Author Interviews

Bruce DeSilva - Providence Rag Book Release - March 2014
Bryan Koepke - Vengeance Book Release - March 2014
Bruce DeSilva
Joan Johnston
Cindy Keen Reynders
Patricia Smith Wood
Kurt Kamm
Bill Hopkins
Jennifer Hillier
Keri Beevis
Sharon Woods Hopkins

Please welcome award-winning author Bruce DeSilva to The Writers Cabin.  This is the second time I've interviewed him and this time it's for another of his great Crime Novels.  He just released Providence Rag another of his Mulligan Novels.  I had the pleasure of meeting Bruce at the Killer Nashville Writers Conference back in August of 2012. 

Q.  Tell us about your new book.

A.  It’s called “Providence Rag,” the title referring to the dying newspaper where my series hero, Liam Mulligan, works as an investigative reporter. But the title also suggests a jazz tune, appropriate because the Mulligan novels are something of a song to both the city of Providence and the fading newspaper business that Mulligan and I both love. The villain is a psychopath who began murdering his Rhode Island neighbors before he was old enough to drive, but this is not your typical serial killer book. For one thing, the murders are solved and the killer imprisoned in the first 75 pages. The rest of the story embroils Mulligan, his colleagues at the newspaper, and eventually the entire state in an impossible ethical conundrum:  What is a good person to do when a loophole in the law requires that this dangerous killer be set free—and the only way to prevent it is to fabricate new charges against him. No matter which side of the question you come down on, you end up condoning something that is reprehensible.

Q.  What was the toughest part about basing this on a true story?

A.  Finding the guts to write it.  As a journalist, I spent a couple of months of my life reporting and writing a long magazine story about the real killer, Craig Price. It was such a harrowing story that when I was done, I never wanted to have anything to do with it again. But over the years, it kept working on my subconscious, the place where novels are born. When the compulsion to fictionalize the story became stronger than my discomfort about revisiting it, I sat at the keyboard and began to write.

Q.  How has Mulligan changed from book to book?

A.  I put the poor guy through a lot in the first two novels. In “Rogue Island,” he had to figure out who was systematically burning down the neighborhood where he grew up—literally destroying his past in the flames. And along the way, he was betrayed in spectacular fashion by the woman he loved.  In the second book, “Cliff Walk,” he sought comfort in the company of another woman and was rebuffed, resulting in a painful loneliness made worse by the task of investigating the dark underbelly of the state’s sleazy sex trade. In the third novel, published earlier this month, he considers getting a dog because they are invariably loyal and not a one of them has ever lied to him. It’s no wonder that blues musicians including Buddy Guy and Koko Taylor supply the soundtrack for Mulligan’s life. The evils he sees, and the things he has to do to try to set things right, change him in other ways, but you’ll have to read the books to learn about that.

Q.  Has your writing process changed since your first novel?

A.  Not in the slightest. I never outline. I begin with little more than a theme. With “Providence Rag,” for example, it was “where is justice to be found when the only choices you have are both indefensible.”  Then I set my characters in motion and discover the story as I go along. Curiosity about what’s going to happen next is what motivates me to put my butt in the writing chair every day. If I outlined the plot before hand, my desire to write the novel would evaporate.

Q.  If your novel was chosen to be made into a movie, whom would you cast?

A. I’m no expert on the ways of Hollywood, but I suspect that the Mulligan novels are more suitable as the inspiration for a quality TV series. Most thriller movies are full of car chases and explosions, and there’s none of that in my books. But the best TV crime dramas—shows like “Justified” and “True Detective,” are more about character development and sense of place.  In my wildest dreams, I imagine someone like David Simon (“The Wire”) or Dennis Leary (“Rescue Me” adapting my books for television. Leary would make a great Mulligan. He embodies the character’s smart-ass, world-weary cynicism and bad attitude toward authority.

Q.  How many revisions do you normally make between the first and final drafts?
I revise each chapter as I go along, so by the time I reach the last page, the book is as good as I can make it.  Then my wife, the poet Patricia Smith, and my agent, Susanna Einstein have at it. Implementing their insightful suggestions makes everything I write better.

Q.  Do you use Beta readers? 

A.  If by that you mean someone who reads the book looking for plot holes or continuity problems, the answer is no. I worked as an editor at newspapers and at The Associated Press for many years. I can handle that end of things pretty well myself.

Q.  What are you working on now?

“A Scourge of Vipers,” the fourth Mulligan novel, is done and will be published by Forge in March of 2015. The book is a bit of a departure for Mulligan because unlike the first two books, which were littered with innocent victims, the only characters who get killed are people you’d shoot or strangle yourself if you weren’t squeamish about that sort of thing. When I return from a book tour to promote “Providence Rag,” I’m going to take a month off before starting book five.

Q.  Do you have any advice for an aspiring writer?

A.  If you’re a young person, fresh out of college or boasting a new MFA, do something else first. Tend bar. Teach school. Drive a cab. Join the army. Until you’ve lived a little, you don’t have anything to write about yet. When you are ready to begin, do not wait to be inspired. Do not stare at the ceiling and wait for your muse to show up.  Treat writing as a job. Put your butt in the chair and write every day, whether you are in the mood to do it or not.

Today's author interview is with Bryan Koepke the author of the debut thriller Vengeance. 

First off tell us here at The Writers Cabin a little about yourself.

I was born in the great state of Oklahoma in a city named Tulsa sometime during the last century.  I spent the first twenty-years of my career working as an electronics engineering technician and during the last decade had the privilege of being on teams that built, tested, and launched spacecraft from both Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.  Prior to that I worked on F-16 fighter jets, got my FAA Airframe & Powerplant licenses, and later managed to get a private pilot’s license.  These days I work on the financial side of things at an aerospace company.

When I was in my teens I knew I wanted to be a writer and during much of my technical career I gravitated toward documentation and test procedures.   I'm married to a beautiful woman named Ildy, and we have a dog-named Daisy. 

Q: When do you write?  I do the bulk of my writing on weekend mornings from 8:00 a.m. to noon, and a few days a week in the mornings before heading of to work.
Q:  How much do you write a day?  My goal is to get at least 1,000 words down in my manuscript, but on weekends I usually get closer to 2000 – 3000 words a day, and 500 to 1000 is a good amount for mornings before work. There are times on the weekends, when I’m well rested with a head full of ideas, that I’ll sit down and write 10,000 words in one sitting.
Q: How long did it take to write this book, VENGEANCE?  I wrote the first draft in about 5 months.  From there I did multiple revisions and rewrites with the entire process from start to finish taking about two years.
Q: How do you bring characters to life? I start with an excel spreadsheet and build a list of traits, motivations, the physical description, and the character’s history. It seems that all of my characters sort of reveal themselves to me on the page as I write their scenes. They take on a life of their own beyond what I’ve planned for them.
Q: Do you like eBooks?  Do you think they’ll ever completely replace paper books?  I like e-books and have purchased dozens of them myself over the past couple of years. They’re great for trips.  I also like a big heavy hardback book or a paperback.  I hope all types of books endure.  I think when we loose things we as readers and writers limit our freedom. After all freedom is all about choice.
Q: Your current book VENGEANCE is a series. How many more books do you plan to write in the Reece Culver thriller series?  I’m planning on writing a minimum of eight books, but most likely ten to fifteen in this series.
Q: What was your inspiration for the book?  I had written two thrillers before starting this book.  I remember reading a newspaper article about a woman who murdered her husband and made it look like a home invasion. This gave me the initial seed for the story and as I wrote the first draft the story morphed into something completely different with a great deal more depth.  Initially it felt more noir than thriller, but over time it proved itself out as a thriller.

