Author Meet & Greet!

Welcome to Author Meet & Greet

Here, you will have an opportunity to meet authors,  connect through their social media links (if they choose to share them), and purchase their works.

The 4 most current interviews will be posted here. Older ones may be found under the Archive: Author Meet & Greet on the front page.


**Jack Ketchum’s Interview from December 2017 is PINNED at the bottom of this page**


So, without further ado, let’s get to know

Meet & Greet Author:  #82

Toni Johnson




Your Name: Toni Johnson

Genre(s) of your work: I write all sorts of sci-fi and fantasy. Tales of the Automazombs is light steampunk and horror.



Titles/Year of Published Work(s):

Tales of the Automazombs: A Desperate Plan (2017)

Tales of the Automazombs: A Darker Road (2018)

You can also read my short stories in the January 2017 issue of Devolution Z and the May 2018 issue of Electric Spec.


Toni Johnson is an illustrator as well as an author of science fiction and fantasy. She lives deep in a forest in Chicagoland with her husband and daughter, having grand adventures with imaginary monsters.


Why do you write in the genre that you do?

I definitely write what I read. Stories of monsters and strange lands have always been my favorite. They wrap real world issues, both societal and personal, in a layer of the fantastic. I like that a fun adventure can also change someone’s perspective.


How has writing changed/altered your life?

Well, I drink a lot more coffee. I’m my own boss when I write, so I’ve had to figure out what setup helps me get the most words on the page in a day. For me, that’s the local coffeeshop in the morning.


Who are your favorite authors and why?

Douglas Adams’ work holds a special place in my heart. I grew up reading the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (and watching the TV mini-series on VHS over and over until the tape died). I love his humor. I’m also a huge fan of the recently-ended Memoirs of Lady Trent series by Marie Brennan. The descriptions of dragons and overall concept hooked me immediately. It’s like if Charles Darwin was a woman and studied dragons instead of finches.


What is your opinion of mainstream/corporate bookstores?

I prefer small independent bookstores, for that connection to the community, but if a place helps people find a book they love, I’m all for it.


What do you hope your readers will take away from your work?

At its core, Tales of the Automazombs is about perseverance. There’s this awful plague that seems unstoppable and all of these smaller more intimate problems in each short story. But people adapt, they fight back, they survive however they can.



How much does personal experience play in your written work?

That’s part of write what you know. Everything I’ve experienced gets filed away in my brain for later use. Places I’ve been, the characteristics and mannerisms of people I’ve met, even aspects of myself all get mixed together to create something new.



How do you find the motivation to complete a book/story?

Finishing projects has been a lifelong struggle. Sometimes I’ll look back on the times I failed to complete a work and use that to push myself forward. But there are times that not finishing is the right way to go. I’ve learned that when I lose passion for a story, it’s often because I subconsciously know that some part of it isn’t quite right. Those stories go on a shelf until the solution presents itself.


Where can people find you and your work?

You can buy the first two Tales of the Automazombs books on Amazon. My author page is

Tales of the Automazombs also has its own page with extra stories, short comics, a map, and other worldbuilding tidbits.

I’m on twitter @tonijdotcom and my blog is


Thanks very much, Toni!


Frances McNamara


Name:  Frances McNamara

Genre(s) of your work:  Historical Mystery


Titles/Year of Published Work(s):

Death at the Selig Studios      2018

Death at the Paris Exposition 2016

Death at Chinatown                2014

Death at Woods Hole              2012

Death at Pullman                     2011

Death at Hull House               2009

Death at the Fair                      2009


Frances McNamara grew up in Boston, where her father served as Police Commissioner for ten years. She has degrees from Mount Holyoke and Simmons Colleges, and recently retired from the University of Chicago. She now divides her time between Boston and Cape Cod.


Why do you write in the genre that you do?

