August 11, 2016
Most people know bestselling author John Gilstrap for his thrillers, especially his Jonathan Grave novels (No Mercy, Hostage Zero, High Treason, Damage Control, End Game, Threat Warning
). But fewer know that he is also an accomplished screenwriter, writing screen adaptations of novels by Nelson DeMille, Thomas Harris, Norman McLean, and of course his own work. Outside of his writing, John has an extensive background in hazardous waste management, fire behavior, and explosives—knowledge that he has incorporated at times in his fiction.
John welcomed an interview for Suspense Magazine
, and I thoroughly enjoyed our Q&A session!
Let’s start with your screenwriting. Your first screenplay was an adaptation of your own novel, Nathan’s Run. Apparently you knew nothing about screenwriting before taking on the job. Yet you wrote the screenplay in, what, less than a week? What did you do to get up-to-speed on that project?
Two years after I’d sold the movie rights to Nathan’s Run
, my film agent at CAA called with the bad news that Warner Bros was putting Nathan’s Run
in turn-around—the first in a complex series of steps that generally lead to a movie’s death. All because of script problems. I told my agent that the previous script writers were missing the point of the story; that I could do better, if only given the chance. Important Hollywood Lesson: Be careful what you say.
“Hmm,” my agent said. “Do you think you could do it by next week?” The word “sure” escaped my lips before the filter in my brain had a chance to stop it. Sure I could write a screenplay in a week. Why should I let a little detail like never having seen a screenplay—let alone write one—stand in my way? Bravado, baby.
So, with so little time to deal with the deadline, what did you do?
I dashed out to my local bookstore and picked up a copy of William Goldman’s book, Adventures in the Screen Trade
, and read it cover to cover in a day. In it, he’s got the complete script for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
, and when I finished it, I thought I had a handle on this screenwriting thing, so I started writing. Three days later, I had a completed script for Nathan’s Run
Wow, three days? How did it go over? (more…)
October 13, 2015
Sandra R. Campbell can trace her passion for the macabre back to reading Edgar Allan Poe as a child—with her pet crow, Big Fellow, by her side. She has since submerged herself in a wide range of dark literature. An avid thrill seeker, Sandra always looks for her next big adrenaline rush. And when spelunking, climbing, and monster hunting fail to deliver, she turns to creating through-the-rabbit-hole worlds and sends her characters on their own adventures. Her novels include Butterfly Harvest, Dark Migration, and most recently The Dead Days Journal.
I had the pleasure of meeting Sandra last year at the Creatures, Crimes, and Creativity conference, and was impressed with one of her panel discussions. She kindly agreed to the following interview.
Weldon Burge (WB): Well, let’s start with something a little different. I know you spend a good deal of time on the water and live near the Chesapeake Bay. Has this passion influenced your writing at all? If so, how?
Sandra Campbell (SC): Tranquil waterways and writing are big passions in my life. Water is my escape—a quiet paradise where I go to unwind and recharge. Writing is what I do when I need to create. After my move to the bay area I noticed more water settings and nautical terms popping up in my books, but other than that these two passions are very much separate.
WB: Your novels are often called paranormal romance. Would you debate that classification? Do you see the books as more paranormal or more romance? Or something else entirely?
SC: I would debate that classification. Relationships are a huge part of all of our lives, and so it’s only natural to include relationships in my writing. However, romances are known, if not formulated, to have happy endings. I have yet to write a happy ending. In fact, my critique group challenged me to write one. Two years later, I still haven’t managed to come up with a single happy ending.
My writing has always crossed genres. I prefer to make the story more about the character’s journey and less about the romance. The most common thing I hear from fans is that my works of fiction are unique. “Unique Fiction” would be a great new genre classification, but since it doesn’t exist (yet!), I’d say my books are paranormal thrillers. Fast-paced, action packed with a touch of intimacy and a monster on the side. (more…)
May 4, 2015
Austin S. Camacho is the author of five novels in the Hannibal Jones Mystery Series, four in the Stark and O’Brien adventure series, and the detective novel, Beyond Blue. Austin is deeply involved with the writing community. He is a past president of the Maryland Writers Association, past Vice President of the Virginia Writers Club, and is an active member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime. He is part owner of Intrigue Publishing, and was the chief organizer for the annual Creatures, Crimes, and Creativity (C3) Conference near Baltimore.
I had the pleasure of meeting Austin two years ago at the C3 conference, as well as working with him on his story “One of Us” for the Insidious Assassins anthology, published by Smart Rhino Publications. I recently managed to catch up with Austin and used the opportunity to talk with him about latest projects.
Weldon Burge (WB): You’ve written a good many suspense/thriller novels, including the Hannibal Jones mystery series, the Stark and O’Brien adventure series, and most recently a detective novel, Beyond Blue. Let’s start with the series. What do you find most appealing about writing series? Do you find the series easier to market than stand-alone novels?
