Author Meet & Greet!

Author Meet & Greet

All are welcome here.

Connect with authors through their social media links (if they choose to share them), learn about their writing process, and purchase their works.

The 4 most current interviews are posted here. Older ones may be found under the Archive: Author Meet & Greet on the main page of this blog by the author’s last name.

**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:  #162

Brian Finney

Your Name: Brian Finney

Genre(s) of your work: Psychological suspense novel

Titles/Year of Published Work(s):

Dangerous Conjectures,  March 25, 2021

Bio:

Brian Finney is a writer and Professor Emeritus of Literature at California State University, Long Beach. Educated in England, he taught and organized extra-mural courses for the University of London. Since immigrating to the US in 1987 he has taught at UC Riverside, USC, UCLA, and California State University, Long Beach.

He has published eight books, including Christopher Isherwood: A Critical Biography (1979) which was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, Terrorized: How the War on Terror Affected American Culture and Society (KDP 2011/2018), Money Matters: A Novel (2019), a Finalist in the American Fiction Awards, and Dangerous Conjectures (2021).

He is married and lives in Venice, California.

Why do you write in the genre that you do?

Both this novel and my previous one (Money Matters) are actually a mix of genres. Both connect a personal narrative to a specific political background – the mid-term election of 2010 in the first novel and the 2020 primaries in this novel. In each case the major character is affected by political events. This reflects my belief that all of us are impacted in a variety of ways by what is going on at the national level. So in Dangerous Conjectures the government’s refusal to take the spread of Covid-19 seriously leads Julia, one of the two major characters, to resort to increasingly dangerous personal choices in her attempt to allay her fear of dying from the virus. Meantime Adam, her husband, is investigating the QAnon conspiracy which has secret ties to the White House.

How has writing changed/altered your life?

I have taught literature for most of my adult life – here and in London. It was only after I retired that I took to writing fiction, a genre I’d discussed and analyzed all those years. It proved surprisingly liberating. It also gave me an insight into what factors lead a novelist to write what he or she does, how the fictional world takes on a reality that demands that its creator stay within its boundaries. This is something I paid much less attention to as a literature professor. In particular I found that I loved writing dialogue where what one person says seamlessly calls up a response that itself stimulates a specific kind of reply– and so on. It makes me wonder whether I shouldn’t try writing a play or screenplay which is largely dialogue.

Who are your favorite authors and why?

I have always been drawn to writers who use inventive language to offer a unique take on life. A lot of authors qualify. But my favorites are D.H. Lawrence, Virginia Wool, William Faulkner, Christopher Isherwood, James Baldwin, Samuel Beckett, Saul Bellow, Haruki Murakami, Salman Rushdie, Angela Carter, Jeanette Winterson, and David Mitchell. Some of these writers have diminished as they grew older, but all of them understand the importance of voice and tone. A sentence and a paragraph should possess a rhythm and flow, something I try to imitate from their example.

Do you believe that audiobooks are the wave of the future, more of a passing fad, or somewhere in between and why?

I like audiobooks and have published an audio version of each of my novels. Of course you need a narrator who can interpret the different voices and moods. I was happy to find in Almond Eastland such an expert reader, and she has brilliantly narrated both my novels. The demand for audiobooks in the US has increased and now represents over eight percent of book sales. In an  age of TV and YouTube many Americans find the act of reading tougher than that of listening.

What is your opinion of mainstream/corporate bookstores?

Print sales of books in 2020 have increased eight percent over 2019. The real competitor to independent bookstores since the outbreak of the pandemic has been online bookstores, especially Amazon. Independent bookstores last year responded by competing with their own online sales and offering curbside sales. With the end of lockdown in sight local bookstores are optimistic, looking forward to restarting author readings, which have been a major source of income for them in the past. Unfortunately my book is coming out before an author’s reading was feasible. That’s too bad. But I think the indie bookstores will largely survive.