I always read and wrote mysteries. I provided plots for mystery nights for an amateur group when I lived in Columbus Ohio. Later I drafted some contemporary mysteries in a writing group I joined in Chicago. But it was when I started a book inspired by the women who came to Chicago when the University of Chicago opened in 1892 that I got a lot of encouragement to continue. Late 19th and early 20th century was the gilded age but it was also when the seeds were sown for science, social change, and other important influences on the present day. Lots of issues resonate. And Chicago of today bears the imprint of the people of that time who were determined to build an internationally important but very American city. I really enjoy finding historical figures who are forgotten now, but who were fascinating people in their time.



Who are your favorite authors and why?

Jane Austen, Shakespeare, and Mark Twain! But for historical mysteries I especially like Laurie King’s series about the Beekeepers Apprentice. I like the voice of the young woman who marries Sherlock Holmes. Like my books they are in first person and Mary is a woman of that time. I also really enjoy the Roman mysteries of Steven Saylor. Gordianus the Finder and his family are like figures in the foreground of a big historical painting of the historical happenings of the time. He sets the stories around the time Julius Caesar rose to power and the books skip over many years to be set with an important historical event in the background while the fictional characters deal with a murder in the foreground. I’ve chosen to move my stories along to portray some really interesting historical events like the Pullman strike and the Columbian and Paris Expositions. I read lots of other mysteries as well.



What do you hope your readers will take away from your work?

I enjoy doing the research and adding an author’s note at the back, citing books that will provide more information about the historical characters in the books. I have found some incredibly interesting characters like Ida B. Wells, Jane Addams and Florence Kelley, Wong Chin Fu (a very early Asian American activist) and others.

 For the most recent book Death at the Selig Studios I had heard that there were film studios in Chicago during the silent film era but when I actually started digging into it, I found Col. Selig, Kathlyn Williams, Olga the Leopard Lady, and other really interesting characters. I also found out there was an early silent film of the Wizard of Oz produced at Selig Studios—and you can see it on YouTube. All this happened before they moved the industry to Hollywood for better light but seems like a lot of the process is what they are still doing. The details of the past are fascinating.


How do you find the motivation to complete a book/story?

At this point, I have some faithful readers of the series and I always want to make sure I don’t disappoint them. Also, I hate not knowing the end of a story. That happens a lot in various writing groups and workshops I’ve attended. I get drawn into a story and I want to know the end. I hate not knowing. But it’s important in the mystery genre to be fair to the reader and also to tie up loose ends. I think for a lot of writers it’s the middle of the story where they bog down, me too. Once I can see the end, I start racing towards it. That’s a reason for a lot of revision and having a good editor (Emily Victorson at Allium Press of Chicago) so you get a balanced story that is fun to read all the way through. I think my imagined reader is someone sitting on a beach or cosy in a chair with a cup of tea reading the book and wanting to get to the end. But keeping it good is the challenge.



Where can people find you and your work?




Thanks very much, Frances!


Diane Piron-Gelman



Name: Diane Piron-Gelman

Pseudonym (if you use one): D. M. Pirrone

Genre(s) of your work: Suspense, historical mystery


Titles/Year of Published Work(s):

No Less In Blood (2011)

Shall We Not Revenge (2014)

For You Were Strangers (2015)



D. M. Pirrone is the nom de plume of Diane Piron-Gelman, who works as an editor and audiobook narrator when she isn’t writing. Both books in her Hanley & Rivka historical mystery series, Shall We Not Revenge and For You Were Strangers (Allium Press of Chicago, 2014 and 2015), were named Notable Page-Turners in the Shelf Unbound Indie Novel Competition. Shall We Not Revenge was also a 2014 Kirkus Prize nominee. Ms. Pirrone’s debut suspense novel, No Less In Blood (Five Star, 2011) received excellent reviews from Booklist and Publishers Weekly.

