October 14, 2016
Graham Masterton is something of a literary chameleon. A prolific author, his 100+ books run the gamut from horror to thrillers to historical fiction to sex “how-to” manuals to his current series of Katie Maquire crime fiction. His debut as a horror writer began with the immensely popular novel, The Manitou
, in 1975, which was also made into a movie starring Tony Curtis and Susan Strasberg. Several of his short stories have been adapted for television, including three for Tony Scott’s Hunger series. The man has been around the block a few times.
Graham is magnanimous and more than willing to talk about writing and publishing, and has long been a supporter of other writers in the field. In fact, he will talk your ear off given half the chance. I was thrilled that he was willing to take some time out of his busy day to answer a few questions for Suspense Magazine
So, where did it all start?
I was writing fiction from an early age. I loved the novels of Jules Verne like Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea
and H.G. Wells like The War of the Worlds
, and wrote my own adventure novels and bound them in cardboard. At the age of 10 or 11, I discovered Edgar Allan Poe and loved the stories of “The Pit and the Pendulum” and blazing dwarves. I started writing my own short horror stories to read to my friends during break time at school. Some of my friends met me years later and told me that I had given them nightmares. I wrote a 250-page novel (by hand) about giant supernatural crabs when I was 12 (which I still have). When I was 14, I wrote a 400-page vampire novel that has been lost.
I was expelled from school was I was 17. Expulsion was the making of me, though, because I then got a job as a trainee reporter on my local newspaper. In those days, local newspapers were staffed by retired Fleet Street men (national newspaper reporters). They taught me how to write a tight, compelling news story that would grab a reader’s attention—how to write vividly and concisely—but more than anything else, how to interview people. I quickly learned that most people are bursting to tell you their innermost secrets, particularly since you are sympathetic and you listen carefully to them and ask the most penetrating questions. They will tell you things that they would never tell their friends or their families, because you are a stranger.
When I left the local paper at the age of 21 and was appointed deputy editor of a new British Playboy
-style magazine called Mayfair
, I was called on to interview the girls who appeared in the center-spread every month. Most of the men who met them simply “gawped” at their breasts, but I always made a point of talking to them about their ambitions and their love lives and whatever made them unhappy. Out of that experience, I developed a question-and-answer sex feature in the magazine called Quest
, which purported to be conversations with couples about their sex problems. I wrote it all myself, but almost all the content was quoted pretty much verbatim from real girls.
I left Mayfair
after three years after a spat with the editor and joined Penthouse
the following week as deputy editor. Not long afterwards I was appointed executive editor. Penthouse
had recently been launched in the U.S. at that time, so I got to travel frequently to New York in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. There I met several publishers and it was suggested to me by Howard Kaminsky from Warner Paperback Library that I write a sex “how-to” book in the same anecdotal style as Quest. That was how I came to write How A Woman Loves To Be Loved
by “Angel Smith”. It was hugely popular (especially since Angel looked gorgeous on the cover) because few sex books had been written before in such a conversational style … most had been either medical or prescriptive. I’ve written 29 manuals over the years.
How did your earlier career with men’s magazines and writing sex manuals inform your fiction writing?
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…)
June 30, 2016
W.D. Gagliani is the author of many novels, including Savage Nights, Wolf’s Trap, Wolf’s Gambit, Wolf’s Bluff, Wolf’s Edge
, and more. Wolf’s Trap
was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award in 2004. Bill has published fiction and nonfiction in numerous anthologies and publications. He is a member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA), the International Thriller Writers (ITW), and the Authors Guild. Raised in Genova, Italy, as well as Kenosha, Wisconsin, he now lives and writes in Milwaukee.
Bill, with his co-writer David Benton, wrote the story "Piper at the Gates," published in the Smart Rhino anthology Zippered Flesh 2: More Tales of Body Enhancements Gone Bad!
We had fun in the following interview!
You tend to write a hybridization of horror and crime fiction/suspense. Do you find this combination easy to write, and why?
I do find it easier (no writing is truly easy, as you know). But not because there’s something magical about the mix that I’m tapping into. I find it easier because I grew up loving thrillers (and mystery and other genres, but thrillers were big), and later fell under the spell of one S. King, who blew my mind and sent it reeling into that black hole of terror I’d always been circling anyway. I had enjoyed horror before, such as James Herbert’s The Rats
and The Fog
, but when King came along with ‘Salem’s Lot
, I truly was lost. I went all in on horror then. I took a break for my first couple years of college, then jumped back in. It became my favorite genre to read.
