My Bookish Ways

Interview: William Shaw, author of She’s Leaving Home

William Shaw’s new London based mystery, SHE’S LEAVING HOME, debuted in early February, and I’m very excited to have William on the blog! Please give him a warm welcome!

William-Shaw-©-Ellen-Shaw-600x600-480x480You have a journalism background and are the author of non-fiction as well, but have you always wanted to write fiction? Will you tell us more about yourself?
Yup. I started writing non-fiction books a long time ago with the idea that I could sneak some fiction past my agent. But I really loved writing non-fiction too. I was lucky enough to be a journalist in the 90s when long form narrative non-fiction was really valued. I really liked writing close-up stories about the strangeness of real life. I’d interviewed Tupac Shakur a couple of times and I was fascinated by the whole myth that grew up about his death. In the late 90s I spent a lot of time in South Central Los Angeles writing about young men there for a book called Westsiders. That taught me a lot about the catastrophic effects of violence – how the pain of unsolved crimes really distort people’s lives. On the more frivolous end of it, I also wrote a newspaper column in the British Sunday newspaper The Observer for several years called Small Ads. I just used to call people up and ask them about their classified ads. It confirmed something I’ve always loved about people: the closer you look, the stranger they are.

Your new book, SHE’S LEAVING HOME, is a mystery set in London in 1968. Will you tell us a little more about it?
It’s the first in a trilogy of books set in 1968-9. The body of a young woman is found in the environs of Abbey Road Studios. The detective assigned to the case is Cathal Breen, the son of an Irish immigrant whose reputation with colleagues is at an all time low following an act of cowardice. Just when he thinks things couldn’t get lower he’s assigned a probationary woman constable, Helen Tozer, to take under his wing.

shesleavinghomeIn those days the British police were institutionally racist and sexist, and pretty corrupt too. The liberal attitudes of our generation were about to transform the UK completely. Women police not allowed to actually investigate crimes in those days, they were there to help with women and children and to do the paperwork. But Helen Tozer has her own agenda, which becomes clear in the arc of the trilogy.

The dead woman turns out to be one of the so –called Apple Scruffs. []. The Beatles are sort of in the background through that first book. For me they embody the change that is happening in Britain during that time. Our change from a straight-backed, all-in-this-together post-war society to the liberal, individualist Britain we have now.

What did you enjoy most about writing about DS Cathal Breen, and why do you think readers will root for him?
I love that Cathal Breen is constantly struggling to understand what’s going on in 1968. He really doesn’t get it. But he’s a decent man all the same. I like too, that the readers know that he has a thing for Helen Tozer, but he doesn’t really have a clue. Although he’s only in his early 30s, that generation were already middle aged. He struggles to understand everything she stands for.

Obviously time and place is very important in the novel. What kind of research did you do for it, and what was one of the most interesting things you discovered?
Luckily there’s a wealth of stuff about London in the 60s so that part was easy. The harder part was getting into the mindset of London police at that time. The way they thought then – even the language they used – has been so successfully reformed that it’s hard to dig back. I talked as much as I could to men and women who served in the police at that time. For me the most mind-boggling thing was I had finished a complete first draft when I found out that women police wouldn’t have even been able to drive at the time the books are set. I love how shocked people are now when I tell them that. It seems so absurd. But it’s a measure of how different things were.

Why mystery? What do you enjoy most about writing in the genre?
Mystery is a great storytelling form. It’s like a modern Grimms’ tale. Before you’ve even started there is a structure: something awful has happened and a hero has to try to put it right. Writing within that form gives you an incredible freedom. You can write in almost any style, from almost any point of view you choose, as long as you keep the contract with the reader.

What authors or novels have influenced you the most in work, and life?
When I was younger, I fell for American realism, from Hemmingway to Carver. That’s always been the biggest single influence. I think there is something very human and even kind of democratic about the close up view of people’s lives. On the crime side, I love a writer from the 70s called Nicholas Freeling. His books don’t read well these days but for me they showed how crime novels could write about a cultural landscape as much a geographical one which is something I’m keen to do in She’s Leaving Home.

What are you currently reading?
Dregs by Jorn Lier Horst. Nice stuff. I like books where the plot doesn’t hurtle on relentlessly and you have time to pause.

What’s next for you?
I’ve just sent off proofs for the second in the series, The Kings of London. The two subsequent books in the trilogy pick up on some detail from the first book that the reader might have thought was irrelevant but turns out not to be pretty crucial. I’m half way through writing the third now. It would be nice to take Breen into the70s and see how he survives in the era of Rod Stewart and Wings.

