Category Archives: Interview


Check this interview with Rachel Cotterill who is here to talk about her book Watersmeet.

— Today we are talking about Watersmeet your new book. Can you tell us a bit about this story?

Thanks Lynzie. Watersmeet follows the story of Ailith, a young woman who has grown up in a large family and works in her father’s pottery workshop. Her parents would like to see her marry up, but she’s reluctant to settle for a life with someone she doesn’t love. And then she discovers she’s a mage, and has the opportunity to travel across the country by herself, and suddenly everything changes for her.

Watersmeet is the first in a new epic fantasy series – it has castles and intrigue, magic and mysterious strangers, and other elements that will be familiar to readers of the genre – but at heart it’s also a romance. I do enjoy a bleak, grim fantasy as much as the next person – but I wanted to write something with a more optimistic outlook this time.

— What kind of place is Watersmeet? Can you tell us more about your fantasy world?

Watersmeet itself is a huge, imposing fortress that sits at the confluence of two rivers (hence the name). The area known as the Twelve Baronies is dominated by a dozen major castles, each with its own ruler and accompanying legal system. And as the river valleys are the most fertile areas for crops, Watersmeet is one of the wealthiest.

The power of the Lords Barons isn’t absolute, though: a few generations back, an accord between the temples and the nobility led to the adoption of the Temple Law, which lays out harsh penalties for the worst kinds of heresy.


— Your leading character is Ailith, who discovers that she’s a mage – what is Ailith like and how does she cope with finding out she’s a mage?

As the story begins, Ailith’s family is entirely preoccupied with preparations for her twin sister’s wedding. It’s obviously a time of celebration, but as twins, the girls had always assumed they’d get married on the same day, so Ailith is feeling a little left out and concerned for her future.

And then this stranger turns up, tests her, and tells her she can do magic: it’s a total shock. At first she’s inclined to ignore it and hope it will go away, but curiosity gets the better of her, and she can’t help experimenting. Ultimately she’s a scientist, but the world of the Twelve Baronies is just on the edge of its industrial revolution, so there isn’t an obvious place for her.


— What about the Lord Baron of Watersmeet, can you tell us a bit about him?

Leofwin has lived alone for years, dedicating his life to alchemical studies, and pottering in his rooftop garden for relaxation. The last thing he wants is a young apprentice to train, but there’s something about Ailith that captures his attention. And once she’s through the door, he really doesn’t want her to leave.


— Can you share with us your favourite passage from the book?

I’m happy to share an excerpt, but I should warn you, it’s a bit of a spoiler! This was definitely my favourite scene to write, though.

Ailith didn’t stop to think, she just bolted through the servants’ door into the kitchens, running away almost as soon as Garrick and his retinue had left the Great Hall. Ymma was overseeing a couple of young boys as they wiped down the prep table, while at the end of the table she arranged garnishes on the platters that would have been going out next, had the feast not been interrupted in such a final manner. The boys both stopped to stare, and Ymma scolded them back to work before she even glanced up to see what had caused the interruption.

“Saaluk’s hands,” she said, taking in Ailith’s fine clothes and tear-stained face. “What happened?”

The day had already been so topsy-turvy that collapsing into a kitchen chair in a silk gown seemed almost normal by comparison.

“I said I didn’t want to go,” Ailith said. “I told Frida. I knew I’d muck it up somehow.”

“You were brilliant.” Lufe had followed her in from the hall, and crouched at her side, pulling her into a hug. “Gods, I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“And you should’ve seen his lordship’s face,” Nia added. “He’s never looked so pleased as when you smacked that boy.”

“‘That boy’ is heir to Highfort,” Ailith said morosely. “And I’ve ruined everything.”

Ymma set down the mop and bucket. “Let me get this straight,” she said, leaning on the table and staring hard at Ailith. “Little miss not-a-lady, all dressed up in silks and diamonds, just smacked some lordling?”

“And his lordship was pleased as anything,” Nia said.

“Ha!” Ymma clapped her hands together. “You are most definitely not a lady.”

But she said it like it was the best compliment in all the Twelve Baronies, and Ailith couldn’t help but smile.

— What kind of audience will enjoy this story?

I hope it will appeal to anyone who enjoys reading fantasy, but particularly readers who enjoy romantic elements and happy endings. Based on my own reading habits, I suspect fans of Maria V. Snyder and Deborah Harkness should find something here to enjoy.

— Is there another character or setting that you can tell us about?

One of my favourite characters is Frida: she’s worked at Watersmeet since she was very young, and when Ailith arrives at the castle she’s assigned to attend to her. They’ve had very different backgrounds, Frida was orphaned as a child, while Ailith has grown up surrounded by a huge family, but they get along well and have a lot in common. Frida is incredibly smart, but more than that, she’s got a common sense that Ailith sometimes lacks. Their developing friendship is one of the highlights of the book, for me, and Frida will have her own chance to star in a future novel.

— Can you tell us about the other books you have written?

I have two other novels previously published: Rebellion and Revolution (Chronicles of Charanthe 1 & 2), which are adventure stories set in an alternative, dystopian world.

— And finally what is next for Rachel Cotterill?

I have two books in the pipeline right now.

I’m working on the second Twelve Baronies novel at the moment. Originally I thought that Watersmeet would be a stand-alone story but having created the world, I discovered that there was a lot more to say. The second volume will centre on Yutta, the heir to Wulfsberg, a mother of two who’s scarily competent with a sword.

And Reformation, the third and final novel in the Chronicles of Charanthe series, has been underway for some time and will hopefully see publication this year.

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You can read more from Rachel Cotterill here




1. What does your writing process look like? 

I write anytime of the day I can. I’m the type of fiction writer who loves to have a story map worked out, but I give myself the creative freedom to develop the story “in the moment,” which means I can make adjustments if the story or characters call for it. I do some editing as I go, reading what I wrote – out loud – and see if it sounds the way I want it to. Then I read it again and see if it’s really how I want to leave it. I do most of my writing in my office, but I have another desk that I go to from time to time. I find myself wearing earplugs once in a while, either to drown out the background noise or to listen to music. 

2. Do you have any strange writing habits (like standing on your head or writing in the shower)? 

To me, I don’t think that I have any strange writing habits. I just need a black pen and lined paper. Yes, it has to be a black pen; and yes, it has to be lined paper. I usually don’t think about what might be odd to other people because I’m focused on trying my best and making the best effort to write a good story. 

3. What book do you wish you could have written? 

I never desire to be another author. There are many writers that I admire, some are alive and some are not. I stay true to my own voice and hope there are readers who like my story. 

4. Just as your books inspire authors, what authors have inspired you to write? 

Dan Brown’s novel, Angels and Demons, is written in a wonderful way. Some books stand out more than others to me such as Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier and The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis. I have many favorite authors. The writers in my monthly short story contest, the Writers 750 Contest, are very inspiring every month. Bram Stoker’s style is beautiful. Suzanne Collins’ talent shows very well. The creative story in Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland never ceases to amaze me. 