But, in any case, I never quite lost the thrill of the thriller. I loved the British authors the most. I admit, writers such as Ian Fleming, Alistair MacLean, Desmond Bagley, and Duncan Kyle. Although David Morrell made a huge impact with First Blood
and I started discovering great American writers, too. After quite a few years concentrating on horror, I just naturally started to channel the thriller people I’d always liked so much. So, the idea that thrillers and horror aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive swirled around in my head, but subconsciously. I think in the long run I found that I couldn’t always sustain that sense of terror or dread needed in a horror novel, but if I mixed in a sense of more realistic suspense, maybe less supernatural and more grounded in what happens every day in the world (violence seems to be the true universal language, unfortunately), I was able to fill out the plots in a way that seemed more fulfilling to me. Since I came to love the so-called splatterpunks of the '80s, whose work tended to be more visceral and less supernatural, it was like blending two primary colors to create a third (secondary) color, you know? Whether or not it works, I don’t know. I have fun with it, so I hope that sense of fun translates down to the reader.
The sixth Nick Lupo novel was recently released. How did you develop a character who is a werewolf homicide detective? (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…)
February 25, 2014
D.B. Corey’s first novel, “Chain of Evidence”, a police procedural/thriller, was published by Intrigue Publishing this past summer. In the story, Moby Truax, an aging detective who is nearing retirement, must investigate a serial killer stalking the streets of Baltimore—and Truax suspects the murders are that of a copycat killer, and that he actually faces two serial killers.
After a stint in college, Corey joined the USNR flying aircrew aboard a Navy P-3 Orion chasing down Russian subs. During his time there, he began a career in IT. He didn’t begin writing until his mid-50s, and had to pay some dues before landing his contract with Intrigue and the subsequent publication of his first novel.
I asked D.B. to talk with us about his experiences during the creation, editing, and publication of Chain of Evidence, among other things. He kindly agreed to the following interview.
Weldon Burge (WB): Your novel, Chain of Evidence, was published by a new independent publisher, Intrigue Publishing. What have you learned from that partnership?
D.B. Corey (DB): I signed with Intrigue in July of 2012. The novel was released in August of 2013. Had I not missed my first deadline, it would have come out four months earlier. So the first thing I learned was not to miss deadlines. Once the book did come out, I discovered I had a second job—marketing myself; something I was unprepared to do. I found that writing the book was the easy part, there were not enough weekends in the month, and the publisher designs the cover. He may even want to change the title, but that was OK with me. My title was terrible.
WB: The hero in your novel is Moby Truax, an aging detective nearing retirement. The villain, Harvey Morral, is a serial killer who also happens to be a medical examiner who is into necrophilia. How did you research to develop these two characters?
DB: With all respect, I consider our military men and women and our first responders to be heroes, so I would never refer to one of my fictional characters a hero. Heroes are flesh and blood people who can be hurt, so my good guy is “the protagonist.”
WB: Couldn’t agree more. Sometimes we forget who the true heroes are!
May 29, 2013
Lisa Mannetti’s debut novel, The Gentling Box
, garnered a Bram Stoker Award, and she was nominated in 2010 both for her novella “Dissolution” and a short story, “1925: A Fall River Halloween.” She has also authored The New Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn
, a compilation of novellas—including the story “Dissolution”; a macabre gag book, 51 Fiendish Ways to Leave Your Lover
; two nonfiction books; and numerous articles and short stories in newspapers, magazines, and anthologies. Her story “Everybody Wins” was produced as a short film by director Paul Leyden, starring Malin Ackerman and released under the title “Bye-Bye Sally”.
As an editor, I’ve worked with Lisa several times over the past year or so. She kindly agreed to the following interview.
Weldon Burge (WB)
: Your debut novel, The Gentling Box, won the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel in 2008. That’s like strapping on a jetpack and blasting off into a writing career. How has the award helped your career?
Lisa Mannetti (LM)
: Winning was the single most gratifying event of my life. Years earlier, when I began writing horror, I placed second in a contest at one of the World Horror conventions and when the publisher mentioned my story would probably “garner a lot of interest for a Stoker recommendation,” I practically passed out in front of the mailbox onto my front lawn. So winning such a prestigious award was beyond my wildest dreams. I always try to write my best, but I thought of the Stoker as a true pinnacle that might be always beyond my reach—so it wasn’t on my mind at all during the writing. My goal was getting the book published. Winning for The Gentling Box
actually meant even more because two major agents could not sell it to any of the houses in New York. When it received acclaim, it signaled to me that my belief in the novel wasn’t misplaced after all. That’s really huge.
In terms of my day-to-day career, it’s helped smooth the way for subsequent books and projects, a new agent, and the publication of my work in general. In the old days, I’d write a story and sit down with lists of places that seemed like a “fit” with the piece, then start making the manuscript rounds. Now I’m asked to contribute to magazines and anthologies, so my stories are essentially sold before I write them. I’ve never felt like the prescribed theme was any kind of creative impediment--most editors have given me tons of latitude. Those invitations to contribute have been terrific. One of my stories, “1925: A Fall River Halloween” which features Lizzie Borden as a character, was nominated for the Stoker in 2010.