Keep up with William: Website | Twitter

London, 1968: The body of a teenage girl is found just steps away from the Beatles’ Abbey Road recording studio.

The police are called to a residential street in St John’s Wood where an unidentified young woman has been strangled. Detective Sergeant Cathal Breen believes she may be one of the many Beatles fans who regularly camp outside Abbey Road Studios. With his reputation tarnished by an inexplicable act of cowardice, this is Breen’s last chance to prove he’s up to the job.

Breen is of the generation for whom reaching adulthood meant turning into one’s parents and accepting one’s place in the world. But the world around him is changing beyond recognition. Nothing illustrates the shift more than Helen Tozer, a brazen and rambunctious young policewoman assisting him with the case. Together they navigate a world on edge, where conservative tradition gives way to frightening new freedoms–and troubling new crimes.

Interview: Richard Montanari, author of The Stolen Ones

Please welcome Richard Montanari to the blog. His brand new book, THE STOLEN ONES, just came out last week, and he was kind enough to answer a few questions about the book, and the series!


Photo by Rocco Tamm

Photo by Rocco Tamm

THE STOLEN ONES is the seventh book featuring Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano. Will you tell us a bit more about it?
All my stories begin with a question. For THE STOLEN ONES, the question was: Can one person’s dreams be implanted into another person’s mind? And, if this is possible, to what extent could the subject’s behavior be manipulated? I did quite a bit of research for this book, especially in the areas of lucid dreaming and dream engineering. The field and study of dream interpretation goes back almost as far as recorded history, but dream engineering is still in the laboratory stage. Just recently neuroscientists at MIT published a paper heralding a breakthrough with audio cues as they relate to dream behavior in mice, and the planting of false memory. Experimentation on human subjects is a bit more clandestine. It is this covert testing that is at the heart of the book

Of course, because I write rather dark crime fiction, I immediately knew that the person from whom the dreams were extracted would be a very bad man. He is.

Part of the story centers on a psychiatric hospital and the treatment of its patients. What kind of research did you do for THE STOLEN ONES?
Longtime time residents of the Philadelphia area will recognize the shuttered psychiatric hospital that, in the book, is called the Delaware Valley State Hospital at Cold River. When I researched the real hospital – which was open for more than ninety years, and at one time had fifty-eight buildings in its complex, and five thousand patients, many of them indigent – I knew that there would be stories to tell. When I learned that there were catacombs below the hospital that hooked into the sewer systems of Philadelphia, I knew I had a thriller. One of my favorite films is The Third Man, and the famous chase through the stone corridors beneath Vienna was a big influence. Some of the other research for the book involved police procedure in Estonia, as well as the history and treatment of mental disorders here and around the world.

stolenonesWhen you started the series, did you have an idea of how many books you wanted to write, or did you just decide to see where it took you?
I would love to say I did, but alas, I did not. When I wrote THE ROSARY GIRLS I was hoping to create a good story, well told, introducing the characters of Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano. The end of that book left open the possibility of further novels, and I have been very fortunate to have published six more books (soon to be seven) in the series.

What is your writing process like?
At the start of a book I always say I am going to plot the novel down to the last detail, complete with character outlines, flow charts, and meticulously structured scenes. It never happens. I always begin with the pathology of my villain – why he or she is doing all these terrible things – and from that seed the story begins to organically grow. Once I have the basic plot worked out, my characters wrest the tale from my hands, and begin to act. As to technique, my first drafts take a long time, but my second drafts move rather quickly. I love second drafts because, as a rule, everything you write makes the story better. While wandering the landscape of the first draft, any side street you take may lead to a dead end. I hate dead ends.

Why mystery? What do you enjoy most about reading and writing in the genre?
When I was younger I was fascinated with close up magic, and studied it for many years. The concept of misdirection informs much of what any mystery writer does. The difference is that, in crime fiction, the writer has to play fair with the reader. In magic, any device that presents the illusion is fair. I address this idea in my novel BADLANDS (PLAY DEAD in the UK). As a reader, and film buff, I simply enjoy being surprised, or forced to the edge of my seat. I was quite young when I discovered the films of Alfred Hitchcock. If there is a more suspenseful sequence than the one where Ingrid Bergman tries to get the key from Claude Rains’s key chain in Notorious, I’ve yet to see it.

Your novels deal with lots of suspenseful and terrifying scenarios, but what is something that you find truly terrifying?
Like many people, I think the most terrifying thing is loss of control. We all like to be in control of our surroundings, our circumstances, and when this is taken away from us, we tend to panic. It’s my understanding that we are born with two innate fears: Falling and loud noises. Everything else, they say, is learned. We like roller coasters and horror movies because, for a brief time, we can hurtle down hills, or be chased down a dark alley by a hatchet-wielding maniac. If we thought the ride might not end, we probably wouldn’t buy a ticket.

