Monday, August 18, 2014

Author Interviews--Karen Cantwell

We're back from vacation, and one of my favorite mystery authors is in the hot seat. Karen Cantwell is an incredible woman and she has an equally-incredible series featuring Barbara Marr, a rural Virginia housewife-cum-movie blogger with the knack of finding trouble when it really isn't timely, shall we say.

Karen, welcome to the blog.

Sean Sweeney: Barbara Marr is a doll of a housewife, an expert on movies, and a crack amateur sleuth! How did Babsy come into being?

Karen Cantwell: One day, while scribbling vague, preliminary ideas for a humorous mystery series, Barb whispered in my ear, "Hey, hey. If you need some crazy stories, tell mine." I wasn't keen on the idea at first, I admit. I mean, a soccer mom, living in the suburbs? How crazy can her life get? I kept working on other, more sensible characters, but Barb kept pitching me. She was tenacious, I have to say. Finally, I gave in and the Barbara Marr Murder Mystery Series was born.

SS: Is there a little of you in Barbara? I'm sensing there is.

KC: There's probably more of me in Barb than I'd like to admit. I'm a movie lover, so is she. I have curly hair, so does she. I'm a mother, she's a mother. She often says things out loud that I would only think quietly to myself. On the other hand, Barb gets kidnapped quite frequently and I do not. And while my husband is a handsome fellow, he does not look like George Clooney. Most importantly, Barb remarkably courageous while I possess a remarkable amount of cowardice. And thank goodness for her bravery, or the stories would be very short and very boring.

SS: Other than the lovely Mrs. Marr, you have quite a few, shall we say, quirky characters. Let's talk about all of them. You have one mobster-turned-chef, another housewife that has her undies in a twist, and another that may be a tad, shall we say, loony. Let's talk about their formations and how they all came about.

KC: Their formations are rather simple. I think of a basic type of person who should be in Barb's life, give him or her a name, and some small personality trait, then start to type. What happens after that is a magic I just can't explain. They develop lives and personalities and quirks all on their own. It's like watching a friend grown before my eyes. That aspect of the writing process is the most fun and most exciting for me, I have to say.

SS: One of the things that I love about your books other than the plot or the characters: it's your branding! You have movie titles and turn them into parody titles, along with bright, vivid imagery on your covers. How did all that come about?

KC: The movie title parodies started when I wrote Take the Monkeys and Run. Since Barb was a film lover, I decided to take a movie title and give it a fun twist. Now I try to do that for all of my titles. Not only is it very fun to do, but I also think readers love connecting to a title through the familiarity.

SS: Tell us a little about Karen Cantwell the mom and housewife, and how does the mom and housewife compete for time with Karen Cantwell the author (or is it the other way around? Does Karen Cantwell the author compete for time with Karen Cantwell the mom and housewife)?

KC: Oh boy, you're opening a can of worms with that question!! All I can say is, it ain't easy man, it ain't easy. Both Karen Cantwell's compete and clash on a daily basis and it's usually not a pretty sight to behold. 

SS: I know you've been a starlet with the ebooks.... how is B.M. handling the audiobooks?

KC: I have been very lucky, indeed, that Barb's stories have done really well in the ebook world. As for the audio experience, having a talented and professional actress bring Barbara Marr and my other beloved characters to life has been a joy. I'm really looking forward to getting the next three books produced for audio as well. I hope audio readers enjoy them as much as I do.

SS: What's next in Barbara's adventures?

KC: In just a couple of weeks, readers will have a chance to see what happens when Howard and the girls leave town and Barb finds herself alone for a few days. The book is the fifth in the series, Dead Man Stalking, and Barb will meet possibly the quirkiest characters to date.

Thank you for interviewing me about Barb, Sean!! I'm very honored.

SS: No, thank YOU, Karen. It's an honor to have a great storyteller in my hot seat.

Folks, check out for more information on Barbara Marr!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The 2014 Blog Tour With R.P. Steeves And Others....

Welcome to Blog Tour 2014! Here's how it works: One author writes a blog post asking a few of his or her friends to join in, and then you go down the rabbit hole, figuratively, with some of the most fascinating authors in the business.

My pal R.P. Steeves nodded my way earlier this week, and I am now carving a few minutes out of my precious vacation to talk. Rich (R.P) talked about his fantastic Misty Johnson character in his piece. So thanks, Rich... you're in trouble. :)

1. What am I working on now?

At this exact moment? This blog post. I'm currently on vacation... but as you all know, an author can never truly turn off his or her mind. The mind of an author is an exciting one, and we're always conjuring up settings and worlds and characters and story lines that make readers want to turn pages. The plotbunnies, aye, they be a-mulitplying.