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

This is a tough question. In general I believe that no books should be banned unless they overtly promote illegal activities such as pedophilia. If you look at US prisons all kinds of books are banned for bizarre and inconsistent reasons. For example the state of Texas has banned from its prisons over 10,000 books, including Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses and Alice Walker’s The Color Purple (which I regularly taught at my university). What this means is that I have to accept the right of individuals to publish online, especially on social media, opinions and false facts that I believe are harmful to us as a society, that can even lead to acts of insurrection like that on January 6. As John Milton argued almost 400 years ago, “What wisdom can there be to choose . . . without the knowledge of evil?”

Where can people find you and your work?

I have an extensive website where all my positions and publications are listed and described, with links to where my books (including Dangerous Conjectures) can be bought: www.bhfinney.com Please look it up.

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Carol Shay Hornung

Your Name: Carol Shay Hornung

Genre(s) of your work: LGBTQ Mystery

Titles/Year of Published Work(s):

Slips of Yew: A Dez Duchiene Mystery, Book 1 (2021)

Bio:

Born in Chicago, raised in Madison, Wisconsin, and a graduate of Ripon College, the upper Midwest is my home. I’ve marched in protests, hung a Pride Flag on the door of the Little White Schoolhouse (the birthplace of the Republican Party, in Ripon, WI), and enjoyed many a glass of wine at my favorite theater or overlooking a beautiful lake.

Why do you write in the genre that you do?

I like fun, adventure-type stories with a message. Slips of Yew came about after years of frustration. I’m drawn toward writing male protagonists. But my critique groups would often comment “a guy wouldn’t do that.” So, I felt the need to step up and write a strong female character … but I’d get the comment “a girl wouldn’t do that.” When Dez Duchiene appeared in all his fabulous glory, I found a voice that let me say and do what I wanted, without gender stereotypes and expectations.

How has writing changed/altered your life?

The ease of writing this character led me to articulate what I’ve really known since I was a small child, but didn’t have the vocabulary to express – I am gender nonconforming, and delight in seeking out stereotypes and kicking them to the curb.

Who are your favorite authors and why?

I have a love/hate relationship with literary authors. I love the craft and care used in developing character and story, but get frustrated by the inevitable angst and tragic endings. Dennis Lehane has always been a favorite of mine. I saw him on an author tour long before he hit the top of the best seller list and he said his goal was to write genre mystery with a literary sensibility. While writing this book, I also came across Rebecca Makkai. In The Great Believers, she depicted gay characters as wonderful, fully developed, real people … but with the AIDS epidemic as the setting, tragedy befell most of the characters. It’s a heartbreaker. Beautiful, but a heartbreaker. With my series, I promise two things – there will always be a happy, satisfying ending, and Dez’s marriage to Stevie will survive every challenge it meets.

Where can people find you and your work?

In addition to Slips of Yew, I’ve published a paranormal mystery, the Ghost of Heffron College, and a more traditional mystery with a protagonist with autism, Asperger Sunset. All three books can be ordered through your favorite local bookstore or ordered from Amazon. You can find out more on my Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Carol-Shay-Hornung/e/B00DV3VZJS/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1

Follow my Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/CarolShayHornung

And my blog: https://carolshayhornung.wordpress.com/

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Laura Smith

Your Name: Laura Smith

Genre(s) of your work: middle grade fiction

Titles/Year of Published Work(s):

The Stable House

Published 2013

Saving Hascal’s Horrors

Published: 2014

The Castle Park Kids

Published: 2015

Bio:

Laura Smith earned her Creative Writing degree from Carlow University in 2007. Since then, she has self-published three middle grade novels. Her writing has been featured on the websites ProWriting Aid, Listosaur, Support for Indie Authors, Ok Whatever, and Cleaver Magazine. She also writes blog posts for HubPages, book reviews for LitPick, and book and horror movie reviews for Horrorscreams Videovault and is currently working on a middle grade trilogy. She lives in Pittsburgh, PA.