Q: How did you come up with the title VENGEANCE?  Initially the book was titled Not Dead Yet, but after completing it and thinking about the story Vengeance won out as the title.
Q: Are there any themes or topics you plan to include in the series?  My protagonist Reece Culver is a pilot, so there will most likely be flying scenes in many of the books. 
Q: Do you write on the computer or longhand?  I write the bulk of my work on computers, both a laptop and a desktop. I take a ton of notes, and scribble down plot ideas longhand.
Q: Who are your favorite authors?  Ernest Hemingway, CJ Box, the early Stuart Woods books with Stone Barrington, Stephen King, James Salter, Raymond Chandler, and many, many more.
Q: Where do you write?  I do 99% of my writing either in my basement office, or in my favorite chair at a cabin up in the mountains of Colorado. 
Q: What are you working on now?  Books 2 & 3 in the Reece Culver series, and when I have less time a batch of short stories I keep going back to and rewriting. 
Q: Where can we buy VENGEANCE?  It’s available on Amazon Kindle, and in a week or so the 6x9” paperback will be available on Amazon.  The e-book will also become available very shortly on Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Nook, Smashwords, Scribd, Sony, Diesel, Library Direct, Oyster, Baker & Taylor and on my website  

Interview with Author Bruce DeSilva

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Bruce DeSilva the Edgar Award-Winning Author of “Rogue Island” and the Critically-Acclaimed Sequel, “Cliff Walk”.  I met Bruce last summer at the Killer Nashville Writers Conference and really enjoyed getting to know him.  I hope you enjoy the interview.

Tell me about yourself Bruce.

I grew up in the tiny mill town of Dighton, Massachusetts, where the mill closed when I was ten. I had an austere childhood bereft of iPods, X-Boxes, and all the other cool stuff that hadn’t been invented yet. In this parochial little town, metaphors and alliteration were also in short supply. I spent my days catching frogs, chasing girls, chasing girls with frogs, rooting for the Boston Red Sox, and playing baseball and hockey. When I left town to study geology in college, my favorite high school English teacher told me that I would eventually find myself writing from compulsion. He was prescient. After college, I took a job as a newspaper reporter and remained in journalism for 40 years, the last 14 at the Associated Press, where I ran an elite department that specialized in investigations and other national reporting projects, and where I served as the news service's writing coach world-wide. I took early retirement five years ago to write crime novels. The first, Rogue Island, won both the Edgar Award and the Macavity Award. The second, Cliff Walk, was published to rave reviews last spring, and the third, tentatively titled Providence Rag, will be published in March of 2014. I live in New Jersey with a college-bound granddaughter, two enormous dogs, and my wife Patricia Smith, who is one of America's greatest living poets.

When did you know you wanted to become an author?

For most of my journalism career, writing a novel never occurred to me. But one day in 1994, I got a note from a newspaper reader praising a “nice little story” I’d written. “It could serve as the outline for a novel," the note said. "Have you considered this?” Normally, I would have just tossed it in the trash, but this one was signed by Evan Hunter, who wrote fine mainstream novels under his own name and the brilliant 87th Precinct police procedurals under the pen name Ed McBain. I sealed the note in plastic, taped it to my home computer, and started writing. That could have been the start of something -- but it wasn't. I didn't get far before my life suddenly turned upside down. I took a demanding new job in Manhattan. I got divorced. Then I got remarried to a woman with a two-year-old child. In this busy new life, there was no time for writing novels. Years streamed by before I found the time to return to fiction. When I finally finished Rogue Island, I dedicated it to the memory of the author who first encouraged me .

Is there a central theme to your books?

The protagonist in my first three novels is Liam Mulligan, an investigative reporter at a dying Providence, R.I., newspaper. That makes him among the last of a dying breed. I decided to write about an investigative reporter instead of, say, a private detective or a cop, because I'm deeply worried about the price the American democracy is paying for the decline of the newspaper industry. There is nothing on the horizon capable of replacing the quality local, national and international reporting that newspapers once did. My hope is that as readers watch Mulligan's skill and dedication as he goes about his job, they will gain a greater appreciation for what is being lost. That said, each of the Mulligan novels also has its own unique theme. Cliff Walk, for example, is both a hard-boiled crime story and a serious exploration of sexual morality and religion in the age of ubiquitous pornography.

What books have inspired you the most in your life?

My God, that's a terrible question to ask a lifelong reader. Recently, my wife and I culled our personal library, giving away hundreds of volumes in anticipation of a possible move. That left our shelves holding only our 7,000 favorites. So one way to answer this question would be to list all of those titles. When I was a kid, you'd never find me without either a baseball glove, a hockey stick, or something to read in my hands. Around the fifth grade, emulating my father, I started reading the daily newspaper cover to cover. The stories about cops and robbers, generals and politicians, tycoons and scientists, entertainers and ballplayers, never inspired me to be any of those things. Instead, I imagined myself as the guy who told their stories. By sixth grade, I was devouring Kenneth Roberts' historical novels, which inspired not a love of literature but a live-long love of history. In junior high, I found Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler and fell head over heels for crime fiction. And today, I'm inspired by many contemporary writers, especially Vermont novelist Howard Frank Mosher for his quirky characters and poetic style. And no one's body of work has ever inspired me more than my wife's. That said, my favorite passage in all of English is the first page of John Steinbeck's Cannery Row.

What’s a typical day in your writing routine like?

After I finish a novel, I spend a few weeks puttering around the house, playing with my dogs, and mulling over what to write next. I'm not thinking about plots; I'm thinking about themes, trying to decided what subject is worth spending the next six to nine months of my life on. Once I've got an idea, I sit down and write at least a thousand good words every day, no matter how long it takes. Sometimes, I get them down in a couple of hours, and when I do, I give myself the rest of the day off. But when the writing comes hard, I remain at the keyboard until I have my thousand words. This, I believe, is the secret to finishing a novel. If I write a thousand words a day, which isn't much, I can finish an eighty-thousand-word crime novel in three months.

What is it that you do to relax?

I read, watch the Red Sox, the Patriots, the Celtics and the Bruins, and play with my dogs, who are named after Tom Brady and Rajon Rondo.

Do you use an outline, or do you write organically?

I begin with a theme, set my characters in motion, and wait to see what develops. I enjoy discovering the story as I go along; and I figure that if I don't know what's going to happen next, my readers probably won't either.

Have you ever had writer’s block and what did you do to push past it?

Journalism taught me is that writing is a job--something I do every day whether I feel like it or not. I do not wait for inspiration. I do not search for my muse. I put my butt in the chair and write. Writers' block is for sissies.

Is there a certain time of day when you are most creative?

No, but there is a time of day when I'm least creative. That would be whenever time the Patriots are on TV.

How many drafts do you usually write of a manuscript, and what is your editing process like?

I revise as I go, moving on to the next chapter only after I'm satisfied with the last one. So, when I get to the last page, the book is done. At least that's pretty much how it worked with the first two Mulligan novels. When I finished drafting the third, however, I liked each chapter just fine, but they didn't fit together right. Darned if I could figure out why. I sent the book off to my agent, Susanna Einstein, who is also the best story doctor I've ever met. She identified the problem, which required me to completely restructure the first half of the novel.

