about your books, tell us an interesting fact about yourself.

JMR: Normally, my answer to that question anywhere else is that I’m an author. I have a lot of interests. I’ve played guitar most of my life—my other passion. But probably the thing that people might find most interesting is that I like to brew beer. I have a small craft brewing operation set up in my garage. I’ve made everything from oatmeal blonde ales to my most recent pumpkin porter. I have a couple of beer enthusiast friends that come over and help me. We sit around, brew, and sample whatever obscure craft beers we all contribute to the table, and enjoy one another’s company. A few weeks later, I keg it, tap it, and enjoy with friends and family. (As a lover of a good craft beer, and American beers in particular, this answer is a winner! – BaBR)

BaBR: Now, on to your books – The Apocalypse Mechanism, and The Barataria Key which I am half-way through. In both The Apocalypse Mechanism and The Barataria Key, you deal with historic events. Although I felt both books were in some ways reminiscent of Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon series of books, the historic events are more obscure. Was that intentional?

JMR: To a degree. I’ll write about anything that intrigues me. It could be that later on, I’ll take on some bigger, more known events. My goal is to tell a unique story. In one way, I do like to tell some obscure, little known story. That was the case with The Apocalypse Mechanism. But The Barataria Key deals with Jean Lafitte, who isn’t very well known outside of Louisiana, but having grown up near New Orleans, Lafitte was always something of a folk hero. He was our very own local pirate, and even more, he helped General Jackson win the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. Since I was a kid, I had always been fascinated with him. When I was about thirteen I wrote a short story that involved him. So I had a lot of fun writing The Barataria Key. For me, and for Louisiana natives, it’s not so obscure. I guess I just wanted to share Lafitte with the world. Whether I write about little known history or something well known, the fun of it is playing with those events. I like to toy with the narrative; change things up a bit. I like to reimagine how people or places really were. I want to fabricate connections and ask, “what if?” I try to create an alternative history. That’s easy. Who knows if what we know about history is accurate? It’s fun to create your own version. Don’t politicians do this all the time?

BaBR: There is a clear and deep historic seam running through both The Apocalypse Mechanism and The Barataria Key. Would you consider yourself a history buff, or was there a lot of research needed for the history elements in both books?

JMR: Both. I’m an educator by trade, and my original focus was history. I have always been fascinated with history and archaeology; to imagine how people of old might have lived. So you might imagine that I’ve compiled a lot of knowledge. This often becomes the inspiration for a story, but I always have to dig deeper if I want the story to be any good. I hate being inaccurate. You can’t speculate and toy with the historical narrative until you’ve gotten the facts right. For example, in The Barataria Key, I had to do an immense amount of research on Mayan history and culture, from their gods to their architecture and language patterns. I already knew a lot of this, but I don’t want to get things wrong. And I want it to be detailed. It would drive me nuts to get something wrong. And I have a vested interest in not appearing to be a fool. I try my best to get it right, and then I can have my fun. (I can confirm just how factual Richardson’s work is here. History is a love of mine, so I googled the pirate Jean Laffite early on in my read of The Barataria Key, and was ecstatic to find so much of the fact presented in the book is spot on! – BaBR)

BaBR: The Barataria Key is largely set in and around the Gulf of Mexico. As a Louisiana-native yourself was this intended, or a coincidence brought about by making Jean Laffite the historic focus of this book?

JMR: As you know, I introduced James Beauregard as a New Orleans native and descendent of a well-known American Civil War general. New Orleans history is something of a speciality of mine, and the city itself is probably my favourite place on earth. Nowhere on earth is quite like it. There is a blend of French and Spanish charm with Caribbean flavor that manifests itself in the food, the aromas, and even the way people talk in New Orleans. You always hear people say that you should write what you know. I know New Orleans, Louisiana, and the Gulf South. I would say that my urge to write about my home gave rise to my decision to write about Lafitte.

BaBR: Would you consider these two books to be at all influenced by the work of Dan Brown, and like his books, will this be a Dr James Beauregard trilogy?

JMR: I don’t think so. I’ve read Dan Brown’s earlier Robert Langdon books, and really liked them, but I didn’t set out to emulate him or his stories. Rather, I had been drawn to his books because I already held interest in that kind of fiction. Really, Brown is one in a long line of artists to have used similar plots and archetypes. I always loved Indiana Jones, which was based on adventure serials of the 1930s. I loved those movies because they dealt with history and archaeology. When I write, I’m cognisant of the similarities between my books and Dan Brown or Indiana Jones. Even James Rollins or Brad Meltzer. I don’t want to be just like them, but I enjoy that kind of storytelling, so I would say that I fall into the genre, rather than being directly inspired.

I actually plan to write many more Beauregard books.

BaBR: Is Dr James Beauregard based on yourself or anyone you have come across?