Austin Camacho (AC): The most important point about character development is that people are changed by the events they experience. So the most appealing part of writing a series is that I get to follow up on those changes. I’ve followed the rising and advancing of Hannibal Jones’ spirit, and the rocky path along which Stark (a mercenary) and O’Brien (a thief) are following toward becoming actual heroes, in part due to their friendship. And I think series are easier to market because readers get caught up in characters more than in plots.
WB: Your latest novel, Beyond Blue, is about a team of detectives whose only purpose is to help police officers in trouble. What sparked the idea for this novel? How much research was involved in pulling the book together?
May 27, 2014
Matt Iden's novel A Reason to Live
Matthew Iden is a self-published, independent writer of crime fiction, fantasy, psychological suspense, science fiction, and literary fiction. He’s probably best known for his series character, Marty Singer—a surprisingly upbeat detective series about a retired Washington DC Homicide cop who rights wrongs and tries to keep his life in order while battling cancer. The series began with A Reason to Live (April 2012), followed by Blueblood (September 2012), One Right Thing (May 2013), and The Spike (December 2013). He has also written short stories for anthologies in various genres, and is working on his debut Western, The Orphans.
Matt has been self-publishing since the fall of 2011, after years of attempting to break through the doors of traditional publishing. He has devoted much time and effort toward understanding self-publishing, and has been constructing his career using the strategies he has learned.
I met Matt at the Creatures, Crimes, & Creativity conference near Baltimore last September, and found him highly approachable, knowledgeable, and witty. He kindly agreed to the following interview.
Weldon Burge (WB): Well, let’s start with your serial character, Marty Singer. He’s a retired cop who seems destined to help people in bad situations. How much (and what) research was required to bring Marty to life?
Matthew Iden (MI): Constructing Marty’s life has involved two challenges. First, although I have several friends who are cops, I’ve never worked in law enforcement. That means even the most basic procedures and terms in Marty’s life were—and are—mysteries to me. I ask tons of questions that I’m sure even the greenest academy rookie could answer. Even then, I still get some of it wrong. My law enforcement friends are generous, patient, and don’t (usually) make fun of me.
The second issue involves the overriding concern in Marty’s life, which is that he is diagnosed with cancer in the debut, A Reason to Live. I’ve had family and friends who have had the disease, but each experience is different and getting this wrong was not an option. I reached out to oncology nurses and patient advocates early on and they were incredibly helpful. Library and online research filled in the rest. I’m proud to say I’ve been contacted by many victims of the disease who have thanked me for accurately portraying what they’re going through without going overboard or sinking into melodrama.
WB: Will there be more Marty Singer mysteries? (more…)
September 18, 2011
When you think of counterterrorism political thrillers, perhaps Tom Clancy, Brad Thor, and Brad Meltzer come to mind. Soon, you may be adding Stephen England to that venerable list. His new novel, Pandora’s Grave
, the debut novel of his Shadow Warriors
series, is an action-filled espionage/military thriller sure to impress many readers and rightfully garner him many fans. (Read my review
!) And, at the age of 21, he has many years of writing ahead of him!
I asked Stephen to talk with us about his experiences during the creation, editing, and self-publication of Pandora’s Grave, among other things. He kindly agreed to the following interview.
Weldon Burge (WB)
: Pandora’s Grave includes many Christian, Jewish, and Muslim characters. Did you write character profiles before starting the novel, to keep things straight?
Stephen England (SE)
: Not really. I learned so many things about my characters through the course of the novel—I’m afraid it would have been a very boring book if I had attempted to lock them away at the start. To give an example—about half-way through Pandora’s Grave I realized that the character of Bernard Kranemeyer, the Director of the Clandestine Service, was really little more than another faceless bureaucrat. A major problem considering the major role he plays in the story. But then it occurred to me one day—what if? What if he was a retired Delta Force operative, an amputee who had lost his leg in an IED attack? It was quite literally as though someone had turned a light on for me—it’s those type of revelations that make writing so rewarding for me—those moments when you turn a corner and something fits so perfectly—I can’t imagine Kranemeyer any other way now. That’s who he is.
August 6, 2011
Besides being an accomplished author of suspense novels and thriller stories (mostly dealing with crime, with a sly mix of humor), Starr Reina is also an Executive Editor for Suspense Magazine. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, the Los Angeles Chapter and nationally. Starr has won three ‘Best Speaker’ awards as well as ‘Best Evaluator’ at the Voice Ambassadors chapter of Toastmasters. She was a co-chair and main coordinator for the West Coast Author Premiere, a weekend long event. She is represented by the Cliffhanger Literary Agency.