A Chicago native and history buff, Ms. Pirrone is a longtime member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, and is likewise a member of the Chicago Writers’ Association and the Society for Midland Authors. She is currently completing final revisions on Book 3 of the Hanley & Rivka Mysteries.


Why do you write in the genre that you do?

I’ve always enjoyed mysteries and crime fiction—they’re stories where we get to see people in crisis, who may rise to the occasion or fail to depending on who they are. A mystery lets authors explore depths of character, relationships, and human emotion, for good or ill and everything in between. I’m also a history nerd, and what I like most about historical mysteries is making the past come alive for readers through the characters they meet and the story I tell. If they can feel the chill of a Chicago winter and hear the horse-cars and train whistles in the background while caught up in the story, I know I’ve done my job well.


Who are your favorite authors and why?

I love Ruth Rendell and Sophie Hannah, for the way they take you into the minds of deeply messed-up characters and make you understand them. Also Tana French, whose gorgeous prose gives murder an Irish lyricism. I can’t stop turning pages when I read her books. William Kent Krueger is similar, writing tightly crafted stories that carry you with them and make you feel what the characters feel. Outside the mystery genre, I really enjoy Amy Tan, whose stories about Chinese women and their Americanized daughters introduced me to a culture I knew little of, while ringing absolutely true to a near-universal push and pull between daughters and mothers.


What is your opinion of mainstream/corporate bookstores?

Too preoccupied with “big” authors, not willing enough to give shelf space to newcomers or authors from smaller presses who could easily find larger audiences if they had more exposure. Independent bookstores are much easier to deal with, since all their decisions aren’t made at “corporate” HQ.


What do you hope your readers will take away from your work?

Two things: a sense that they’ve hung out for awhile in a time period not their own, and the realization that no matter the era, people are still people—dreaming the same dreams, prone to the same fears, and making the same mistakes.


How much does personal experience play in your written work?

I like to take aspects of my personal experience and use them as jumping-off points to go places that I haven’t, necessarily. For example, adoptee Rachel Connolly in No Less In Blood feels driven to find her birth family after a personal loss, but I’ve never felt more than mild curiosity about my birth mother. I do know what it’s like to wonder about your origins, though. And in the Hanley & Rivka series, part of Hanley and Rivka’s relationship stems from my and my husband’s experience—he’s Jewish, I’m Irish Catholic, and even in 1993 when we got married, there were challenges from both our families. Nothing like what Hanley and Rivka have to navigate back in 1872, though!


How do you find the motivation to complete a book/story?

My writers’ group (we meet weekly) and my publisher. Not having something for writers’ group makes me feel like the kid who didn’t come prepared for class, and in this business you don’t let your publisher down. Especially a terrific one like Emily Victorson at Allium Press.


What makes you NOT finish reading a book?

If I don’t identify with at least one character, or if they all come off as cardboard cut-outs, I’ll quit even if there’s a whiz-bang plot. I don’t have to like a character to identify with her, or him. The main character, Libby, in Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places is definitely un-likable, but she’s tough and brave and walking wounded, and that was enough to draw me in.


Do you believe writing should be censored – that some topics should remain taboo?

That’s a tough one. The freethinker in me says no, but there are certain topics I can’t bring myself to write about because I don’t want to spend time inside those experiences, even in my imagination. On the other hand, sometimes you need to think about how you’re presenting something negative or destructive in your work. Are you glamorizing violence or hatred, for example, in attempting to realistically portray a seriously damaged character driven to such things? The line isn’t always easy to draw. But I do think we have to try.


Any pet peeves in writing? In reading others’ work?

Head-hopping—giving multiple characters’ points of view in the same scene. I find this incredibly distracting and distancing, as a reader. Also, the walk-on character who’s clearly there just so he or she can deliver a crucial piece of information to the protagonist at the exact right time, but who hasn’t been integrated into the story line to make their presence, their knowledge, and their willingness to help the protagonist plausible. I never like to spot an author pulling the strings!


Where can people find you and your work?

