Monday, January 28, 2013

Zach Abrams Interview

I'd like to welcome crime and thriller author Zach Abrams to my blog today. He is going to talk about his novel: Ring Fenced.

What is your book about?

My book tells the story of Benjanin Short in his various incarnations.  Benjamin is a very complex character and compartmentalises his life to an extreme.  His life is split into five different characters, each living under a variation of his name and the people in each of these lives have little or no knowledge of the others.  The one common thread weaving each of his lives together is his obsession for music.  There is an inevitability the divisions can not be sustained and the story deals with the unforeseen events taking place causing the divisions to become blurred with catastrophic results.

Benjamin is an anti-hero.  Although each of his characters has some redeeming features, they essentially are all different aspects of Benjamin's self obsession.  He is a sociopath constantly using other people to serve his own ends.

How did you come up with the idea for your book?

That's the strange part.  I didn't have an idea for a book.  I was sitting thinking about writing something and I had the idea for the character.  He developed in my mind and I thought I'd start trying to write about him.  At first I though it would make an essay or a short story.  The ideas expanded as I tried to explain about the different aspects of his character and the story seemed to write itself.  At no time did I prepare or think through a plot and I didn't know where it was going.  Afterwards, when I read it through for the first time it was like reading someone else's novel.

Does your main character resemble anyone in your family or circle of friends?

I certainly hope not.  True there are aspects of myself and of people I know but Benjamin is not based on any one person.  To survive in modern society, I, like most people have to compartmentalize.  Benjamin takes this beyond the boundaries of what is normal or reasonable.  Each of Benjamin's lives are reasonable normal if taken in isolation - it's only when they are combined under the same character and obsessively ring fenced that they become pathological

Who is your favorite writer? Why?

There are many writers I love depending on my mood.  One that I particularly enjoy is the British author Michael Dobbs (to confuse matters there is a US author of the same name).  I became addicted to his books after reading 'House of Cards' where I adored his depiction of Francis Urquhart.  His own political experiences make his novels knowledgeable, insightful and amusing.

How long did it take you to write your book?

Once I started writing 'Ring Fenced,' I was consumed by it and wrote obsessively.  I completed the first draft within five weeks the needed a rest to draw breath.  The first edit took me about four months and it was over another year before I was sufficiently happy with it to allow anyone else, outside family, to read it. I waited a further year or more to embark on another novel and I have recently completed 'Made a Killing.' It was less obsessively written but not by much and I hope to have it published quite soon

What strange writing rituals do you have?

I don't know if I'd go as far as calling them rituals but I prefer to write into a word document while having a couple of windows open in the background.  I have one open to a dictionary /thesaurus and the other open in Google search.  This way I can often research or confirm small details I'm writing about while the thought is in my head.  Only recently, I've added a separate word document to the combination so I can make notes on my time line and characters as I go along.

I've recently noticed that I'm not too distracted by background noise so I don't have a problem with a television or radio being on while I'm writing.  It's maybe helped by my partial deafness but strangely enough I've found afterwards that I have a reasonable awareness of what the programme has been about and it hasn't significantly affected my writing - except maybe a few more typos to correct.

What are your hobbies? 

Hobbies? Are you serious?  Where's the time?  Seriously though, I still have a lot of work commitments and try to write whenever I can.  This involves the associated requirements to edit and publish and to try to mutually support other writers that I know.  Outside of all of this I enjoy reading, music travel and sports.

What are you reading at the moment?

Currently I'm reading 'The Invention of the Big Bang' by Fred Schafer.  It has a very unusual style and is a compelling read with the author telling you someone's retelling of the main characters life story.  It took a bit of effort to get into it but it's proving very much worth the effort, absorbing.  I love reading Indie books, you find real originality while the mainstream mainly keeps churning out variations of the same thing.

Benjamin enjoys sex, he likes money, he loves power and he’s addicted to control.
If you think your life’s complicated then spare a thought for him as he obsessively juggles and controls his five independent lives.
One man, five lives, ring-fenced and separated,
Bennie, loving husband and father,
Benjie, beloved youngest son,
Ben, successful corporate banker,
Benjamin, millionaire author and publisher of pornography
and Jamie, dynamic part-time lover of a beautiful musician.
Relying on his Blackberry to keep all his personae separate, his life is perfect.
But what if holes begin to appear in the divisions?
When a sequence of events throws his life into chaos, his separate words collide with explosive consequences.