What do you think of the recent changes in the publishing world?

I prefer holding a physical book in my hands, but I have no problem with e-readers. Anything that encourages people to read is fine with me. I think the consolidation of major publishing houses, and the way they are eliminating so may mid-list writers to concentrate on best-sellers, is bad. I think the flood of self-publishing that e-readers have spawned is good because it's gives a handful of talented writers a new way to find an audience -- and bad because it floods the marketplace with vast amounts of dreck. I think that if e-readers had been invented 20 years earlier, I could have saved tens of thousands of dollars because I wouldn't have needed a library and could have bought a smaller house.

Out of all the books you’ve written do you have a favorite, and if so why?

The last chapter of my second novel, Cliff Walk -- the way it portrays both my main character's loneliness and his confusion about the book's theme of sexual morality -- is the best thing I've ever written. But overall, I like Providence Rag best because the story is more textured and complex. The novel confronts Mulligan and his newspaper colleagues with a life-and-death ethical dilemma that has no right answer. No matter which side of the issue they come down on, they are forced to do something contemptible.

What are you working on now?

I'm writing my third hardboiled short story for an anthology, this one for Akashic Press's Providence Noir, which will probably be published late next year. And I've just started fooling around with two new novels. One of them is another Mulligan novel and the other introduces a new main character, a young guy named Dante who is trying to decide which side of the law to live his life on. I haven't yet figured out which one I'll write first.

Where can we buy your books?

They're available at many bookstores and from Amazon in print, e-book, and downloadable audio editions.
You can learn more about me and my books at my website and at my blog.

                          Interview with Joan Johnston

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing New York Times Bestselling Author Joan Johnston.

Tell me about yourself Joan.

Writing has made my life fulfilling and happy.  Having said that, it’s one of the most grueling, demanding, and lonely jobs in the world.  I’ve written 54 novels and novellas and have more than 10 million copies of my books in print in 19 languages and 25 countries.  I’m a top 10 New York Times (highest #5) and USA TODAY (highest #8) bestselling author.  I’ve worked with five top agents (Irene Goodman, Richard Curtis, Denise Marcil, Al Zuckerman and Robert Gottlieb) and four major publishers (Simon & Schuster, Random House, HarperCollins and Harlequin) over a 27-year career.  I currently write for Random House (Penguin Random once their merger is complete).

When did you know you wanted to become an author?

I was working as an attorney in the largest firm in Virginia and had a six-month-old and a six-year-old, trying to be Superwoman and failing miserably.  To escape from the stress, I started reading romance novels, where the woman faces great adversity and triumphs in the end. 
After reading about 400 books a year for a couple of years, I read a not-so-good romance novel and thought, “I can write a book better than that.”  (It’s a good thing every book isn’t written as well as Prince of Tides or none of us would ever think we could write a novel).

I was closing a $65,000,000 City of Virginia Beach bond deal in New York the same weekend as the 2nd Annual Romantic Times Conference.  I went to the conference and met a few of my favorite authors and, lo and behold, “They had two eyes, one nose, two ears, one mouth—just like me!”  The fact that those authors turned out to be “normal people”  gave me the courage to start writing.

That summer I moved from Virginia to Florida to work for a different law firm and began writing my first book.   I had to retake the bar exam, because Florida doesn’t have reciprocity.  I passed the bar and sold the book.  

Is there a central theme to your books?

My books revolve around abandoned and neglected children—whether they’re still children or grownups.  I asked my mom why I’d be writing that theme, because my parents remained married until my father’s death when he was in his late sixties.  She told me a story I’d never heard.

When I was 4 years old, my Air Force father left my mother and me and my two older sisters behind in Arkansas with my grandparents while he went to the Philippines.  I went to bed every night with an 8x10 photograph of my father and cried myself to sleep until the picture was in tatters.  I didn’t see my father again for a year.  Hence, I was “abandoned” at an early age.

It was startling to realize how an unremembered part of my life affected my choice of writing theme.

What books have inspired you the most in your life?

Okay, you aren’t going to get the classics here.  I mostly read Walter Farley horse books and Jim Kjelgaard dog books growing up.  We lived in Morocco, where there wasn’t any TV, so those were the books I chose.  I have a background in theatre, so I understand a great deal about character, plot, theme, and conflict from reading, acting in, and directing plays. 

I love Mary Balogh’s Regency novels.  Her theme is the power of love to mend families.  Her stories are always powerful and poignant.  Since I’ve become a New York Times bestselling romance author, I’ve mostly stopped reading romance.  If the book is great, it’s too intimidating (“I’ll never write as well as that!) and if it’s terrible, why waste my time? 

Instead, I read a lot of suspense, including Lee Child, Robert Crais, Brad Meltzer, and Stephen Hunter (love his Bob Lee Swagger novels).  These books give me insight into the male point of view, something I need because I grew up in a family of  six girls with one younger brother.  I especially like books with a continuing story (which I also write), so I enjoy reading and re-reading W.E.B. Griffin’s World War II and police procedural sagas.

What’s a typical day in your writing routine like?

I write in the morning, because that’s when I’m most productive.  I write directly on the computer at home (I’m still using Wordperfect 5.1 for DOS, which requires a Windows 98 computer to translate the DOS into a document that can be read by most computers).  I’ll write until I reach a spot where I don’t have more to say, then go away for a while, think about where I want to go, then come back and write some more.

I don’t commit to a certain number of pages.   I’ve discovered that it’s counterproductive for me to “just keep writing.”  It’s too hard to cut copy after the fact.  If you’re just going to cut it later anyway, my philosophy is:  Why sit there writing junk?  Come back when you have something worthwhile to put down on paper.  I edit a chapter until it’s as good as I can get it, then move on to the next chapter.

What is it that you do to relax?

I play tennis and hike in the mountains.  Tennis works up a good sweat, and hiking in the forest feeds my soul.   I also go to the movies every Friday afternoon, “toprove I don’t have a real job.”  If I had a “real job” I’d be at work Friday afternoons.  Of course, folks don’t see me writing till midnight to make up for the fact I went to the movies on Friday afternoon.

Movies are a good source of learning for writers.  Plots, characters, conflict—you can learn everything there is to know about writing a good book.  I’ve seen The Impossible four times, because I wanted to figure out how that movie (about a family of five’s experience in the tsunami that killed 200,000) was able to make me cry.  Is it the shared tragedy?  Is it the reuniting of separated families?  The latter theme is especially important to me, because my current Mail-Order Bride series, Texas Bride, Wyoming Bride, Montana Bride and Blackthorne’s Bride involves a separated family.  I want to be sure to “go for the choke” when they’re all reunited in the final book.

Do you use an outline or do you write organically?

I write a 20-25 page outline for a 400 page book (which the publisher pays me to write), then I never look at it again.  Okay, so I might peek at it if I get stuck and don’t know where to go.  But essentially, I know where the story is going to end up before I start the book.   If you think about it, however, 20 pages doesn’t tell you much except basic character, basic conflict, and resolution.  Everything else has to come out of your head during the writing process, so you have plenty of places to go.

Having said that, because I write for a living, and because it’s important to finish a book in a prescribed period of time (I’m writing about two 400-page books a year), I never let my characters head off on a tangent.  I don’t have the luxury of throwing away 50 pages when I figure out “This doesn’t work!”

Have you ever had writer’s block and what did you do to push past it?