What are a few of your favorite authors?
There are so many. Jim Thompson, Shirley Jackson, Thomas Harris, Richard Price, Thomas H. Cook, (the mysterious) Shane Stevens, Russell Banks, James M. Cain.

What are you currently reading?
When I am writing a novel, I do not read fiction. My next book will involve the District Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia, so I am now reading FUNDAMENTALS OF TRIAL TECHNIQUE by Thomas A. Mauet.

When you’re not writing, how do you like to spend your free time?
I like to cook, so if I am not seeking out new recipes, or tracking down exotic ingredients, I am happily in my kitchen, with Bill Evans or Oscar Peterson or Chet Baker playing in the background, and a glass of chilled Sauvignon Blanc nearby. I have also recently rekindled my passion for acting, and have begun working with a fantastic coach and director, Brian Zoldessy. I think I have a one-act play in me that is clamoring to be written.

What’s next for you?
I have just completed the eighth book in my Philadelphia series, titled THE DOLL MAKER, which will be published by Little, Brown in 2014. I’ve also begun work on the ninth book – as yet untitled. In addition, I am polishing a screenplay, a romantic fantasy titled ALWAYS YOU.

Keep up with Richard: Website | Twitter

In Richard Montanari’s chilling new suspense novel, a sealed-off network of secret passages connects all of Philadelphia to the killer hidden within.

Luther Wade grew up in Cold River, a warehouse for the criminally insane. Two decades ago the hospital closed it doors forever, but Luther never left. He wanders the catacombs beneath the city, channeling the violent dreams of Eduard Kross, Europe’s most prolific serial killer of the 20th century.

A two-year-old girl is found wandering the streets of Philadelphia in the middle of the night by detectives Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano. She does not speak, but she may hold the key to solving a string of murders committed in and around Priory Park.

As the detectives investigate, more bodies are found at Priory Park, and they’re drawn closer and closer to the doors of Luther’s devious maze and the dark secrets of Cold River.

March 2014 New Releases (SF, Fantasy, and Horror)

Here are the new releases in SF, Fantasy, and Horror for March 2014.I’ve also included audiobook links where they apply. Enjoy!

walkingdeadMarch 4th, 2014:

panicYoung Adult

theironjackalMarch 11th, 2014:

Young Adult

GetKaja-720March 18th, 2014:

Young Adult

themidnightwitchMarch 25th, 2014:

Young Adult

Night Owls by Lauren M. Roy

nightowlsNight Owls by Lauren M. Roy (Ace, Feb. 25th, 2013)-So, maybe you’re like me, and there hasn’t been a ton of stuff in the urban fantasy realm lately that’s floatin’ your boat. There are a couple of standout series, but other than that…but I digress. What I’m trying to say, I guess, is that I think Lauren M Roy might be onto something with Night Owls. As the book opens, a young woman named Elly is on the run from something she calls a Creep, but their kind are also called Jackals. In her possession is a book that the Jackals want, but Elly doesn’t know why, she just knows that her mentor died for it and she can’t let it fall into their hands. What she thinks is a safe haven turns out to be just the opposite, and she finds herself asking someone she hasn’t seen for two years for help, a young man named Cavale, who she was raised with and considers her brother, if not in blood, certainly in spirit. Cavale’s friends end up getting involved too, and that’s where the real fun starts, because Cavale’s friends are actually pretty awesome. Val McTeague is a world weary vampire that runs the titular bookstore along with her friend, and Renfield, Chaz. Also in the mix are two lesbian succubi, Sunny and Lia, that delight in taking the form of your biggest crush, although they only crush on each other. And here you were thinking “oh no, not another vampire.” I like that Val is a bit of a loner and doesn’t like to call on other vampires unless absolutely necessary, and she loathes having to feed. She’s a conflicted lady, but she has a heart of gold, even if it’s not beating. Chaz is to-the-bone loyal to Val, and you’ll want to keep an eye out for a scene between him and the succubi that’s very revealing, but it’s probably not what you think. Elly is adrift without her mentor, Father Value, but she’s quite a hand with magic and she’s glad to be rebuilding a relationship with Cavale, who left her and Father Value under unhappy circumstances. There’s also a student, and Night Owl employee, Justin, who becomes involved with the book very intimately, and his sweetly awkward scenes with the tough, but somewhat naive, Elly are adorable.

