Here are your mystery and suspense ebook deals of the week! There may be some repeats from last week’s post, but that just means that if you missed them, here’s a reminder to grab ‘em! As always, all are under $5 (with the majority under $3), and prices may not last!
Please welcome Sonja Condit to the blog! Her debut chiller, STARTER HOUSE, just came out and she was kind enough to answer a few of my questions. Also, I’ve got a copy up for grabs, so be sure to check the details at the end of the post.
Sonja, your first novel, THE STARTER HOUSE, just came out-congrats! Have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
Thank you! Yes, I was always a writer, starting a couple of years after I learned to read. I was always a musician, too, so when it was time to go to university, I studied music, having somehow absorbed a romantic idea that writing wasn’t something you studied—books just come out of you naturally, like branches on a tree. So, while I was becoming a disciplined and well-trained musician, I produced a lot of natural books. Essentially they were first drafts that never developed. They were fairly good, but not good enough, and I didn’t know how to make them better. It was discouraging. When my brother died in 1995 I stopped writing altogether for many years. Gradually I started writing again, and my husband pointed out to me that you really can study writing—there’s an actual degree, and everything!
So I went back to school, the low-residency MFA at Converse College in Spartanburg, SC. Starter House is my MFA book.
Will you tell us about THE STARTER HOUSE and what inspired you to write it?
Several different ideas, which I had been incubating for years, happened to come together in my mind. First of all, I just love ghost stories and wanted to write one. My favorite part, as a reader, is the first half of a ghost story, where everything is creepy and eerie and undefined. When the problem is identified and there’s nothing left but the shouting, I’m already done. The simple dichotomy of good versus evil bores me in fiction and annoys me in real life. So I tried to stretch out that creepy part of the story as long as possible. Another problem with ghost stories, especially when a house is haunted, is that the houses are always so big and ancient and obviously evil. No reasonable person would live there. I wanted a small, ordinary, modern house, and fortunately I knew one: a house a couple of blocks down from ours, which was sold and re-sold twice a year for years. Nobody ever lives in it for long. I think it’s empty right now, in fact. What really brought it all together for me was the idea of pregnancy. I was very bad at pregnancy, especially the first one, who almost didn’t make it. I had a lot of trauma stored up, even after all these years.
What is your writing process like? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I do a lot of preparatory writing. I write biographies of characters, and histories of places, and conduct imaginary interviews with the characters, and sketch out the whole plot several times. I draw diagrams. I chart the story out scene by scene and put it on index cards. Then I start writing, and it doesn’t work out the way I planned, at all. New ideas pop into my head all the time, and I always go with the new idea. But I love my outlines and my index cards, so whenever the story changes too much, I re-write the outlines and the cards. By the end, the process looks much more organized than it really was. The cards are useful when revising, because I can lay them all out and move them around. Sometimes a cat will take a flying leap into the cards and help me.
THE STARTER HOUSE is about something that quite a few people experience: buying a first home and building a life and a family, but there’s a twist, and it’s a terrifying one. What’s something that you find particularly terrifying?
I frighten myself all the time. It’s pathetic. I still can’t sleep with a hand or foot hanging over the side of the bed, because something might reach up and grab me. Of course, it doesn’t help that occasionally the youngest cat really does pop out from under the bed and grab me. And I am a terribly fearful mother. This is partly temperamental—I’m a worrier—and partly goes back to having spent four months of the first pregnancy just waiting for the baby to die. When he was tiny and showed signs of sleeping through the night, I used to wake him up to make sure he was still alive. He starts driving next year. It will be awful.
How did you celebrate when you found out that THE STARTER HOUSE would be published?
We went out to dinner. I celebrate practically everything with food. Hooray, it’s Tuesday, let’s eat! We went to the fondue restaurant, which is also where we go for anniversaries and birthdays. Because nothing says happiness like eating yourself into a cheese coma.
What are a few authors or novels that have particularly influenced you and your work?
That’s a hard one. I read all the time. Everything influences me. Most of my early reading was fairy tales, folklore, and mythology, big collections of old stories. As far as ghost stories are concerned, I am very much grounded in Victorian English literature and love those old short-story writers. M.R. James, Sheridan Le Fanu, Saki, Kipling, people like that, and even people you don’t think of as being ghost story writers except only once in a while. Henry James and Edith Wharton, for example.
What are you reading now?
I am just finishing Serena by Ron Rash. Now there’s a book that goes right back to Greek tragedy. It even has a dramatic chorus. It’s great.
What was one of your favorite books of 2013?
