Tag Archives: interviews

Rocket Science to YA SF: An Interview With Mindjack Trilogy Writer Susan Kaye Quinn

Susan Kaye Quinn’s YA sci-fi Mindjack Trilogy is one of my fantabulous browsing finds. Hopping from

The third book in the trilogy is available today!

The third book in the trilogy is available today!

book to book, the word “mindjacker” kept grabbing my attention, and the description for Open Minds, the first book in the trilogy, intrigued me even more:

When everyone reads minds, a secret is a dangerous thing to keep.

Sixteen-year-old Kira Moore is a zero, someone who can’t read thoughts or be read by others. Zeros are outcasts who can’t be trusted, leaving her no chance with Raf, a regular mindreader and the best friend she secretly loves. When she accidentally controls Raf’s mind and nearly kills him, Kira tries to hide her frightening new ability from her family and an increasingly suspicious Raf. But lies tangle around her, and she’s dragged deep into a hidden underworld of mindjackers, where having to mind control everyone she loves is just the beginning of the deadly choices before her. 

Free Souls, the final book in the series, drops today! Susan gives us the scoop on how she developed the whole mindjacker concept, what type of mage she would want to be, and she offers a preview of a new series akin to the Mindjack Trilogy.

The word “mindjack” is what initially caught my attention, and then the concept sealed the deal. Where did you get the idea?

Originally, there were no mindjackers in the story! My first concept was about a girl in a future world where everyone read minds except for her. The image of this very isolated girl came to me one night as I was trying to go to sleep (the brain never lets me rest), and I immediately had to get up and write the scene. After that, this character wouldn’t leave me alone, so I ended up using that as a starting point for a National Novel Writing Month (NaNo) novel a month later. About 20k words into the novel, I realized that she really was a mindjacker! The story evolved from there.

How did you develop the specialties of the mages?

The mages are jackers with extreme abilities, beyond the typical mindjacker that can just manipulate your every thought, emotion, sense, and memory. 🙂 I saw the mages as either jackers that have enhanced “normal” abilities or jackers that can reach into the deeper levels of mind. An “enhanced” jacker would be able to reach mentally farther (a Viewer) or control many minds at once (a Puppeteer, although I never explicitly call Hinckley that in the story). Jackers that reach deeper would control the instinctual processes that lie below conscious thought (a Handler) or broadly be able to rewrite not just memories, but subconscious memories, learned skills, and the tiniest details that make up your personality (a Scribe).

I had a lot of fun making these up. I had to stop making so many different kinds, just because it would have been too complicated for the story. But I leave that door open, so to speak, in Free Souls. 🙂

If you were a mage, what would be your gift?

I would definitely want to be a Handler. In Julian’s novella (The Handler), I explore what it feels like to be able to read people’s instincts (they’re mostly colors, but also temperatures), and how that affects Julian’s interactions with other people. What if you knew not just someone’s conscious thoughts, but the basic desires underlying them? They might say (or even think) one thing, but you would know what was driving them better than they knew themselves. Creepy. Also a lot of fun. 🙂

Who are your writing influences? What do like to read when you’re not writing?

I adore Scott Westerfeld and Holly Black. My influences stretch back to the classic SF of my youth (Heinlein, Bradbury) up to modern classics like Harry Potter and Hunger Games and Lightning Thief. I’ve broadened my reading in the last year: lots of indie works, short stories, SF, steampunk, even historical romance. Recent reads: The War of Art (nonfiction), The Queen’s Lady (medieval romance), Jars of Clay (Roman romance), The Ghost and the Graveyard (fantasy mature romance) and Wool (post-apocalyptic SF). If you can find the common element there, let me know! (BTW half of those are indie works.)

According to your bio, you have quite the resume in the sciences! What motivated you to get back to writing, and to take it all the way to publishing?

The writing bug bit after I started reading with my kids – I simply adored the middle grade stories they loved. Then I started reading YA, and I just found myself sitting down at the computer one day and writing a story of my own. I had written a lot as a child and teen myself, but had left it behind long ago to pursue “serious” adult work. 🙂 When I became completely obsessed with the craft of writing and literally couldn’t stop, I decided I better try to turn this into something that might bring income one day, just so I could justify all the time I spent on it. 🙂

With Free Souls coming soon, do you have any plans beyond the Mindjack books?

I do!

The Faery Swap (MG Fantasy)

I started writing because I love middle grade stories, and I’ve been writing those all along (although not publishing them). In 2013, I plan to revise and submit The Faery Swap, a middle grade fantasy about a boy who is tricked into swapping places with a warrior faery from an alternate dimension. It’s Prince and the Pauper meets Artemis Fowl, and I love the story. We’ll see how far it can go in the traditional-publishing route; all else fails, I’ll self-publish, even though the market for middle grade still hasn’t really arrived in the indie world.