5. If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters? 

There are casting directors who have an excellent knack for being able to find the right actor for the role. I directed a one-act play in college called Sundance, and I ended up very happy with the final results. The play has five males and takes place in a metaphysical wild-west saloon. The actors did a great job taking on the roles of Sundance, Hickock, Jesse, the Kid, and the Barkeep. If the director knows the role of the character well enough, auditions can reveal whether or not the actor is a good fit. Since I was familiar with the actors in the theater department, auditions weren’t necessary. I had a good idea who could play the role. On the other hand, at the auditions for Cat On a Hot Tin Roof and Bus Stop, I worked solely with auditions from strangers. A casting director’s approach can vary; the chemistry between the possible actors can also make a difference as well as an over all balance in the cast. In my books, there are plenty of Hollywood actors that could play the characters in my stories. 

6. How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?

I am very selective with names in my stories. Someone once said that the two most common names for male and female protagonists are Jack and Kate, but this doesn’t keep me from using the names. More importantly, I like to make sure the name fits with the story, setting, genre, and audience. Sometimes simple names can be a benefit because the name is ‘easy on the eye’ for the reader. I like to consider the meaning of the name, but I don’t force the issue in the story. In my library at home, I have several name books that I like to flip through. Sometimes I use regular names like Jill. Other times I work with creative names like Ragnar and Lenna. 


7. What do you consider to be your best accomplishment? 

Setting goals and sticking with it are important to me. I always put forth a lot of effort. In 2012, I set the goal to publish an anthology by selecting stories from my free monthly short story contest, the Writers 750 Contest. My first Giant Tales anthology was a success. I published 7 books in 2 years. Just to be clear, six of the books were big-group accomplishments where I was the complier, one of the editors, and one of the authors. Six of the books are successful Giant Tales anthologies written by over fifty authors, and one book is a successful short novel where I am one of the five co-authors. These 7 projects were a priceless experience that benefited many people. If I can inspire others to do good work and have a positive impact on the company I work for, then I’ve done my job. 


8. Where do you see yourself in 10 years? 

One of my long-range goals is to have a few novels published and marketed by a reputable publishing house. My experience in writing short stories, publishing, and attending book events as a guest author has prepared me to write more stories and continue to reach out to readers in the community. Another goal is to keep serving the community as I continue to work hard at studying the craft of fiction and writing stories.


9. Were you already a great writer? Have you always liked to write?

I have always enjoyed writing and telling stories. In first grade, I walked home with a friend so we could tell each other pretend stories. Later that day, I was in trouble because I never had permission to go home with her. In first grade, I did my first research project on rabbits by referring to the encyclopedia, and I loved it. I remember reading stories when I was younger, and I wanted to edit the words in the book. Recently, I heard someone say that there are many good writers but not many great writers. I try not to lump writers into categories like that. There are many great writers and there are many genres and styles of writing. Some writers are better at marketing their books. Others are better in person at live events. Some are more philosophical. Others enjoy intellectual conversations. In the end, it’s always about the story and the presentation of the story. Over the past three years, my library has increased substantially. 

10. What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?

Set realistic goals and stick with it. Be flexible and be willing to adjust along the way. Stay motivated. Stay focused. Get out and sell your stories. Be sure to have your one-sentence summary on the tip of your tongue, and tell other people about your work. Be bold and ask other people to read your book. 

11. If you didn’t like writing books, what would you do for a living?

I’m a researcher. I love to research almost anything from composting to outer space technology and winning the lottery. I never get tired of researching. In the past, I’ve been involved with a fundraiser for the fight against breast cancer. I like to find ways to help orphans and widows in my area. I’d also like to earn a respectable position at a publishing house. 

12. Are you a plotter or a pantster? 

Both. I covered this earlier, but I work best with a story map. I like to know where I am headed, but I also like to have the creative freedom to develop the story “in the moment,” which means being spontaneous.

13. Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad? 

Generally speaking, I never respond to a negative review. Once in a while, there might be a kernel of truth in a proper critique. If so, I quickly find it and get the most positive piece of advice I can out of it. It’s a good idea to think about bad reviews as junk mail. It’s best to keep a good focus on your goals and stay focused on the steps that will get you there. I’d much rather read the good reviews. 

14. What is your best marketing tip?

Be creative to develop a name brand. Be disciplined to find out what works for you. Get to know the business and work hard. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Promote yourself, seek reviews, and have a good website. 

15. What is your least favorite part of the publishing / writing process?

Every writer faces challenges. I’ve addressed most of the challenges over the past three years. It’s important to learn how to deal with distractions. Be sure to get rid of time burglars. Most of the time, it’s best to say no to extra hobbies in order to write. Deadlines are your friend. Accept the fact that you won’t be able to please everyone. After all these challenges are dealt with, then it’s a matter of not going overboard. What I mean is that writers still need to be healthy, exercise, and make good contributions in the world. I’d write all day long if I could. 

16. Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?

One day a long time ago I said, “I will never…” and then sometimes life doesn’t turn out that way. I’ve learned to take one day at a time, and I try to keep the audience in mind. 

17. Do you have a favorite conference to attend? What is it? 

In 2014, I went to five local events as a guest author. Four of the events were at the Kannapolis Cultural Arts Festival called Kaleidoscope and the last event was at the Cabarrus Art Council’s Art Walk. I love meeting new people and telling them about Giant Tales and Gryffon Master. Someday I hope to attend a big conference as a guest author. 

18. Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than others? Love? Action? Racy? 

In the past, I haven’t written anything that was difficult to write. Love, action, and race are real issues in life. People can identify with all three. In my current novel, the main character experiences a teleportation and I describe what she feels and goes through when her body begins to disappear and reappear somewhere else. It’s written in first person narrative, and since I’ve never teleported anywhere, I used my imagination to describe what she went through. This is an example of the beauty of fiction, especially fantasy and high fantasy; I relate to real life situations, but I can also use my creative imagination.


19. Is this your first book? How many books have you written prior? 

I have 7 books published. My short novel is called Gryffon Master: Curse of the Lich King where Ragnar the Viking warrior tries to escape from a dangerous jungle, but an evil Lich King is hunting him down. Then I have two books from the Giant Tales Apocalypse 10-Minute Stories series, which include: Lava Storm In the Neighborhood (Book 1) and Final Ships In the Neighborhood (Book 2). The last four books are in the Giant Tales 3-Minutes Stories series, which include: Giant Tales Beyond the Mystic Doors (Book 1), Giant Tales From the Misty Swamp (Book 2), Giant Tales: World of Pirates (Book 3), and Giant Tales: Dangerous Days (Book 4). 

20. What are you working on now? What is your next project?

I am working on a fantasy novel and hope to see it published in 2015. 


Crazy Questions – That No One Ever Asks Authors


1.   What is your biggest failure?

Sometimes I am too helpful to the point of sacrificing myself. Time is money, as some people say. The past three years are not a failure though. The experience has been priceless at Writers 750. I’ve worked hard, learned a lot, and in many ways, I am better prepared to face numerous situations in the future. When my plate is full, I’m much more likely to say no. Even if my plate is half full, I still might say no. If it fits in with the goals, I will find a way to work it in. Quitters never win. And winners never quit. 