So, yes, the book! This book could have the power to bring the Jackals down, if only it can be decoded, but it could also help them increase their numbers, so you can see how it’s a very big deal, and it’s up to the gang to make sure they don’t get it. Easier said than done, because the Jackals are nasty, nasty customers. There are some crackling fight scenes and plenty of action, but where this book was strongest was in how it defined a family as much more than flesh and blood. I have to admit to liking Val the best, and the last third is especially enlightening since the Boston Strigoi (those vamps that Val wants nothing to do with), is called in to help. There’s quite a history there, and it made me want to learn so much more about Val (can you say vamp politics and a painful past?). Night Owls is a solid, just plain fun urban fantasy with flawed, but interesting characters, and some very nasty baddies,and I’m looking forward to spending more time with this very peculiar group of friends.

Interview (& Giveaway): Michael Marshall, author of We Are Here

I’m a huge, huge fan of Michael Marshall (Smith) and am absolutely thrilled to have him as a guest today! His brand new book, WE ARE HERE, just came out this week, and he answered a few questions about it, and much more. In addition, courtesy of the nice folks at Mulholland, we’ve got two galleys of WE ARE HERE to give away to two lucky winners, so be sure to check out those details at the end of the post!

MMSI’ve been a longtime fan of yours and was so excited to see that We Are Here was on the way! Ok, now that I’ve gotten the gushing out of the way… Have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
Thank you for the kind words, and I’m delighted to be here!

I moved around a lot as a child. I was born in England, but my family moved to America when I was one year old. We stayed there until I was seven, then spent a year in South Africa and a year in Australia before returning to the UK. I didn’t always consciously want to be a writer — I went to university intending to become an academic, like my father — though in retrospect the seeds were sown early on, and I did experiment with a few bits of prose when I was in my teens.

While I was at college I started doing a lot of performing and writing, and soon afterward this morphed into writing dark fiction, sparked by some chance encounters with seminal novels, and by meeting a few people who were already writing short stories. They were all horror writers, though my early reading choices had been SF people like Asimov, Clarke, Dick and Bradbury, and then Kingsley Amis. I supported myself in a variety of unexciting ways —working as a graphic designer, organizer of a film festival, writer of extremely tedious corporate information films — until a wildly optimistic/foolish producer hired me for a large screenwriting job. That project dragged on for two years and never came to fruition, but by the time it had fallen apart my lot was cast, I’d written my first novel (ONLY FORWARD), and knew I was never going to want to do anything else.

wearehereJohn Henderson, of 2009’s BAD THINGS, also is the narrator of WE ARE HERE. What made you decide to write another book with John as your protagonist? Will you tell us a little more about WE ARE HERE?
John and Kristina simply stuck in my head, much as Ward and Nina and Jack from THE STRAW MEN had. WE ARE HERE is not a continuation of BAD THINGS, and I could have gone with totally new characters, I guess — but they felt like they fitted, and I wanted to spend more time with them.

The book however starts with a man called David, who visits NYC with his wife at the beginning of what seems like an exciting new stage in his life: as he prepares to board the train home, though, a total stranger comes up to him in the station and says something rather strange — something that implies that he knows David, and has a call upon him.

“Remember me”, is what he says.

Meanwhile John (who moved to NYC after the events of BAD THINGS) gets drawn into helping a new friend of Kristina’s, who thinks she’s being stalked. John soon comes to realize it’s true, and also that there’s something very odd about the person doing the stalking. Gradually these two strands get pulled together into a thriller which looks at the power and pitfalls of friendship, what happens when these relationships are misused or abandoned — and asks questions about the reality and intangibility of our communities and groups, our emotions and lives.

There are few writers that are able to combine mystery with a hint of the extraordinary like you can. What do you enjoy most about writing your genre bending brand of fiction, and about being a writer in general?
I enjoy threading mystery with a note of the extraordinary because I think life is threaded with it. There’s a great tendency at the moment to bludgeon the magic out of the world, using the reductionist hammer of unimaginatively-applied ‘science’, but I think we all know — or at least believe, which is what counts as knowledge in the real world — that the universe is far more complicated, stranger, and more dangerous than the laboratory suggests.

Fiction needs to reflect this — interesting fiction, at any rate.

badthingsWhat I like about being a writer…? Good question. I guess having the freedom to live my life in certain ways, being paid to make up stories, and the opportunities for meeting people and traveling it involves. And when writing’s fun, it’s fun. It’s not a job for the faint of heart, however. If you’re very sociable, need constant positive feedback, or enjoy predictability or security or knowing what the hell you’re doing… you might want to look elsewhere for a career. When writing’s not fun, it’s really not fun.