JMR: James is part me, but he takes from several different people I know. He’s such a mess! Emotionally, he definitely has issues, and I wanted him to. My publisher was worried he was so messed up that no one would like him. He actually had to be tamed down. I fought like hell to retain as many of those imperfections as I could. I included in him some of my darker demons, and some lent to me by others I know. Writing is therapy for me.

BaBR: Are you currently working on a book, and if so, can you tell us anything about it?

JMR: I am currently working on the third James Beauregard book. I have an idea for a change in the story line that would completely alter what we know about James. It would also open the door for as many books I want to write about him. For now, I’m calling the new book The Keepers. Look for murder, mystery, and terrorism, all set in merry old London.

Thanks for taking the time to share some of your thoughts with us here at Books and Beyond. As an Englishman living just a 40-minute train ride from London, I will look forward to The Keepers and hope to snag myself a review copy!

You can connect and keep up to date with what J.M. Richardson is up to on his website, Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter.

 

An Interview with Douglas Cavanaugh

An Interview with Douglas Cavanaugh

I am very pleased to bring you all my second author interview. I have the pleasure of introducing first-time author Douglas Cavanaugh, author of the Yugoslavian war era thriller, Into Hell’s Fire.

Into Hell’s Fire is a gritty thriller set in Sarajevo and the Former Yugoslavia during the time of intense civil war. It’s dark and pacey, and if you want to find out more, you can find my review here at Books and Beyond reviews. So without further ado, let’s get to know the man behind the book, Douglas Cavanaugh.

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Books and Beyond Reviews: Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions. First off, we’d like to learn a little more about you. Who is your favourite author?

Douglas Cavanaugh: I’ve always appreciated the writing of Walter Tevis. He had an ability to say a lot in his writing without wasting words which I admire very much. He also had an uncanny ability to captivate a reader’s attention even though the subject matter of his book’s plot may not have been in reader’s area of interest (i.e. pool, chess).

I also hold John Grisham in high regard for his story-telling versatility. After writing a hugely successful string of legal thrillers in the 90s, he switched gears and wrote an excellent novel of another genre called ‘A Painted House’ which left me very impressed.

And finally, I am an avid reader of fellow native Iowan Bill Bryson’s books. They never fail to entertain me.

BaBR: When you were writing Into Hell’s Fire, did you steer the story from start to finish, or did the character’s personalities take the wheel and drag you along for the ride?

DC: I must admit, when I committed to writing Into Hell’s Fire, I had no idea what the hell I was doing – and I certainly hope it doesn’t show. Before I started, I read a book about how to write a novel but after having finished it, I felt I’d gained little knowledge from it. In the end, I decided to do it the way that made the most sense to me. I made a chapter by chapter outline, and then began writing from the first page until the very last. Then I altered the final rough draft and added some miscellaneous chapters where needed after discussing the manuscript with some trusted beta readers.

BaBR: Are eBooks dangerous to physical books, or do you perceive them as a gateway to getting more people into reading?

DC: eBooks are becoming more popular, and they are a cheaper way for readers to acquire and read more books. In fact, members who belong to the Amazon Kindle Lending Library, can access books for free, and I am happy to offer Into Hell’s Fire on this platform. I absolutely view eBooks as a gateway for getting more people into reading because of this. However, physical books have a very loyal reader base, and I don’t see them disappearing anytime soon. I am familiar with many book reviewers to this day who accept only hard copy books for review. Sales of Into Hell’s Fire seem to be about 50/50 in terms of eBook vs. physical copies sold.

BaBR: Can you tell us one interesting fact about yourself that not a lot of people know.

DC: I quit watching television almost ten years ago, though I do watch occasional cartoons and old, classic programs with my young daughter. I haven’t stopped watching movies altogether, either. But when I’m alone, the television is always turned off. Time is a commodity and I discovered I was able to get much more accomplished after I quit wasting my time watching television.

BaBR: Thanks for that, Douglas. Now let’s discus your book, Into Hell’s Fire. How did you come about with the idea for Into Hell’s Fire? Was it the result of being immersed in the culture and people who lived through the war when you moved to Croatia?

DC: Certainly, the impression made by the culture and people who had endured the war in Bosnia and Croatia played a role in my book’s plot, particularly in the aspect of characterisation. But because the story is purely a fictional account, there are no actual anecdotes or events described in the story. However, tidbits of personal conversations with friends and acquaintances that participated in or survived the fighting did encourage me to take the plot in certain directions.