2.   How has all the time you invest in others helped or hindered you in your own writing journey. 

I love my free monthly short story contest, the Writers 750 Contest. Hundreds of writers have gotten a lot out of it. I started it in April of 2012. I’ve met so many talented writers in the Writers 750 Contest. You can find the titles and authors of the short stories from 2014 at my website,

3. Characters often find themselves in situations they aren’t sure they can get themselves out of. When was the last time you found yourself in a situation that was hard to get out of and what did you do?

I don’t look at challenges that way. In the past, I have been faced with life threatening situations. So many other things in life seem small compared to what I’ve been through. Each time I have been in a life or death situation, there isn’t much a person can do other than get down on your knees, pray, and walk away with more faith than the day before. I’ve had several life or death moments. Some things in life are just beyond a person’s control. 

4. What is your biggest fear?

Tunnels. I don’t like tunnels, especially the one coming out of the Boston airport. It feels like it’s 10 miles long. 

5. What do you want your tombstone to say?

Job Well Done 

6. If you had a superpower, what would it be?

Flying without any side effects or complications. I went to flight school my first year out of high school and flew airplanes. I’ve always loved flying. 

7. If you were a super hero, what would your name be? What costume would you wear?

Bat-woman. Remember, I like flying. I’d be happy as an American billionaire, an industrialist, and a philanthropist who fights crime. My costume would be black and very flexible with wings. 

8. What literary character is most like you?

Each person is an original. It might seem fun to compare, but I usually don’t. If I could spend one day as a literary character for the fun of it, it might be Sherlock Holmes.

9. What secret talents do you have?

If I told you, it wouldn’t be a secret anymore. I will say that in fifth grade, I was super fast with solving the Rubik’s Cube. I had all the solutions memorized. 

10. Where is one place you want to visit that you haven’t been before?

I’m a lover of the ocean and the beach. Some of my stories take place on a beach, on an island, or in the current novel I’m working on, out in the ocean. Escaping Captain Drake from Giant Tales World of Pirates takes place on the beach and also takes place on an island. Dragonship from Lava Storm In the Neighborhood takes place on an island near the shore. 

11. If you were an animal in a zoo, what would you be? 

I’ve always loved lions, but I also like flying. So being a gryffon makes good sense. 

12. What is something you want to accomplish before you die?

First, I’d love to have a New York Times Best Seller novel. Second, I’d like to have a novel published by one of the big six publishers. Third, I’d like to see at least one of my stories on the big screen. 

13. If you could have any accents from anywhere in the world, what would you choose?

Once in a while, I read fiction out loud with a British accent. I’m very happy as an American, though. I’ve read all of the Narnia books out loud to my daughter, and one of them I read out loud to her from cover to cover with a British accent. 

14. What were you like as a child? Your favorite toy?

My teachers would usually say I was creative. I was really good in art and sports. I loved to do skits and tell stories. I still have one stuffed animal from fifth grade: Snoopy. Back in 1980, a whole line of Snoopy clothes came out (that fit on Snoopy), and I still have many of the outfits to this day including Sherlock Holmes. I used to be in love with the Six Million Dollar Man. I had a Six Million Dollar Man Barbie doll (with a bionic eye, a bionic right arm, and two bionic legs). I had a Stretch Armstrong, but he seemed rather useless. I also performed ventriloquism with a puppeteer dummy. My favorite stuffed animal was Snoopy. My favorite toy was the Rubik’s Cube. My favorite board game was Clue. Today, my favorite card game is Hearts. 

15. Do you dream? Do you have any recurring dreams/nightmares?

Yes. Lots. I have a dream book that tells me about the possible meanings. One time, I dreamed that there were two elephants in my backyard. My book said that it could mean ‘luck and prosperity’ or ‘wisdom and patience’. Another time I had a dream about a tree flying through the air; and then I woke up and wrote it out in a short story. I love to read my dream dictionary and see what my dreams could mean.

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Heather Marie Schuldt
Fiction Author

Christmas Pie Crescent


New release time – take a look at this Christmas cracker and find out how to win a free paperback copy.


Christmas Pie Crescent was a Christmas paradise… unless you were Holly Hayward. She hated Christmas. Having grown up in Christmas Pie Crescent, she couldn’t get out of there fast enough but now, as Christmas fast approached with no husband to inject the holiday spirit into their twins, it was up to her to make it a Christmas to remember except she didn’t know what to do. It’s out of her comfort zone and the only solution she could think of was to return to Christmas Pie Crescent… But what about what she saw that night when she was twelve? The night she stopped believing.

Then there’s Ryan Shaw, Christmas Pie Crescent’s newest resident at number five with his two children. Along with losing his wife, he also lost his Christmas spirit… then he meets the neighbours. With elves living at number seven, a sexy Mrs Claus at number four, Santa’s twin at number three and never mind the scary cat lady at number two, Ryan has to question himself, where the hell has he moved them to?

As the Christmas competitions begin, Ryan finds himself swept along in the festivities so why not take part and even win? Holly can’t think of anything worse but can Ryan change her mind and help her get her Christmas spirit back?

A festive funny full of love, laughter and heartache.

Available to download for Kindle and Kindle app and in paperback from Amazon from December 1st 2014. ~ ~



Christmas Pie Crescent is your new book – can you tell us about the crescent, are there really elves living there?

Christmas Pie crescent is one of those places where everyone knows everyone. They pop in and out of each other’s houses for a cup of tea and are never too busy to stop for a chat but come Christmas time, it’s an entirely different story. Best friends become enemies because they all want to win that Christmas crown. Unfortunately the only elves living in the crescent are in the shape of gay couple Keith and Lionel at number seven, who like to dress as elves!

Holly Hayward is your leading lady, she’s not exactly a Christmas lover – what can you tell us about her?

Holly doesn’t like Christmas because when she was 12 she witnessed something no child should see. That night she stopped believing and developed a hate for all things Christmassy. Her parents on the other hand, are big on Christmas. The original Mr and Mrs Clause so whilst she’s happy to visit her parents all year, come December she avoids it like the plaque. This Christmas though, is her first without her husband and she finds herself at a loss. Because of the situation she promises her twins the best Christmas ever but it’s out of her comfort zone and the only solution she can think of is to return to Christmas Pie Crescent. The twins are over the moon as it’ll be their first Christmas there but for Holly, it’s her worse nightmare. She has to face the only thing she’d tried her hardest to forget.

What about the new single dad in the neighbourhood, Ryan Shaw, what is he like?

Ryan is just lovely! His back story is sad. He lost his wife the previous November so last Christmas wasn’t very good at all but this year he wants his two kids to enjoy it and the only way he can think of is by moving house and starting again. He finds himself in Christmas Pie Crescent but he has no idea what he’s let himself in for and at first, he thinks where the bloody hell has he moved to. He thinks his neighbours are complete nutters and should be locked up. There’s no way he plans on taking part in all the festive madness but his twin sister and daughter have other ideas. Soon enough, he finds himself in the thick of it and it’s not so bad. He pines desperately after his wife and thinks moving was a mistake because nothing reminds him of her in the new house. His kids are his main priority and his heart belongs to Ellie but when he sees Holly, he finds himself distracted and he feels guilty for it.