What is your writing process like? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Very much a pantser. I’ve tried to rigorously plot — and it worked once, with THE SERVANTS — but for some reason my mind rears away from the task like a startled foal. I’ll have a strong idea of how a novel starts, some incidents or ideas for the middle, and then a sense of the ending, but the rest is generally thrashed out on the page. I’ll break off every few weeks when it becomes clear that I need to step back from it and plan the next stages — I call this ‘going to the pad’, because I generally draw diagrams and stuff to try to clarify my thoughts — but overall the plot tends to emerge, rather than be imposed.

Did you do any specific research for We Are Here?
The only real research I did for WE ARE HERE was to spend a few periods in New York City, walking the streets for hour after hour, largely at random, drinking lots of coffee and stopping to look at anything that caught my eye. I did this partly so I could try to picture it correctly, also because I believe a novel’s location is as much a character in the story as the people, and so I wanted to become at least an acquaintance with the city before I started. Though in fact, as so often with me, the process was mainly the other way around. I spent time in the city, and so it suggested itself as a locale.

You’ve undoubtedly influenced countless authors with your work, but what are a few authors or novels that have been big influences for you?
It’s hard to tell who’ve been actual influences, over and above just liking their work, but I suspect the following have certainly helped structure what I do…

  • Kingsley & Martin Amis: precision of word choice
  • Douglas Adams: humor and all-bets-are-off ideas
  • Stephen King: storytelling, and transparency of prose
  • Jack Finney: easygoing narrative voice
  • Ray Bradbury: a sense of wonder

intrudersIf you could experience one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
THE TALISMAN, by Stephen King and Peter Straub. That was the book that really turned me onto the idea of being a novelist. I’d love to be able to re-experience that level of engagement and awe.

What was one of your favorite books that you read in 2013?
I read terrifyingly little last year, I’m afraid. I find myself pulled away from fiction when I’m writing, and I’m pretty much always writing something or other. I did read a couple of Gillian Flynn’s, and enjoyed them, and also Donald Ray Pollock’s THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME, which is extraordinary.

When you manage to get some free time, how do you like to spend it?
As Lawrence Kasdan said, being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life. You never really turn it off — and that’s fine by me: I want a job that’s consuming, that’s a life. When I’m not writing or fretting about writing, I like to cook, take long walks to explore Santa Cruz (we moved here from London two years ago, and I’m loving getting to know some of its hidden corners), play a little guitar or piano, or just sit with a coffee or beer and stare vaguely into the middle distance. You never know what you might see when you’re not seeing anything.

What’s next for you in 2014?
Currently I’m writing the next novel, and tendering vague assistance to BBC America’s production of THE INTRUDERS, which is about to start shooting in Vancouver. I’m toying with a few other ideas in the background, mainly for TV, but the new book is the top priority.

Keep up with Michael: Website | Twitter

Wanna win a copy of WE ARE HERE?

1.) You MUST fill out the form below (if you’ve signed into Rafflecopter before, it will remember you!)
2.) Giveaway is for 2 galleys of WE ARE HERE by Michael Marshall to 2 winners
3.) Giveaway is open to those with a US mailing address only (no PO Boxes)
4.) You must enter on or before 3/11/14
5.) Giveaway books courtesy of Mulholland
6.) Please see my Giveaway Policy.

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Interview: Chris Abani, author of The Secret History of Las Vegas

I absolutely loved Chris Abani’s latest, THE SECRET HISTORY OF LAS VEGAS, and I asked him if he’d answer a few questions about the book, and more, and he kindly obliged. Please welcome Chris to the blog!

chrisabaniYou’re the author of several novels and numerous works of poetry. Have you always wanted to be an author? Will you tell us a bit more about yourself and your background?
I have always wanted to write. I was one of those annoying people who knew early on where their passion lay. I think the first inkling of writing began when at 10 I snuck into my elder brother’s room and found a notebook with a novel my brother wrote. I read it voraciously and only later did I learn that he had copied out Things Fall Apart by hand to impress girls. But it made an impression on me. And by the time I read James Baldwin’s Another Country a few months later I was sold on the idea. I wrote a short story, which got published in the local still at 10 and then my first novel at 16.

Your new novel, The Secret History of Las Vegas is, on the surface, a mystery, but so much more at the core. What inspired you to write it?
My very first novel was a thriller set in Nigeria where a Nigerian James Bond-like character has to thwart neo-Nazis from blowing up the country. When I finished the Virgin of Flames, I realized that I had been writing a quartet of novels without knowing it – Graceland, Becoming Abigail, Song for Night and then the Virgin of Flames. So I thought it was time to break into new territory so I thought I’d try my hand at an unconventional murder mystery.