Reina has appeared in a blaze and made her mark on the literary world with her Ivanovich series. The first is In the Name of Revenge
and the second, Deadly Decisions
. A third in the series is being penned as you read this. Reina is also the author of the young adult novella Cruel Whispers
and its sequel novel Cruel Past
Despite Starr’s busy schedule, she was happy to grant me the following interview. Enjoy!
Weldon Burge (WB)
: What do you find the most challenging as Executive Editor for Suspense Magazine? The most rewarding?
Starr Reina (SR)
: The most challenging I would have to say is poorly edited stories before they're submitted to us. I don't mean the paltry punctuation errors, but blatant misspelled words, misappropriate usages, and terrible formatting. The most rewarding? Well, I'd have to say everything else. I'm able to read the reviews, interviews, articles and stories first! The #1 reward is being part of such a fabulous magazine with a great team.
: You not only cohosted Suspense Radio Live with John Raab, but you were interviewed. What did you learn from these experiences?
: Both experiences were a lot of fun. I was able to speak with some great authors. I learned many things from various persons, such as how they write (style), their marketing endeavors, and much more. During my interviews, I was able to share some of the same information and it was a good feeling. Not to mention how my training from being in Toastmasters really helped.
: Coffee or tea or hot cocoa?
: Anyone who knows me can answer this question. Coffee, most definitely—but I do enjoy the occasional hot tea (or iced) and hot cocoa in front of a roaring fire in the winter in Big Bear.
: In your novels, In the Name of Revenge and Deadly Decisions, the first two books in your Ivanovich series, we have Pavel Ivanovich, a Russian heavy, and Italian mobster Carlo Mancini. How did you research to develop these two characters?
June 22, 2011
The following was published in the June 2011 issue of Suspense Magazine. I enjoyed the interview. Thanks to Shannon Raab for the great questions!
Being best known for his gardening articles hasn't stopped Weldon Burge from trying all sorts of things, literary-wise. He does freelance writing for many nonfiction and fiction publications. His nonfiction has appeared in Organic Gardening
, Fine Gardening
, Gardening How-To
, Birds & Blooms
, Flower & Garden
, National Gardening
, Delaware Today
, Country Discoveries
, Back Home
, The Almanac for Farmers & City Folk
, and other national magazines.
His fiction has been showcased in Suspense Magazine
, Futures Mysterious Anthology Magazine
, Grim Graffitti
, The Edge: Tales of Suspense
, Glassfire Magazine
, and Out & About
(a Delaware magazine). His stories have also been adapted for podcast presentation by Drabblecast, and have been accepted for the anthologies Don't Tread on Me: Tales of Revenge and Retribution
, Pellucid Lunacy: An Anthology of Psychological Horror
, Ghosts and Demons
, and Something at the Door: A Haunted Anthology
. Weldon had several projects brewing, including a police procedural novel and an illustrated chidlren's book. He is also one of Suspense Magazine
's book reviewers.
Currently, Weldon is a full-time editor for Independent School Management, which provides a wide range of products and services for private schools. He's been the editor of Ideas & Perspectives
, the company's flagship publication, since 1993. He created, posted, and maintained ISM's initial Web site starting in 1995, and is still involved in its development and content. He is also highly involved in the production of the company's other publications.
This month, we showcase our own Weldon Burge. He is always ready to do whatever we ask, and we are so honored to bring him to the forefront in Suspense Magazine
's Contributor's Corner for the month of June. Enjoy!
Suspense Magazine (S. Mag.): Fiction, nonfiction, blogging, full-time job, and a family. How do you juggle it all?
Weldon Burge (WB):
I do most of my writing around 2 a.m. on Saturdays.
Just kidding—but not entirely. I write wherever and whenever I can find the time: during my lunch break at work, in the evenings after dinner, or even at 2 a.m. on Saturdays. I live a life of deadlines (I’m a full-time editor), and I learned long ago how to prioritize my time. Family comes first. Everything else shakes out from there. So, I set deadlines for myself, but often find that I certainly can’t find time for everything—and that’s when prioritizing comes into play. The projects I deem the most important are the ones that get done. I have an extensive, ever-growing to-do list.
S.MAG.: You’re active in your local writing group, what is the biggest personal benefit of that association?
March 2, 2011
Michael Bailey is the author of the nonlinear horror novel, Palindrome Hannah
, which contains five interrelated tales as well as a secret sixth story that plays out backward through the other stories. The entire book is structurally a palindrome. The novel’s sequel, Phoenix Rose
, is also experimental horror. Michael is also the author of the short story and poetry collection, Scales and Petals
, and is working on his third novel, Psychotropic Dragon
His first foray into editing is an anthology of psychological horror, Pellucid Lunacy
, which was just recently released. The anthology is a collection of 20 bizarre stories, from authors with unique styles and imagination. All profits from the anthology are being given to charity—it truly is a labor of love!