All of my books are available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble online, as trade paperbacks and e-books. They’re also in libraries and several independent bookstores—for locals in the Chicago area, I particularly recommend Centuries & Sleuths, my favorite bookstore in Forest Park. For the Hanley & Rivka series, the Allium Press website has links to purchase both titles (and soon to be a third!).

As to finding me, I’m a regular attendee at Printers Row Lit Fest in Chicago every June, and upcoming book discussion events in the greater Chicago area are listed on my author website. I also have a blog, though I’ve neglected it shamefully of late (family pressures, moving house, and life in general). Interested readers, feel free to check out my author page and blog—and drop me an email if you’d like. I always enjoy hearing from you.


Publisher website, Hanley & Rivka Mysteries:

Amazon Author Central:


Word Nerd Notes (my blog):

Twitter: @dmpirrone




Thanks so much for sharing, Diane!


Monica H. Kang



Name:  Monica H. Kang

Genre(s) of your work: Non-Fiction, Business

Titles/Year of Published Work(s):

Rethink Creativity: How to Innovate, Inspire, and Thrive at Work

September 2018


Monica H. Kang, Founder & CEO of InnovatorsBox® , helps companies and leaders transform with the power of creativity. When she is not traveling around the world to speak at conferences or work with clients, she teaches entrepreneurship and leadership as an Adjunct Professor at BAU International. Prior to InnovatorsBox®, Monica was a nuclear nonproliferation security expert. She completed her M.A. at Johns Hopkins University, Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. She lives in Washington, DC and spends her days developing new projects on creativity over a chai latte and chocolate croissant.


How has writing changed/altered your life?

I have always been a thinker and writer, but writing this book gave me a whole new appreciation of learning how to put complicated genuine thoughts into words. While writing this book, I experienced both a sense of fear of oversharing half-baked thoughts and the joy of realizing when I perfectly untangled what I was thinking. Now that book one is done, I’ve been thinking more about the writing I do in my daily routine. How can I write to not just communicate in my emails, texts, and articles, but inspire? How can I make the reader feel like I am there and smiling back with joy? I think more about the voice I am using in writing and wonder how it comes to life. I’m excited.



What do you hope your readers will take away from your work?

That you are uniquely creative just the way you already are. The more you practice and live your life with creativity, the more enriched you will feel at work and at home. The thought of people finishing the book with a new realization that they are not limited and can transform their own lives with creativity is thrilling. I just can’t wait to see those faces beaming with new knowledge  and hear what happens when more people unlock their creative potential around the world.



How much does personal experience play in your written work?

My book is deeply tied to my personal journey. I did so because I wanted to share the truth with my readers and connect with them. Creativity is not some flashy thing you see on stage, it is something you build over time. I hope that through sharing my creative journey I can inspire readers to embark on their own.


How do you find the motivation to complete a book/story?

Sometimes naivety helps. I was determined to put my thoughts on paper and share them with the world because I wanted to stop people from feeling stuck and uncreative in their jobs. I know what that feels like and it is not fun. It also helped not knowing just how long I would spend writing and rewriting this book. If I had known that it would take me seven months to edit, I may have been more cautious. If I had known that I had to spend so much time doing outreach to market and explain the book, I would have been overwhelmed.

Instead I just focused on how much I needed to share the power of creativity. I knew that if I did not write it, more people would remain stuck at work. Having a clear intention of why you want to write a book for your audience and why you want it out by a certain timeline is essential.


Who are your favorite authors and why?

I love great storytellers who make me feel curious, reflective, and full of wonder . Some of my favorite storytellers are J.K. Rowling and Neil Gaiman. In nonfiction, I love Triumphs of Experience by George E. Vaillant, Wired to Create by Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire, and Reset by Ellen Pao.



Where can people find you and your work?

I love connecting with people via LinkedIn. Say hello here. You can learn more about my book and book tours at my website. Look forward to meeting you soon!