The Secret History of Las Vegas delves into the horrors of Apartheid era South Africa, and in particular, takes Sunil Singh, a complicated man with a difficult past, to some very dark places. What kind of research did you do for the novel, and what was one of the most surprising things you learned?
secrethistoryoflasvegasI have spent a considerable amount of time in South Africa and continue to do so. It has become like a second home to me. I talked to people who lived under apartheid, and those who were working for the apartheid government. But the emotional tones come from living in different countries, including America, and realizing that injustice exists everywhere. In many ways the apartheid in the book mirrors race relations in the US. The most surprising thing I’ve learned, about South Africans, and humans in general, is how forgiving and loving the human race really is. There is hope for us still.

Did you do any specific research in order to help shape the characters of Fire and Water, the conjoined twins in the novel?
Yes, I did a lot of medical research. Read a lot of doctors reports and case studies, particularly from the early 20th and late 19th century, but in the end, I realized that they are both just aspects of my own I don’t know what that says about me and my mental state.

What is your writing process like?
Slow. Long. Laborious. Lots of rewrites. Lots of cutting and rewriting. The same I guess as almost anybody else’s.

What, or who, has influenced you the most in your writing, and in your life?
My mother had the most influence on me as a writer. She taught me to read and write at 2 or 3. She never limited what I could read, never tried to protect me from all the depth that literature offers. She typed my early work. So my mother followed by writers like Baldwin and so forth, comic books, TV and movies. The usual.

If you could experience one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin.

What are you reading now?
Mostly student work. I don’t have as much time to read for pleasure. Saving up for a vacation.

What’s next for you?
A long drink and a soak in the bath. Just kidding. I think some essays are calling. We’ll see.

Keep up with Chris: Website | Twitter

Before he can retire, Las Vegas detective Salazar is determined to solve a recent spate of murders. When he encounters a pair of conjoined twins with a container of blood near their car, he’s sure he has apprehended the killers, and enlists the help of Dr. Sunil Singh, a South African transplant who specializes in the study of psychopaths. As Sunil tries to crack the twins, the implications of his research grow darker. Haunted by his betrayal of loved ones back home during apartheid, he seeks solace in the love of Asia, a prostitute with hopes of escaping that life. But Sunil’s own troubled past is fast on his heels in the form of a would-be assassin.

Suspenseful through the last page, The Secret History of Las Vegas is Chris Abani’s most accomplished work to date, with his trademark visionary prose and a striking compassion for the inner lives of outsiders.

About Chris Abani:
Chris Abani is a novelist, poet, essayist, screenwriter and playwright. Born in Nigeria to an Igbo father and English mother, he grew up in Afikpo, Nigeria, received a BA in English from Imo State University, Nigeria, an MA in English, Gender and Culture from Birkbeck College, University of London and a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Southern California. He has resided in the United States since 2001.

He is the recipient of the PEN USA Freedom-to-Write Award, the Prince Claus Award, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a California Book Award, a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, a PEN Beyond the Margins Award, the PEN Hemingway Book Prize and a Guggenheim Award.

His fiction includes The Secret History of Las Vegas (Penguin 2014), Song For Night *(Akashic, 2007), *The Virgin of Flames (Penguin, 2007), Becoming Abigail (Akashic, 2006), GraceLand (FSG, 2004), and Masters of the Board (Delta, 1985).

His poetry collections are Sanctificum (Copper Canyon Press, 2010), There Are No Names for Red (Red Hen Press, 2010), Feed Me The Sun – Collected Long Poems *(Peepal Tree Press, 2010) *Hands Washing Water (Copper Canyon, 2006), Dog Woman (Red Hen, 2004), Daphne’s Lot (Red Hen, 2003) and *Kalakuta Republic *(Saqi, 2001).

His work has been translated into French, Italian, Spanish, German, Swedish, Romanian, Hebrew, Macedonian, Ukrainian, Portuguese, Dutch, Bosnian and Serbian.

Through his TED Talks, public speaking and essays Abani is known as an international voice on humanitarianism, art, ethics, and our shared political responsibility. His critical and personal essays have been featured in books on art and photography, as well as Witness, Parkett, The New York Times, O Magazine, and Bomb.

His many research interests include African Poetics, World Literature, 20th Century Anglophone Literature, African Presences in Medieval and Renaissance Culture, The Living Architecture of Cities, West African Music, Postcolonial and Transnational Theory, Robotics and Consciousness, Yoruba and Igbo Philosophy and Religion.

He is Board of Trustees Professor of English at Northwestern University.

This week’s ebook deals in Mystery and Fiction!