I read so many books, and so many of them were good. If you mean ‘published in 2013’ then I can’t be sure—I usually don’t know exactly when a book was published. Some of the books I quite liked in December were When the Killing’s Done by T.C. Boyle, although there’s one superfluous shipwreck. Also In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson, which was chilling.
What’s next for you?
I just finished the second draft of another book. Now I am cleaning it up and moving some things around, and making sure the chronology makes sense—and rewriting the outline so it fits the book.
Keep up with Sonja: Website
The Philip K. Dick Award nominees were announced on the 14th, and one of the books on that list is Anne Charnock’s A CALCULATED LIFE. How awesome is it that she’s offered up a copy of the book to one of my readers? It’s pretty awesome. Also, it’s international, so check out the book details and good luck!
About A CALCULATED LIFE:
Big business is booming and state institutions are thriving thanks to advances in genetic engineering, which have produced a compliant population free from addictions. Violent crime is now a rarity.
Mayhew McCline, a major corporation that analyzes global trends, has hired a genius: Jayna. A brilliant mathematical modeler, she has the ability to produce accurate predictions that are both good for the world and good for the bottom line. Her latest coup: finding a link between northeasterly winds and violent crime.
When a string of events contradicts her forecasts — including a multiple homicide on the wrong day — Jayna suspects she needs more data and better intuition. She needs to understand what it means to be “normal,” so she disrupts her strict daily routine and, unknowingly, sets herself on a path that leads to new encounters, new experiences, and — perhaps most dangerous — new emotions.
Lauren Beukes is one of my favorite authors, and for now (who knows how long it will last!) you can get THE SHINING GIRLS, MOXYLAND, and ZOO CITY for under $5 (ebook.) What a steal, guys and gals!!
ML Brennan is the author of Generation V and Iron Night, featuring reluctant vampire Fortitude Scott, and it happens to be one of my fave UF series ever. She was kind enought to stop by to talk about Iron Night (and more), and she’s even got a copy of Iron Night for one lucky winner, so be sure to check out the details at the end of the post!
So, two books in a year! Has it been a complete whirlwind?
Definitely! After so many years of writing whenever I got the chance, but never knowing if a particular project would ever really see the light of day, there’s something really amazing about writing a book and knowing that in a few months it’s actually going to be on bookshelves. Plus, it hasn’t even been a year yet since Generation V was first released, so I find it really amazing and wonderful that people are getting to read the second – and telling me that they can’t wait for the third! It’s a total dream come true.
Generation V was awesome, then you just brought more kick-ass in Iron Night! One of my favorite things about the series is your vamp mythos, which is scary, unique, disturbing and just…disturbing. Will you tell us a bit about how that came about?
It came from me feeling frustrated with the vampire mythos. Don’t get me wrong – I have a lot of favorite media that involves vampires, and I think they’re a fun creature, but there’s a part of me (a fun-killing part, I think) that has always been a bit bothered by the mechanics of vampires. After all, here is a creature that does not age, will never die of natural causes, and can reproduce itself (that is, make more vampires) with extreme speed and ease, with the offspring (new vampires) able to reproduce themselves almost immediately. Now, I’ve seen tables showing the growth chart of bunny rabbits, and I have to say – bunny rabbits have NOTHING on vampires. So when you actually think through it, there’s no way that vampires wouldn’t be just covering the planet in next to no time. (don’t tell me that vampires are picky about who they turn, either. Even if that was the case for 99% of the vampires, all it takes is one Vampire Duggar and the whole thing goes beserk)
So I started thinking about how vampires could function as a natural-world species. I thought about how predator-prey relationships work, and I also thought about how parasites function. And once I started going down that road, a lot of things fell into place pretty quickly. Disturbingly quickly, one might even say. *G*
The protagonist is always in the spotlight, but as the author, do you have a favorite character in the series, or one you just really enjoy writing the most?
Oh, definitely Suzume Hollis. She’s so much fun to write as a character because she’s just so incredibly self-confident and able, plus as a character she allows me almost free rein for silly humor, snide humor, and off-color jokes. Plus, I get to watch videos of foxes on the internet in the name of research. I feel almost cliché saying that she’s my favorite, since a lot of readers tell me that she’s *their* favorite as well, but it’s just the truth. Any scene where I get to add Suzume is just going to be more fun to write.
When you started the series, did you have an idea of how many you’d like to write, or did you just decide to see where the series took you?