What Christmas festivities take place – is this a traditional Christmas or a tacky one?

Do you know what, it’s a bit of both! There’s plenty of Christmas lights and displays that make the Americans look tame. Competitions include battle of the bulbs, deck the halls and the Christmas bake-off. Competition is fierce and some people will do anything to win.

Aside from Holly and Ryan, who is your favourite character in the book?

This one is easy! Issy, Ryan’s twin sister! She’s fun, kind hearted and keeps Ryan in check. I love her so much in fact that I’m 9 chapters in, into her own story! I just wasn’t happy leaving her in the background and wanted to expand her character some more. The new book will also give you an insight into what Holly and Ryan have been up to since. I am aiming to have it published around Easter time.

And what is your favourite scene?

Ooh, let me think… there’s a few to be honest. For Holly, I’d say when she’s queuing to see Santa and is attacked by an elf… and for Ryan, the elf stake out. I laughed at both while writing them!

You’re a prolific author, aside from Christmas Pie Crescent, what your favourite book that you have written?

This is so tough! I have enjoyed writing all of them… but I think I’ll go with April’s Busman Holiday. It’s different from my previous books because whilst it’s still romantically themed, it’s also a whodunit. I just love April, her wit and humour and it was my first attempt at murder mystery. It was hard but so much fun! Book 2 How to catch a jewel thief will be out next year.

How will you be spending your Christmas this year?

At home with my husband and children and plenty of food and drink!

Finally what advice would you give an aspiring author?

Never give up! It’s a long winding road with so many learning curves. I’ve been at it for two years and I’m still learning. Negativity is never good and my first bad review felt like I’d been slapped in the face but then it made me realise without the bad, I wouldn’t know how to improve. It made me learn how to turn a negative into a positive and I think I have flourished and the good reviews make you realise why you do it.


Kerry Frith is a self-published author of The Cocktails & Tattoo series, Handbags at Dawn, April’s Busman Holiday (The Maxwell Mysteries #1) and her new up and coming festive funny, Christmas Pie Crescent. She’s an East London girl with a mad passion for writing. When she isn’t writing, she’s busy being a mum.

If you would like to win a signed paperback copy (UK only) or Kindle edition (everywhere else) join the online launch party today and take part on the day ~ Sunday 7th December. Signed paperbacks will also be available to purchase directly from the author.


Mary Genevieve Fortier – Terror Train

Here’s some more info about Terror Train, from Editor’s Choice Award winner Mary Genevieve Fortier.

What is your contribution to this amazing book?

Mary: My poem, “Midnight Train.” It is a 500 word narrative horror poem. Unlike many poems, it reads as a story in rhyme. I am a passenger, witnessing the many horrifying sights and sounds upon this haunted railcar. If you love horror and like to squirm, I believe you will enjoy “Midnight Train”

I understand you are involved in the podcast version of the anthology. In what capacity?

Mary: Yes, it’s a wonderful project and it has developed into a separate entity from the book.

We have taken the stories to another level for the reader’s pleasure; imagine the old time radio shows with sound effects and theatrically read pieces that draw pictures in ones mind.

I wrote both the opening and closing poems, as well as the dialogue for “Terror,” a character I created. “Terror,” is the disembodied ghost host who introduces each story in the creepiest way possible. I have been told my wicked laughter is scary all on its own! LOL

Aside from “Terror Train” the anthology and the podcast, are you involved creatively in anything else?

Mary: Indeed, I am. I have been a poet for well over 40 years and am published in various anthologies, both traditional and horror. I am an Editor/Author for Black Bed Sheet Books, a Book Reviewer for Hellnotes and Dark Regions Press and I have my own column on Staying Scared, under the guise of “Nighty Nightmare.” I addition to the podcast, my husband and I have become professional Dramatic Audio Narrators.

Do you have any future projects in the works?

Mary: In addition to continuing the podcast for “Terror Train” and other readings, my poetry will be published in six anthologies due out between Halloween and Christmas. Sometime in 2015, I hope to have my own book of poetry published.

LINKS:    (My column)       (Facebook Writer Page)–episode-92  (Radio Interview)  (Terror Train Episode 105- Midnight Train) (Named Woman in Horror)

Terror Train: Interview

Editor of Terror Train, Krista Clark Grabowski, has taken some time out to answer some questions about the book.

Terror Train is a collection of horror stories, right? Can you tell us more about the concept?


The concept for Terror Train came from A. Henry Keene, an excellent writer and my co-editor on Terror Train. It’s more than a collection of stories and poems with a train theme, it’s a cross-country train ride. The first story in the book is written by Charie D. LaMarr and is set in New York and it ends with a story written by Alex S. Johnson that is set is California. Between the first and last stories are “train stops” in various locations.


Interesting. I noticed you said it includes both stories and poems. That gives the book a lot of variety.


Yes it does. It worked out so well. The writing itself covers a broad range as well. There is a noir-style story, one from the future, one set in the Old West, a southern gothic story, and lots of other styles. Some of them have gore and some have none at all. You won’t find any two stories or poems that are the same. I really think there is something for everyone in this one.


How has it been received?


Very well. We have no negative reviews and there has been so much interest that we’re doing a series of Terror Train podcasts. David Schutz II narrates every episode and does an amazing job. His wife, Mary Genevieve Fortier, is a running character she created, the disembodied voice of Terror. Her wicked laugh and dialogue make the episodes extra creepy. There are nine episodes so far. A new one goes out every Saturday and except for the first installment, each one is about half an hour long. David is working his way through the book. Eventually he will read every story and poem.


Here’s a link to my YouTube channel. You can find all of the podcasts there.


Buy it on Amazon here.

But Can You Drink The Water?

Today I am interviewing Jan Hurst-Nicholson a British writer of fun books like But Can You Drink The Water. Here’s what she has to say.

But Can You Drink The Water? is probably your most popular book – can you tell us a bit about it?

It’s a light-hearted look at emigration and chronicles a naïve working-class family’s attempts to fit in after emigrating from Liverpool to South Africa. The story follows the upsets, hurt and changing family dynamics that emigration brings and has an underlying theme of: ‘Is home more than where the heart is?’

When Frank Turner informs his wife and teenage son they are moving to sunny South Africa he is unprepared for their hostile response. His defiant son makes his own silent protest, and his wife’s assertion that “we never shoulda come” is parroted at every minor calamity.

The story began as a stage script in the 1980s and progressed to a 13 part sitcom. A local film producer was interested, but when that came to naught I still had all the characters and situations buzzing in my head, so I turned the episodes into chapters of a novel. The title But Can You Drink The Water? is a familiar phrase to British readers who travel abroad.

Although the book had some positive responses from publishers, and even won an award, it was never taken up, but when it reached the semi-finals in the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award the positive review from the Publishers Weekly judge, “with a droll, witty and utterly British voice…” prompted me to self-publish it as a Kindle e-book. The encouraging sales of the e-book persuaded me it was worth producing a paperback version.

What is the Turner family like? Are they based on any family in particular?