Why do you write in the genre that you do?

I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. So, it only made sense that I would write children’s books. While working on my degree, college steered me away from writing for kids. They wanted us all to write the great American novel. But once I was out of school, I returned to children’s fiction. It’s where I’ve been the most comfortable, and those are the stories that I most want to tell.

How has writing changed/altered your life?

Writing has shaped how I see the world, how I spend my time, and how I judge my productivity. I make time for it because it’s the one thing that I’ll allow myself to say that I do well. So, even if my work isn’t widely read, it gives me a feeling of satisfaction and self-worth to put words to paper, whether it’s a story, an essay, a blog post, or a book.

I work writing into my schedule wherever I can. If I can get everything done on my to-do list and still have time to write something worthwhile or have worked it in before or in between tasks, I consider it a productive day.

Some good advice that I’ve heard when it comes to any creative pursuit is, “Quit if you can.” I can’t quit, and I don’t want to quit. So, that feeling lets me know that I’m making good use of my time.

Who are your favorite authors and why?

I love Laura Ingalls Wilder. I was named after her (my mom was a fan of the show), and I reread the Little House series every few years.

I also grew up reading Ann M. Martin’s Baby-sitters Club series, R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series along with Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, Wilson Rawls, and Betsy Byars.

I also love Stephen King who I got into in high school and still follow closely. I don’t love all of his books, but he has a huge body of work, and the ones I do love, I love a lot.

As an adult, I read a lot of celebrity memoirs, particularly by comedians. Steve Martin, Martin Short, Gene Wilder, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling, Rob Lowe, and Michael J. Fox have all written some great memoirs.

I’ve read all of John Green’s YA novels, and even though I don’t like all of his books, I love his writing. I also like his brother, Hank Green. Ever since I read The Fault in Our Stars, I’ve bought every book by the Green brothers new and the week they were released, which is rare.

I’ve been working my way through Malcolm Gladwell’s books.

I also love graphic novels, particularly Batman.

As a book reviewer, I read a lot of books by indie authors, and I’ve come across some great work by unknown authors who deserve a lot more recognition than they get. You can find my indie author book recommendations on my blog. I only review the ones I like, and any purchases made via the bookshop.org links go to support the authors, local bookstores, and my blog!

Do you believe that audiobooks are the wave of the future, more of a passing fad, or somewhere in between and why?

Yes, I think they’re here to stay, though I don’t necessarily think they’re going to replace hard copy books. Pre-pandemic, I would borrow audiobooks from my local library all the time and listen to them in the car or on long trips. Now, I have the Libby app on my phone and borrow audiobooks from there.

About a third of the books I read in a year are in audiobook format. It allows me to read two or three books at a time because I read the audiobooks while I multitask. So, I can “read” while I get ready for work, clean the house, or make dinner at night.

Then, I’ll read hard copy books on my lunch break, while I exercise, or in bed at night. So, it allows me to maximize my reading time. It also allows me to stay up-to-date with more mainstream books while I work through my list of indie books to read for the various blogs I write for.

I’m a big podcast person too. So, I think people will jump on the audiobook bandwagon as a result of listening to podcasts, particularly if a podcast host recommends a particular book or if listeners sign up for Audible, whose ads are often featured in podcast commercials. If audiobooks will get an otherwise non-reader to read, I’m all for it.

What is your opinion of mainstream/corporate bookstores?

I love stopping in at my local Barnes & Noble, and I was a big fan of Borders when they were still around. I love the wide aisles, the calm atmosphere, and the smell of coffee permeating the air (even though I’m not a coffee drinker).

However, more often than not, I browse for a long time and then leave empty-handed. I’m a bargain hunter. So, if I don’t find a good sale or something in the discounted section, I won’t buy anything and will go to Half Price Books or any pop up used book sale instead.