I am always working on something: I'll be diving into edits of INCINERATION quite possibly tonight or tomorrow, depending on if I find anything to read at one of the used bookstores in Provincetown (edited to add, which I did: two Robert B. Parker Spenser novels, DOUBLE DEUCE and SUDDEN MISCHIEF. I love me some Spenser for Hire.). I finished the first draft to TRAVEL AGENT, the sixth Jaclyn Johnson thriller, about eleven days ago. And I have the potential start to a new Alex Bourque mystery novella in my mind, which should take me a couple of weeks to write. I haven't written an Alex Bourque in a while. It would be great to dive back into his world.

2. How does my work differ from others in the genre?

A good question to which I may not have the answer. I'm a detail-oriented author, which means I love to give the reader a solid feel of where the story takes place--and I do this in several different genres. Detail is everything to me; it is second to plot, character, and substance. There are some books that leave out the detail, and that hurts my eyes. I want to be pulled into the book with the visual details. A good majority of the comments in favor of my books are the details. Then again, there are some readers who don't like the details. Caveat emptor.

Or is that fourth? I don't know. I love keeping readers on the edge of their seat, turning pages so they can see what Jaclyn or Alex or Connor Wood or (fill in the blank here) does next.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Because daddy needs to keep the food on the table? No, but seriously....

Thrillers are a rather popular genre, and I had abandoned the fantasy genre mainly because I didn't have the money to hire an artist to give me a colorful-yet-bloody cover, much in the same vein as the R.A. Salvatore novels. I started out as a fantasy author, because at the time, I loved writing about fantastical worlds. I still love reading fantasy; I always will.

I've also dabbled in mystery, historical romance (now under my pen name, D.L. Boyd; there will be more coming from "her" in the future), and sci-fi. I just love to write what moves me! After the aforementioned novella is done, I have a horror-thriller in mind that'll knock everyone's socks off--if I do the legend justice.

4. How does my writing process work?

The process. It's a great mystery to many as to how an author works. Some think that authors simply have a bottle of Jack Daniels or something even stronger next to them.

My process is simple: I cut open a vein and bleed onto the keyboard.

I'm a detail-oriented, plot-driven author. I know the outcome of the story even before I start writing it. I look at maps of real places--if my book happens to be set in a real place--and I delve deep into the setting; the characters have to go somewhere, and my readers connect best with real places. I want to see the rolling hills, the gentle curve of asphalt, the towering hills on other side of the road, and I have to make sure that the description is just right: if it's a real place, readers can see that and if they tell you that they saw it perfectly in your description, then you've done your job.

My process involves keeping readers on the edge of their seats, as I've said. And that means bringing in the very best in my literary arsenal onto the pages. I want the readers to feel the sweat, to hear the sounds. I want them to use their senses--and truthfully, I want them to go into sensory overload by the time they've finished reading my books.


And now it's my turn to spread the love, so to say. I've tagged the following authors.

Let's see: Terry Simpson, Nickie Storey, and up-and-coming author Ted Flanagan. That should do it. :)

Now Rich, can I enjoy the rest of my vacation?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Author Interviews: E.H. Walter

In our most recent edition of the Author Interviews, we bring a dear, dear lady and an excellent author in London native Elizabeth "E.H." Walter into the hot seat. She has a fantastic series in PARANORMAL INVESTIGATIONS, set in her native London. Liz and I met during the 2009 NaNoWriMo, where she wrote PI1 while I penned Zombie Showdown. We've been friends ever since.

Sean Sweeney: 'Ello, Love! You have a rather excellent series going, one that I love--not because you mentioned the sexy counterterrorism agent in the first book. Let's talk about Paranormal Investigations: What's it about, how you got the idea, etc.

E.H. Walter: I love Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files and wondered what a British, female version would be like. Thus Leo and her world came into being. I didn’t have much time for research, as I wrote all of Paranormal Investigations 1 during Nanowrimo one November, so set it where I lived and in the places I saw every day. Leo also took on some of my theatrical background. I guess other ideas must have been bashing around my subconscious for a while because it was very easy and enjoyable to write. Quickly after PI1 was published I realised there was a demand for more, so I kept going and have written three more to date.  I love writing them but with every book Leo’s world gets a bit bigger and there are more characters to remember – it gets harder!  I know the writer Jasper Fforde struggles with the same thing and has his wife helping him, covering books in notes and post its.  I think I need a wife!

SS: One of the underlying themes of PI is her deal with the Fae, and it turns out she has been warned, time and again, about this. What is it about this series of events involving the Fae that keeps readers turning pages?

EHW: The Fae weren’t really meant to be so important in PI, but they have now got their own thread running throughout the series which will become clearer in PI6.  I blame Jamie really, he keeps building his part up.  I don’t know why the Fae catches readers’ interest, but the paranormal generally holds a great deal of fascination for people – myself included. 