Oh my God, yes.  It was caused by an incident with a friend who told me, “Your life is out of balance.  You’re spending too much time writing [Granted, I’d been writing 5 books a year for 5 years in order to pay my rent and feed my kids].  That’s all you ever do! That’s all you ever talk about.  Get a life!”

I took what she said so much to heart that I became nauseous whenever I got near a computer.  It took almost a year of work with a life coach before I was writing productively again.

Is there a certain time of day when you are most creative?
 See 5 above.

How many drafts do you usually write of a manuscript and what is your editing process like?

I’m endlessly editing while I’m writing.  Once I’m done, I’ll read through the manuscript and track the external plot (problems the hero and heroine have that have nothing to do with the romance) and the internal plot (relationship/romance problems the hero and heroine have) to make sure each step of both plots are inextricably intertwined and build to a climax/dark moment.  I also make sure I have a denouement.

The book is “clean” when I submit it.  That is, I have no misspelled words, no typographical errors, no problem with eyes turning from brown to blue. 

If the book doesn’t make me feel something, it isn’t going to make the reader feel anything.  I make sure I’ve focused on setting.  I make sure I’ve employed the five senses.  I make sure the conflict is never resolved until the very end.   I make sure every chapter starts and ends with a hook—so the book is “unputdownable.”

What do you think of the recent changes in the publishing world?

The most difficult change for new writers is the fact that there are only a very few large publishing houses left.  This means you have fewer choice of where to submit your work.  E-books are great, but Amazon’s stranglehold on the publishing industry (forcing big publishers to conglomerate to survive) doesn’t bode well for the future.  I fear that once Amazon has the monopoly they’re on their way to achieving, authors will find themselves earning a pittance, instead of the generous amounts Amazon is offering now in order to lure authors away from major publishing houses.

Out of all the books you’ve written do you have a favorite, and if so why?

Okay, which of my 54 children do I love best?  Not a fair question!  I write books in a series, so they’re essentially all family sagas.  Captive is a favorite because it was my first Regency novel.  It’s followed by After the Kiss, The Bodyguard and The Bridegroom.   The Cowboy, The Texan and The Loner are favorites because they were the first of my Bitter Creek series to become New York Times bestsellers.  I love the current Mail-Order Bride series (see titles above), because it’s a prequel to my Bitter Creek series and a sequel to my Sisters of the Lone Star series, Frontier Woman, Comanche Woman and Texas Woman.  And I can’t forget my Hawk’s Way series, where The Virgin Groom, The Substitute Groom and Sisters Found are among my favorites.

What are you working on now?

I’m just finishing Montana Bride, third in the historical Mail-Order Bride series.   I have one more book in the series to write, Blackthorne’s Bride before all the sisters who were separated in the beginning of the series are brought back together.

I’m also excited to work on another Hawk’s Way book, which I’ve tentatively titled Susannah.  I just need to find the time to write it!

And finally, I have the Benedict Brother series.  The Benedicts are related to the Blackthornes, who are featured in most of my series novels.   I’ve been trying to finish  Unforgettable and hope to get to it sometime this year.

Where can we buy your books?

Readers can buy my novels wherever books are sold in stores or on-line.  You can reach me directly at or find me on Facebook at  I look forward to hearing from you!


Cindy Keen Reynders Interview

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Cindy Keen Reynders the author of both the Wysteria HedgeHaven Clan Paranormal Romance Series and the Saucy Lucy Mystery Series.  Her works include thefollowing:

Angelic Knight Press:  Wysteria Hedge Haven Clan Paranormal Romance Series                       7 Year Witch, 2012                       A Witch at Midnight, 2013                       Witch Tease, 2014Medallion Media Group: Saucy Lucy Mystery Series                       The Saucy Lucy Murders, 2007                       Paws-itively Guilty, 2008                       A Killer Slice, Amazon, 2011

Welcome to The Writers Cabin Cindy.  Tell me about yourself.

I was born in Portland, Oregon and I’ve lived all over the United States and also in Japan. I’ve visited Canada, the Philippines, Samoa, Hawaii, the Caribbean and New Zealand. I love to travel!

Over the years, I’ve won or placed in various writing contests. I’ve also written for and edited numerous newsletters. Additionally I’ve sold several non-fiction magazine articles to “True West” and “Wild West.” My mystery series includes “The Saucy Lucy Murders,” “Paws-itively Guilty” (Medallion Press) and “A Killer Slice” (Amazon). I write a paranormal romance line for Angelic Knight Press, The Wysteria Hedge Haven Clan series, which is about seven witch sisters with a flair for impractical magic. The first two published books in this series are “7 Year Witch” and “A Witch at Midnight.” In 2014, “Witch Tease” will be released. You can visit my website at where you can contact me via e-mail. From my website, you can also link to my blog or visit me on Facebook.

When did you know you wanted to become an author? 

About fourth-grade. Though I love the written word, I thought I’d wind up working in television.

Is there a central theme to your books?

Family, humor and sisters figure especially big. Mystery and romance are my favorite genres, so that’s what I write.

What books have inspired you the most in your life?

Anything written by Pearl S. Buck, Catherine Cookson or Bertrice Small. I like Sue Grafton also. Oh, and anything written by Erma Bombeck.

What’s a typical day in your writing routine like?

I drag myself out of bed at 4 a.m., shower, dress, apply makeup. I grab coffee and a breakfast bar and head down to my home office in the basement. My little doggie, Ewok, is beside me as I write for a couple of hours before heading into my work office.

What is it that you do to relax?

I love reading magazines. They are short and sweet and help me unwind. I also love yard sales when the weather is nice.

Do you use an outline or do you write organically?

I do loose outlines, but I allow my muse to take me where the plot seems to be going. Of course, depending on the genre, romance or mystery, things must happen according to plan.

Have you ever had writer’s block and what did you do to push past it?

Yes, though I hesitate to call it writer’s block. I think it’s my brain’s way of slowing down to process exactly how a plot would work out best, and what actions my characters should take. I’ll take a little break, watch TV and read, go to work and focus on my day job. Sometimes inspiration strikes at weird times, so I’ll stop and scribble notes for future scenes. I also allow myself to sleep on some of my dilemmas, and dreams often tell me what should happen next.
Is there a certain time of day when you are most creative?

My personal biorhythm dictates that early morning is best for me. At night, I just want to lounge around then I crash around 9 p.m.

How many drafts do you usually write of a manuscript and what is your editing process like?

I write one draft, let it rest, then go through and do another good clean up of it. I let that draft rest, then I go back and some fine tuning. I’m pretty brutal on the second draft and if something needs major rewriting, I groan a bit, then get to work on it. I’d rather be the one to tell myself something sucks, rather than my editor. I believe what I turn into her should be pretty damn clean, otherwise I’m not doing my job. These days, edits on my work are typically minimal, but I’ve been at this for 20 years now. Since I write journalistic articles in my day job, I think the experience enhances my creative side.
What do you think of the recent changes in the publishing world?

I think they are all optimistic. Writers have many more opportunities to be published and develop solid careers. It just doesn’t look the way it used to years ago. There are still the good ol’ boy writers with more traditional-style careers. But I think as the new face of publishing develops, we’ll see a ton of different success stories about writers who carved out their own niche, with or without a traditional publisher. It’s very cool!

Out of all the books you’ve written do you have a favorite, and if so why?

