Posts Tagged ‘interview’

Erin McGraw, author of Joy

I’ve had the good fortune to learn from a variety of different authors. And sometimes they’ve had the bad fortune–I mean, they’ve been kind enough to teach me in person instead of through the medium of a book. Recently, I had the good fortune to go and listen to one of my professors, Dr. Erin McGraw, do a reading of her new book Joy (which is also my next read, by the way) at the bookstore near me. We got to talking afterwards, and I asked if she wouldn’t mind letting me interview her.

This is the resulting interview. Ladies, gentlemen, and non-binary people of manners, let me introduce Erin McGraw!

Rami Ungar: Welcome to the show, Erin. Please tell us something about yourself and your published works.

Erin McGraw: I’ve written seven books of fiction, three novels and four story collections.  Whenever I’m writing stories, I’m convinced that novels are easier.  When I’m bogged down in a novel, I long to be writing stories.

RU: Your latest book is Joy, a collection of 53 short stories. Please tell us how the project came about and what sort of stories are inside the collection.

EM: Joy happened largely by accident.  I had just retired and finished two novels back to back, and I was tired.  I thought I was writing tiny little stories—3-4 pages—just to keep in practice until I could figure out what my next book was going to be.  It took embarrassingly long to realize that these tiny little stories were the next book.

The stories are dramatic monologues, meaning that the main character steps out of their life to directly address the reader, explaining why they’re doing what they’re doing.  Since these are people acting as their own defense attorneys, they often lie.  That’s what makes things interesting.

RU: Obviously, there are a number of different voices within Joy. Did you do any sort of research for any of the voices you wrote?

EM: I researched almost all of them to some degree.  The ones that come from actual people, like Ava Gardner or Patsy Cline’s dresser, required that I read books to get the facts and background right, but even a story from the point of view of a nameless songwriter wannabe required that I look up some of the facts of the songwriting business, to make sure I got my guy right.  It only takes a paragraph or so before I start feeling responsibility toward my characters, and I want to treat them with respect.

RU: Were there any voices you tried to write but couldn’t? What were the reasons?

EM: I tried for a year and a half to write a story about a man who searched out his spirit animal on the internet.  People do this all the time, I reasoned; it should be easy.  And funny.  But the story stubbornly refused to get funny or easy, and eventually I parked it in my ever-growing “Undead” file, where I put things that I can’t get right but still seem like good ideas.  Maybe I’ll get this one right someday.

It’s funny, right?  Going to the internet to find your spirit animal?

RU: I think so. I mean, it’s trusting an algorithm created by interns and programmers to tell you something profound about yourself. Says something about the people who use it, I’m sure.
Anyway, you also taught for a number of years at Ohio State University. Were any of the stories in Joy based on your teaching experiences?

EM: Not any teaching experiences, no, but a lot of the stories exist, at least in my mind, in central Ohio.  I lived in Columbus for 15 years, and 10 years before that in Cincinnati, so I spent a lot of time thinking about Ohio and pondering its aggrieved status as a fly-over state.  Recent politics have changed that some, which I think is a good thing.

Joy by Erin McGraw

RU: What’s next for you? Are you working on any projects now?

EM: I’ve got a few more very short stories; I think they’re the leftover energy from finishing Joy.  A new project has floated to the front of my mind, but I’m superstitious about talking about things too early.  If it happens, it will be another book with a lot of voices.  I like to hear people talk.  It gives me a break from my own company.

RU: What are you reading these days?

EU: I’ve been on a tear for two years reading about the socio-economic divide in the U.S., and I’m still reading those.  Also books about the development of a recognizable U.S. cuisine, a subject of ongoing interest to me.  Also a superb book about climbing vines.  Don’t laugh.  It’s good.

RU: What is advice you would give to other writers, regardless of background or experience?

EM: The advice I was given by my teacher, John L’Heureux, regarding character:  Complicate the motive.  Simplify the action.

RU: I’ll have to meditate on that one a bit. Final question: if you were stuck on a desert island for a little while and could only take three books with you, which would you take?

Since they would have to be books I could bear to read over and over, the first would be Eliot’s Four Quartets.  Then King Lear, which I’ve never known well enough.  Then the collected Emily Dickinson.  She wrote enough to hold me for quite a while, in case the rescue ship gets held up.

RU: Ah, King Lear. That was an interesting read. Anyway, thanks for joining us, Erin. I hope you’ll join us again someday soon.

If you would like to check out and maybe get signed copies of Joy, you can click on this link. I’ll be checking it out myself very soon. And if you would like to know more about Erin McGraw and her work, check out her website here.