The characters are very much a product of my imagination, but I’d like to think they represent a typical ‘salt of the earth’ Scouse family of the 1970s who were somewhat unworldly and naïve (as many of us were) about anything that was foreign. I drew (very loosely – I was single when I arrived in SA and I married a South African) on my own experiences and those of fellow expats. I’ve been gratified by reviewers saying they ‘recognised’ the characters, with one reviewer commenting: “Every page related to EXACTLY what happened to ourselves as the author experienced, even down to when we returned to the UK on holiday. Both the wife and I shed tears of laughter.”

The Turner family emigrate from Liverpool to South Africa, this is set in the 1970s so what is it like for the family stepping into this foreign country?

There was no internet to do research in the 1970s so emigrants were very much setting off into the unknown, and the bewildered working-class Scousers are soon thrust into an alien world of servants, strange African customs, unintelligible accents, and unexpected wild life (‘crocodiles’ on the wall). Immersing into a new and very different culture can be traumatic, especially for the spouse left at home to cope on her own while the husband quickly adapts to a new working life. But the Turners each learn to cope in their own individual way. Mavis overcomes homesickness by hugging the knowledge that when Frank’s contract ends they can return home; Gerry’s sullen resentment gives way to love of the outdoor life, and Frank masks his own doubts with blustering optimism and bantering sarcasm. Having overcome culture shock, the arrival of Mavis’s parents introduces a divided loyalty when Gert and Walter’s National Health glasses and ill-fitting dentures are seen through the eyes of the Turner’s new South African friends. And when Mavis’s sister ‘our Treesa’ and her opinionated husband Clive visit, Mavis surprises herself by hotly defending SA.

But Can You Drink The Water? is a British comedy, what do you like about British humour?

It’s usually understated and subtle, with a good sprinkling of self-deprecation. Sarcasm also plays a part, and Frank is a master at sarcastic remarks. I like to think of British humour as ‘observational’ humour in that people recognize and laugh at themselves.

Can you share a passage or scene that really sums up But Can You Drink The Water?

It’s difficult to sum up the book with one scene, but I think the first few paragraphs set the tone for the book.

South Africa 1970s

As the 747 hiccupped through a pocket of turbulence Frank Turner’s white-knuckled fingers tightened round the armrests in the same vice-like grip he used on the dentist’s chair. The cigarette clamped between his teeth was the latest in the chain he’d begun eighteen hours earlier on Liverpool’s Lime Street station.

The cloudless blue sky abruptly turned to brown earth as the plane banked sharply for its final landing approach. Frank risked movement to turn round and peer impatiently down the aisle. The toilet door remained firmly closed. As his head swung back his cigarette narrowly escaped contact with the crotch of the brisk airhostess who was hurrying the passengers into their safety belts. “Please extinguish your cigarette and fasten your safety belt, sir,” she said, nimbly avoiding the glowing cigarette tip, her bright smile now of a lower wattage after fourteen hours in the air.

Frank smiled submissively, but sneaked a few last drags while she strapped in the florid-faced woman in front whose frequent trips to the toilet equated with her having walked the six thousand miles from England to South Africa.

He stubbed out his cigarette and fastened his safety belt. The landing was the part he didn’t care for. Fraught with tension, anxiety clenched his buttocks, jaw and fists. He cast further furious glances towards the toilet, willing the door to open. When it remained closed he addressed the figure slouched sulkily in the window seat.

“Trust your bloody mother. It would be just like her to be caught with her knickers down if we crash.”

There was no response from fifteen-year-old Gerry, except for the barely perceptible quiver of his Mohican haircut. He’d never wanted to come in the first place, and nothing less than the promise of a motorbike was going to bring him round.

Glaring at the silent form of his son, Frank forced down the anger that surged anew at the sight of his hair. Although, thanks to his mother’s vigorous washing, the once rainbow purple, green and yellow stripes were now a paler, muted hue, it had failed to return it to its original mouse. Nothing short of a wig could do anything for the lavatory-brush style.

“I’m talking to you, cloth ears,” Frank snapped, prodding Gerry in the ribs.

The only response was a scowl and muttered, “I ‘eard you.”

The row was about to develop into a shouting match when the toilet door finally swung open and Mavis Turner limped down the aisle, the agony of her swollen ankles reflected in her suffering face. She squeezed past Frank, wincing as her new shoes caught the bunion her mother had threatened her with since the winklepicker shoes of her teens. …

But Can You Drink The Water? is just one of your books, you’re a really prolific author, can you tell us about your favourite story?

My first novel was The Breadwinners (a family saga) , but it would be 25 years before I saw it in print. In the meantime I wrote children’s books and I’m very fond of Leon Chameleon PI and the case of the missing canary eggs which was my first trad published book and allowed me to claim fame as an ‘author’. Something to Read on the Plane was the first book I self-published (in print in 2006) and is a compilation of my published humorous articles and short stories. It is still selling at airport bookshops and is special because it was the first book I was solely responsible for. But I had the most fun writing my latest book, With the Headmaster’s Approval because I wrote it for myself (and fell in love with the MC!). Knowing that I was going to self-publish it gave me the freedom to write without any publisher’s constraints, or the usual ‘rules’ sitting on my shoulder. It’s general fiction with a romance element, so it doesn’t easily slot into any particular genre – a bit of a nightmare for a publisher’s marketer. The story tells how one man changes the group dynamics when he joins an all-female community, which is something I’ve noticed on more than one occasion and wanted to explore further (women seem to have more fun when there are no men around!)

Restoring discipline at a girls’ academy should have been easy for a former US Naval Officer. It wasn’t, nor was it easy dealing with an all-female staff.

Intrigue, scandal, suspense, and romance peppered with humour tell how one man’s influence on a school of wayward girls and their teachers changes their lives in ways none of them would imagine – and eventually his own.

I set the book in the UK in the area where I went to school, and as our TV was showing re-runs of the original Hawaii 5-0 series starring Jack Lord I used him as a model for Adam Wild, the Headmaster. Having pictures of the main characters pinned above my computer helps to keep me focused.

Can you share a passage from this story?

This is how the story begins.

As Adam scanned the morning’s agenda Lisa could hear the chatter of the girls as they filed into assembly. The closed office door muted the sound, but she knew when they entered the hall it would be like the bird house in a zoo. She stood next to his neatly organised desk ready to fill in any details he was unsure of.

“So, Mrs Stannard is going to introduce me and give a brief explanation, and then I’ll take over?” he asked, looking up at her.

“Yes, we thought that would be best. It will give some sort of continuity.”

“And you’ll be ready to prompt me on the agenda,” he said, grinning.

“Yes, but I’m confident you won’t need me,” she replied with a reassuring smile.

He glanced at his watch, a slim classic that matched his gold cuff links, clipped his Montblanc pen into his pocket, picked up the file and rose briskly from his chair, his six foot-four frame towering over her. He fastened the middle button of his suit jacket, a dark blue that together with his pale blue shirt enhanced his fading tan. His broad shoulders filled the jacket to perfection and he could have stepped out of a clothing catalogue if it weren’t for the few stray locks of hair that fell over his brow despite him constantly finger-combing them back.

