Friday, March 16, 2018

Interview with mystery author Jenny Jackson

Helping me wrap up the week is mystery author Jenny Jackson. We’re chatting about her new novel, The Silence of Knowing.

Jenny Jackson was born in the north of Kent, UK a few months after the end of World War II. Happily married for over 50 years now and with two children and two grandchildren, Jenny currently resides in East Sussex.

Having worked in a comprehensive school for over 20 years, Jenny is now a volunteer for a local charity that works with adults with learning difficulties.

She belongs to local writing group, Shorelink, and enjoys walking in the countryside with friends.

Jenny claims an addiction to strong tea, but hates coffee, and is annoyed as the way the passage of time is definitely speeding up.

Please tell us a little bit about your debut novel release.
In a small Kentish village in 1952, eleven-year-old twins are thrilled when an American teacher arrives at their village school, suspecting him of being their absent father. Josie, who has been born mute, communicates through her writing and details the adventure that leads her and her brother and their two best friends into an adult world of dark secrets which land them in a life-threatening situation.

What inspired you to write this story?
Memories of my own upbringing in Kent and the specific memory of a school friend who lived with her mother and grandparents. I was told that her father wasn’t dead but that he had had to go and live in another country. Not a lie, as her father had actually been an American G.I.

You can read an excerpt here.

What exciting story are you working on next?
A longer novel in the same genre, this time with a male protagonist.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Writing has always been a now and then hobby but once I joined my writing group, Shorelink Writers, I found my work was being taken seriously and it is thanks to my fellow members’ encouragement that I wrote the book.

Do you write full-time?
Although retired, I am a part-time writer as I seem to be busier than ever. I write mainly when I am alone in the house with no distractions.

Please tell us about an interesting quirk.
I can only work when the place is completely silent. Initially, I write with a propelling pencil in a notebook.

When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?
An author! It’s only taken me 60 years...


Thanks for being here today, Jenny.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Interview with YA author L. B. O'Milla

My special author guest today is L. B. O’Milla and we’re chatting about her new middle-grade YA fantasy, Adventures of Little Yaga and Her Friends.

L. B. O’Milla was born in Kiev, Ukraine (back then a part of Russia), and loved to read and write from an early age. Her dream was to become a writer, but due to religious and ethnic persecution she faced, she was unable to pursue that dream in her motherland. When she was 26 years old, she with her husband and daughter fled the country. They wound up first in Vienna, Austria, then in Rome, Italy, until finally entering America as refugees.

In the US, she graduated from NYU and worked as a physical therapist all while raising her family, but she never gave up her love of writing. Having grown up in a family that exposed her to literature, the arts, and music, O’Milla enjoyed Russian folklore and its characters.
She worked very hard to learn English, so she could write in English, the language of her new country.

One of L. B.’s great surprises was running into a former high school teacher here, in America, who had also emigrated from Russia. The teacher pulled out some notebooks of L. B.’s old writings that she had saved and brought with her to this country. Encouraged, L. B. kept writing.

In her spare time, L. B. enjoys reading, writing, laughing, playing Scrabble, spending time with friends and family, attending stage performances, traveling, and participating in outdoor activities. Widowed at an early age, her biggest supporters are her children and her sister.

Welcome, L. B. Please tell us about your current release.
Little Yaga is a teenager who lives with her old hag of a grandmother in a house on top of a chicken leg, deep within the Enchanted Forest. She is troubled by her own appearance. While all the other Forest creatures have magnificent fangs, thunderous roars, and bony legs, Little Yaga looks like a human. She even wears custom crafted dentures to give herself fangs! In her quest to fit in with the Foresters, Little Yaga listens to her great-aunt, an old enchantress, and travels to the human world where she meets a group of teenagers on the run from an evil sorcerer. Together with her new friends she returns to the Forest.

Scraggard the Immortal, the ruler of the Forest, uses the energy of humans to remain immortal. When he captures Ashley, a human girl, Little Yaga takes pity on her. She gathers a group of both old friends and new to help Ashley escape from Scraggard and save the Forest from his malevolent reign.

As Little Yaga discovers the secrets of her forest home and her own origins, she comes into contact with creatures and settings straight out of Russian fables and mythology.

What inspired you to write this book?
I was inspired by the modern technological advances and wanted to show how they sometimes seem to work like magic. I thought it would be interesting to draw parallels between the modern technology and good old fairytale magic. In my novel I play with this idea. For instance, the characters from the enchanted forest think a remote control is a magic wand and a cell phone is a magic looking glass, while the human characters believe the magic talking stove is a programmed mechanism and a magic piece of coal is a voice activated device.