If you would like to see some of the other interviews I’ve been lucky enough to do, click on my Interviews page to check those authors out. And if you yourself are an author with a book you’d like to promote, send me an email at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

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Hello, and welcome back to another interview. I’m so glad I’m able to spotlight so many different authors lately. Really livens things up a bit, and it’s a great way to connect with new friends and new readers. And today’s interview is with a new acquaintance whom I met through the Horror Writers Association. She’s a writer, editor, and she’s hear to talk about her work.

Please welcome KG Finfrock.

Rami Ungar: Welcome KG. Tell us about yourself and your novel House of Redemption.

KG Finfrock: I love to listen to people’s stories. I had a friend in high school who was a pathological liar and I didn’t care. I loved to hear the stories she would weave as truth. I love to get people to open up about what’s going in their lives and where they’ve gone. Being a homebody, I’m happy to live vicariously through their experiences and yes it’s true. Anything and everything you say to me may end up in a story.

House of Redemption is about eight strangers who come to Blackstone Resort, a large luxurious plantation house in the middle of nowhere. After a lovely evening of good food, drinks, and music, the guests discover they cannot leave the house. All the doors and windows are sealed shut. As they try to find an escape, they each meet the ghosts of the people they have harmed. There is no escape for the guests until they repent their evil ways.

RU: It sounds like an interesting idea. How did you come up with it and what was it like writing it?

KGF: One of my favorite films is Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians. I play the DVD repeatedly as my comfort background noise. I was attracted to the large house. The idea of the whole island to your self is heavenly and I realized, when I wrote Good Thoughts for Bubble Off-Plumb, I like the concept of people not being able to escape punishment for bringing harm to others.

There are eight characters in House of Redemption and I began by writing each person’s situation and how they ended up at Blackstone. I then realized one quarter of the book was all backstory and it was several pages in before the real story began. I had to cut it all out and, that was all right, as I had a firm grasp on who they and what kind of person they were. The story begins with the arrival of the guests, as it should. As a bonus, I included the characters stories at the end of the novel.

RU: You’ve also been involved as an editor for the collection Good Thoughts for Bubble Off-Plumb and put together The Daily Ten-Minute Writing Prompt (Volume I). How did those projects come about?

KGF: I believe being offered the position of editor for Bubble Off-Plumb was the result of good networking and being in the right place at the right time.  And I would like to add, it was a blast working with the other authors. Some stories in the anthology still stick with me. I also learned something about my own writing in my story contribution Good Thoughts. I realized I write about the bad guys getting their comeuppance which is probably why I enjoy House of Redemption so much.

I host a monthly writer’s group with small selected membership. The Daily Ten-Minute Prompt came about when I saw how much fun the members in my writer’s group had when I set the timer and gave them a sentence. They had ten minutes to write and in some part of their story, the sentence had to be in the story. I saw what fantastic stories could be written in only ten minutes. Even as a first draft, they were great. There were moments of hysterical laughter (because the story was funny) and moments of stunned surprise.  Since I had been posting a daily writing prompt on my blog for three years, I figured I might as well put them all together and publish them in a few books.

RU: What are you working on now?

KGF: I’m working on a sequel to House of Redemption, I have two more volumes of the ten-minute writing prompts, and I have a ghost story on the back burner which is more on the side of a cozy murder mystery that happens to include a ghost living with the main character.

RU: When it comes to writing, do you have a routine or a process?

KGF: I need a routine, and I keep trying to stick to a routine, but life events constantly interrupt and thus I have not been as productive as I should be. I’m hoping that will change when the youngest child in my family starts school full time later this year.  As far as process goes, I’m off to a good start as soon as I put fingers on the keyboard and I just go with the flow.

RU: Is there any kind of story you’re particularly drawn to, as a reader and a writer?

KGF: I like mythical monsters, beasts, and a bit of the paranormal.  I like reading about large houses and places I’ve never been.  I admire Fredrik Bachman’s style of writing where he brings the community together and is able to show the faces behind the masks.

House of Redemption by KG Finfrock.

RU: What advice would you give other writers, no matter the background or experience?

KGF: Put your butt in the chair and just start to write. It can be done if you make it a priority, a must do, but it won’t be accomplished without you actually writing.

RU: And finally, if you had to go to a desert island for a while and could only bring three books with you, which would you bring?

KGF: I would pick the three that are on my table waiting to be read. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (a book my sister gave me) Kill Creek by Scott Thomas (May’s book-club selection) and Parasite Life by Victoria Dalpe, a book I chose supporting women horror writers (and the synopsis caught my attention).

RU: You’re going to love Kill Creek. It’s my current favorite. Thanks for joining us, KG. I hope you join us again soon.