Purchase on Amazon:

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Interview With Samantha Holt

Today, on our blog, we have Samantha Holt, who writes Historical Romance. (A genre I happen to love!) I asked her a few questions about her novel, The Angel's Assassin, and these were her responses...

What is your book about?
The Angel’s Assassin is a medieval romance but it explores the ideas of trust and redemption. The hero, Nicholas, is the ultimate anti-hero - a man with a bad past and a sinful deed to carry out. My heroine, Annabel, is the complete opposite of him and challenges him in many ways.  She makes him want to change but whether Annabel believes him capable of change is another thing!

How did you come up with the idea for your book?
I wanted to write an anti-hero and I knew I wanted to set it in early Norman England, a time when the country was still very much in turmoil It started with a baronial revolt and the story went from there really. The revolt only really plays as the backdrop for the story as the events act as the trigger but the rest of the story really revolves purely around Nicholas and Annabel.

What makes your book different than others in your genre?
My use of language is different. I know my native English tongue differs slightly but I hope that brings a sense of realism, particularly when it comes to dialogue. I love writing dialogue and I think that comes across. I’m lucky in that I’ve been able to visit places featured in my books (castles etc) and I hope to bring a sense of realism into my stories by blending my experiences into my tales.

How long did it take you to write your book?
Generally I take about three months. I write full time so I put in anything between 4-6 hours of writing a day.

What are some writing goals for the future?
I’d like to perhaps expand into a different historical era or even write some contemporary romances. For the moment, I still have some untapped medieval stories but I imagine there’s only so many you can write. Having said that, I’m always sure the one I’m working on will be my last one and then another miraculously comes along.

If you were stranded on an island which book would you bring with you?
How to Survive on a Desert Island - I’m making the gross assumption this book exists! Failing that, North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell.

What makes a good romance book?
The characterisation is essential. I love it when a book makes your stomach churn with fear, apprehension, excitement… If you don’t care for the characters then that won’t happen. In romance, you need to want them to get together and I love that little stomach flip you get when it finally happens.


The Angel's Assassin

As a rebellion sweeps England, Lady Annabel finds her home overrun by rebels. Much to her relief, a dark knight comes to her rescue, claiming to have been sent to protect her by her uncle.

But Nicholas holds a secret about the job he was sent to do and it is a far cry from what Annabel believes it to be. As the attraction between them grows, Nicholas begins to question the dark life he has lived. But is it enough to change him and will Annabel ever trust again after learning the true nature of his sinful duty?

Angels Assassin: 

Visit Her Online...
Author website:


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Five Things Many Authors Don't Want That I Do

Every author daydreams about their novel one day becoming a bestseller and eventually turning into a movie. I'll admit that I've had fantasies about the trailers for my books if they were turned into movies and all of them are set to the background music of Lacrimosa by Mozart. (I'm obsessed with that song and remixes of it.)

What a lot of authors don't daydream about is the following.

1. Fan-fiction

A lot of authors view it as stealing their work. They have a copyright on those characters and worked hard to create them, so they don't like anyone else using them.

As long as the fan-fiction isn't being sold for a profit, this is absolutely fine with me. It would mean that someone loved my writing so much that they continued to day dream about it long after they finished reading the last page. They thought about it so much and it was so real to them that they created a whole new story revolving around them.

I don't know if anyone could pay me a higher compliment than that.

2. Parodies

One of the first things I do when I fall in love with something entertainment-wise like the Twilight novels, is look for parodies of it on you tube. It usually entertains me for hours.

Because honestly, the people who find parodies the most entertaining are the ones who know something about a book series (for instance), not the ones who don't care about it. Something isn't funny if you don't understand it.

The more parodies being made of something I created, the more people care about it. And the more I get the chance to giggle at myself.

3. People That Hate My Characters/Book

As I've said before, I am a fan of the Twilight novels and movies. A long time ago, I joined several fan forums for the series. You'd think fan forums would be the one place where you are safe to discuss your love of Twilight without being mocked. That's so untrue. There's so many people on those forums who absolutely hate Twilight.

And yet those same people go and see every movie. They've read all the books and they spend all day posting on fan forums about it.

Because even though they hate the Twilight series, their hatred of it is a type of love. They love to hate stuff Stephenie Meyer created and therefore, they buy it all, so they can get that dose of hatred all over again.