Excerpt from Adventures of Little Yaga and Her Friends
A few minutes later, they were standing on the bank of the rapidly flowing Milkshake River, which smelled like Ashley’s favorite mixture of strawberry, raspberry, and watermelon. A note posted on the trunk of the weeping willow growing on the riverbank said, “If you want to cross it, drink it.” Instead of leaves, there were small green cups dangling from its branches. Ashley’s eyes lit up, and she reached for a cup, but Little Yaga grabbed her hand and forced it down.

What exciting story are you working on next?
Right now, I am working on two projects. One is a spinoff of the Adventures of Little Yaga and Her Friends, and the other one is Diary of a Soviet Emigrant, which is a lighthearted and humorous recount of difficulties and challenges a newcomer from the Eastern European block must deal with to adapt to a new cultural environment.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I don’t remember a time when I did not consider myself a writer. As soon as I started reading literature on my own, around age nine or ten, I began writing. Unconsciously, my first pieces imitated the styles of the authors I was reading at the time, no less than Tolstoy, Chekov, O’Henry, Maugham (whose works were translated into Russian), etc.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
My life-long dream to write full-time has not yet come true. I still practice physical therapy from nine to five and write mostly late at night, on weekends, and sometimes on vacations.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I love to rhyme. When I first came to the US, I was surprised American poets had pulled away from such a form of expression. My characters are still prone to rhyming on occasion.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I never wanted to do anything else for living but to write.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I was twenty-six years of age when I came to the US and did not speak or understand a word of English. Nevertheless, my goal was to write in English as I wanted to become an American writer. It was a big challenge, but today I am proud of my accomplishment


I would also like to thank Lisa for this wonderful opportunity to share my thoughts and experiences.

It’s been my pleasure having you visit. Thanks so much, L. B.!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

New interview with author Matt Ferraz

I’m happy to welcome Matt Ferraz back to Reviews and Interviews. Today we’re talking about his thriller, Killing Dr. Watson.

He was here last June and we chatted about his mystery, The Convenient Cadaver.

Author of all trades, Matt Ferraz has written thrillers, sci-fi, cozy mysteries and a lot of witty e-mails that sadly can't be published. With a degree in journalism and a masters in biography, Matt has works published in English, Italian and Portuguese, and loves trying out new genres.

Matt, welcome back to Reviews and Interviews. Please tell us about your release.
Killing Dr. Watson was my first book to be released by a traditional publishing house. It follows the story of Jerry Bellamy, a new adult with no achievements or prospects, whose only life goal is to watch the reruns of his favorite Sherlock Holmes TV series, The Baker Street Sleuth. Strange events bring together Jerry and Sir Bartholomew Neville, the actor who played Holmes in the Show, and they have to investigate a series of murders involving the cast of The Baker Street Sleuth. Jerry also gets involved with Lucy, the daughter of one of the victims, who believes there’s more to the case than it meets the eye.

What inspired you to write this book?
I was conducting a research about the TV series Elementary for my Journalism graduation, and came in contact with the universe of Sherlock Holmes TV series. I wrote my main character, Jerry, as be someone who believes he knows everything there is to know about Holmes by watching TV, without ever reading one of the original books. Jerry also thinks he can be a real-life detective, even though he knows almost nothing about how the real world works.

What’s the next writing project?
My next project is a romance about the true story of a silent film star who had a tragic death. It was originally going to be a straight-out biography, but I decided to turn it into a semi-fictionalized account.

What is your biggest challenge when writing this book?
I wrote and published Killing Dr. Watson before ever setting a foot in London. I got to know the city afterwards, and was pleased with the portrayal I gave of it. Writing about a place you don’t know is hard, especially when it’s going to be read by people who’ve been or even live there.

If your novels require research – please talk about the process. Do you do the research first and then write, while you’re writing, after the novel is complete and you need to fill in the gaps?
When it’s something that doesn’t impact the overall plot, I prefer to leave the research for after I finish the first draft. For example, in Killing Dr. Watson, there was a moment when Jerry jumps from a cab in the middle of the traffic. I had to change that when I found out that London cabs have a lock to prevent that kind of thing from happening. It was a small thing, so it was easy to change.

What’s your writing space like? Do you have a particular spot to write where the muse is more active? Please tell us about it.
For some reason I enjoy writing in my kitchen. Sounds weird, I know, but there’s something about kitchens that bring the creativity out in me. Go figure!

What authors do you enjoy reading within or outside of your genre?
There’s nothing like a good Agatha Christie novel. I’m also a big fan of Stephen King, he has taught me so much about the art of writing. But I’m also trying new authors. It’s an adventure to read the work of someone you’ve never heard before.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers today?
Killing Dr. Watson was released by an amazing company called MX Publishing. They only deal with Sherlock Holmes-related material, and it’s an honor to be featured amongst their authors. My book is also available in audio, with narration by Andy Barker.

Thank you for coming back to Reviews and Interviews!