When I first wrote Generation V, I actually wasn’t thinking about a larger series at all. Since I wasn’t in a contract when I wrote it, I had no idea whether it would actually ever be sold at all. At the time I had just finished a very disheartening period where my agent and I had been trying to sell my first book for about nine months, and it had become very obvious that it just wasn’t going to be sold, so I don’t think optimism was really in my vocabulary at the time. (fortunately, persistence is a basic character trait!) It was so hard for me to even allow myself to imagine selling one book – let alone a series! So I wrote Generation V to function as a stand-alone novel, just leaving myself enough openings that I could build it into a series if the opportunity ever presented itself. Well, very fortunately Roc purchased the book – and wanted two more! So I found myself constructing a series pretty quickly!
Read any good books lately?
So many! Reading is definitely one of my favorite hobbies, especially in the winter, which is when I get to indulge my more sedentary nature. I’m on the third book of Catherine Asaro’s Saga of the Skolian Empire, which I’m really enjoying, and my mind was recently completely blown by Nancy Kress’s Beggars In Spain. I also was lucky enough to have an inside track and get a look at Django Wexler’s upcoming middle-grade book The Forbidden Library, which I absolutely loved – for everyone who as an adult reader loved Harry Potter, this is one to make note of.
What was one of your favorite books of 2013?
I thought Will McIntosh’s Love Minus Eighty was just stunning. Lyrical and thoughtful, with a fascinating extrapolation of where our use of personal electronic devices can go. I gave it to a few people for Christmas this year.
Drawing on what you’ve learned since being published, what piece of advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
You have to be both persistent and adaptable. You have to believe in a project and see it through, but at the same time you also have to accept that sometimes a book isn’t working or just won’t sell. It’s hard to know when to keep pushing on a project and when to accept defeat and start on a new one, but you need to be able to do both. One of the most important things to realize is that as a writer you have a lot of potential books in you – not just one.
What’s next for you in 2014?
The third Fortitude Scott book, Tainted Blood, will be published in November! Right now I’m in edits on that, and after that I’ll figuring out what project to start next.
Please welcome Kathleen Hale to the blog! Her quirky mystery, NO ONE ELSE CAN HAVE YOU, just came out and she was kind enough tot drop by and answer a few of my questions!
Kathleen, congrats on your new mystery, NO ONE ELSE CAN HAVE YOU! Have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
When I was little I used to write stories that made my teachers want to call home and be like, “Hello, Mrs. Hale, have you considered finding Kathleen a good therapist?” I was probably five and couldn’t really spell but I was doing these fully illustrated booklets about tigers in a circus revolting and eating all the clowns. In a way it makes sense that I’m writing these books now because I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. But I didn’t really consider it a job until I got my first book deal in 2011.
Will you tell us a little about the new book, Friendship, Wisconsin, and of course, Kippy Bushman?
Sure! So, NO ONE ELSE CAN HAVE YOU is about murder and love and finding oneself in the midst of crisis. In it, Kippy Bushman’s best friend is murdered in their small town of Friendship, Wisconsin, and the police aren’t doing such a good job of things (they’re dumb and corrupt, and unused to such dramatic happenings), so Kippy decides to look into things herself—and she gets in over her head really fast.
Why do you think readers will root for Kippy? What did you enjoy most about writing her?
I think that if readers root for Kippy, it’s because on some level they relate to her sense of humor, her emotional suffering, or her awkwardness—or they’re simply relieved to meet a fictional female character with a personality. Kippy’s a completely unreliable narrator and not one of those purely aspirational female characters you can just project yourself onto.
I enjoyed writing her obsessions and her backstory the most, because the two things are intertwined. Kippy’s had a hard life, though you wouldn’t necessarily know it because she’s built up all these coping mechanisms that help her feel more rooted in the world.
NO ONE ELSE CAN HAVE YOU takes place in small town Wisconsin, and you grew up in Wisconsin. Was it even a little bit based on your childhood?
Yes, very much so. I won’t list all the similarities, but let’s just say that Kippy and I both grew up in cloistered, conservative environments, and both got our arms caught in industrial tampon dispensers.
What’s one of the first things you can remember writing?
The famously gruesome Circus Tiger Massacre! (Mentioned above).
What’s your writing process like? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Okay I had to look this up because I thought a pantser was someone who pulls down other people’s pants.
I guess I’m a plotter. I like to outline and know where I’m going. I didn’t used to do that, but I think my stories have gotten better since I started.
What are a few of your favorite authors or novels? Has there been anyone that’s influenced you more than others?
Lynda Barry, Katherine Dunn, John Irving, John Green…I could go on and on. The authors I like primarily influence me to write what I want to read. Whenever I see bloggers lashing out at books they hate, I’m always baffled—because in my experience, if you have such specific parameters for what you’d like to see in print, you should probably create it, rather than wasting your time dissing what already exists.