It’s also helped in subtler, but no less important ways, and a few examples come to mind. I’m now an active member of the Horror Writers Association (a long-term goal I finally met) and a new edition of the book will be coming out from Nightscape Press (I couldn’t be more delighted!). Most of all, it makes me very conscious when I sit down to write that it’s critical—imperative—to set high standards and (whether the result can be deemed successful or not) to strive to produce the very best work I can—or die trying.
April 17, 2013
Charles Colyott lives on a farm in the middle of nowhere (Southern Illinois) with his wife, daughters, cats, and a herd of llamas and alpacas. He is surrounded by so much cuteness, it's difficult for him to develop any street cred as a dark and gritty horror writer. Nevertheless, he has appeared in Read by Dawn II
magazine; Terrible Beauty Fearful Symmetry
; Horror Library
Volumes III, IV, and V; and the Zippered Flesh
and Uncommon Assassins
anthologies from Smart Rhino Publications. His mystery novels, Changes
and Pressure Point
, focus on Colyott's acupuncturist, martial-arts-savvy protagonist, Randall Lee.
Colyott took some time away from his busy schedule to answer a few questions for us.
Weldon Burge (WB)
: Let's get the geek question out of the way first. Zombie or robot apocalypse?
Charles Colyott (CC)
: Zombies, of course! I feel like we'd have a better chance against them ... unless we're talking the almost indestructible ones from Return of the Living Dead
, or the really awful ones from Brian Keene's The Rising
. Then we're just screwed.
: And one other nagging question: Why llamas and alpacas instead of cows and goats? Can you even milk a llama? And why would you want to? (OK, that was three questions.)
: My wife and I just sort of fell in love with alpacas before we even knew what they were. I liked the fact that we didn't have to use them in any way ... no killing, no milking, etc. We just cut their hair once a year (something which must be done anyway). I imagine it is possible to milk one ... but I can't fathom why anyone would want to. Our llamas act as guards for our alpacas, and they take their job pretty seriously.
May 11, 2012
Kealan Patrick Burke is a man of many talents—a skilled and promising horror writer, editor, artist, and actor. Born and raised in Dungarvan, Ireland, he came to the United States in 2001 to find his fortune in writing. During the intervening years, his work has garnered critical acclaim and awards, and he has been called “a newcomer worth watching” by Publishers Weekly
and “one of the most original authors in contemporary horror” by Booklist
Kealan’s stories have appeared in many publications, including Cemetery Dance, Corpse Blossoms, Horror World, Grave Tales,
and a number of anthologies. His work also includes novels (KIN, Currency of Souls, Master of the Moors, The Hides
), novellas (The Turtle Boy, Vessels, Midlisters, Thirty Miles South of Dry County
), and collections (Ravenous Ghosts, Theater Macabre, The Number 121 to Pennsylvania
The man truly is busy! Yet, when I asked Kealan to talk with us concerning his experiences, he kindly agreed to the following interview.
Weldon Burge (WB)
: Born in Ireland, coming to America--what was the hardest part, as a writer, of acclimating to the U.S.?
Kealan Patrick Burke (KPB)
: The hardest part of coming here, as a person, not solely as a writer, was leaving everything I knew behind: family, friends, the culture, and basically starting from scratch in a place I’d never seen outside of TV. It was a daunting task, and pretty terrifying for a guy who had scarcely been outside of his own country for twenty one years. But that same task provided ample fodder for my writing, broadening my horizons and widening my perspective to an infinite degree. More importantly, relocating here afforded me the opportunity to write uninterrupted for two years, an opportunity I hadn’t had up to that point, and in that space of time, I wrote and sold my fiction like a madman. So if I hadn’t made the move, it’s quite likely I’d never have seen my work in print, or have ended up pursuing writing as a full-time career.
: Do you work from an outline, or do you pretty much improvise?
: Generally I don’t work from an outline because I like to be surprised by where a story takes me, and plotting out every detail, every twist and turn, seems to suck all the fun out of it and runs the risk of sapping my enthusiasm for the project. Instead I’ll keep a notebook by the computer into which I’ll scribble plot points, twists and revelations, character traits and phrases I like as they come to me. The current novel, Nemesis
, for example, while not fully outlined, has roughly fifty pages of notes that wouldn’t make much sense to anyone else if they looked at them. To me, those notes are like an extended movie trailer. There’s just enough to know what the story’s about, but not enough to spoil it. If I ever tackle a book as big as Lonesome Dove
, or The Stand
, however, it may become necessary to outline just to keep things on track. We’ll see.
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.