“Let’s go. Wish me luck,” he said.

“Good luck,” she said, wondering if he knew just how much he would need it.

And, finally, what are you currently working on?

I have several more Leon Chameleon PI stories in draft form, but they require expensive illustrations and are in abeyance at the moment, so I’m working on marketing what I’ve already

e-published and getting them all into print. I still need full covers for With the Headmaster’s Approval, my teen book Mystery at Ocean Drive and I Made These Up (short stories for the fireside). My trad published children’s books went out of print, but I was able to get reversal of copyright and convert them to e-books. Now I need to learn how to use the programme for converting them back into print. Gone are the days when all that was required of an author was to write a good story!

You can find lots more about Jan on the links below:

Jan’s website 

Jan’s Amazon author page 


But Can You Drink The Water? 

Mystery at Ocean Drive  

The Breadwinners (a family saga) 

Something to Read on the Plane 

Leon Chameleon PI and the case of the missing canary eggs 

Leon Chameleon PI and the case of the kidnapped mouse 

With the Headmaster’s Approval 

I Made These Up (short stories for the fireside) 

The Race (an inspiring story for left-handers) 

Bheki and the Magic Light

The Agent

Today I’m talking to Jonathan Mitchell and his horror novel The Agent, a perfect read for anyone trying to get into the Halloween spirit…
The Agent is a story about loner David Turner — what type of man is David Turner? Can you tell us about him?
Turner is a decent guy who finds himself getting lost in the shuffle. As he approaches middle age, Turner realizes how disconnected he is from the stream of human existence–and, when offered an out, he takes it. Unfortunately, this escape route is not as attractive as it first appears. 
Where is The Agent set?
The novel is set in Moorestown, a fictional city which is modeled on a crumbling industrial region of northwest Alabama known as Muscle Shoals. (Anyone who’s seen the Rolling Stones tour documentary “Gimme Shelter” has had a glimpse of it.) That’s the primary setting, but some of the action takes place in California. 
The Agent is a horror — how scary does this book get?
Pretty scary in the ghostly Henry Jamesian sense. There are a few scenes of graphic horror which were necessary to the story, but I didn’t dwell on them. “The Agent” is a psychological horror piece.
Can you give us an idea of the cult murders Turner discovers?
Turner’s recurring nightmares about dismembered bodies prod him to do a little research at the library. Newspaper records confirm that he’s been dreaming about real events: a series of mutilation murders which took place twenty-five years earlier in Southern California, the base of operations for a human potential cult. Without giving too much away, there is a direct link not only between the murders and the cult, but between the murders and Moorestown.
Are there any other characters in the book that are significant in the plot?
Yes, but here again I’d be spoiling the story if I described them in any detail 😉 I can say, however, that the entire sequence of events hinges on Turner; none of the action would be possible without him. 
Do you have a favourite scene or passage you can share with us?
I’m especially fond of a dream sequence in which Turner is confronted by the novel’s lead villain. It was a chance for me to indulge in some very bizarre, off-the-wall verbal imagery (not just for its own sake, but in a way that actually moved the story forward), and I think it turned out really well. Most of the dreams that appear in “The Agent” are my own; as I began to document them carefully, I realized what a crucial source of inspiration they were for the book.
What’s next for Jonathan Mitchell — is David Turner going to reappear again?
Anything’s possible! Right now, though, I’m working on an outline for an entirely different novel and trying to make my first short story sale.
You can download this story now from Amazon


I’ve been speaking to author Carmen Stevens who has been telling me about her historical drama Anne.

Anne is set in 18th Century London, one of my favourite periods in history, can you tell us about this time and in particular about the setting for the book?
 I really like this period in English history as well. I myself love England, although I haven’t been there yet. I’m especially fascinated with its history. I’ve also researched England and its history thoroughly, especially for the background of my novel. And from what my research has revealed to me, I believe that 18th century England was either a great time or a bad time depending on one’s social class. If you were first or second class, I imagine that life was pretty good and others treated you with favor and respect. However, if you were third class, I imagine that life was pretty difficult. I have reason to believe that many poor people were homeless or almost homeless during this time, begged for food from those who were better off, and resided in the dirty slums of big cities like London. And this setting is exactly where my titular character, Anne, finds herself in the beginning of the story. By the time she’s twelve years of age, Anne is homeless and alone on the dark side of London, in the slums. Her mother had died giving birth to her, and because of this loss, her father became insane, hated Anne, and treated her violently. When Anne is twelve years old, her father, an alcoholic, kills himself by burning down their home, and Anne is immediately homeless, poor, and alone.
Anne is the star of your novel, she seems a wilful young woman, can you tell us more about her?
 As stated in the previous question, Anne doesn’t have a very good start in life. She knows this, but instead of letting the fact that she’s poor, homeless, and alone get the better of her and make her depressed, she gathers strength from her sufferings and a strong hope for a better life is rooted within her. However, this isn’t to say that Anne is a cheerful, happy person. She gathers strength from her hard life, but that strength is represented in a highly selfish, egotistical manner. Anne’s sufferings have toughened her, but she cares little for anything or anyone besides herself. The opening pages of my novel help to illustrate this further:

Fourteen-year old Anne Falkman had beheld this all through eyes that esteemed the dire need to be firm and strong, haughty and traitorous. She had always espied the world with beautiful eyes that betrayed their attractiveness but clung fast to life itself and the hope for joy that such a thing as fate could someday bring her.

Anne knew this hope by it growing within her like a tree, and the longer that she forgot about it, when she felt it prick her heart again it had grown taller. She had acquired the seed of this hope through the only years of her life that she had ever known, the most unbearable, heart-wrenching years that no one so young should ever have the curse to possess. They were years that had tested her natural endurance and inner strength, but with poor end results. The compassion and kindness born into her had come to terminate long ago as such characteristics had lost their true shine as the conditions of her tragic life had gripped a sick hold onto them. Never was the girl smiling kind thoughts and words to the passersby on the streets and contemplating compassion for the weeping, but why should she? No one had ever really smiled and sent kind, sympathetic thoughts and words her way through the crude journey that fate had propelled her into. No one had ever really stopped to direct their attention to the neglect that was hers every day of her life. Thus, Anne possessed the knowledge that there was no one in the world who she could trust. She had contracted a vulnerable heart that was, in addition to all of the other negative traits that her personality had taken, sensitive not to offensive words and actions but rather to the uncommon airs of ego and vanity. Daily she paid ignorance and rejection toward many and indifference toward all. She had learned to live in no other way than this, and to only keep watch on herself and the sacred will to live for a life that was to bring her happiness and reason.