Third Daughter (steampunk fantasy romance)

For NaNo 2012, I drafted the first 50k of Third Daughter, an Indian-flavored steampunk novel that I’m having ridiculous amounts of fun writing (you can check out my Pinterest board to get some idea of what that world looks like). I hadn’t really planned on writing this book until later next year, but my mom was interested in NaNo, and since I’ve been trying to get her to pick up the pen for about 4 years now, I told her I would do NaNo, if she did too. So we completed NaNo together  – I’m super proud of her for taking the leap! I’ll spend the rest of December finishing the first draft of Third Daughter before I let it rest.

Singularity (YA SF, for readers who enjoy Mindjack)

In the New Year, I’m crazy excited to start writing my new science fiction series, Singularity, which I think will appeal to the fans of Mindjack. It’s about a post-Singularity world (the Singularity is the event horizon when computers become more intelligent than humans), with plenty of cool technology and future world dreaming, all told through the viewpoint of a legacy human boy. You can see a sneak peek into this work in a tiny flash fiction I wrote for Christmas (it’s hidden on my blog, scroll down to the bottom). It will be a series, the as-yet unnamed first novel to be published in 2013.

So… big plans ahead! Thanks so much for having me today!

~ * ~

Thanks for coming by, Susan! So if you’ve read books one and two, go get your copy of Free Souls today to find out how things work out for Kira! If you’re new to the trilogy, I highly recommend giving it a shot. Check out Open Minds and Closed Hearts, plus the three related novellas Susan’s released. Find out all about the Mindjack Trilogy and more at Susan’s website. Happy reading!

Southern Fraud: An Interview With Mystery Author J.W. Becton

Last year, while browsing that nifty ‘customers who bought this also bought…’ list on Amazon, I stumbled across an exciting looking mystery novel called Absolute Liability, the first book in the Southern Fraud Thriller series. I enjoyed reading it so much, I decided to ask fellow indie author J.W. Becton (a.k.a. Jennifer Becton) to pop over to do an interview.

Some of you may know her as an historical-fiction author, writing popular Jane Austen spin-offs like Charlotte Collins. Today, she’s giving us an inside look at her new Southern Fraud Thriller series. We’ll find out what sparked her interest in extreme insurance fraud, the challenges of writing mysteries vs. historical-fiction, and find out a little about the series’ second book, Death Benefits!

Tell us a little about Absolute Liability and the Southern Fraud Thriller series.

The Southern Fraud Thriller series resulted from my love of mysteries and my desire to read a book about a strong female character who worked in law enforcement but not in the typical professions of police officer or FBI agent. I also wanted to take advantage of a different setting—the South—which is filled with all kinds of quirky interesting people.

Each book in the Southern Fraud series focuses on Julia Jackson and her job at the Georgia Department of Insurance in which she investigates extreme cases of insurance fraud. In addition to her official law enforcement work, Julia is conducting a personal, secret investigation into the identity of the man who raped her sister seventeen years ago. So while Julia is tangling with some wacky and potentially homicidal fraudsters, she is also on a more intimate quest to bring justice to her sister and reunify her family, which was torn apart after the rape.

What prompted you to go from writing historical fiction to thrillers?

I grew up watching mysteries on TV with my father, and so these types of books also became my first loves. Before I ever read Jane Austen, I read Agatha Christie. But I adored both authors and genres equally so my dream was to write both types of books. Thanks to the changes that have taken place in the publishing world, I have been able to do just that.

What is the biggest difference between writing a book like Charlotte Collins and writing the Southern Fraud series?

This is a very good question. Both genres—thrillers and historical fiction—had their unique challenges, but I found mystery/thriller writing much more difficult. Timelines must be precise, and information must be revealed at just the right moment so that readers don’t feel as if they’ve been treated unfairly. In my view, readers must have the opportunity to figure out whodunit at the same moment as the protagonist (if not before). I despise reading mysteries in which the killer is introduced five pages before the end in a wild plot twist. I don’t mind being fooled by good writing, but I hate being the victim of cheap tricks like that. It is difficult to achieve a balance between suspense and timely revelations that lead everyone to the ultimate conclusion, and I spend a great deal of time rewriting and reorganizing the plot points until I feel the book is fair. Of course, that is up to the readers to decide.