I found a ton of Mystery and Fiction Kindle deals this week. Note that there are three Mark Billingham titles all under $5, and if you haven’t discovered him yet, you’re in for a treat! All are under $5 (a LOT are $.99), but as always, check before you click the BUY button!



This week’s ebook deals in SFF!

I found a few of SFF Kindle deals this week. All are under $5 (a LOT are $.99), but as always, check before you click the BUY button!


Kickstarter Alert: Freaks & Weeping Children: An Anthology of Dark Fiction

I’m very excited about a Kickstarter in progress and wanted to highlight it here. Freaks & Weeping Children: An Anthology of Dark Fiction is an upcoming anthology of cross-genre fiction to be edited by Michael T. Woods, but they need your help to get it made and meet their $10,000 goal! A few of my very favorite authors, Delilah S. Dawson (the Blud series)  and Karina Cooper (Dark Mission and St. Croix Chronicles) are among the contributors, and the rewards are awesome!

michaeldwoodsHere’s what Michael has to say about the anthology:

*What’s the point of Freaks & Weeping Children?

The aim of this anthology is to discover new writers of dark fiction and to put great stories into the hands of readers searching for fresh voices. With this anthology I hope to publish a wide range of speculative fiction all with the delicious tinge of horror.

Why would I do such a fool thing? It’s not for fame and fortune. And I have no interest in becoming an indie publisher. Freaks and Weeping Children is about putting together a quality anthology full of stories that entertain and terrify. If one reader enjoys the collection of tales I assemble then I have achieved my goal.

Wanna contribute and help get this anthology made (and get awesome rewards)? Of course you do!

Interview (& Giveaway): Lauren M. Roy, author of Night Owls

It’s my absolute pleasure to host Lauren M. Roy today! Her brand new urban fantasy, NIGHT OWLS, just came out, and not only does she talk about the book, but she tells us why she can’t stand characters that are TSTL, her perfect dinner party, and more! Also, we’ve got a copy of NIGHT OWLS up for grabs, courtesy of the lovelies at Ace, so be sure to check out those giveaway details!

laurenmroyCongratulations on your new book, NIGHT OWLS! Will you tell us a bit about yourself and your background? Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Thank you so much for hosting me!

I grew up on Little Golden Books and fairytale collections, so it only made sense that my career led to bookselling. I worked at an independent bookstore all through high school and college, and got a job at a publisher right after graduation. Somewhere in there I added fantasy, sf, and horror to my reading repertoire. I’m all about the story.

My answers to What do you want to be when you grow up changed a lot over the years — dolphin trainer, archaeologist, teacher, astronaut — but the one career that always, always, always appeared on the list was writer.

Tell us more about Night Owls bookstore and Val and Elly! *please?*
Night Owls is a mash-up of the bookstore I used to work in and my dream bookstore. (Bookstore owner is still on the list of things I’d like to be when I grow up…) It’s open late to accommodate students from nearby Edgewood College, which is a convenient cover for its nocturnal proprietor.

What with her being a vampire and all.

Val settled down in Edgewood to get away from past as a monster hunter. She’s forsworn vampire politics and really just wants to sell some books. Unfortunately for her and her employee-slash-Renfield Chaz, the monsters are coming to Edgewood.

They’re chasing Elly, a girl who’s quite happy being a monster hunter, thankyouverymuch. But she’s just lost her mentor and father figure, and in her grief did something utterly reckless. The book they stole from Father Value? The one they killed him for? She went and stole it back. Now she’s on the run, and when her path crosses Val’s, they have to stand together against the Creeps.

What kind of research did you do for the book?
I’m not sure if my bookstore years count as research. They certainly informed Val and Chaz’ characters, but sixteen-year-old me had no idea I’d be writing a novel set in a bookstore.

The topic of my college thesis was “The Female Vampire in Literature.” The English department had no idea what to do with me, but since I’m a packrat I was able to find some of my old research while working on Night Owls. If you’re looking for interesting vampire lore, Montague Summers’ The Vampire: His Kith and Kin and The Vampire in Europe were a couple of my sources.

nightowlsI also spent some time researching Rhode Island’s textile industry and its history as I created the town of Crow’s Neck. Not much of that appears on the page, but it was useful for worldbuilding.

What is your writing process like? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m a hybrid of the two. I tend to have an ending point in mind, but how I get from page one to THE END is fairly nebulous. I’ll plan two or three chapters ahead, then when my writing catches up to my proto-outline, I’ll do another look ahead. Along the way, I’ll jot notes for the future, little things to keep in mind, snippets of dialogue that might have double meanings (which of course, I have to figure out because my brain isn’t currently telling), and either weave them in when I get there or save them for the second draft.