If you’d be interested in reading House of Redemption, you can get it from Amazon. And if you’d like to find out more about our guest today, you can find her on her very own WordPress blog, as well as on Twitter and Instagram.

If you would like to see some more of the conversations I’ve had with various authors, head over to my Interviews page. And if you yourself are an author with something coming out you’d like to promote, then send me an email at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com with the subject line “Author Interview” and we’ll see if we can’t make some magic happen.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Author Jason Stokes in an adorable photo with one of his cats.

It’s been a while, but I have a new author interview to share with everyone. This one is with an author with an extraordinary story, both in terms of the novel he’s published and his own life experiences. Allow me to introduce Jason Stokes, author of the new novel Watcher.

Rami Ungar: Welcome to the show, Jason. Please tell us about yourself and about Watcher.

Jason Stokes: My name is Jason Stokes. I am a writer and artist currently living in the mountains of western North Carolina.

Watcher is about a young woman diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis who witnesses a horrific crime via hacked webcams. Due to her own lifestyle, she is forced to make a decision between preserving her own safety and seeking justice for a woman she’s never met. In the process she finds herself against the most powerful citizens in her city and untangling a web of corruption that involves nearly everyone she meets.

RU: You wrote Watcher while taking care of your life, who has MS, and who gave a lot of input on the story. Can you tell us what that was like?

JS: It felt like it was time for a character that had the same struggles I’ve seen her go through and exposed the way caretakers in chronically ill lives support those they care about. I wanted her to have a hero she could relate to. She was invaluable, answering questions about how she would handle specific situations, helping me walk in her shoes and uncovering things I had never thought of.

RU: Did the idea for the novel evolve out of your wife’s diagnosis? Or did it influence an already-existing idea?

JS: I had an idea but It was all wrong. It was overdone and I wasn’t feeling excited by it. When I asked myself, how would she (my wife) handle this? It started to come together. I saw a story that had more depth and stakes that were higher than your average mystery/suspense story. When she (the MC)  wakes up every morning she is already at a disadvantage and it doesn’t get any easier from there.

RU: You founded the company, Gestalt Media, that published Watcher. Why go that route?

JS: Ultimately I’m a control freak but I also want to have a role in bringing forward original projects. I wanted full control over my own work and knew the stigma of self-publishing but I also know several creators and I wanted to help bring their projects to fruition. I’m currently working with an artist/writer to publish a series of offbeat comics sometime this year.

RU: On Twitter, you spoke about how a local bookstore refused to carry Watcher. Can you tell us why and how that made you feel?

JS: The store in question refused to carry Watcher because the main character has MS but I (the author) do not. Their stance is not unique. It is a trend among publishers and retail stores to insist on own voices and to refuse books by those outside of the represented  community. I felt that as my wife’s caretaker for the last six years, I have lived this as much as anyone aside from her. I wrote it with extreme care and respect and sought her input through the entire process. The fact is, there are people whose stories deserve to be told that may not be able to for whatever reason put it into words. As authors it is our responsibility to interpret and share the world. We often take ourselves out of the equation. If it’s done with respect, care and attention to the group being represented that should be enough.

I don’t think the store itself is wrong for their viewpoint. It’s their choice but I disagree with the narrow lane it provides for future literature. As I’ve said, it’s a good intent with misguided execution.

RU: I know this is tough to ask, but how are you and your wife doing these days?

JS: As well as we can. It’s a brutal disease and every day is a little worse than the last but we stay in good spirits. She’s a fighter, a true inspiration and I’m proud to stand beside her on this journey. As long as research continues we have something to look forward to. Anything can happen.

The cover for “Watcher” by Jason Stokes.

RU: That’s good. Can you tell us what your writing process is like, if you have one?

JS: I subscribe heavily to the tenets of the Snowflake theory outlined by Randy Ingermanson. Generally I will come up with a character or a situation I find appealing. Something that isn’t often seen or a new angle. Then I’ll place it in a world and find a central scene, something that brings the story to life. From there I’ll build out starting with a two or three sentence synopsis, then a few paragraphs, then a list of scenes, until the whole things appears.

RU: Are you working on anything now or have any future plans as far as writing goes?

JS: Too many things! There’s never a shortage of ideas and projects begging for time. I have another novel coming in time for Halloween. Ghost Story is the beginning of a series involving a protagonist that can see the dead on a road trip to discover more about his exceptionally unusual past.

RU: What advice would you have for other writers, no matter their background or level of experience?

JS: I’m going to quote Chuck Wendig ‘Finish your sh*t.’ You have to finish. As scary as it is. As difficult as it can seem. The real journey begins when you write ‘the end.’