In historical fiction, the biggest challenge is accurate depiction of the time period and mentality of the characters according to the social mores of the day. No matter how much research an author does, there will always be mistakes when trying to recreate a world of the past. I try my best to get it right and to keep my modern sensibilities out of it, but it is sometimes difficult.

Where did you get the idea to delve into insurance fraud investigating?

My in-laws run an independent (and not at all fraudulent) insurance agency, and my father-in-law once worked as a claims adjuster, so I often hear stories about their work. And some of it is hilarious! The scams that have been tried on them were sometimes so over the top that it was hard to believe they were true. And then I ran across an article about state insurance investigators, who turned out to be real law enforcement officers with the power to arrest and not fuddy-duddy number crunchers as I expected, and that’s when the idea for Southern Fraud began to form.

I absolutely love writing about unexpected characters, and what protagonist is more unexpected than an insurance fraud investigator? I had great fun taking a character type often seen in a negative light—everyone hates insurance companies, right?—and transforming her into a heroine.

What kind of research did you do?

I’ve had the most fun with research for Southern Fraud! I began with a good base of stories from my in-laws and augmented it with research from the Coalition against Insurance Fraud, the Insurance Journal, and other insurance related news stories. Sure, it sounds dry, but some of the extreme cases of fraud described in these articles are hysterical. I also had the opportunity to tour the Charlotte-Mecklenburg (NC) crime lab, where I saw what a real forensics lab was like and how it was run (spoiler: it’s not like TV at all). I also have the honor of getting to pick the brains of my military, law enforcement, and fire department friends, and this year, I attended the Writers’ Police Academy, which was a tremendous help and inspiration.

How did you develop the characters of Julia Jackson and Mark Vincent?

When I began Southern Fraud, my vision was to strive for the same feel as the TV crime dramedies I enjoyed as I was growing up. I wanted to find a balance between suspense, action, humor, and a touch of romance. But most importantly, I wanted my heroine to be more realistic than those I’ve been reading lately: neither a daft, bumbling idiot who trips her way through investigations nor a hard-as-nails, shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later Dirty Harry type. I wanted her to be a good girl who tried hard and had a bit of an edge and a few snarky thoughts now and then.

And Julia needed a partner, and thus Vincent came to be. In Vincent, I wanted to create a man who was a bit of an homage to a strong but silent-type of hero who lets his actions speak for him. He has secrets and lots of military experience, but he’s never going to be one to ramble on about them. However, everything Vincent does reveals something about him and his mysterious past.

What can we expect as the series progresses?

As Southern Fraud progress, Julia will continue her investigations into some rather extreme cases of insurance fraud, and with each book, she will get one step closer to discovering the identity of her sister’s rapist and bringing him to justice. There will also be a few tastes of romance here and there and definitely some surprises along the way.

I read that you love horses. Will we ever see Julia riding?

I do love horses, and I have the honor of owning my dream horse, a gorgeous (even if I do say so myself) black Arab x Saddlebred mare that I love more than almost anything. I could go on (and on and on) about the subject of horses for pages, but for the sake of your readers’ sanity, I’ll prevent myself. Although I don’t have any plans to write any riding scenes in Southern Fraud, I am coauthoring a nonfiction book on overcoming horseback riding fear with Laura Daley, a professional horse and people trainer who helped me overcome my own fear issues.

When will Death Benefits, the second book in the series, be available? Can you give us a taste of what that will be about?

Death Benefits is currently in the hands of my proofreader, and as soon as she is finished, it will be released! I worked very hard on the book, and I really hope it will be a worthy successor to Absolute Liability. You can read a free sample of Death Benefits here.

Here’s the back cover copy:

Fraud investigator Julia Jackson is back in action, and her next assignment throws her straight into the crosshairs of a bevy of desperate people…and one man who will do anything to keep his secret safe.

Late one night, a car burns on an untraveled rural road, and the discovery of a body—charred beyond recognition—in the driver’s seat sets in motion a series of deadly events. And when the wife of the supposedly deceased driver demands her husband’s million-dollar life insurance policy payout before the autopsy can be completed, fraud investigators Julia Jackson and Mark Vincent must determine exactly how the victim died and at whose hands.

As Julia and Vincent interview witnesses and tangle with a host of angry suspects, another man is working behind the scenes to erase his mysterious connection to the body by any means necessary.

Soon Julia and Vincent realize they are not dealing with an average death benefits scam, but with a potential serial killer instead.

Besides the Southern Fraud series, do you have any other books in the works?

As I mentioned earlier, I am coauthoring a book on overcoming horseback riding fear with Laura Daley, and I’ll also be starting on At Fault (SF3), which will focus on some strange cases of auto insurance fraud. I’m very much looking forward to 2012 and to continuing my journey in the self-publishing world.