September 8, 2011
An archaeological team, including a number of Americans, disappears high in the Alborz Mountains of northwestern Iran. Days later, imagery from U.S. spy satellites reveals detachments of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps converging on the area. With the presidential election only months away, President Roger Hancock authorizes a covert CIA mission into the mountains of Iran to rescue the archaeologists. Little do the rescuers know of the ancient evil they must face, or that the events could lead to the next world war—or even the apocalypse.
So begins Stephen England’s thrilling counterterrorism novel, Pandora’s Grave
, the first in his Shadow Warriors
The lead character, Harry Nichols, is a church-going Christian, but also a highly skilled paramilitary operations officer who leads his team into dangerous regions of the Middle East, often on what seem like suicide missions. He faces moral dilemmas in his profession and is forced to make hard decisions, and this makes his character deeper and richer as the novel progresses. All the characters are well developed and thoroughly believable.
There is machismo and brutal violence aplenty, but England tempers this with a sensitivity and humanity rarely exhibited in espionage/action stories. There is little “black and white” here—the villains and the heroes are not always clearly discernible, adding to the overall suspense.
I was most impressed with England’s ability to maintain objectivity as he developed his Muslim, Jewish, and Christian characters throughout the novel, displaying a keen insight for character motivation based upon religious conviction, political ideology, and personal moral (and often amoral) predilections. There were many opportunities where the writer may have started to “preach,” but England deftly held his hand and created a balanced narrative, leading to a wholly satisfying conclusion (and, of course, a taunting taste of the sequel to come).
(A version of this review was also published in the September 2011 issue of Suspense Magazine
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?
April 14, 2011
J. Gregory Smith’s first novel, Final Price
, won First Place in the Fiction Category in the 2010 Delaware Press Association's Communication contest, and was selected as a Quarterfinalist in the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. First released as a self-published work, it is now under contract with AmazonEncore, a new publishing imprint from Amazon.com. Final Price
was re-released in November 2010 and is now available at Amazon.com, bookstores nationwide, and in e-book formats.
Before becoming a full-time writer, Greg worked in public relations in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and Wilmington, Delaware, where he now lives with his wife and son. In addition to ongoing marketing efforts for Final Price
, Smith's young adult novel, Prince Dale and the Crystal Mountain
, made the Quarter Finals in the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest.
I asked Greg to talk with us about his experiences during the creation, editing, and publication of Final Price
, among other things. He kindly agreed to the following interview.
Weldon Burge (WB)
: What inspired you to write Final Price?
J. Gregory Smith (JGS)
: Following layoffs in the PR industry, I worked for nearly a year selling cars. The dealership and coworkers were nice enough but the nature of the industry puts salesmen and customers in an adversarial position. Anyone in sales can relate to the frustration of dealing with unreasonable customers.
I got the idea for this story during a 12-hour shift on a snowy day with no customers. What if, instead of venting about a lost sale in the break room, a salesman completely flipped out? What if he tracked down his most infuriating prospects? Shamus Ryan was born. The rest of the story built around him and his actions. For setting, I found right where I worked to be perfect. Wilmington, Delaware, is a city that feels more like a small town. Everyone seems to know everyone else, but people from every walk of life come through doors of a car showroom. For the killer, annoying victims come in all shapes, sizes, colors and religions. Because of that, it took longer to establish a recognizable pattern for the cops to follow.
: What was your biggest challenge when writing the novel?
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!
September 30, 2010
Who doesn't like ghost stories? (Heck, the Ghost Hunters
show on Syfy is one of my guilty pleasures!) Not only do I love reading ghost stories, but I love writing them.
Static Movement just released the anthology Ghosts and Demons
, with 33 stories filled with apparitions, demons, and paranormal mayhem of every stripe. My short story, "Blue Eye Burn," is included. This is one of my favorite stories, originally published in Out & About
, a Delaware magazine, back in 2004. The tale is about a Vietnam vet who is visited by a child from his past, a child long dead.
Some of the many other stories I enjoyed include:
- "Death Comes for Gil Bates" by William Wood—what the future holds for the Grim Reaper
- "Walking the Dog" by Rick McQuiston—will make you take a second look at man's best friend
- "The Green Washing Machine" by Gayle Arrowood—a different take on appliance hell
- "The Winter Experiment" by William Todd Rose—a chilling encounter with Yuki-onna, the mythical snow woman
- "Happy Slapping" by Jason D. Brawn—a violent street punk gets his just reward
- "The Rendezvous" by Gregory Miller—sometimes it's better to avoid old loves
- "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" by Ken Goldman—a story involving a langsuyar, a malevolent ghost of a woman who has died in childbirth ... but much more
This anthology also contains five works by Yolanda Sfetsos, a writer hailing from Australia. The book ends with three of her stories, which are preludes to her novel HELLBLAZE.
If you enjoy horror stories—and ghost stories in particular—you'll find plenty to enjoy in this anthology! Halloween is just around the corner (hint, hint).