RU: And finally, if you were stuck on a desert island for a while and could only bring three books with you, which ones would you take?

JS: Well, I think it would be only prudent to include the Worst Case Scenario Survival Guide. Alternately the Boyscouts of America field book if it was available. Next I’d bring along Robinson Crusoe for obvious reasons and Jurassic Park because it is the single most entertaining novel I’ve ever read.

RU: Thank you for being on the show, Jason, and the best of luck to you and your wife, both with Watcher and in life.

If you would like to check out Watcher (I’ve already sent a request into my local library to order a couple copies), you can get it for Kindle and in paperback from Amazon. If you’re interested in more of Jason Stokes, check him out on Twitter. I highly recommend you consider doing both.

And if you would like to be interviewed for an upcoming or recent release, either check out my Interviews page or send an email to ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com, and we’ll see if we can’t make some magic happen.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Oh my God, it’s finally Day 10! We’re at the end! Whoop whoop!

So if you’re tired of me posting every day (sometimes twice daily), don’t worry, I’m planning on going back to my one-or-twice-a-week schedule after this. It’s too much of a hassle to keep posting day after day after day like this. It was still fun to share my favorite books with you, but still. a lot of work.

Anyway, here’s the rules for the Ten Day Book Challenge, brought to you by my cousin Matthew (who is probably glad this thing he started is coming to an end):

  • Thank whoever nominated you with big, bold print. If they have a blog, link to the post where you got tagged there.
  • Explain the rules.
  • Post the cover of a book that was influential on you or that you love dearly.
  • Explain why (because I don’t see the point of just posting a picture of a book cover without an explanation. That goes for Facebook as well as blogs).
  • Tag someone else to do the challenge, and let them know they’ve been tagged.

So for the last day of the Ten Day Book Challenge, I picked a book I read quite recently. Actually, I finished reading it on Day Four, on the ride back from the chiropractor’s. The book is the Future Days Anthology from my publisher Castrum Press:

There are several reasons why I wanted to highlight the Future Days Anthology. Obviously, it’s from my publisher, so I wanted to highlight it and support them, even if I’m not in this anthology (maybe I’ll be in a later one). Besides, supporting small presses and their authors allows for decent competition in the publishing industry and allows the authors to feel their hard work has paid off, which is never a bad thing.

Another reason why I wanted to highlight Future Days is because it’s fairly recent: it was only published August 15th this year, so it’s barely been out a month. The first couple of months a book is out is very important, so I’m happy to spread the word.

But the most important reason is because, let’s face it, this is some damn good sci-fi!

As I mentioned in my most recent interview with Matthew Williams (who is also in this anthology) I’ve always been of the opinion that good science-fiction should show us a reflection of humanity’s current state, as well as what humanity could do in the future. The Future Days anthology does this quite well, in my opinion. First, it takes a lot of issues that we’re currently dealing with as a species today–overpopulation, the disparity between the wealthy and the poor, and corporate power over common people’s lives–and explores how those issues might shape our lives in the generations to come.

As for where we’re going as a species,* that’s given a lot of exploration too. Space exploration to be exact: many stories deal with the challenges humans might encounter once interplanetary travel and off-world colonization becomes possible. Who will pilot and care for the ships during the long travels between worlds? What will be the physical and psychological effects of such travel? Are there ways to get between planets faster?

The value of human life also gets plenty of examination: what happens when, in an increasingly technological age, we’re no longer able to hold jobs now occupied by machines? How much sway do the powerful have over the lives of the weak?

I could go on, but then why spoil the fun? If you’re looking for some decent hard science fiction, look no further than the Future Days Anthology. With several great stories from a variety of excellent sci-fi authors, you’ll be transported when you read it. Don’t believe me? Go to Amazon now and check out some of the reviews (including the one I left). And if you’re still not convinced, just read the book. Believe me, it’s worth it.

And before I forget, I have to nominate someone. Adan Ramie, you’re tagged! I look forward to seeing what you put out.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. With September here, Halloween is approaching, as is just about everything else awesome about this season. And I’m going to revel in every aspect of it.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

*Or where you’re going as a species. I still maintain I’m only half-human on the best of days, and there’s plenty of proof that’s not just me messing around.

Last year I had the pleasure of reading The Cronian Incident, a science fiction novel by my good friend and fellow writer, Matthew Williams. I found it a very engaging and deep sci-fi novel, and I was glad to hear that Matt had a sequel in the works. Last week, Matt released the follow-up to The Cronian Incident, The Jovian Manifesto, and I got my copy courtesy of Matt and the publisher, Castrum Press (my publisher too!). In order to celebrate the new book’s release, I thought I’d bring Matt back on for an interview.