I’m a big fan of “the hunt.” I have a mental list of books, movies, or music that I want to own one day, but I don’t want to just go to a particular aisle, find that title, and buy it at full price. I want to find the edition that I read 20 years ago, and I want to find it on sale after months, or even years, of looking.

There are so many books to read and only so much time available to read and space available in my home. So, playing this game keeps me from buying too many books or overflowing my shelf space with books that I’ll never read.

What have you found to be a good marketing tool? A bad one?

Social media has proven to be an invaluable marketing tool for me. I’ve spent years building up a following, particularly on Twitter. Facebook and Pinterest have been useful as well, and my Instagram is slowly growing. I like to follow fellow writers and bloggers, and they have been instrumental about helping me to spread the word about my work.

A bad marketing tool has been table sales. I started trying to sell my books at flea markets, and those places just don’t contain consumers looking for new, self-published books. They want to buy old, dusty paperbacks for a quarter.

I also once tried to sell my books at a small bookstore. It was part of an event that they were hosting for indie authors, but it was a bust, and we all lost money on the event. You can read about the whole ordeal here.

One table sale that was successful was selling my book during a book sale at my local elementary school, but the school librarian made me feel so unwelcome there that I never wanted to go back again. I hope that visits to other schools will be a part of my marketing plan for future books, but I’ll be more selective about the schools I reach out to.

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

As a children’s author, I do obviously steer clear of anything that is too dark or inappropriate for that age level, but my books do have an edge of darkness to them. I try not to talk down to kids or censor my work too much, but there is a definite line to be drawn.

As for other people’s writing, I’d like to say that no topic should be off limits, but the world isn’t that black and white. I don’t want to see any type of writing that’s going to cause a distorted way of thinking that could lead to violence or other dangerous consequences.

The problem is, judging what content is dangerous and what isn’t is a slippery slope. We all know that more than one famous assassin has had an obsession with The Catcher in the Rye, but most people who read that book don’t become assassins. The Harry Potter series was banned by some religious groups for promoting magic and witchcraft, though it was never intended to be anything more than a coming-of-age fantasy series for kids.

I’d like to think that readers are smart enough to be able to tell between what’s real and what’s fantasy, propaganda, or blatant misinformation, but I’ve seen how easy it is to fall into those rabbit holes and how influential the power of words and our modern ability to exchange information can be. But just like you can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater, we need to judge writing by how dangerous and destructive it could be to share a particular viewpoint in a particular way.

There is so much in the world to write about that can be entertaining, challenging, and educational for readers. Why spend your time writing something taboo just to piggyback on the sensationalism and interest that the shock value provides or with the intent to cause trouble so that you can grow a reputation based on infamy? There’s nothing inspiring, legitimate, or lasting that comes from taking that path.

Where can people find you and your work?

I’d really like readers to check out my blog, Laura’s Books and Blogs. There, you’ll find all of the blog posts I’ve written for the past few years, my portfolio of writing, writing tips, resources, and free downloads, and more about my books, including links to buy.

You can also find me on social media. I’d love to connect.

Here are links to my accounts:

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

Pinterest

Instagram

Finally, here are the links to my Amazon and HubPages accounts:

Amazon

HubPages

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J.E. McDonald

Your Name: J.E. McDonald

Genre(s) of your work: Paranormal romance

Titles/Year of Published Work(s):

Ghost of a Gamble, Book One of the Wickwood Chronicles, 2020

Ghost of an Enchantment, Book Two of the Wickwood Chronicles, 2021

Bio:

J.E. McDonald is a writer of paranormal romance, romantic suspense, and sci-fi romance. Born and raised in Saskatchewan, Canada, she lives with her husband and three rambunctious daughters who keep her on her toes. An avid reader and Minecraft junkie, when she’s not plotting her next story, she’s avoiding dust bunnies while plotting her next story.

Why do you write in the genre that you do?