Thanks for sharing with us, Monica!


Jack Ketchum (PINNED – Interviewed in December 2017)


Name: Dallas Mayr

Pseudonym (if you use one): Jack Ketchum

Genre(s) of your work: Horror and Suspense (and the occasional Black Comedy.)

Titles/Year of Published Work(s):  Writing professionally since 1970, first fiction 1976, first novel, OFF SEASON, 1981.

Bio: see my website add to that, Most Recent Novel, THE SECRET LIFE OF SOULS, written with Lucky McKee and Most Recent Collection, GORILLA IN MY ROOM.

Why do you write in the genre that you do?  

I grew up loving fantasy, and horror is the dark side of fantasy.

How has writing changed/altered your life? The usual perks of self-employment — no punching the time clock, no damn bosses hovering over your desk.  But in addition to that, writing mandates continual periods of self-examination.  You don’t easily get away with lying to yourself on the page.  It requires you to scour your history and your present for your deepest faults and pleasures, to reveal and revel in them, to find the strengths in your life and work from there, reaching outward.

Who are your favorite authors and why?

Far too many to list here.  I read all over the place and consequently my favorite writers come from all genres and backgrounds, from Henry Miller to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, from Raymond Chandler, Elmore Leonard and John D. MacDonald to Thomas Hardy, Philip Roth, Michael Chabon, Joyce Carol Oates, Peter Straub and Stephen King.  Why?  Because they’re smart, empathic, courageous.  Because they’re good!

What is your opinion of mainstream/corporate bookstores?

I wish we had a lot more mom-and-pop, brick-and-mortar bookstores.  I seriously miss browsing.

What do you hope your readers will take away from your work?

The need for empathy and tenderness in the world, that the souls of beasts and humans matter.  And a few hours of just plain fun.

How much does personal experience play in your written work?

Depends on the piece.  Some, like THE GIRL NEXT DOOR and RED, are highly personal, others…?  I don’t know where the hell they came from!

How do you find the motivation to complete a book/story?  

Finishing a piece is almost always easy.  It’s getting started that’s hard.  Getting all your ducks in a row and then having the balls and suspension of disbelief  to say to yourself, this is really going to work.

What makes you NOT finish reading a book?

I give books a first paragraph test.  If it passes, then a first chapter test.  If it passes that, I’ll almost always finish the book — I can tell from there that I’m going to want to.   If it fails I scuttle it immediately.  Very occasionally, too much repetition will make me dump it.  I don’t want to waste reading-time.  Too much good stuff out there.

Do you believe writing should be censored – that some topics should remain taboo?

Nothing should ever be censored.  Everything is worth discussing.  How long a discussion is another matter entirely.

Any pet peeves in writing? In reading others’ work?

 Life’s short.  I don’t bother with peeves.  If I’m bored, I just close the book.

Where can people find you and your work?

Website, see above. I have a list of published works there.   Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia,


What can I say?

I am honored to have snagged a bit of Jack Ketchum’s time, for him to share his thoughts and words with me (and my readers), and for his participation in a blog such as this one. Thank you so much – for the interview as well as your writing. It has and continues to be an inspiration.

Readers, I implore you to look into Jack Ketchum’s work, especially if you are a horror/suspense fan. From the mouth of Stephen King – “Who’s the scariest guy in America? Probably Jack Ketchum.”


    1. Hi Donna;
      My pleasure. As an independent author myself, I know that marketing is key and getting the word out by any means is crucial.


  1. Hi Sue. Thank you for including me in this roundup of four writers. I read all the interviews with pleasure. The CWA includes so many interesting members. I enjoyed meeting my fellow interviewees via your blog.
    Susan Bass Marcus

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s nice to see Teri here — always good to know a little more about her. I had to laugh about her friends being more careful about what they say. 😀 It’s funny how many people worry they’ll be “in the book” when they learn you write. Hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

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