So without further ado, let’s begin!

Rami Ungar: Welcome back to my blog, Matt! Tell the folks around here who don’t know you who you are and what you do.

Matthew Williams: Well, my name is Matt Williams, I am a resident of Vancouver Island in beautiful British Columbia, Canada. I live with my wife and cat, and I am a writer for Universe Today. In my spare time, I write (obviously), teach Taekwon-Do and generally enjoy the place where we live.

RU: Tell us about your two books in the Formist series, The Cronian Incident and The Jovian Manifesto.

MW: Both novels are set in the late 23rd century, at a time when the human race has expanded to colonize almost every body in the Solar System. In the Inner Worlds – Venus, Earth and Mars – life is characterized by advancement, augmentation and post-humanity. In the Outer Worlds, on the moons of Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus, are the people who have chosen to live a simpler existence, one that respects the line between humanity and machinery.

The story begins with the kidnapping of a high-profile man from Mars who belongs to the Formist faction (hence the name). These are the people who are dedicated to terraforming Mars so that their citizens can finally achieve the dream of living on the surface without pressurized domes or radiation shields. The Formists hire a special investigator to solve the kidnapping, a former member of Interpol named Jeremiah Ward who’s serving out a prison sentence in a penal colony on Mercury.

In investigating the disappearance of the Formists’ associate, Ward will uncover a plot that is centuries in the making. In the end, he will have to make the ultimate choice between doing what is right, and what may keep him alive.

RU: What’s different about writing The Jovian Manifesto, both in terms of content and just in writing the story?

The Cronian Incident, Book 1 in the Formist series.

MW: For starters, TJM is the second installment in what is planned to be a trilogy. As such, it has a darker tone than the first book. There’s also much more action, which was an absolute must for me! After taking the time to build the setting in Book I, I wanted the protagonists to be thrown into the thick of it. Of course, this book also introduces a few new main characters and a few new settings. This gave me a chance to tell new stories and create some new worlds, which is always fun.

RU: TJM features a female-led cast, something we’re seeing a lot more in various media. Was that intentional on your part?

MW: Not originally, no. In the first book, most of the story is told from a single POV – Jeremiah Ward’s. I wanted the second book to be told from multiple points of view and had several characters in mind when plotting it out. As it turned out, all of the new characters were strong, motivated and independently-minded women. When this was pointed out to me – by my friend and colleague, Rami Ungar, no less! – I was quite pleased. I had not embarked on this book looking to make the cast female-led, but I was happy it worked out that way. I’ve often worried that as a male writer, I would default to writing male leads, or find that writing female characters was more difficult. It pleased me to see that this was not the case.

RU: This is your second book with Castrum Press, and you also have a short story featured in their anthology, Future Days. What’s it been like working with Castrum?

MW: It’s been excellent, really. As a recently-established publishing house led by experienced writers, they know the particular struggles that new writers face. It’s also very clear that they are interested in promoting new talent, which is something you don’t see a lot of these days in the publishing industry. Also, it gives me a chance to entrust my work to people who have been part of the industry and know what it takes to succeed in it. That’s very reassuring to a newly-established writer, and something that independent authors don’t get to enjoy.

RU: Science fiction is often described as a lens towards what the future could be, as well as what our society looks like now. Do you agree with that sentiment? And what do you think the Formist series says about humanity?

The Jovian Manifesto, Book 2 of the Formist series.

MW: Absolutely. Science fiction has always been about predicting what the future will look like, but that always comes down to how the world looks today. In that respect, science fiction books are an extension of the present-day world and are intended to convey messages about the direction it is taking. As for my own work, I believe they reveal that regardless of the time period, or the level of development we will have reached, humanity will always be facing the same basic challenges. How do we ensure our survival and our future? How do we erase the dividing lines and learn to live together? How do we ensure that our most cherished values also survive?

RU: What are your plans for the future at the moment? More books in the Formist series, perhaps?

MW: Oh yes! I hope to write a third installment for this series and very much want to explore the universe I have created further. This could involve some origin stories, since some of the characters I have created have interesting pasts that would require a whole book to explain. I also hope to write additional trilogies that take place farther down the road. But of course, that all depends on how the Formist series shapes up. And of course, I have several other ideas I would like to see in print.

RU: What are some stories, science-fiction or otherwise, that you are reading now and would recommend?

MW: I recently finished The Dispossessed and The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin, both of which I would strongly recommend. I also finished Halting State and Rule 34 by Charles Stross, Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge, and House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds. I recommend all of these books to people who are fans of classic science fiction, space opera and near-future speculative fiction.