SS: Let's talk about some of your other books, because you have a few solid tales that don't involve Leo. Break them down for us. 

EHW: I try and write one PI book and one non PI book a year.  Non-PI books include: Fallen – what would happen if Lucifer fell into modern London and tried to get revenge on God?  The ReedBed – two mismatched individuals fall in lust in the Victorian countryside.  Snowbound (to be published soon) – a London teenager gets snowed in rural Wisconsin as the world ends.  I also publish a few short stories and have about three other novels to edit and publish at some point in the future (a historical fiction, a Victorian crime/thriller and a YA werewolf trilogy). I’ve also written a film script.  It’s about the Scottish football team full of amateurs taking on the World Cup, when the professionals get fired for asking for too much money, but haven’t had any takers on it yet. I like to write something completely different every time which can be a problem for mainstream authors as publishing houses are notorious for pigeon holing you into one specific genre.  Being self-published gives you a great deal more freedom.  I can write the stories I want to tell, the stories I want to read – which are spread across many genres.

SS: Earlier this year, I wrote a blog post about the changes that I've gone through as an author these last few years, and I know that you've gone through a few changes, too: You've become a mother, you've moved from Barnet to a cozy flat, etc. Let's talk about the changes that you've had to make regarding the writing, and balancing it with motherhood.

EHW: Wow.  Motherhood.  People insist on telling you how hard it is going to be and you never listen.  The thing is, they weren’t right when they told you how tough it was – no one can; it’s worse!  I managed 60 000 words last November by writing as soon as my then-four-month-old fell asleep.  I wrote in bed on my iPad (which presents its own problems) and set myself a strict daily target.  I’ve since managed to finish that novel (Snowbound) but you definitely need discipline. I also find bets based on cake and coffee are good motivators with other writing friends.  I don’t like giving away cake.  I like eating it.

SS: Who were your literary heroes/heroines growing up? I'm sure there are loads of great characters in British literature that pulled you into their worlds.

EHW: My favourite ever books growing up were the Anne of Green Gables series – I just loved them.  I read them so many times the spines were lined and the covers bent which says something as I’m one of those people who never cracks spines!  I also read the classics such as the Brontes, Austen, DuMaurier, Conan Doyle and tried Dickens, who I have never gotten on with.  I have a theory you must read the classics by the age of twenty one because life gets in the way afterwards.  

SS: Let's go back to Leo's world for just a tick. There's something about one of the stories that so reminds me about my work, because like you, I love digging through the layers of history to uncover little known nuggets in order to help move the story along, and in PI3, I believe, you have Leo and her pals delve into an abandoned portion of the London Underground. What was that experience like, in regards to the research?

EHW: I’ve had a fascination with the London underground since my first trip on it aged nine.  I remember it clearly because I was terrified of escalators and at Knightsbridge there was this enormous one.   It seemed to stretch for miles underground and so steep you couldn’t see the bottom.  I just stood there terrified, blocking everyone – until my Aunty Rita shoved me on and I sailed down loving every minute!  It was shortly after that trip that there was the dreadful fire at Kings Cross which finally led to a lot of modernisation on the underground and so this old, rickety world began to be lost.  Wooden escalators were replaced and smoking banned!  Some stations were too difficult to modernise and the smaller ones, such as Aldwych, were gradually closed.  They joined the platforms and whole stations that have been mothballed and are sealed pockets of history.  Some haven’t been used since World War Two and still bear the posters from that era.  It’s a strange feeling to stand on the platform at Holborn and know through that foreboding, thick, grey door is a whole extra part of the station never used.  The abandoned stations are sometimes open for limited tours and, although I’ve never managed to get on one, I study the photos of those who have.  I also walk around London a lot and the Piccadilly line stations are easy to spot as they were all bricked in what is called ‘ox blood red’.  London is dreadful for destroying its own history in the name of progress so I like to hold on to these little bits that remain. 

SS: You're giving me 100 quid when I arrive in London. What am I doing?

EHW: Take a walking tour tailored to your interests.  There are lots of different options: a literary tour of Soho, Jack the Ripper’s East London etc.  That would only cost about a tenner per person per walk so I guess you could spend the rest on a good play at one of the better theatres (the National or the Old Vic – or for a fiver you can be a ‘groundling’ at the Globe but pick a shorter Shakespeare play or your feet will ache!) and then a walk along the canal in Camden, the Thames or around the London parks.  To be honest, you could just walk around London for the day and spend nothing, just taking it all in.

SS: I'm giving you $100 when you arrive in Boston. What are YOU doing?