It depends. Right now I’m kind of partial to “7 Year Witch” because it marked my foray back into the romance genre and I wasn’t certain if I’d be able to really be able to pull it off. I tried so hard in the 90s to sell my romance but everything fell flat. I switched to mystery and found success, but then when I finished my Saucy Lucy series, I wanted to try romance again. I had a blast writing “7 Year Witch,” and it turned out to be crazy good fun and sexy to boot! Fortunately, my current publisher, Angelic Knight Press, loved it and signed me on to write an entire series about my seven witch sisters who are members of the Wysteria Hedge Haven Clan.

What are you working on now?

Book three in the Wysteria Hedge Haven Clan series, titled “Witch Tease.”
Where can we buy your books?

Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble and Kobo. Probably some other places I’m not thinking of right now. All my books are available in both electronic format and print. My most recent release, “A Witch at Midnight,” will have print copies available soon.

Patricia Smith Wood Interview

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Patricia Smith Wood, the author of "The Easter Egg Murder ".

Hello Patricia thank you for agreeing to be interviewed on The Writers Cabin.  Tell me about yourself.

I’ve been an avid reader all my life. When I was a teenager I happened upon a mystery series featuring a teenage girl detective (no, it wasn’t Nancy Drew!) My father was a policeman and became an FBI agent. When I grew up, one of my first jobs was at the FBI. I even married a policeman for a time. Law enforcement seemed to be in my blood.
When did you know you wanted to become an author?

I wrote a play when I was nine and put it on for the school. Many years went by after that before I was again bitten by the writing bug. As a young mother, I tried writing short stories for women’s magazines. Nothing came of it. Then about twenty more years went by and I became intrigued by a long ago, real-life murder. I decided to fictionalize it and my book idea was born.

Is there a central theme to your books?

Well, I only have the one book out at this point, but I suppose the theme revolves around solving, not only the initial mystery, but several more that arise while the female protagonist and her best friend are sleuthing. There is also a theme of friendship and family, and even a touch of romance.

What books have inspired you the most in your life.

As a child I loved books about dogs and horses. I don’t recall there being books about cats, but I would have loved them, too. As I entered the teenage years, I changed to science fiction and mysteries. But I read just about everything I could get my hands on.
As a writer, I have to say I admire the ability of J.K. Rowling with the Harry Potter saga. Her plotting and character development are fabulous lessons in writing.

What’s a typical day in your writing routine like?

I’m embarrassed to tell you I don’t have a writing routine. I write in between everything else I have going on. When I was about halfway finished with The Easter Egg Murder, I decided I was going to enter it in the Hillerman Mystery Writing competition. It had taken me four years to get that far. I now had less than two months to finish it. I told everybody to leave me alone and I just kept at it. It helped that I had retired by that time, so I didn’t have to worry about a job. When I finished the book, I was so elated and pleased that I had set a goal and met it. It should come as no surprise to anyone that I didn’t win the contest. I hadn’t yet grasped how many edits it would take to make it truly finished.

What is it that you do to relax?

I have lots of interests and hobbies. I love to read, of course. I watch a good amount of TV. I like to critique the writing and see what I can learn about plotting. Often I learn what NOT to do! I go shooting with my husband at the rifle and pistol range. I’m an amateur radio operator, and I run a net every week. I also enjoy making jewelry. Probably one of the most relaxing things I do is go to tea once a month at The St. James Tearoom in Albuquerque with two of my good friends. It’s two hours of nothing but relaxing, drinking tea, eating some of the most outrageously good food, and having a lot of soul-searching conversation with these two wonderful women.

Do you use an outline or do you write organically?

I tried outlining back when I first got the idea for the book. I had been told it was absolutely essential that I do that. It was terrible! I couldn’t come up with anything constructive to put in the outline. It kept me from starting the book for more than twenty years! When I finally tried just putting my butt in the chair, hands on the keyboard, and letting it flow, that’s when I was able to write. I never looked back.

Have you ever had writer’s block, and what did you do to push past it?

Yeah, I experienced a lot of block when I was trying the outline thing. Now that I don’t bother with that, I just trust that when I sit down and start typing, the story will flow. Sometimes it flows better and quicker than other times, but I don’t ever think of it as writer’s block.

Is there a certain time of day when you are most creative?

For me, it seems to be at night. I belong to a writers critique group that meets twice a month and before I got embroiled with getting my book published, I always tried to have a chapter ready to read before our meetings. Usually, I’d sit down the night before and try to get creative. It seemed to work for me.

How many drafts do you usually write of a manuscript and what is your editing process like?

Unfortunately I do a bad thing. I’ve been told over and over to just write and let it all come out, without any editing. Just keep going until you finish and then go back and edit. I can’t seem to do that. I write a chapter or two, read it to my critique group, then go back and reevaluate it, keeping in mind their suggestions. When it’s all put together and I think it’s done, I get trusted readers to go over it. They’re usually not part of the critique group, but if they are, enough time has passed since they first heard it so it doesn’t matter. I think I counted at least 18 full edits of this first book.

What do you think of the recent changes in thepublishing world?

I’m glad that the big publishers are being forced to evaluate the way they’ve done business all these years. I don’t know if it will be easier for new writers to get their attention, but maybe they won’t be so snobbish about giving them a chance. I think the advent of so many small, independent publishers is wonderful for new writers. I worry most about the demise of local bookstores. They are the ones who usually support us. The big chains have become window shopping places for customers to see what’s out there, then go home and either order it on Amazon, or get it in ebook format.

 Out of all the books you’ve written do you have a favorite, and if so, why?

I hope I have enough books published someday to make that question pertinent for me. With only the one book out there at this time, it’s my favorite, and the best book a mystery reader could buy!

What are you working on now?

Right after I finished the book, not realizing it was in it’s unedited form, I had a meeting with an agent. I was so relieved to get that book finished I hadn’t given much thought to what I would do next. But the agent asked me if The Easter Egg Murder could be a series. I hadn’t expected that question but it took me maybe ten seconds to say, “Absolutely!” So, that’s what I’m working on now. The next book in the series is tentatively titled “Murder for Breakfast.”

Where can we buy your books?

I’m glad you asked! If you are in the Albuquerque area, you can currently purchase it at Treasure House Books and Gifts located in the Old Town section of Albuquerque. I hope to have more stores agree to stock it soon. I’ll be appearing at Left Coast Crime in Colorado Springs from March 21 to March 24. One of the booksellers for that event has agreed to sell my book. If those two sources aren’t convenient, it can always be ordered on Amazon. They tell me it will be available on Kindle sometime in the near future.

Author Interview with Kurt Kamm

Kurt is the author of multiple firefighting mystery novels that deal with a specific firefighting discipline -- Wildland fire/arson/hazardous materials/paramedics/search and rescue. 

Tell me about yourself. / When did you know you wanted to become an author?

I have always loved to read, but somehow I knew I couldn't make a living writing books. I graduated law school and worked in the financial world for four decades. I had a short career as a master’s bicycle racer and then retired. One day I woke up and had NOTHING TO DO. Shortly after that, my house in Malibu almost burned down and was only saved by some quick action by a Los Angeles County Fire Department crew and a water-dropping Blackhawk helicopter.

I knew then that I had to write a book about firefighters. That was 7 years ago, and I'm still at it. I've developed close contacts with CalFire, Los Angeles County Fire Department, Ventura County Fire Department and even the ATF, and have had some incredible experiences. I've also lived through several devastating local wildfires, attended classes at El Camino Fire Academy and trained in wildland firefighting, arson investigation and hazardous materials response. I even attended some paramedic classes, including a full human cadaver dissection.