RU: Rule 34? I thought that was just an Internet meme. Should I ask or…? Moving on: if you could pick a fictional universe to live in, which one would it be and what would you do there?

MW: Good question, and one which I really haven’t pondered much. I suppose if I had to choose, I would live in the universe dreamed up by the late and great Frank Herbert – i.e. Dune. I figure I could help with the terraforming of Arrakis given all the research I’ve done on the subject. I have always wanted to try The Spice too, and I figure I would be able to look out for myself since I know how the series goes. Plus, I would absolutely want to see what travelling through folded space feels like!

RU: Final question: Look out! A sandworm out of the Dune universe is about to attack! What do you do?

MW: Ooh, that’s a tough one to answer! Deploy a thumper, stand back, and get your hooks ready, because we’re going for a ride!

RU: I’ll pretend I know what that means, because I’ve been bad and haven’t read the Dune books yet. Thanks for being with us, Matt! I hope both books do very well!

That’s the end of the interview, folks. If you would like to keep up with Matthew Williams, you can check out his blog, Stories by Williams. You can also check out his writings through his Amazon page and through his Universe Today page. And of course, you can check out his Facebook and Twitter pages. And I highly recommend you check out his books, The Cronian Incident and The Jovian Manifesto. I found the former to be a great example of hard science fiction, and I can’t wait to start on the latter.

And if you have a new book out and want an interview, check out my Interviews page and leave me a comment. We’ll see if we can’t make some magic happen.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll hopefully see you very soon with more to talk about. Until then, pleasant nightmares!

Hello, Followers of Fear, and welcome to our first author interview of the year. Today we have a previous guest who has been my friend for a number of years. She’s written several books and has even visited my house when I was still living with my dad, the first author friend/blog friend to ever do so. And today, she’s here to talk about the two books she published in 2017, Unfinished and Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare (I’ve requested my local library to order copies, and I’m still waiting to hear back). Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Pat Bertram!

RU: Welcome back, Pat. It’s good to have you here again. Now as I mentioned above, you published two books in 2017, Unfinished and Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare. Please tell us what they’re about.

PB: Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare is about fun, dance, and murder! When Pat’s adult dance classmates discover she is a published author, the women suggest she write a mystery featuring the studio and its aging students. One sweet older lady laughingly volunteers to be the victim, and the others offer suggestions to jazz up the story. Pat starts writing, and then . . . the dying begins.

Unfinished is about buried secrets and a woman finding herself when she finds herself alone. While sorting through her deceased husband’s effects, Amanda is shocked to discover a gun and the photo of an unknown girl who resembles their daughter. After dedicating her life to David and his vocation as a pastor, the evidence that her devout husband kept secrets devastates Amanda. But Amanda has secrets of her own. . .

RU: You weren’t writing fiction for quite a while. What made you get back into it?

PB: I don’t like leaving things unfinished, and besides, both Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare and Unfinished deserved to be written. So I just . . . wrote.

RU: I love it when a story makes you want to write it. So tell us, what was the inspiration for the two novels?

PB: That’s easy. The inspiration for Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare came from my dance class. It was their idea, and they provided the fodder for the characters. Inspiration for Unfinished came from my life. Too often, I have read novels where the spouse dies, and after a few perfunctory tears, the one left behind continues as if nothing ever happened. Grief does not work that way. It’s not so much that we go through grief, but that grief goes through us, and I wanted to show the truth, both about the changes such an upheaval brings and the courage it takes to accept those changes.

RU: Now, Madame ZeeZee’s was based on you and your dance class and classmates. How much of them and of you made it into the novel?

Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare by Pat Bertram

PB: Many of my dance class mates — and the teacher! — made it into the novel. For the sake of reader’s sanity, a couple of times, I combined two or three women into one character. (Too many non-essential characters in a book confuse me as a reader, and I can only assume others are the same). And, though he isn’t a classmate, a fellow I know by the name of Rami Ungar made it into the book. As for me — well, Pat is Pat. At least, I think she is. I know one thing — if I ever decide to write a series, I will use Pat as the main character. It was incredibly easy writing myself as a character — I didn’t have to create characteristics, either positive or negative, and the character arc came naturally.

RU: I love that we’re both characters in your book! And your characterization of me is a lot nicer than what most people give me when they write me into a story.

What about Unfinished? Did you or anyone else you know make it into that book as characters?

PB: I seem to write only about me anymore. Although I gave that poor woman a different name and a different life, she was definitely me. At least everything she felt, I felt.

RU: What were your biggest challenges writing these novels and how did you overcome them?