Please note (1/28/14): There were a few not so positive responses to this last statement over the internets and the blogosphere, and in response, the author has asked me to post her thoughts: To anyone I offended, I’m sorry. This is my first book, I’m new at press, and I’m still learning. Like Kippy, I can be passionate at times and say exactly the wrong thing. At at the end of the day, bloggers are doing their job, and I’m doing mine, and my job with this book was to relate the reality of Kippy’s world.
I realize this was a missed opportunity to have a frank discussion about certain aspects of NO ONE ELSE CAN HAVE YOU that bloggers have taken issue with. I want my readers to know that my fictional exploration of mental illness stems from my own experience with it. In terms of the hate speech in the book, I’m a lot like Kippy in that I grew up in a conservative community where hate speech was used thoughtlessly and casually, and I hoped that by plainly depicting this behavior I could start a dialogue about it. In my opinion, the way to combat hate speech is not to ignore it, but to talk about it, and while other people may advocate a different approach, ultimately those people and I are on the same team.
In closing, I’m really sorry if my over eagerness about my first book made me come across like a lunatic. I’m passionate about Kippy because she’s part of me, we come from the same place and we feel a lot of the same things, and as has been evidenced by my retraction and subsequent addendum here, we also sometimes blurt out stuff that warrants an apology.
What are you reading now?
A non-fiction book about Jonestown, and the Ripley novels, by Patricia Highsmith.
What was one of your favorite books of 2013?
Starstruck by Rachel Shukert
NO ONE ELSE CAN HAVE YOU manages to combine laugh-out-loud humor with murder…what’s something that makes you laugh out loud?
My fiancé, Simon. He can make me laugh so hard that it‘s like being violently tickled. I have to beg him to stop.
Hugging strangers’ dogs.
What’s next for you in 2014?
Well, I just got engaged so I guess wedding planning? I don’t know. Writing, too, obviously. I’m always writing.
About NO ONE ELSE CAN HAVE YOU:
The Pretty Little Liars series by Sara Shepard meets the cult-classic film Fargo in this gripping and darkly humorous murder mystery by debut author Kathleen Hale.
A quiet town like Friendship, Wisconsin, keeps most of its secrets buried . . . but when local teen Ruth Fried is found murdered in a cornfield, her best friend, Kippy Bushman, decides to uncover the truth and catch the killer. Since the police aren’t much help, Kippy looks to her idol, journalist Diane Sawyer, for tips on how to conduct her investigation. But Kippy soon discovers, if you want to dig up the truth, your hands have to get a little dirty, don’tcha know.
In this riveting young adult novel, Kathleen Hale creates an intricately plotted murder mystery that will keep readers guessing, laughing, and cringing until the surprising final pages.
About SOME FINE DAY:
Sixteen-year-old Jansin Nordqvist is on the verge of graduating from the black ops factory known as the Academy. She’s smart and deadly, and knows three things with absolute certainty:
1. When the world flooded and civilization retreated deep underground, there was no one left on the surface.
2. The only species to thrive there are the toads, a primate/amphibian hybrid with a serious mean streak.
3. There’s no place on Earth where you can hide from the hypercanes, continent-sized storms that have raged for decades.
Jansin has been lied to. On all counts.
It’s that time again! The 2014 Edgar Award nominees have been announced and there are some awesome titles here. Congrats to all the awesome nominees! Winners will be announced at the 68th Annual Gala for the Mystery Writer’s Association on May 1st.
BEST FIRST NOVEL BY AN AMERICAN AUTHOR
BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL
BEST FACT CRIME
BEST YOUNG ADULT
BEST SHORT STORY
BEST TELEVISION EPISODE TELEPLAY
ROBERT L. FISH MEMORIAL AWARD
“The Wentworth Letter” – Criminal Element’s Malfeasance Occasional by Jeff Soloway (St. Martin’s Press)
THE SIMON & SCHUSTER – MARY HIGGINS CLARK AWARD
(Presented at MWA’s Agents & Editors Party on Wednesday, April 30, 2014)
Sarah Pinborough’s MAYHEM just came out in the US, and as I’m a big fan of hers, I asked her back to the blog to chat about it a bit. Please welcome her back!
We’ve also got 2 copies of Mayhem up for grabs, so be sure to check the giveaway details below the post!
Sarah, I’m so excited that your novel, MAYHEM, is finally out in the US! Will you tell us a bit about it and your protagonist, Dr. Thomas Bond?