These days I even feel like a firefighter—but an old one.

Is there a central theme to your books?

Each book deals with a specific firefighting discipline -- Wildland fire/arson/hazardous materials/paramedics/search and rescue.  Each story has an overall fire mystery involving the particular discipline and overlaid on that plot, each protagonist has his own separate mystery or crisis.

What books have inspired you the most in your life?

I'm old school. I love Hemmingway, F Scott, and Steinbeck. I think James Salter's writing is incredible. Clean, spare, but beautiful.

What’s a typical day in your writing routine like? 

I am usually up around 6:00 am. If I have some important ideas, I may start writing right away, otherwise, I will write for 2-4 hours later in the morning. By 11:00, I head out on my bike. Late in the afternoon I may reread what I have written earlier, or review a whole chapter. By 5:00 p.m. I am finito. On days when I go out with the fire department, I usually have to be at a particular station by 7:00 am, so I'm still up at the same time, but don't do any writing.

What is it that you do to relax?

I was a bicycle racer. I still go out and ride a couple of hours every day, climbing into the hills around Malibu. I get some of my best ideas while I am riding. It's strange, because the activity is exhausting, but it clears out my mind and allows me to focus. Sometimes I think of bits of dialog for a particular scene, sometimes I come up with some major plot ideas.

Do you use an outline or do you write organically?

Once I have a general idea of the overall mystery and my key characters' personal issues, I just start writing. I have heard about fiction writers who outline every chapter in exquisite detail. I tried that once and failed. I couldn't even get started. Then I realized I'm not really a writer, I'm just the scribe who records what my characters are doing. They usually ignore my advice and do whatever they damn please. Sometimes they get into awful situations and then I have to jump in and save them. They are never grateful when I save them, and sometimes I can't.

Have you ever had writer’s block and what did you do to push past it?

My plots are usually very complex and as I said, my characters often work themselves into corners. Since my stories are fact based, I have to figure out real solutions. When I get stuck, I have two solutions. One is to keep writing, maybe only a paragraph a day. After a week, I find I may have worked through the problem and figured out what is supposed to happen next. Other times, I have to stop and move on to another part of the book. Then it may take several weeks to figure out how to make something work. 

Is there a certain time of day when you are most creative?

I am most creative early in the day. By noon, the serious writing is over.

How many drafts do you usually write of a manuscript and what is your editing process like? 

I may rewrite each chapter as many as 10 times. Once I have a semi-finished draft, at about 60,000 words, my editor will give me what we call the 10,000-foot view with general comments. After rewrite, I will usually have about 80,000 words, and then she will send me a very detailed critique. All in all, after the chapter writing is done, and I have final comments from my editor, I will probably reread the entire book three times, making changes each time.

What do you think of the recent changes in the publishing world?

Things are happening so fast it's hard to keep up. Six years ago, my first book sold 10 paperbacks for each Kindle. Now it's reversed. Social media, digital content –people born this year could grow up without ever touching an old fashioned, hardbound book. Anything I would write here would be outdated by the time you publish your blog.

Out of all the books you’ve written do you have a favorite, and if so why?

I've thought about that. I've written four books, and they are like my children. Each is different, with its own strengths and weaknesses. I can't find it in my heart to play favorites. I love 'em all equally. 

What are you working on now?

I'm working on a USAR (Urban Search and Rescue) mystery. It is based on a real event—the 1971 Sylmar Tunnel disaster in Los Angeles. The Metropolitan Water District was digging a long water tunnel. The miners, who were 5 miles in, struck a methane pocket and the explosion killed 17 men. My story is about a USAR firefighter who is the son of one of those miners. For research, I am currently riding with Los Angeles County Fire Department's famed Urban Search & Rescue Task Force 2/USA-2. These guys have been to Haiti, Japan, New Zealand, anywhere there's a major disaster.

Where can we buy your books?

Everything is on Amazon, or through my author/first responder website, which has some amazing fire pictures

Interview with Bill Hopkins

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Bill Hopkins the author of Courting Murder a mystery novel.

1.  Tell me about yourself.

I retired after beginning my legal career in 1971 and serving as a private attorney, prosecuting attorney, an administrative law judge, and a trial court judge, all in Missouri. My poems, short stories, and non-fiction have appeared in many different publications. i've had several short plays produced. A book of collected poetry, Moving Into Forever, is available on Amazon. I'm is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Dramatists Guild, Horror Writers Association, Missouri Writers Guild, and Sisters In Crime. I'm also a photographer who has sold work in the United States, Canada, and Europe. My wife, Sharon (a mortgage banker who is also a published writer), and I live in Marble Hill, Missouri, with our dog and cats. Besides writing, we are involved in collecting and restoring Camaros. Courting Murder is my first mystery novel.

2.  When did you know you wanted to become an author?

When I was nine years old (MANY years ago), I decided I didn't like the Robin Hood episodes on television and began writing my own. I didn't sell a single episode.

3.  Is there a central theme to your books?

Sometimes you must break the law to allow justice to prevail.

4.  What books have inspired you the most in your life?

Fiction books that have inspired me the most are To Kill A Mockingbird, Moby-Dick, An American Tragedy, Catch-22, A Farewell To Arms, A Confederacy of Dunces, andTobacco Road.

5.  What’s a typical day in your writing routine like?

My home office has no windows. I designed it that way. I sit and write until my dog needs to go outside, then I go check on the weather. Afterwards, I come back in and start writing again.

6.  What is it that you do to relax?

Walk the dog.

7.  Do you use an outline or do you write organically?

I outline first so I'll know where I'm going. It's a casual outline that follows the three act structure. Every time I find something I want to change, the outline changes and the book never turns out the way I started it.

8.  Have you ever had writer’s block and what did you do to push past it?

I've had times where I couldn't find my way out of a thicket and had to talk to some of my minions. That helps. But if you mean have I ever run out of ideas, the answer is no. I won't live long enough to write all my ideas.

9.  Is there a certain time of day when you are most creative?

I'm a morning person. If I had complete control of my time, I'd start writing at four each morning.

10. How many drafts do you usually write of a manuscript and what is your editing process like?

I don't really county my drafts. Every day when I start writing, I'll go back two or three chapters and revise, then start a new chapter. I guess that means a whole lot of drafts.

11. What do you think of the recent changes in the publishing world?

Every change has some good and some bad. As far as self-publishing goes, I've met too many aspiring writers who don't think they need editing. My wife, Sharon Woods Hopkins (, is my toughest critic and best editor. Since she writes murder mysteries also, if she doesn't understand something I've written or tells me it needs to be changed, I revise it. I do the same for her. Not many writers are blessed as we are. Stephen King still needs editing. Need I say more?

12. Out of all the books you’ve written do you have a favorite, and if so why?

I've got one published fiction book (Courting Murder) so it's my favorite.

13. What are you working on now?

I finished the second book, continuing the story of Judge Rosswell Carew that I started in Courting Murder. I'm almost finished with the third.

14. Where can we buy your books?

Courting Murder can be purchase on Amazon ( 
Barnes and Noble (
Southeast Missouri University Press ( 
Please visit my website:

Interview with Thriller Author Jennifer Hillier

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Hillier.  Her debut thriller, CREEP is available in all formats everywhere.   Her second novel, FREAK is available in the US and Canada, and her third novel, MAGNOLIA will be released in June 2014.