I did outline book two in its entirety, and lived to tell the tale! I do not know if I will make a habit out of this, but I’m proof that pantsers can plot.

What are a few of your biggest literary influences?
Stephen King is probably my biggest. I picked up my dad’s copy of Skeleton Crew when I was twelve or so, and became a fan. My mother was convinced she’d get a call from my school, questioning their parenting skills for allowing me to read his books, but that never happened. I also loved L.M. Montgomery’s Emily series (surprise! Emily wanted to be a writer!), and wore out the library’s copy of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Swiftly Tilting Planet.

What are you reading now?
I read several books at once — my day job requires a lot of reading, so I usually have at least one read-for-work book and one read-for-me book going at once. (The fun thing is, I dig both, so the two categories tend to blend together!)

Sarah Lotz’ The Three is still haunting me. Four planes go down on the same day, and three children survive the crashes. Is there a fourth? What brought the planes down? Why did those kids survive, and are they just incredibly lucky children, or are they the harbingers of the apocalypse? It’s told as a series of interviews with the kids’ caretakers and the people surrounding the conspiracy. Very chilling read.

Chuck Wendig’s one of those authors who goes straight to the top of my to-read pile. The Cormorant is his third Miriam Black novel. Miriam knows how you’re going to die, and just as she’s figuring out the rules of her power, people want to exploit it. Of course, Miriam doesn’t take too well to being told what to do…

If you could experience one book for the very first time, which one would it be?
The Stand. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve reread it now. In fact, it’s probably about time for another stroll through the pages.

thestandWhat do you look for in a good book? Is there anything that will make you put a book down, unfinished?
It’s all about believability for me, not in the magic-isn’t-real sense (I mean, you probably figured that, what with my book involving vampires and magic and stuff), but instead: do I buy that THIS particular character would do THIS particular thing? I want good characters — people I don’t necessarily have to like, but who I can root for. I want actions to have consequences. I want the author to surprise me. I want the characters to be so real to me that when the inevitable Terrible Thing happens, I’m left a sobbing wreck.

I’ll put a book down when the characters display signs that they’re TSTL: Too Stupid To Live. Usually it’s a case of the author’s hand showing through. They needed the characters to do Thing X even though it makes no logical sense. I’ll go along with just about anything if the narrative supports it, but as soon as the character who’s terrified of spiders climbs onto the back of the mutant brown recluse and doesn’t bat an eye? Nope, I’m out.

I’ve also become much more wary of rape as a plot point. Seanan McGuire has an excellent piece here that had me nodding and yessing as I read it: (Trigger warning). If it seems like a writer’s added it to punish a character for her agency, or because the villain needs to be extra-villainy, I’m not sure I need to keep reading.

You’ve got your pick of dinner party guests (alive or dead). Who would they be?
My family and friends, obviously, especially since I’d be in trouble if I had dinner with the following and didn’t invite them:

We’d have a big ol’ potluck dinner for all of the authors I’ve already mentioned in other questions, plus Douglas Adams and Christopher Moore. Then I’d add some of my science fangirl list to the mix: Sally Ride, Valentina Tereshkova, Col. Chris Hadfield, and pretty much everyone on the Mars Curiosity team. We’d talk about books and science (SCIENCE!) all night, and it would be amazing.

When you’re not working on your next project, how do you like to spend your free time?
“Reading ALL THE THINGS” probably goes without saying! I’m also a gamer: video games, roleplaying games, board games, oh yes please. I’m learning to play guitar. I want to get back to running soon, too. I was inspired by two more of my favorite writers, Elizabeth Bear and Lilith Saintcrow, to get out there and run. I actually did enjoy it, then fell out of practice (hello my name is Lauren and I am a wimp about New England winters). So that’s on the docket to start up again. You can work out lots of snarly plot points on a run.

What’s next for you?
The sequel for Night Owls is ready to start editing. Ghosts are appearing in Crow’s Neck, causing new problems for Elly, Val, and crew to deal with. It will hit shelves early in 2015. After that I’m working on a fantasy novel currently entitled Adrift (assassins and faeries and pirates oh my), and writing for several RPGs I love. I keep busy!

Keep up with Lauren: Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Wanna win a copy of NIGHT OWLS?

1.) You MUST fill out the form below (if you’ve signed into Rafflecopter before, it will remember you!)
2.) Giveaway is for 1 copy of NIGHT OWLS by Lauren M. Roy to 1 winner
3.) Giveaway is open to those with a US mailing address only (no PO Boxes)
4.) You must enter on or before 3/10/14
5.) Giveaway book courtesy of Ace
6.) Please see my Giveaway Policy.

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