EHW: I want to see history!  Show me where it happened!  I also like to be by the water so a walk along the waterfront?  Then let me collapse and gorge myself at the best vegan restaurant Boston has to offer.

SS: What is up next for you?

EHW: Next up is the writing of Paranormal Investigations 5: A Faint Whiff of Wet Dog as well as getting Snowbound ready for publication.  After PI5 I’ll write something different (probably in November) before cracking on with PI6 and then PI7.  I already have titles and the main plot idea for them and can’t wait to get started!

Thanks for stopping by, Liz!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Author Interviews: Michael Crane

Welcome back to Sean Sweeney's Author Interviews, where we get to know an author that you all should be reading. In today's exciting episode, we bring back our good friend Michael Crane, better known to many of you as The Drabble Man. Mike has joined us before: for that interview, and it was a really good one, check out this link.

And now, without further ado (and I don't mind if I do), Michael Crane. Mikey, welcome to the blog.

Sean Sweeney: The first question, of course, is important because I do care about you, Mikey: Your fingers. Giggles did a number on them the last time you were here. Have they healed properly, or have you come up with a Wolverine-type set-up that you're using pencils to type?

Michael Crane: Giggles is a mean little bastard, isn’t he? As for my fingers, yes. They’ve healed… although don’t tell Mr. Giggles that. I still keep them wrapped up in bandages to trick him.

SS: Well, you finally did it! You wrote the Giggles novella! Let's talk about it; it' a year or so old, but still--to someone just reading about you for the first time, it's brand new to them. What went into the making of this story? How did the process go of getting that homicidal sock monkey from a drabble into longer prose?

MC: I had the idea for a couple of years before I finally set out to write it. I had this vision in my head of Giggles terrorizing a couple of home invaders or robbers, and the idea tickled me. I thought it’d just be something funny, like a goof, but then the idea started to transform into something more. I did an outline and then kind of went away from it because I was stuck. I had a beginning, a middle, and an end scene—but no idea how to get to that final scene.

A year or so went by, and I wanted to take a break from slice-of-life writing. I’d had my fill of real life that year, and I wanted to do something over-the-top. I read Joe Hill’s NOS4A2, and it inspired me to re-visit Giggles. As soon as I had my endgame figured out, it was pretty quick to complete the first draft. Overall I’m proud of it. The book turned out to be a lot more cruel and vicious than I ever thought it could be.

SS: He's not here right now, is he?

MC: Not this time, thank gawd! Although I’m still looking over my shoulders every now and then…

SS: Many readers know you for your "slice of life" stories and the drabbles. And I understand you're working on a new set of stories after a little bit of a break. What has gone into those?

MC: I just released a short story collection, Pieces a few months ago. It marked my return to slice-of-life writing, which has always been my favorite kind of writing. The response to it so far has been overwhelming and I’m really happy about it. I’m still in the very, very rough stages of this new one. The concept is the stories take place in a fictional town in IL. It’s too early for me to say how it’ll go or if it really will turn into something solid, but I’m having fun with it so far. I’m just happy to have a new project. It’s always rough for me when I finish a book. I usually need time to recharge before I start something new, meaning I read a ton of books during that time—mostly short story collections.

SS: Getting back to Giggles for a second.... I've always pictured Giggles and Clown walking down a street together after committing one insane atrocity after another, having a simple conversation. What would that conversation be like, and could we see something of that magnitude occur sometime in the future?

MC: I don’t know why, but I’ve always had this vision in my head that the two were very competitive with each other. At least Giggles is. I envisioned this feud between the two of them. But that’s an interesting idea. I’ll have to save that for later. Clown wouldn’t talk. He’d just hand Giggles notes. I’m sure Giggles would give him crap for that.

SS: How is married life treating you? Vegas for the honeymoon! I'm still waiting for my Reese's shirt.

MC: Next time! I’m really happy with married life. I was miserable when I was single. Now when I hear friends talk about their dating experiences, I don’t envy them for a second. I just think, “I’m so glad I don’t have to do that anymore.” Some people are good at being single, and would prefer stay that way. I’m not one of those people. Being married and finally meeting my significant other has made me a better person, and my outlook of life is much more positive—even if it doesn’t seem that way through my fiction! (sorry, happy stories bore me to tears in the fiction world)

SS: I've noticed your love of audiobooks. Will Giggles come to audio any time soon?

MC: I would love for that to happen at some point. It’s something I have to look into. I’m loving audiobooks. They’re great for my daily commute. I think Giggles is long enough to make a decent audiobook. Again, it’s something I’ll have to look into, but it’s something I’ve definitely considered.

Check out Mike's work on Amazon, Nook, etc, and follow him on Facebook! Also, check out his blog here.