Tell me about yourself Jennifer.
Hi Bryan! I'm a psychological thriller writer and I live in Toronto, Canada. I love chocolate (can't write without it), a cat named Kobe, and a fascination with serial killers.

When did you know you wanted to become an author?

I knew I wanted to be an author when I was in my early twenties. However, I knew I wanted to be a storyteller when I was five years old. My dad, who isn't a writer, has always been a natural born storyteller, and he preferred to make up stories for me at bedtime rather than read to me. I knew early on that I wanted to make magic the way he did.

Is there a central theme to your books?

So far there seems to be. My stories focus on my villains almost as much as my protagonists, and I love exploring the idea that everyone has a dark side. We all have secrets, things we don't want anyone to know about ourselves. My books focus on the duality of human nature.

What books have inspired you the most in your life?

I cut my teeth on Stephen King. His books were the first adult novels I ever read, and PET SEMATARY and IT were probably the two books that influenced my writing the most. What I love about King is his ability to get you to believe in, and root for, his characters. Because of that, I believe in every crazy, awful, scary thing that happens to them, and I always read a King book feeling a sense of genuine terror.

What’s a typical day in your writing routine like?

I start each morning with coffee, a burning candle (rain-scented) and a quick edit of everything I wrote the day before. Then I work on adding about 2,000 new words to my manuscript. While I'm writing, I'll tweet and check Facebook and send emails (which sound like they should be distractions, but are actually little breaks for me that give my brain a rest from fiction writing), but the rule is, I don't finish for the day until I hit my word count. Then I'll do another quick edit of what I just wrote. In a good day, I'll work for about four hours. On a bad day – one where the words just aren't flowing well – I might be at my desk for twelve to fourteen hours.

What is it that you do to relax?

I have a few TV shows that I love (Dexter, Breaking Bad, Mad Men) and I also love to watch sports. I'm a big fan of UFC, the Seahawks, and I never miss a grand slam tennis tournament. I also spend a lot of time with friends and family, and of course I love to read.

Do you use an outline or do you write organically?

I'm definitely an organic writer, which can be fun, but also a pain in the ass. I've written more plot holes than I can count, and I've written myself into corners more than a few times. But my favorite thing about not plotting ahead of time is that I often shock myself by what actually happens in the story. And if I feel that way, I like to think my readers will, too. It makes it totally worth the risk of getting stuck or going in the wrong direction.

Have you ever had writer’s block and what did you do to push past it?

I've been blocked before, and I don't so much push past it as I'll write around it. A novel doesn't always have to be written in a linear way. Sometimes I can't see what happens next, so therefore I can't write it, but maybe I can see what happens at the end, and so I'll write that scene instead. Or I'll write scenes I know will happen somewhere in the middle. I've learned that as long as I keep writing, those blocks will eventually dissolve and the pieces will all fit together.

Is there a certain time of day when you are most creative?

Nights are when I get my best ideas, but mornings are when I write my best. My writing is terrible at night – disjointed and lazy – but my ideas are more interesting. Which is why I love to write right when I wake up. That way, last night's idea is usually still fresh, and my rested brain is capable of putting strong sentences together.

How many drafts do you usually write of a manuscript and what is your editing process like?
Typically I'll write four drafts of a manuscript before I'll feel comfortable that it's the best it can be. The first draft is written really fast, as my goal is to get the story down before I lose it. My second draft is always the most challenging because it's when I'm fixing the story structurally and making sure my plots arc where they're supposed to, and that my characters are developing properly. The third draft is where I really clean up the prose and make each sentence, paragraph, and scene shine. The fourth draft is a polish.

What do you think of the recent changes in the publishing world?
Whoa, that's a very big, very open ended question! Which recent changes are you referring to? As a relative newcomer to publishing (my first novel was released in July 2011), I'm honestly not sure I know how to answer this, except to say that I'm all for e-books. There was a time when I never thought I'd own an e-reader, but I do now, and I love reading books digitally almost as much as I love reading traditional hardcovers and paperbacks.

Out of all the books you’ve written do you have a favorite, and if so why?
CREEP will always be my first love, and I don't know that I'll ever be able to duplicate the experience. Writing it was all passion, all heart, all mojo. I didn't have an agent then, I wasn't published, and I didn't know if I'd ever be published. I simply took all the time I needed to tell the exact story I wanted, and it was done when I said it was done. With FREAK, I was very aware that I had a deadline and that there were expectations I needed to fulfill, and an audience I wanted to market to properly. From a technical standpoint, I think FREAK was a better book than CREEP, but I loved every moment of writing CREEP, and I definitely can't say that about FREAK.

What are you working on now?
I'm working on a standalone book tentatively titled MAGNOLIA. It's a psychological thriller about an 85-year-old serial killer who was never caught, who's now living in an old folks home and getting bored. And so he decides to come out of retirement for one last hurrah.

Where can we buy your books?
Pretty much everywhere books are sold! Thanks for having me, Bryan. This was fun!

Interview with Keri Beevis

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Keri Beevis the Award Winning author of the debut novel Dead Letter Day.  Keri comes to us from the UK.  Enjoy the interview.

Tell me about yourself Keri.
I have always had a voracious appetite for books and movies. I grew up in Norfolk, England, on a diet of horror and suspense and quickly learnt that psychological build up is far scarier than blood and gore. The mind is a powerful thing and can conjure up worse images than what is seen on screen or given away too early in a book. It’s the sense of unknowing that can give the best scares and keep you on the edge of your seat.

My goal as an author is to create page turners, with engaging characters, fast paced plots, plenty of twists and turns and hopefully a few chills along the way. Dead Letter Day is my first published book, but not the first I have written, and it has taken twenty years and a couple of near misses to get to this point.

When did you know you wanted to become an author?
Writing has always been second nature to me and from a very young age I was filling up notebooks with stories and plays. When I was nineteen I was holidaying in Tenerife and reading a Stephen King book. I remember thinking at the time how much dedication and commitment it must take to complete a full novel. Within a couple of months of returning home I had decided to give it a go and was hard at work on my first book. From that moment on, being a published author was the only career I wanted.

Is there a central theme to your books?
My stories are all mystery thrillers with plenty of red herrings and twists, and a little bit of dark humor. Despite only being out a couple of weeks, I’ve already had people asking if there will be a second book involving some of the central players from Dead Letter Day. The book was intended as a stand-alone novel, but I enjoyed spending time with the characters so am considering it.

What books have inspired you the most in your life?
As a child it was Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree. As an adult it has been Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca (inspiration for the name of Dead Letter Day’s protagonist, Rebecca Angell) and Stephen King’s The Shining – Room 237 is the scariest place I have ever been. I am also a big fan of Tami Hoag, Nora Roberts and Lisa Gardner.

What’s a typical day in your writing routine like?
I have a full time job to work around, so it’s snatching time whenever I can, usually in the evenings. If I am lucky enough to have a whole day to write and I find myself in the zone, I will only emerge for coffee, and God help anyone who disturbs me. I’m typically a very laid back person, but break my concentration when I’m in full flow and I’m a bit like Jack Torrance towards the end of The Shining.

What is it that you do to relax?
I drink red wine, hang with my cats or have a gossip and a laugh over dinner with my girlfriends. All of these things work for me.