Amy, thank you so much for inviting me to your blog, and I look forward to getting to know and your readers better!

* * *

You can purchase all of Jennifer’s ebooks at Amazon.com. And for those of you who are Amazon Prime Members, you can borrow her books for free from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library!  You can purchase the paperback editions of her books at most major retailers.

Learn more about Jennifer and her novels at Becton Literary and the Southern Fraud Thriller site. And follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks for joining us today, Jennifer!

Music & Reading: An Interview With Songwriter/Producer Daphne Tetreault

Music and storytelling have always been friends. From minstrels to opera to modern-day movie scores, the two combined enhance and enrich each other. Along that line, I talked to songwriter/producer Daphne Tetreault who composed the music for my Dead Locked book trailer (we also happen to be sisters). She primarily writes and produces Top 40 pop tunes so I asked her what scoring for a book trailer was like and how reading affects her music. At the end of the interview, we have an exclusive free download of Daphne’s latest release with artist Brittany Hill!

The Dead Locked trailer was your first time scoring music. What was that like?

I was excited by the creative challenge and really enjoyed the process of letting the visual images evoke the music. It’s very different from my usual mode of working and I felt a bit nervous, wondering if I could get the right feelings across. Capturing the feeling of visual images is a whole other ball game, and I didn’t know where to start at first. But I started noodling, and ideas started flowing.

How did knowing the story affect the music? Did you get ideas as you were reading?

Yes, reading and knowing the story did affect the music. It helped me to inject the right level of excitement and mystery into the music. I don’t remember getting ideas as I was reading – I was too into the story! – but then when I saw the images for the trailer and knowing what was behind them, that’s when I got the ideas. Though I did have sort of a musical outline of how I wanted the music to build.

Music really affects my storytelling. Does reading fiction influence your songs at all?

Reading fiction has definitely influenced my songwriting. I’ve gotten ideas for song titles, concepts, phrases, even language and terminology from books. I’ve also translated the mood or feelings from different books I liked and turned it into a song.

What is the impact of a good score on a movie or TV show…or even a book trailer?

The visual arts, including trailers, wouldn’t have nearly the level of emotional impact without music. Music in non-verbal and can create fear, excitement, romance, mystery, unease…you name it. Even if the music is subtle or simple it can be very powerful. To quote Jack Black from the movie The Holiday – “with Jaws, John Williams created a villain in two notes!”

What do you like to read?

Jane Austen is one of my fav authors – my favorites by her are of course P&P and Persuasion; Elizabeth Gaskell – North & South; ah, yes- Amy Saunders author of Dead Locked! 😉 And I still have some favorites from when I was a kid. I’m all about the characters – I really have to get involved with them on a deep level to love a book.

What do you do as a songwriter/producer?

As a songwriter/producer I write lyrics and melodies, make demos, write, arrange and record tracks, coordinate musicians and vocalists, mix (which is adding effects, panning instruments in the audio field, EQ instruments so they don’t step on each other’s toes, and generally making it sound as good as possible) and sometimes I master it if it’s a demo. But if it’s a release I usually hire that out as it’s an art unto itself. Then I also pitch, pitch, pitch! Oh yeah, and network.

How long have you been doing this?

A while. 😉

What are you working on now?

I’m working with a few artists on album projects – mini-albums, which are 3- 5 songs long. Just had a couple of single releases with artists Miss Jess and Brittany Hill (available on iTunes and Amazon!) and have some more releases coming with other artists this summer.

You can hear Daphne’s current and past works at http://www.myspace.com/daphnetetreault and www.songbeat.net. Listen to full songs on her YouTube channel. Or contact her at daphne@songbeat.net.

Now about that free song download! Click here to go to the download page for the free MP3 of the pop/dance tune “Wish I May” by Brittany Hill and co-written and produced by Daphne (listen to the full track in the video below). You can download other tracks by Brittany Hill and Miss Jess on iTunes and Amazon (where they’re a steal for $.89 a piece). Enjoy!

Thanks to Daphne for joining us!

Bedtime Stories to Books: An Interview With YA Author J.A. Paul

After following fellow author J.A. Paul on Twitter, I learned about his debut YA fantasy novel Gladius and the Bartlett Trial (which I’m currently reading). So I’ve asked him a few questions and found out how his sons influenced this action-adventure quest, what he loves most about writing, and what we can expect to see from this budding author in the future! We also have a special sneak peek at Gladius waiting for you after the interview. Read on!


When did you start ‘putting words to paper’ as your bio says? What motivated you to do so?