Dr. Thomas Bond was an insomniac police surgeon who wrote the first ever criminal profile – on Jack the Ripper after the Mary Kelly murder. However, at the same time as the Ripper killings were occurring, there was another series of unsolved murders taking place in London, where someone was dismembering women and throwing their body parts – mainly – in the Thames, although he kept hold of their heads. They have become known as the Thames Torso murders, and although more gruesome in many ways that the ripper murders, they have been almost forgotten by history. In Mayhem I’ve used those killings, and Bond and the police’s investigations into them, as the spine of the novel, but have woven my own story of who might have been the killer around them. Although there is a supernatural element, the book is really a study of madness.
The book takes place amongst the Jack the Ripper killings. What kind of research did you do for the novel, and what was one of the most interesting things you learned?
Thankfully there were a couple of really good books on the Torso killings so I used those to form my structure and get the details of those deaths right. I also used the Times newspaper archives (especially for the follow-up, Murder), and of course the Internet. There are some great sites dedicated to Ripperology. Although Jack the Ripper is the backdrop not the focus of the novel, I still needed quite a lot of information, but the case is so famous that there is no short supply! I tend to research as I go – otherwise you can end up forgetting half of what you need by the time you write it, but it does mean that you write more slowly because you have to stop and look up random things like word usages or what people had for an average dinner etc. I can’t remember what the most interesting things were, but I did get hooked on old newspaper reports!
What did you enjoy most about writing the book?
Finishing it! Ha! No, more seriously I really enjoyed having a framework of real events and people to work around. Adding my fiction to it was like putting a jigsaw together. But when you’re working with real events there’s always the panic that you’ve got a detail wrong.
What is your writing process like? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m definitely a plotter. I think you have to be if you’re writing a crime novel, but I tend to be a plotter whatever genre I’m writing in. Also, I tend to be juggling several projects at once so it’s good to have things at least vaguely planned out so you can jump between things without losing your place.
What’s one of the best books you read in 2013?
I read a book called Bird Box by Josh Mallerman which I don’t think is out yet, which I really enjoyed. I read it in one sitting. Also, The Twelve by Justin Cronin. My new year’s resolution is to read more which is a crazy thing for an author to have to make a resolution about but it’s crazy how reading drops off when you’re writing all day.
If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
Every time you get a rejection, if you think ‘oh well I’ll just give up,’ then give up. This isn’t the career for you. Writers write whether they’re selling or not.
What’s next for you in 2014?
Murder comes out in May in the UK (the follow-up to Mayhem), and then The Death House comes out later in the year. In the states I have the three fairy tale re-tellings Poison, Charm and Beauty also coming out. I’ve got a Victorian thriller to write and also some TV projects on the go. So pretty busy!
Black Arts by Faith Hunter (Ace, Jan. 7th, 2013)-Watch out, Jane fans, you’re in for a helluva ride in Black Arts. I mean, this series has always been superb, and has suffered none of the afflictions that can hit series when they get to the 4th, 5th, etc books. There’s all the action you’ve come to expect, but what made it a standout to me was Jane’s very personal journey. I’ll get to that, but first, if you haven’t caught up with the series and don’t want to feel all spoilery, stop now. I won’t spoil this book, but, you know, there might be details that you may not want if you’re not caught up. That said, the huge thing at the center of Black Arts is Molly Everhart is missing, and her husband, Big Evan, and two kiddos, Angie and Evan, have come to Jane for help. Molly indicated that she would be dropping by Jane’s at some point, but she never made it. Jane puts Alex on Molly’s trail, and gets Evan and the kids settled in for the duration as best she can. Before she can blink, she finds out that two of Katie’s girls have gone missing, and one is a witch. Hmmm, seems to be a bit coincidental, yes? Maybe, but Jane also has a security job coming up for MOC Leo Pellesier, and it’s a really big deal, so she not only has to find Molly and the girls, but prep for a huge gathering of vamps.
We all know our Jane is up to the task, but even she can get overwhelmed, and in Black Arts, things really pile on, and fast. She’s got Big Evan staying with her, and their relationship is tenuous, at best, but he seems to know that Jane is really his only hope if he’s going to find Molly. Angie, Molly’s daughter, is beginning to show her magic, and it’s very strong, and an appearance by Ricky Bo has Jane in a tailspin. Jane does a whole lot of soul searching during the events of Black Arts in order to come to terms with her past and how she sees herself, not to mention her relationship with Beast, and this will be very important in order to reach Molly. I loved how this one ended and as much as Jane must endure, there is light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve said before that this series just keeps getting better, and Black Arts is no exception. Can’t wait for the next one!