I'm not saying everyone who hates Twilight is this way, but if you go on fan forums and meet someone who hates Twilight, but still posts on fan forums every day, they definitely are this way. And there's lots of them!

Even if you're a fan of my work because it's fun to hate it, I'm glad that I'm giving you your own type of enjoyment out of it. It's an unusual way of showing you care.

4. One-Star Reviews

I have yet to receive a one-star review. And to be honest, I'm a bit nervous about getting one, one day.

But at the same time, I know that once I do, my reviews will appear more balanced than they do right now.

Before I purchase a novel, I always read the one star reviews and if there isn't any, I'm more skeptical of the four and five star reviews. After all, enough people must not have reviewed this book to get a good overall impression of it or there would be more one-star reviews. There is no such thing as a book that is universally loved.

I think the Harry Potter books are pretty perfect, but I've met a ton of people who hate them. Either they think it teaches witchcraft or they think the characters and storyline are filled with cliches. Like Dumbledore, the wizard with a long beard and pointy hate and glasses . . . . it's true, it has been done a bunch of times. I don't view the books as cliche, but I've been told many reasons as to why a lot of people do.

One-star reviews honestly often convince me to buy a book. If I think the reasons they are complaining about the series are petty or the one star reviews have horrible grammar and spelling, but at the same time are complaining about the book having horrible grammar and spelling, then I kind of laugh at it and buy the book anyway.

Once I have some one-star reviews, I can thank those people for helping me sell books and keeping my reviews balanced.

5. Controversy

This is a big one that many authors are afraid of. I've been tempted to tone down parts of my books so as not to offend people.

Yet controversy isn't bad. Like hatred, it gets people to care about your novel. It makes them curious as to why so many people were offended by it and what they will think of it. It gets them arguing and discussing your novel with new people.

It even gets you on the news if it's well written enough.

And it shows you are capable of creating a vivid story that can touch people. A novel must feel real to the reader in order for them to be offended by it.

I've never read a novel by Dan Brown, but I probably will read something he wrote someday. Why? Because so many people have been outraged by his work that I am curious.

It's a very similar reason as to why I decided to read the Harry Potter novels. I probably would have never heard of either series if it wasn't for people I've met being offended by it.

The worst thing you can do to an author is actually to never talk about their book. Whether you loved it or hated it, the more you talk about it, the more you advertise their book for them for free.


My point is that these things aren't as bad as they first appear to be. It's rare to find a truly popular book series that doesn't contain all five of these elements or at least most of them.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Characters Showing Emotion

"He pinched the bridge of his nose as he ran out of ideas."

For a long time, I had no idea what this phrase meant when I read about it in books. I read the words "pinch" and "nose" and imagined someone pinching their nostrils like something smelt badly. I knew characters did this when they were feeling frustrated, but I had never, personally, understood why a character would stick their head up in the air and pinch their nostrils when they were feeling frustrated. It seemed more like something someone would do when they were being stuck-up or something they would do when another character farted (which never happened.)

I've never pinched the bridge of my nose when I was frustrated, which is probably why I didn't get that pinching the bridge of your nose is pinching the top of your nose. I'd always be drawn out of the story and I still am now that I get it because I make fun of myself for not understanding it before.

One of the hardest things about writing is commuicating with the reader. You're not supposed to spell anything out to them. You're supposed to show them the events of the story rather than tell it to them. You can't say a character is sad, you're supposed to instead show their tears. Don't talk about a character thinking something is funny, instead describe their laughter. But you can't always describe them as crying or laughing because then your descriptions get too repetitive and in reality, everyone's body language varies more than that depending on the situation. And the more unusual the body language is, the more likely there will be a misunderstanding.

It's part of the reason why everyone gets something different out of reading the same novel. We all take our own experiences and understandings to a book. But it also makes it difficult for the writer sometimes when we're trying to portray a certain message.

One of the most embarrassing and funniest misunderstandings I had while reading a book was when I was a child. There was a female character named Al. Most people would read it as a nickname for Alexandra, but I read it as if it said A-One. I mean, the two look very similar depending on the font: A1 and Al.

My Dad got so confused when I read the book out loud to him and got into an argument over how the characters name was pronounced.

"A-One like the steak sauce?" my Dad asked. "I'm pretty sure that's not how you pronounce it."

But I was stubborn and wouldn't listen.

Do you have any other similar stories about how someone read your novel or how you read a novel and misunderstood something?