I asked Michael to talk with us about his experiences during the creation, editing, and publication of Pellucid Lunacy
, among other things. He kindly agreed to the following interview.
Weldon Burge (WB)
: Before we talk about Pellucid Lunacy, I want to ask you about your other books, specifically why you went the self-publishing route. Editorial and artistic control? Or more than that?
Michael Bailey (MB)
: Few publishers are interested in new authors. With experimental horror fiction, there are even fewer. Palindrome Hannah
is a nonlinear meta-novel. When first sending it to publishers (agents wouldn’t touch it), I received a dozen personalized letters and enough form rejections to bind a book that would probably sell. They all said the same thing: dark, ambitious, risky. Publishers weren’t interested in artsy; they wanted cookie-cutter moneymakers. Experimental rarely sells. After polishing the novel for four years, I decided to put it out there myself to see what would happen. It sold close to 1500 copies by word of mouth and was a finalist for the 2006 Independent Publisher Awards—rave reviews, the works. It was then that I realized I would never submit to cookie-cutter and would forever push my love for nonlinearity, which of course spawned Phoenix Rose
, an even stranger novel (listed for the 2010 National Best Book Awards), and my short story collection, Scales and Petals
. I now have a new imprint I call Written Backwards. For me, it’s more than editorial control, although that has a lot to do with it. I simply want to publish what no one else will publish, fiction that disregards conventionality.
: What then possessed you to pull together, edit, and publish a horror anthology?
February 23, 2011
A common question writers are asked is, "So, where do your story ideas come from?" Stephen King, on his official Web site, answered the question in this way: "I get my ideas from everywhere. But what all of my ideas boil down to is seeing maybe one thing, but in a lot of cases it's seeing two things and having them come together in some new and interesting way, and then adding the question 'What if?' 'What if' is always the key question."
I totally agree. Ideas come winging at me like missiles from anywhere and everywhere--overheard snippets of conversations, newspaper items, TV commercials, even graffiti on a city wall! There are so many ideas that I couldn't possibly write all the stories that occur to me. I have notes everywhere, jotted in moments of hot inspiration. Writer's block? What's that? The trick is just being open to whatever occurs to you, and then asking that magic question, What if?
November 28, 2010
If you're into suspense in all its forms, Suspense Magazine
is a must! I love the publication's fine balance of new fiction, author interviews, book reviews, advice for writers of suspense, and amazing graphics. You can find the magazine at most major book stores, but I'd advise subscribing (either to the electronic or the paper version.)
I mentioned in an earlier blog that I've signed on with Suspense Magazine as a book reviewer. The first of I hope many reviews was just published in the December 2010 issue.
Here is my review of The Dead Path
by Stephen M. Irwin:
Nicholas Close is a haunted man. After his wife’s sudden death, Nicholas begins to see dead people—ghosts who must suffer their hideous deaths in endlessly replaying, silent loops before his eyes. He returns to his childhood home in Australia, where he sees the ghosts of terrified children (including his best friend, Tristam, who was murdered when he was ten-years-old) yanked by invisible hands into a dense, dark forest outside of town. More victim than hero, Nicholas is forced to face his childhood fears and confront an ancient evil when a local child goes missing, and he knows other innocent children will die if he doesn’t act. The story builds intensity from there, stacking bodies and scares, and never lets up until the astonishing conclusion. The last chapter is absolutely chilling
This stunning debut horror novel is part The Sixth Sense
, part Blair Witch
, part Stephen King’s It
, with a liberal helping of the darkest of Grimm’s tales. Such comparisons, however, do little justice to Irwin’s work, which stands strong on its own. His writing is elegant, highly descriptive and well-paced. Any novel revolving around the gruesome murders of children requires a skilled hand and deft control; Irwin handles these elements of his story well. I found the novel deliciously creepy and disturbing. We can expect more from this fine Australian author in the future!
(By the way, if you suffer from any degree of arachnophobia, this book is definitely not for you!)
October 22, 2010
I just signed on with Suspense Magazine
to write book reviews. (My first review is scheduled for the December issue--yay!) It just makes sense that I also post reviews here on my blog. Why not? To keep within the loose theme here, I'd like to discuss certain aspects of each book from a writer's viewpoint--what works, what doesn't, teaching points, etc. If you find the reviews helpful, please let me know.
To get the ball rolling, let me start with Shane Gericke's fine suspense novel, Torn Apart
. This is his third thriller in the Emily Thompson/Martin Benedetti series. If you're looking for cops against ruthless killers, you can't beat this for action and suspense!
The novel starts with four vicious murderers, named after zodiac signs, who gang rape and kill a hitchhiker in the back of their van, and then search for a place to dump the body. They work for Cash Maxximus, a drug-dealing rap star who sells a highly addictive designer drug called Katrina. Adding elements of child porn and slave-running, Gericke has developed a truly nasty plot--but that's just the beginning!