The initial idea for Into Hell’s Fire’s plot of developed spontaneously and less dramatically. As a matter of fact, my novel was conceived on an overnight ferry trip I took with my parents from Rijeka to Dubrovnik, Croatia in 1997. Sometime on a warm, early summer afternoon, my father and I were sharing a beer on the ferry’s open deck and absorbing the sun. Since the war had ended less than eighteen months earlier, there were still quite a few NATO and U.N. personnel active in the area. On that particular journey, a man dressed in all black and wearing dark sunglasses was seated nearby. He was alone and spent a lot of time speaking in several different languages to several contacts using a cumbersome, early model mobile phone, probably via a satellite connection, I speculated. Though I couldn’t understand any of what was being discussed, out of curiosity, I eavesdropped sporadically on his conversations. I had no idea who this man was – he could have simply been a tour guide or a ferry company official for all I knew, but it did get my imagination working. Who was this guy? Who was he talking to? Why was he speaking in so many languages? Who was he working for? Readers will definitely pick up on this detail at some point when reading the book. After splitting another beer, the genesis of Into Hell’s Fire’s plot emerged. That detail stayed in my mind for another six years until I finally started writing the book.

BaBR: Did the idea for this book come from a desire to bring attention to what went on, given so many people aren’t fully aware of the atrocities that lead to the disintegration of the Former Republic of Yugoslavia?

DC: No. Details concerning war atrocities were provided in the story solely in support of the main plot, which was set during the Siege of Sarajevo’s early stages. I tried to take care not to hinder the progress of the action by dwelling too much on the war yet the plot was set within the backdrop of the fighting so war atrocities were mentioned and incorporated into the story.

As much as I hope some good came from bringing some modest attention to the tragedies that took place in ex-Yugoslavia during the early 1990s, I cannot say the idea for writing Into Hell’s Fire was intended to fulfil that desire. Quite the contrary really, as the main idea for the book was far simpler and competitive in nature. As it happened, I was spending a lot of time on international flights in the late 1990s and passed much of the transit time reading novels. As a result of finishing too many highly praised books which I personally felt were undeserving; I set out to write an action/thriller novel that could equal or surpass those that I felt didn’t measure up. I won’t name names, but more than a few were written by well-established, big name authors in the same genre. Whether I achieved my goal or not isn’t for me to say. That will be left to readers of Into Hell’s Fire to decide.

BaBR: You moved to Croatia not too long after the end of hostilities, in 1996. How did arriving so soon after, and your interactions with veterans and survivors, help to shape the book and your characters?

DC: I did get firsthand experience of dealing with former soldiers and civilian survivors of the war, many of whom were suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. The city in which I live was never directly touched by the war, yet many people were affected indirectly. Some had lost friends and relatives who lived in the war-torn areas. Others had lost their homes and personal property, and many others had been forced to relocate, often with little or no money to live on. I tried to sufficiently present the unseen side effects war brings to the civilian population to readers, many of whom may not fully understand the ramifications and consequences that war produces. Even so, I suppose one really can’t appreciate the suffering caused by war on other people in some distant land until they have been personally affected by it.

BaBR: Do you feel the world learned from the events in the Former Yugoslavia, or are events in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan history repeating itself?

DC: Well, I’m sure that some people, somewhere in the world, learned some valuable lessons. But I’m less positive that people around the world in general learned much at all. The headlines in today’s news seem to feature different names and locations but the story is pretty much the same. I’m no geopolitical specialist, but if one were to study human behaviour throughout history, it does appear that there are patterns which seem to repeat.

BaBR: Do you have plans for future books, and if so, will they follow a similar idea or genre, or are you looking to try your hand with something different?

DC: I have recently passed the half-way point of my second novel. I decided to switch genres and try something new to keep things fresh and challenging. I also switched from writing in the third to first person point of view, which is a whole new test. There will even be an element of romance in this new story, albeit a minor one, which will test my abilities in another realm of writing. This new effort is primarily set in my home state of Iowa. As it turns out, I first contemplated writing a novel when I lived in Iowa many years ago. At the time, nothing seemed interesting enough to write about on my home turf, and it took a move to another part of the world to stimulate my imagination enough to attempt such a daunting project. Now, ironically, after having completed my first book, interesting ideas to write about in my home state are flowing freely, and I’m still on the other side of the world.


Thanks very much to Douglas for taking time out to answer these questions for me.

You can also connect with Douglas via his website and Goodreads pages.

An Interview with Thomas Mullen

An Interview with Thomas Mullen

I am very pleased to introduce yet another new feature for Books and Beyond Reviews – the all-new An Interview With… segment. Here, I hope to bring you short Q and A-style interviews with authors of books featured and reviewed here on the blog.

And I am very lucky to have the author of The Last Town on Earth, The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers, The Revisionists and the upcoming Darktown. Darktown comes out on 13th September 2016, when you’ll also be able to read my review for this dark, brooding and thought-provoking story.

Until then, let’s get to know a little more about the man behind the words, Thomas Mullen.

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Thomas Mullen. Image © Jeff Roffman

Books and Beyond Reviews: Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions. First off, we’d like to learn a little more about you. Do you write in silence or prefer to have background music/sound?