As a historical character what can modern women take from a woman like Anne?
 Well like I said, Anne is a tough cookie. Even though she’s egocentric and potentially cruel, even, she’s strong, willful, and doesn’t lose sight of her dreams. I think that modern women can really admire these traits in Anne, and learn not to lose sight of their dreams as well.
Is this a story influenced by the classics and if so what books could you liken Anne to?
 I was greatly influenced by Charles Dickens while planning out and writing this book. I’d read a couple of his novels before even thinking of writing a book. These two novels were “Great Expectations” and “Oliver Twist”. In the former book, the protagonist Pip has a humble life and dreams of becoming a gentleman. He also falls in love with the cruel woman Estella, and I definitely believe that Anne was formed from the character Estella’s negative influence. As for “Oliver Twist”, Oliver goes through many hardships himself before attaining a better life. I think I definitely took something from this book as well in forming my novel.
Aside from Anne herself, who are the other dominant characters in the book and what are they to Anne?
 My novel has a great many characters in the forty-some years that it covers. There’s George, a young man who befriends Anne when they’re children and develops feelings for her, but Anne, though she superficially cares for him, is cruel to him and pushes him away. Rad is another young man who falls for Anne, but Anne, though she reciprocates his feelings at least a little bit, cares more for herself and turns her back on him. Madame Button is a malicious French woman who hates Anne for a reason that’s not revealed to readers until a bit later, and tries to ruin her life. Anne fears her greatly. Guinevere is another young woman who comes across Anne and forms a strong friendship with her; Anne loves her just as much. Anne also bears three children: Henry, who is Anne’s foil, a very strong person who also endures much, Lucifer, a very shy, troubled boy with inner demons, and Grace, a spunky, passionate girl who loves Anne dearly and longs to protect her from a certain person. Anne loves both of her boys, but Grace she is afraid of because of a certain incident that happened before Grace was born. These characters are just a few of the many more that my novel contains.
Is there a particular scene you could share with us?
 Sure. In the following extract, Anne is recalling a time in which Madame Button told her all about her parents from the time they decided to elope together to the moment Anne’s mother dies from childbirth:

Anne’s father had been named William Falkman. He had been a common man of low station when he had fallen in love with an Elizabeth McFarkley, a beautiful, loving young woman of first-class society. She had likewise fallen for William, but was constantly harped upon by her egotist, persistent parents, who always insisted that a daughter like theirs was not about to be united with such a “common boy”. William and Elizabeth, however, loved each other too much to know any kind of negativity, and when the verbal harassing of Elizabeth about her love affairs came to a sufficient point, the two lovers finally decided to escape from such pressure, and elope. Elizabeth especially had treasured such an idea, as the love that she had had for William was far greater than was the love that she had possessed for her parents and their constant injustices.

Eloping was a bad decision. The sweet and naive Elizabeth never imagined that her own family would break ties with her because of her personal wants and dreams, but that was exactly what had happened. Elizabeth McFarkley, the gorgeous daughter of a wealthy politician, had made the choice to marry a man of much inferiority, and the consequence was the cessation of any further communication between her family and herself. When the surrounding areas became informed of such a consequence, they were heartily surprised to learn of how indifferent Elizabeth continued to act, in spite of such shame. This was because she finally had what she had always ached and prayed for-the perfect man to be her husband, and there was absolutely nothing in the world that could bring her down. Others did not know this, though, and they talked about Elizabeth secretly amongst themselves, calling her a “thankless, shameful braggart”.

No matter the cold, vulgar thoughts and feelings of these members of society that Elizabeth had grown up with, she and William, after marrying, decided to purchase a large, luxurious house near London. The home was bought with the sale of a number of quaint items that Elizabeth had run away with. As inconvenient as it had been for Elizabeth to run off with such special belongings, she had loved them too much to leave them behind, and furthermore, her intelligence had prompted her to bring them along directly after she had made the decision to elope with William. She had had a certain instinct that had told her that the money produced from the selling of those objects would prove to add up to a sufficient amount of money. As companionable as this house had been for the star-crossed lovers back then, it was the same house that Anne violently abhorred with a fierce retribution that coursed wildly throughout her being, as it had been the nightmare of hell for her, hell produced by the purest paternal abuse of every kind.

According to Madame Button, Anne’s parents had had a flawless first year of marriage, but Anne had already guessed that. She was well aware of the ugly life that she lived and wondered how a person like she, with a pain-filled life, could otherwise have come into the world but with sufficient pain on the part of her parents.

Indeed, the story thus continued. William had not been able to find a doctor in the time before Elizabeth had gone into labor with Anne, even as he had run through the whole of London on the foaming back of a horse. His youthful heart had been filled with terror for his poor wife, who had been screaming and crying in utter anguish for hours from her labor pains. He feared that Elizabeth was too frail to give birth to a child, and those fears were only to be confirmed a couple of hours after William had returned from his harried journey with no success whatsoever.

When midnight struck on that chilly night of April 4, 1754 Elizabeth did, with tears and trembles harassing her delicate body, give birth to Anne. The child, if anything, had appeared to be even healthier than her mother. William had performed the whole delivery of the infant on his own, vacant of the availability of a doctor, or even a midwife. He had certainly performed his best, considering how difficult it had been for him to ignore his wife’s continuum of heart-breaking screams and sobs. They had shattered parts of his heart and perhaps his composition as well, had he not forced himself to concentrate on every particular event that was folding out before his eyes.

When William had returned to Elizabeth after cleansing the baby, he happily announced what gender it was. When she heard that she had given birth to a daughter, Elizabeth smiled laboriously, and then, extending a shaking hand to rest it lightly upon her girl’s head, she turned with tear-filled eyes to her husband, stretching another difficult smile upon her destroyed face. She then began to speak, so quietly at first that William could scarcely hear her.

“W…William, name her…Anne. Anne…Elizabeth. A lovely name…do not mourn for me, darling…Love…Anne. She will be all that you have now. I…I love…you…”

Her last words said, Elizabeth fell instantly against the pillows, throwing a wild look all around her, as if she knew that William would break after she was gone. Plump tears once again began to fall before she slowly sank down into the bed in death. With his great love gone, William screamed a terrible yell of complete agony.

What is your favourite part of the story?
 My favorite part regards the very last scene of the novel, which is quite powerful, I think. It’s also thought-provoking. I won’t say anything else about it because I don’t want to spoil anything, but I recommend people to read this novel and find out what exactly this scene is about.
And finally what is next for Carmen Stevens?
 Right now I’m simply focusing on promoting my novel, though I may write another book in the future. But I try to set aside at least a few hours a week for promoting. I work hard every week and I hope for the best.
You can download Anne from Amazon now.

Peter Spark

I am joined today by the title character from the Peter Spark series. So Peter, thanks for being here. You work in Crisis Management, what’s that like?

A: Well, there’s a clue in the name. My job is to plan for crises and disasters, then manage the response to them when they occur. About 50% of my life consists of waiting in airports.

Being good at crisis management means not just preparing for a train wreck, but being happy to imagine a train wreck where bulk chemical carriers split and create a toxic cloud of gas.

What’s the most dangerous thing you have had to deal with?

A: Probably dealing with a toxic cloud of gas after a train wreck. Also, I was once on an oil rig that was hit by a tsunami. That was a toughie. Both of them were easy compared to having a conversation with a mad Australian media person called Maryam Drysdale-Behier.

Do you have to deal with time wasting situations too?

A: Anything that involves the media in any way at all. That is a terrible waste of time and agony at the same time- Like standing in the rain sticking pins in your own eyes endlessly.