I used to mess around with writing when I was a teenager but I didn’t take it seriously. Not until the early 1990’s did I start learning the craft and applying ‘words to paper’ in short story form.


Where did you get the idea for Gladius and the Bartlett Trial?

One night after a long verbal bedtime story, my sons challenged me to write my own book. I borrowed an idea from a friend and asked my boys to choose three things to go in the story. They chose a dragon, a tree, and a ruby. They wanted lots of action and adventure and so from the seed of that idea, the story of Gladius grew.



What books/authors have influenced you?

Stephen Kings’ writing book On Writing made me wake up and pay attention. It also helped me realize there is a process to writing. A creative process. My mind works better when I can think in a logical, practical method but still be creative and whimsical at the same time. Also, John Grisham’s vivid stories and settings; Clive Cussler’s adventure and flair for fun; Dr. Suess’s daring to be different; and of course J. R. R. Tolkien’s creativity. Oh, and Brenda Ueland’s If You Want to Write is an excellent read if you want to be a writer. Those are the big recognizable names but I have many lesser known authors that I admire as well.


Tell us a little about Gladius and the Bartlett Trial. Is it a part of a series?

Yes, it is a part of a planned trilogy. To tell it differently than the back cover copy the story of Gladius is about a teenage boy who spent much of his childhood listening to the fantastic adventure stories of his older brothers and father. He yearns to live some of those adventures for himself and can’t wait to set out on his Bartlett Trial, a rite of passage of sorts where he has to prove himself in the forest of Longwood for one month. If he succeeds he will receive a pile of silver to help pay the family land tax as that is the Wiggin community’s custom. But what he gets instead is his first and very daring adventure of his life where all that he stands for hangs in the balance.


Which character do you most identify with and why?

I know it’s cliché but I can identify a little with each. This is a tough question because I feel like I have to choose a favorite among my own children. I would say Gladius because some of his actions and mannerisms are based off my teenage years.


Which scene did you have the most fun writing?

I have two. The VaporRot scene (dragon) and the ending.


What is your favorite part of writing?

For me it’s like that feeling you get after you exercise. You know, when you feel good about yourself because you accomplished something but also I think there is some feel good chemical that is released in your body. Kind of like a caffeine boost. I also enjoy thinking about scenes over and over until you get it just right. Then when you go to type it up it flows effortlessly.


When does your next book come out?

Book II is more than half-way done and should be out in the fall of 2011 with book III coming out in early- to mid-2012.



What can we expect of you in the future?

After the Gladius trilogy I want to write a stand-alone book based on some ‘what if’s’ centered around the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness BWCAW in northern Minnesota. I also have some fun children’s short stories that I would like to collaborate with an artist on. And to the request of some fans already, I might even write some short stories chronicling the adventures of Windom and Kirken, Glad’s two older brothers. They would be a fun supplement to the Gladius series.

* * *

And now an excerpt from Gladius and the Bartlett Trial!

Chapter 1 – Longwood

Stepping hesitantly up to the daunting pillars of time, Gladius Oldmont remembered the frightening tales told to him in his early years – tales that centered on this stand of mysterious and aged woodland.

He smiled fondly at the memory of his father’s words, “that old dragon torched the hair right off my scalp.” He pictured his father massaging his bald dome as if the infliction was only recent.

Rubbing a swollen bump on his own head, Gladius now stood at the same point each Oldmont family member had once stood before him – the entrance to Longwood Forest. He studied the mature trees as rays from the warm afternoon sun trickled their way through the shadowy interior illuming the ground of his intended course.

Gladius felt his heart racing, as if doing a war dance. He consciously took a deep breath, slowing down the thumping in his chest. He knew he tread upon the threshold of fulfilling a long-awaited dream. An adventure all young Wiggins his age must embark upon.

This adventure, called the Bartlett Trial, is a test for all Wiggins when they reach the age of fifteen – a challenge to determine if they are ready to be considered an adult in the village.

This journey could catapult him into the old ones’ legends far beyond this 17th century. He had lived for this moment; there would be no more waiting. No turning back.

Drawing in another deep breath, he nodded, tugged on the shoulder straps of his leather pack and flexed his fingers tightly around his walking stick. Exhaling, he stabbed the hand-carved stick in the ground and stepped forward into the leafy canvas upon which he would paint his future.

* * *

Intriguing, no? Get a glimpse at what happens once Gladius enters Longwood by downloading the first seven chapters free as a PDF right here! You can buy the whole story at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. And keep up with J.A. Paul and his newest releases online at his official website, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

Thanks for joining us!