PB: The biggest challenge is always me. Some writers can sit down at a keyboard and the story flows from their fingertips as if it wants to be written. In my case, I have to drag every word from somewhere deep in my brain, and sometimes the effort is more than I want to make.

For Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, when I got tired of trying to figure things out or to search for the proper words, I went to class and asked the appropriate “character” what she wanted me to do. It’s amazing how simple that makes everything! Other times, I used something that happened in class to push me along.

For Unfinished, I had to persevere. Make the determination to finish the book and just do it. It was hard, though, dredging up all those feelings.

RU: Are you working on anything now?

Unfinished by Pat Bertram

PB: I am finishing a fifty-day blog challenge, to blog every day for fifty days. And I have a sort of apocalyptic novel I am decidedly NOT working on. I have a mental block against the poor thing because I was working on it when Jeff (my life mate/soul mate) died, but one of these days, I will get my head in gear and find the determination to work on it.

RU: And finally, what are your writing goals for 2018?

PB: I intend to keep up the daily blogging, at least a while longer. In May, I plan to take a road/camping/hiking trip along the Pacific coast (or near the coast anyway), and I hope that experience will bring me insights for fabulous blog posts. As for fiction — well, real life has me in its clutches. Hopefully, I will be able to free myself one day and get back into the alternate reality of fiction.

RU: Well, thank you for joining us Pat. It’s always a pleasure to speak with you.

If you would like to check out Unfinished, Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, or any of Pat’s other books, you can check out her Amazon page. I also highly encourage you to check out her website, her blog, and her Facebook. Trust me, she’s someone full of strength and insight, and you can benefit from knowing her.

And if you have a book coming out in the near future, hit me up on my Interviews page, and we’ll make some magic happen. Have a great evening, Followers of Fear. Until next time (probably Saturday), pleasant nightmares!

Today, we have a new interview that I’m very excited to share with you, because it features someone very special. Matthew Williams is one of the oldest friends I have in the blogosphere (by length of relationship, not age), as well as something of an inspiration and mentor for me. A science-fiction writer out of British Columbia, Canada, he’s created quite a few stories over the years, as well as written a number of science articles for Universe Today.

And today, I’m bringing him onto this show to discuss a very special book, The Cronian Incident, being published by Castrum Press next month. Let’s get this party started!

Rami Ungar: Welcome to the show, Matt. Tell us a little about yourself, both as a person and a writer.

Matthew Williams: My name is Matt Williams. I was born in Ottawa, moved to the West Coast in 2006, and have lived on Vancouver Island with my wife and family ever since. I studied history and the social sciences in University and was a high school and elementary teacher for about ten years. I quit teaching in 2015 to pursue writing full-time and am now a regular contributor to Universe Today and the Curator of their Guide to Space section. In my spare time, I write science fiction that’s focused on hard science and the human condition.

RU: Why does science and science fiction appeal to you so much?

MW: A good question. On the one hand, I spent my formative years watching some of the best science fiction movies and series’ of all time – Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Babylon 5, etc. I was always drawn to SF because as a child, I was always a daydreamer, the kind of kid who would rather be thinking about fictitious universes than paying attention in class! As I grew older, I began to contemplate creating my own SF, the kinds of things I knew fans like me would enjoy.

I was also drawn to science from a very young age. In addition to having a starter chemistry set, I loved circuit boards and broken electronics, which I would take apart and play with for hours on end. As Arthur C. Clarke once said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” To me, these things were magic! That fascination has not diminished by time. The more I’ve come to know about science, technology, and the complex relationship we humans have with them, the more fascinated I have become.

RU: Tell us about your new book, The Cronian Incident, and how you came up with it.

MW: The Cronian Incident takes place in the late 23rd century, where humanity has colonized the Solar System. On every planet, moon, asteroid, and in rotating cylinders at the Sun’s Lagrange Points, human settlements have been established. Whereas people in the Inner Solar System (known as Extros) live lives characterized by post-scarcity, clinical immortality, and endless augmentation, people in the Outer Solar System (Retros) live a simpler life. For generations, this situation has been the norm. But as the story begins, we find that some people have plans which could threaten to upset the delicate balance.

The inspiration came largely from my professional writing. For years, I have been doing articles about the planets of the Solar System for Universe Today. After finishing an article about the planet Mercury, I began talking to a friend about how humans could live there someday. Before long, I felt the seed of an idea being planted in my mind! I then went about planning a story that would realistically address how humans would go about living on all the planets of the Solar System.