I love romance. I started reading it when I was a pre-teen and haven’t stopped. There’s something magical about a relationship that can bloom in the midst of adventure, so I can’t resist throwing my characters in fantastical plots and watching the sparks fly. And, of course, I always need my happy ending.

How has writing changed/altered your life?

Writing is my happy place. I was always an imaginative child, always creating worlds and scenarios in my head. I’ve had a lot of odd jobs in my life, but nothing is as whole-body satisfying as writing. No matter what stage of the process I’m entrenched in, I enjoy it. It took me until my late twenties to commit to making a career of it, but since the day I decided to seek out a publisher, I haven’t regretted it. Even when a deadline is coming up and I’m cursing at my computer, I’m content. In short, if I wasn’t writing I wouldn’t be happy. It’s not that writing altered my life, but that I have altered my life to accommodate being a writer.

Who are your favorite authors and why?

How can I even choose? I’m a binge reader, I read many genres, and I go through phases. Right now, I’ve just about binged everything Lisa Kleypas wrote, but there are times I’m in the mood for works like those of Patrick Rothfuss, Guy Gavriel Kay, and N.K. Jemisin. I cut my teeth on Julie Garwood who will always be a favorite, but I’m also absolutely enthralled with new romance authors like Farrah Rochon and Helen Hoang.

Do you believe that audiobooks are the wave of the future, more of a passing fad, or somewhere in between and why?

Oh my goodness, what an interesting question. Audiobooks are here to stay and I love that. Making books accessible is not a passing fad. People use audiobooks for all sorts of reasons. Reading is reading, no matter what format a person chooses to use to engage the work. I was just having a conversation with my sister, a teacher, the other day about how audiobooks help some of her students absorb a book better, reading along with the print copy while listening, and therefore growing their skills. To see my books as audiobooks someday would be absolutely lovely.

What is your opinion of mainstream/corporate bookstores?

Every market has its place. One of my favorite things to do is to go to a bookstore, browse the shelves and leave with as many books as my wallet can handle. I love the smell of bookstores and shelves and shelves of books, whether it be an independent, a franchise, or a used bookstore. I love making an afternoon of it. Does that mean I stop taking books out of the library? Absolutely not. Does that mean I won’t “one click” a book I need right this instant? Nope. There are books that aren’t available in those stores, self-published works and those from small presses like mine, City Owl Press. I’ll never limit myself to only brick-and-mortar establishments. There’s too much great writing out there to do that.

What have you found to be a good marketing tool? A bad one?

I’m still floundering with this! So far, I feel like the best thing for me has been to make connections with other writers, to support each other whether that be with cross-promotion or just overall encouragement and advice. But if you have any magic marketing tools you’d like to share, please let me know!

Where can people find you and your work?

Many places! Here are the links for where they can find me:

Website and newsletter sign up: https://www.jemcdonald.net/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JEMcdonaldSk

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jemcdonaldsk/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JEMcDonaldAuthor

And here is where you can find my newest release of the Wickwood Chronicles, Ghost of an Enchantment:

Amazon: https://smarturl.it/Wickwood2Amz
B&N: https://smarturl.it/Wickwood2BN
Kobo: https://smarturl.it/Wickwood2Koo
iBooks: https://smarturl.it/Wickwood2iBooks
GoodReads: https://smarturl.it/Wickwood2GR

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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 http://www.jackketchum.net/and 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, https://www.facebook.com/jackketchumofficial/ Twitter, https://twitter.com/jackketchum Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Ketchum

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.”

28 comments

    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.
      Thanks!
      Sue

      Like

  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

  3. I definitely have some new books to order (Zombie turkeys – still chuckling). I just finished my fifth book and I’m taking a year off to just read and read and read. Thanks for the great interviews.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, LB! That’s the point of the interviews – to give everyone a chance to find out about each other. Thanks for reading and feel free to spread the word! 🙂

      Like

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