Thomas Mullen: Silence is best. That said, I do have two little boys, so it’s not always so quiet at Casa Mullen. I venture at least weekly to work in a coffeeshop as a change of pace, which is a risk, as I’m subjected to whatever they’re playing. I’ve learned to be able to write in pretty much any environment, although there was this one time when a coffeeshop played hair metal bands from the ‘80s, and outside the window a construction crew was jackhammering the sidewalk—I didn’t get much done that time.

BaBR: When writing which do you prefer to use: pen, typewriter or computer?

TM: Computer. C’mon, it’s 2016.

BaBR: What is your personal preference when reading: a print book or eBook?

TM: Print

BaBR: Many “purists” feel eReaders are detrimental to the world of books and writing. Where do you sit on this debate?

TM: I’ve decided to stop worrying about this. I myself read a lot on my phone, but only newspapers and online stories, never a book. But if it’s what some people prefer, and it helps them read, then go for it.

BaBR: Tell us one unusual fact or talent about yourself that not many people know.

TM: I can travel through time.

BaBR: Now, onto the matter in hand – Darktown, your new book comes out on September 13th. It seems a very apt book to have written given recent issues around the world involving race and police. Was this ever a factor in your mind when you came up with the idea for this story, or is it a subject you have wanted to explore for some time?

TM: I actually started writing this book about four years ago, and I was finishing the first draft when Michael Brown was killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri, leading to days of mass protests and cops massing in armored gear and military weapons. That summer is when the issue of race and policing truly grabbed the national spotlight in the US, a hold it maintained for most of that year and again this summer with more tragedies. So I can’t say that this is in any way an allegory about or a response to what happened in the summer of ’14, in Ferguson and Baltimore and the Black Lives Matter movement, since that all occurred after I’d finished a draft.

At the same time, police brutality and racially motivated attacks and racial disparities with our legal system have been a part of this country’s history since its founding. The book is about a much earlier and very different time, but hopefully it gives readers a new lens through which they can view events that are still occurring today. Our fraught past informs our present.

BaBR: Was there an independant black police force in Atlanta around 1948 that you drew upon for inspiration and if so how much of how the were restricted is true? Or was this a total work of the imagination that came to your mind?

TM: Yes. Though my characters are fictional and the central mystery is invented, all the circumstances describing their world and its rules are historically accurate. Atlanta hired its first 8 black officers in April 1948. They could only patrol black neighborhoods, they could only arrest blacks, they couldn’t drive squad cars. And they couldn’t even set foot in the white headquarters—they had to operate out of the basement of Atlanta’s black YMCA, because city leaders were afraid if black men in uniform dared show their faces at headquarters, the white officers—many of them members of the racist Ku Klux Klan—would riot and attack them.

BaBR: Where the scenarios and crimes based on real crimes that took place around the time, or are they made up from the kind of crimes that may have occurred?

TM: Again, it’s a mix of historical research and imagination. For example, the 8 black cops did have a white sergeant, and there had indeed been a crackdown on police-abetted illegal gambling a few years earlier, so I used those ingredients to come up with the character of Sgt. McInnis.

BaBR: With Jamie Foxx set to bring Darktown to the small screen with Sony Pictures, are you able to tell us if we will see him on screen, or any big names that will be in the show?

TM: It’s still an ongoing process so I can’t comment too much about it yet. But I’m thrilled that such talented people are involved in bringing this story to the screen. I had a long talk with the screenwriter the other day and we had a blast kicking ideas around.

BaBR: Your key characters like Boggs, Smith, Dunlow and Rakestraw come across really well throughout the book. Their roles are well-defined, and are written in a way I found myself rooting for, empathising with or hating as the book went along. Were any of them based on real people you found in researching ideas for Darktown?

TM: I mentioned McInnis above. And yes, though I’ve never modeled a particular character on a particular real-life person, any time you write historical fiction you need to do a lot of research to figure out: what were people like then? What were the issues and debates of the day? What did they argue about? What were their various life stories? Where had they come from, what were they worried about, where were they going? I couldn’t have written that without doing years of research into the time period.

BaBR: When researching for this book, did you discover anything genuinely interesting, or conversely, anything that was particularly dark?

TM: I think the most striking thing to me was the first thing I heard about the first black cops, which launched me on this project: the fact that they were both second-class citizens and authority figures, cops who operated under so many Jim Crow restrictions. I already had a fairly good grasp of this era of US history, so nothing else truly shocked me as much as that, the initial shock that sent me on this four-year project (and counting, as book two is well underway!).


Thanks very much to Thomas for taking time out this close to book launch to answer these questions for me. I hope you all enjoy this new feature at Books and Beyond Reviews, and lookout for my Darktown review which will be up on the blog on Tuesday 13th September!

In the meantime, you can also connect with Thomas via his website, Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads pages.