But I bet the media loves you?

A: The media couldn’t care less about me or anyone else. They need a constant supply of fodder to fill their time slots and pages and whoever is unlucky enough to get caught by them has my unending sympathy. I have had to talk to the press sometimes, but there is virtually always someone nearby who is better at it than I am. In fact, anyone with a pulse is better at it than I am.

I work a lot with Professor Tilly Pink from Edinburgh and she absolutely loves talking to the media, and she’s good at it too. She’s good at most things though.

With your work do you even have time for hobbies?

A: I envy people with hobbies.


A: The bit of the human brain that does hobbies must be missing in me. People are interesting, but very, very strange. How can people invest in things that don’t produce anything.

But you’re really into the Knights Templar – weren’t they in that film with Tom Hanks?

A:You make them sound like a Boy Band. I never watch films, so I wouldn’t know. The Templars were an amazingly advanced organisation; very flat hierarchy, low costs to productivity ratio, excellent process innovation. Not famous for either their media relations or for having hobbies, as far as I am aware. Lots of reasons to admire them.

What about love Peter, do you have a special lady in your life?

A: Now we’re back to the subject of dealing with the media. I could spend years trying to work out why anyone might have even the slightest interest in that topic. I can only say that any woman who thought that I would be a suitable partner would be far to mad to want to deal with.

Okay, well thank you Peter for your charming interview. What did you say your friend was called? Tilly Pink – we’ll be sure to call on her next time…



If you want to read more about Peter Sparks you can pick up his series of books written by the talented Scott Chapman from Amazon now.

And you can pre-order the new Peter Sparks novel now.

Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead

Today it’s the turn of Scott Larson and his coming of age novel Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead – have a read!

Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead is your new book about two teenagers, Dallas and Lonnie, taking a road trip. What are these boys like and what is their relationship?
Dallas and Lonnie have grown up in a small farming community. They are both kind of oddballs and so when it comes to friends they have mainly had only each other. They know each other better than they know anyone else. As they graduate from secondary school, they are feeling a bit alienated. A lot of people their age are already getting married and starting a life of hard work. They’re not really mature enough yet to want to settle down. Also they have grown up in a conservative religious environment which they have rebelled against. They are not particularly political, but they are definitely rebels by nature.
The book is set in 1971 for those of us too young to know anything about the 70’s, too old to remember, or those who were in the 70’s and therefore can’t remember, can you tell us what was culturally happening at the time and in particular what Dallas and Lonnie were facing?
Yes, I would in the third category: I was there and thus it is all a blur! More seriously, for much of the United States–and in much of the rest of the world, for that matter–in that year there was a lot of turmoil going on. The Vietnam War was still being fought and university campuses were roiling with protests and resultant police crackdowns. Because of the rural setting of where they live, Dallas and Lonnie are largely sheltered from all of this. It is a politically conservative area where most people are supportive of U.S. policy. But what the two young men are not sheltered from is conscription. They have a lot of uncertainty hanging over them because, having turned 18, they could now be drafted into the army and sent to fight in the war.
The boys are hitting the road under the pretence of looking for a missing friend – can you expand on this?
A few years before the story begins Tommy Dowd, a young man that Dallas and Lonnie were acquainted with, went to Central America as some sort of freelance journalist and then disappeared. Lonnie has always been bothered by not knowing what happened to him and so, after a period of bad behavior and boredom and family problems, he cajoles Dallas into the totally daft idea of driving down to Central America to look for Tommy. They both understand that the idea is completely crazy but each wants to see how far the other will go before insisting on turning around. Basically, it is all just an excuse to run away from home, engage in a lot of bad behaviour and let off steam before they have to finally grow up.
But this isn’t a book about missing people – what happens to the boys and how do they change throughout the story?
Lonnie, who is the more self-destructive of the two, seems to be on something of a downward spiral. But for Dallas the travelling opens up a whole new world to him. On the way to the border they pick up a younger Mexican boy and he becomes a window for Dallas on Mexican language and culture. Dallas even manages to have a brief but intense love affair before the journey leads to a series of difficult situations. They run into muggers in Tijuana, become stranded in the middle of nowhere, get arrested by a corrupt policeman and eventually wind up separated. By the end of the story Dallas finds himself on his own in a very dangerous situation with no one else to rely on but himself. In the end Dallas and Lonnie have opposite reactions to their experiences. While Lonnie’s reaction is to want to retreat to the places and people he knows, Dallas is fascinated by the wider world that he never knew that much about.
This is a story based on some of your own memories, are you Dallas or Lonnie? And what memories contribute this story?
Well, I am the exact same age as the two characters and grew up in the same place, which made the research a bit easier. The details of the draft and the lottery by which draftees were selected were (and are) all still vivid in my memory. Both characters are composites of various people that I knew, but I suppose I drew more on my own personality for Dallas. And there is a lot of the best friend I grew up with in Lonnie. But we never got into nearly as much trouble as these two characters! And while I had some interesting road trips with my own best friend, we never went to Mexico together. I did go down across the border a few times with other friends during my misspent youth but never as far south as Dallas and Lonnie go, so I had to do some research on Mexico. I have always had a fascination with Latin American culture so that informed Dallas’s awakening to that world. And I lived in Chile for a year, so that will explain why references to that country keep cropping up. And, given that I have lived in Ireland for the past decade or so, I had to introduce an Irish character along the way. After all, you can’t go anywhere in the world without running into the Irish.
The setting is the South down to Mexico for those of us who have never seen that part of the world can you describe it to us (please feel free to use an extract).
The region where the story begins is more accurately described as the Southwest. (In the U.S. “the South” somewhat illogically refers to area bordering the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico and evokes the old Confederacy and plantations and Gone with the Wind.) The Southwest is very dry and very hot, alternating between deserts and mountain ranges. The following passage from the second chapter describes a journey I made often, climbing into the mountains and looking back at the flat floor of the San Joaquin Valley:
As Lonnie’s Impala strained its engine climbing the Ridge Route toward Tejon Pass, I turned to look back at the lights on the San Joaquin Valley floor. When it came down to it, I hated the valley. I always had a feeling of escape when I drove up out of it. Even hell isn’t as hot as the San Joaquin Valley in the summer. And it’s flat. It has to be the most boring place on the face of the earth. As we got higher into the mountains, things felt different. We were headed to places that weren’t boring and hot. We were headed to places that people had actually heard of. We were less than two hours from Los Angeles. I had only been there a few times, and that was only straight to my uncle Jack’s and back with my parents. Now it was just me and Lonnie heading down there, and anything was possible.
And finally what is next for Scott R Larson?
In a total departure from the first book, I’m currently working on a fantasy novel. It’s a story I first wrote in high school and which evolved into a recurring bedtime story for my daughter. In some ways it is a variation on Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead in that it is a road story and a coming-of-age story. After that I plan to write a novel set in the burgeoning software industry in Seattle in the 1980s, another time and place that I lived through. And I keep going back and forth about whether to write a sequel to Dallas’s story, specifically where is he and what is he doing nine years after the events of the first book.
You can read more about Scott and his other works here