Do you use an outline or do you write organically?
Some writers use a storyboard; I prefer not to. My plots begin with an idea and grow in my head until I have a beginning, an end of sorts and a couple of revelations. When I start writing I don’t know exactly where the story will take me and part of the fun for me is finding out.

Have you ever had writer’s block and what did you do to push past it?
I wouldn’t say I’ve had writer’s block. I have the odd days where I struggle to put anything decent down on paper. I used to force myself to write when this happened, but nearly always ended up trashing the end result. Now I find it better to step away for a few hours. It equals itself out because for every bad day there is a good day when you are so in the zone, it’s almost as if your fingers are telling you the story as they type.

Is there a certain time of day when you are most creative?
Usually evenings and if I find my flow, I will write until two or three in the morning.

How many drafts do you usually write of a manuscript and what is your editing process like?
I write the first draft, often stopping to tweak along the way. Once complete I go back and attack a second and sometimes a third, fourth or fifth time. I am not afraid to make some major changes if I feel the book needs them and the published version of Dead Letter Day has very little resemblance to the first draft.

What do you think of the recent changes in the publishing world?
I think they’re mostly good. I came incredibly close to getting published when I was in my mid-twenties. After four years of struggling I managed to get signed by a top agent, but still failed to get a deal with one of the biggest publishing houses because ‘I was more RL Stine than Stephen King’. They admitted RL Stine was a best-seller author, but they wanted someone who was going to be bigger. As an unknown author, the big guns just weren’t interested unless they thought you were going to make them a fortune. With the recent successes of some indie authors, some of the power has been taken away from publishing monopoly and it’s refreshing to see budding (and probably extremely frustrated) writers are getting a fair opportunity to put their work out for the public to decide.

Out of all the books you’ve written do you have a favorite, and if so why?
I have two favorites. Dead Letter Day is the book I am most proud of. I like the characters I created and the way I managed to pull all the twists and turns together. I also have another novel I have written, tentatively called Pandora’s Box. Again I am fond of the characters, though the story is slightly slower paced, and I may try to change this before publishing.

What are you working on now?
Another fast paced thriller that should appeal to fans of Dead Letter Day. All I can reveal at this stage is that it features a serial killer who reenacts scenes from an author’s books.

Where can we buy your books?
At the moment, primarily Amazon. The Kindle edition went on sale a couple of weeks back and the paperback has just launched. 

            Interview with Author Sharon Woods Hopkins

Hi Bryan, I'm so happy to be joining you in The Writers Cabin Blog. Thanks for the invite!

1. Sharon tell me about yourself.

I am a branch manager for a mortgage office of a Missouri bank. I also own the original Cami, the 1979 Camaro featured in my books.

I am a member of the Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, the Southeast Missouri Writers’ Guild, and the Missouri Writers’ Guild.

My first Rhetta McCarter mystery, KILLERWATT was nominated for a 2011 Lovey award for Best First Novel and was a finalist in the 2012 Indie Excellence Awards. My second book in the series, KILLERFIND, was released in July, 2012, and won First Place in the Missouri Writers Guild “Show me Best Book Awards” for 2013, and was also a finalist in the 2013 Indie Excellence Awards.

My short story, Rear View Mirror won third place at the 2013 Missouri Writers Guild Awards.

Besides writing, my hobbies include painting, fishing, photography, flower gardening, and restoring muscle cars with my son, Jeff.

I also spent 30 years as an Appaloosa Horse Club judge, where she was privileged to judge all over the US, Canada, Mexico and Europe.

I live on our family compound near Marble Hill, Missouri with my husband, Bill Hopkins (also an author) next door to my son, Jeff, his wife, Wendy and my grandson, Dylan, plus two cats and one dog.


2. When did you know you wanted to become an author?

I wrote a lot of non-fiction in the past, but it wasn't until about five years ago that I thought I'd try my hand at a mystery novel. I had a character and plot dancing in my mind, and thought I'd give it a whirl.

3.  Is there a central theme to your books? 

An ordinary forty something woman in an extraordinary situation can be a true hero. She can also crave cigarettes, dislike the cops, and drive a seventies era muscle car.

4. What books have inspired you the most in your life?

I read all of the Nancy Drew mysteries and would imagine myself as Nancy, solving mysteries. Another book I absolutely adore is Anne of Green Gables, a book I read more than once, something I seldom do.

5. What’s a typical day in your writing routine like?

I have a haphazard writing schedule, which means I have no schedule at all. The only time I can spend an entire day writing is on the weekends, and even then I get distracted. Like today, I felt compelled to wash my '79 Camaro. Yep, it took up writing time, but I had to do it. I couldn't leave bug juice on her from an outing last night. I usually fix a giant cup of coffee, take it downstairs to my office and go. I can sit for several hours at a time writing full steam. I generally start my writing by re-reading the last ten pages I wrote to put myself back where I was, then tweaking it a bit before going forward.

6. What is it that you do to relax?

I love to fish, work in my flower garden, or drive my Camaro.

7. Do you use an outline or do you write organically?

I don't really outline. I have the whole story in my head before I start. Sometimes a character will come along or something will happen to Rhetta my protagonist, or Woody, her assistant, that moves the story forward, so I add it in. But I want to stress here that I know what's going to happen before I start writing. I can see the plot like a movie in my head.

8. Have you ever had writer’s block and what did you do to push past it?

I don't think I've had writer's block in writing my mysteries. I have, however, experienced massive writer's block at writer meetings and conferences, when taking a class or a session. When given an exercise in writing, I can never do it because the subjects seldom interest me, and I can never think of anything. My husband, Bill Hopkins (Courting Murder) can always write out something so quickly in those circumstances, and it's usually brilliant.

9. Is there a certain time of day when you are most creative?

Usually right after lunch. Although I get up early, I'm not a true morning person.

10. How many drafts do you usually write of a manuscript and what is your editing process like?  

I re-write the first draft with corrections and edits as I go. However, I do a LOT of editing and correcting so I don't know how to count that as a draft. When I'm finished, and type The End, there's only one draft. I don't actually re-write the entire manuscript, but sometimes I rework a scene or flesh something out, or take something out. My husband, Bill is my first and best editor, so his reading my manuscript helps me make changes and corrections as I go. Major revisions are made when I get the marked up manuscript back from my editor, Pat Smith.

11. What do you think of the recent changes in the publishing world?

I think it's terrific that an author can now be in charge of his or her own work, and offer it directly to the reader. That said, however, I can't stress how important it is to have the manuscript professionally edited, then proof read several times before offering it for sale. A good cover is important, as is proper formatting . There may be a lot of inferior work out there, but now the reader is the one who decides what they will buy and read. The publishing gatekeepers are losing power. There will always be publishers and agents, but now, thanks to Amazon and Smashwords and self publishing platforms, they are no longer in total control. An author can choose many different routes to get a story out, and all of it is good for the readers.

12. Out of all the books you’ve written do you have a favorite, and if so why?

I am on my third book, titled Killertrust, and it's my favorite. I think it's my favorite because it's still new and fresh in my brain.

13. What are you working on now?

I'm finishing up Killertrust, which will be out this August.

14. Where  can we buy your books?

My books are available as print and ebooks from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords. My first book, Killerwatt, is also available as an audio book from and iTunes. Or a reader can buy directly from my website,
My short story, Rear View Mirror is free on my website.

Check out my Rhetta McCarter Mystery series at or Amazon.
KILLERWATT is now available as an audio book from Audible or iTunes
KILLERWATT Kindle version is just $.99.

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