For years, I had also been contemplating the idea of how changes here on Earth would drive human colonization of space. I eventually came up with an idea for a Solar System that was divided between people who embraced the development of AI, nanotechnology and biotechnology (and all the revolutionary changes that will follow) and those who chose to stick to a more traditional way of life.

Not long ago, I decided to marry these two sources of inspiration together. And from that, The Cronian Incident was born!

RU: What sort of research and work went into writing the book?

MW: The research was actually pretty incidental. For years, I’ve been studying climate change, technological change, and all the predictions that are constantly being made about the future. And my day job, as a writer for Universe Today, involved a tremendous amount of research into space exploration, planetary science, physics and astronomy. It wasn’t long before the things I was researching and writing about started to give me ideas! After a while, I came up with one I was particularly fond of and began committing it to paper.

RU: How do you approach writing sci-fi? Is there a particular sub-genre or style you prefer?

MW: My preference is towards speculative and hard science fiction. As long as I can remember, I was fascinated by those stories that made predictions about the future that were based on hard science. Granted, most of these predictions do not come true. But it’s the very act of predicting where we are going based on what we are currently experiencing that makes it all worthwhile.

RU: Do you see yourself writing further stories in the universe of The Cronian Incident?

MW: Indeed! In fact, I am currently working on the sequel and the publisher and I hope to have it ready for release in a few months. The book was never meant to be a standalone, and I plan to take this fictional universe (known as the Formist Series) as far as I possibly can.

RU: You used to be exclusively a self-published author, but now you’re working with a publishing house. What made you decide to become what is known as a hybrid author?

MW: In truth, I always wanted to follow the traditional publishing route. However, I had decided that rather than wait to be discovered, I would promote myself. And the interesting thing was that it was precisely the strategies that I was pursuing as an independent that landed me an offer from a publishing house.

In today’s world, a writer needs to promote their writing and their ideas using social media and all other digital means at their disposal. And publishers – the good ones at least! – make sure to peruse these sites in order to find aspiring writers they think have promise.

RU: What’s on the horizon for you at this point?

MW: Well, there’s the work I’m putting in on The Cronian Incident’s sequel. That will certainly eat up plenty of my time for now! And once the two books are out, I hope to attend book signings, science fiction cons, and other events. Basically, I would like to connect with the readers and see what they have to say about the Formist Series.

Beyond that, I hope to expand the Formist Series further. And of course, I have many other ideas I want to work on and eventually bring to light, ranging from near-future stories to a few space opera ideas. And of course, there’s my day job and writing about space news. That’s something I hope to do for many years to come!

RU: If you had to give advice to any writer, regardless of experience or background, what would you tell them?

If ever I find myself in the position to give advice, I like to share the five main lessons I have learned over the years. Many of these were passed on to me by other writers of note, or just people I have come to respect a great deal. And some is stuff I learned on my own

  1. Do what you love, the money will follow – It sounds cliché, but if you love what you’re doing, it won’t feel like work. And in the end, all the hard work and sacrifice you put in are sure to pay off!
  2. In the meantime, keep your day-job – Whatever you’ve been doing to pay the bills, keep doing it until you know for a fact that you can commit to your writing full-time.
  3. Don’t wait to be discovered – You don’t need to limit yourself to shopping out manuscripts to publishers and waiting six months just to hear back. Utilize new media – blog, tweet, post, share, link, reblog, and share – to let the world know you are a writer and what you have to offer.
  4. Find your voice – When committing to writing, make sure you do your homework first and find out who (if anyone) has written something similar. Also, it pays to know the difference between different subgenres and styles of writing, so you can find the one that works best for you.
  5. Be patient – as my father would tell me, “It takes 20 years to become an overnight success”. No matter what you are doing, it will take time for it to get off the ground. Don’t expect instant results or even to succeed on the first try.

RU: Finally, if you were stuck on a desert island for a while and could only take three books with you, which would you take?

MW: Ouch, tough one! But I guess I would have to choose 1984, Neuromancer, The Diamond Age, Accelerando and Finnegan’s Wake. The first four are masterpieces of science fiction that had a profound influence on me. While the last book is not a science fiction novel, it is a classic of western literature. And I think that if I were trapped on a desert island, I might just have the time and mental energy to figure it out!

RU: That actually sounds more like five, but I’ll let it pass this time. Thanks for being on the show, Matt! I hope the book does well.

If you would like to check out The Cronian Incident, due out September 15th, you can pre-order it from Amazon. And if you would like to know more about Matthew Williams, you can check him out on his blog, Stories by Williams, as well as Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. He’s a great guy, so give his stuff a look.

And if you are an author and would like to be interviewed, check out my Interviews page and we’ll make some magic happen.

That’s all for now. Until next time, my Followers of Fear!