Luci de Foix is an archeologist and artifact expert who travels extensively to country’s attempt to save their priceless treasures. On a trip to Greece, she discovers a clay shard with writings from an ancient society that disappeared during an earthquake on their island of Helike. When her best friend and adopted sister, Sarah, is kidnapped by a ruthless Russian oligarch determined to find the legendary treasure of Helike, they struggle to survive against terrifying odds, only to discover a secret that governments will kill for…even her own.
As a kid, I grew up in Inglewood, California, my mom worked as a waitress, my dad had left and we were very poor, so poor that the leftovers from others at the restaurant were given to us for food. It was a nice restaurant so we really did get pretty terrific food. This left me with my mom gone, hours to write. I was left alone most nights and for me, writing became an escape. I could be anyone, a wealthy person, an artist, or an actress. It was all in my imagination and I had big dreams.
Who has informed your writing the most over the years?
As a child, I read everything that my school library had in biographies. Women that were courageous, women of science, women who made a difference in other’s lives.
Can you tell us a little about archeologist Luci De Foix?
Luci de Foix was placed in an orphanage after her parent’s death. Little did she know that there was a group of men, The Order, that had been watching her family for hundreds of years, waiting for the opportunity to acquire a very important codex.
What is the relationship like between Luci and Sarah?
Luci met Sarah at the orphanage, two lonely little girls who found one another, helped each other, protected one another. Luci’s grandparents who lived in France, finally found Luci and came to take her home. They saw the friendship between Luci and Sarah and didn’t want to tear them away from each other, after many months, Sarah was adopted and came to live with Luci and her grandparents
What are they up against in Death Is an Illusion?
Sarah became an expert in computer science and was on a scientific expedition in Greece where the group came across evidence of an island that had long been forgotten, Helike. Some of the people survived and made they’re way across oceans to South America carrying with them a very special plant that could heal the sick forever. Many people that were on that expedition told others, namely the Russians who were out to acquire that plant. Sarah flew home to have Luci come with her to Greece and read shards of pottery pinpointing the location of the lost tribe of the Helike’s.
What are some interesting facts you discovered in your research?
Something I discovered in a BBC magazine was that there was an island, Helike that was destroyed by a volcano and a tsunami. Aristotle believed that this was Atlantis. Something that all of us know is that there are many plants in S America with healing properties, the land is being destroyed by loggers and others. Soon there will be no plants to help us as a people.
Have you ever been to Greece?
I’ve never been to Greece, had a missed opportunity on a sailboat. Maybe one day, I’d like to see what they’ve found of Helike.
What’s next for you?
A continuation of the adventures of Luci de Foix. I wrote her first book, The Black Madonna: A Popes Deadly Obsession, and I would like her and her friends to find the book John Dees was writing about Angels. His delving into alchemy and gold. That should be a fun mix.
About L Lee Kane
Linda L. Kane MA in Education, PPS, School Psychologist, and Learning Disability Specialist, is the author of Death on the Vine, Chilled to the Bones, Death Among Us, Non-Fiction with Nina Amir, The Black Madonna, A Popes Deadly Obsession, The Sorceress, and Death is Only An Illusion. She has written several children’s books, including Clyde to the Rescue, Matty’s Adventures in Numberland, Cowboy Jack and Buddy Save Santa, Katerina Ballerina, and Witch Number is Which. She lives with her husband, two dogs, and eight horses in California. Writers’ Associations: Sisters in Crime. The Open Book, A Novel Idea, 2nd Chance Romance, Make Mine Mystery, The Mystery Reader, Romance Writers, and Writer Unboxed. Articles written: Kings River Life, Make Mine Mystery, Woodward Lake Magazine, Audere, Master University with Nina Amir, and Dark Rose. Social Media: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, and Youtube.
An exquisitely written and nuanced biography of an exceptional individual and writer who has created the # 1 international bestselling hero Jack Reacher, revered by dedicated and loyal readers worldwide.
Lee Child has a great public persona: he is gracious and generous with readers and fans. But Jim Grant is a reticent and very private man.
This rags-to-riches literary and social biography is based principally on disarmingly frank personal conversations and correspondence with the author since 2016 and privileged access to archival materials. It consists almost entirely of original material, and is the nearest thing the world is likely to get to the autobiography he does not intend to write.
There are a handful of great Lee Child/Reacher stories that have been recycled over and over again. They are so good that no one has bothered to look beyond them. This book revisits (and sometimes revises) those irresistible stories, but goes back further and digs deeper. The emphasis on chronology, accuracy and specificity is unprecedented.
The Lee Child origin myth is much loved. But mostly it sees him springing fully formed from the brow of Granada Television. There are glancing references to Aston Villa and the schoolyard, but no one has examined the social and historical detail or looked closely at where Lee really came from: the people, places and period.
This is the first time someone has described the Lee Child arc: from peaceful obscurity in the Yorkshire Dales and Upstate New York to cult figure, no. 1 in America, rock star, celebrity and publishing institution through to backlash, the changing zeitgeist, and intimations of retirement. The analysis of the emotional power and significance of Lee’s work in the final chapters—the themes of happiness, addiction, dependency, loneliness, and existential absurdity—and the first-hand retrospective accounts of his life and second-act career are all exclusive to this definitive biography.
Family. I was lucky. I clearly remember my father reading aloud to me at bedtime: The Wind in the Willows, The Magic Pudding, The Way of the Whirlwind, the highly coloured bush poetry of Henry Lawson. He sang a lot of songs to me, too, which are little stories in themselves. His parents had a houseful of books, including all the popular series of the day: the Famous Five, the Secret Seven, My Naughty Little Sister, What Katy Did, Anne of Green Gables. I would sit on the floor with our dog, reading, or take a book and disappear up the mulberry tree. This was in West Australia, not England where I live now!
What was your first impression of Lee Child after reading his books for the first time?
I had no impression of Lee Child after reading his books for the first time. I gave the writer no thought at all. It was Reacher who filled my mind. When I finished one Reacher book, all I thought about was where I was going to find the next one. Which Lee would entirely approve of. I only really started to think about the writer after I met the man. It was only then that my attention was drawn explicitly to the skill of his writing. But I suspect my willingness to submit to the power of the story without stopping to think where it came from (this despite my professional background in literary criticism) is itself testament to that skill. Very quickly, however, the writer became even more interesting to me than his creation – as the origin of Reacher, because he contained Reacher within him, but also in many ways exceeded him.
What fascinates you about why people love telling and hearing stories?
I notice you’ve adopted Lee’s preferred terminology, of ‘telling’ and ‘hearing’, which emphasises the aural, which reminds us that in one form or other storytelling goes right back to the beginning of human history, back before the invention of writing. I find his view compelling: that stories were, and remain, important because they encourage, embolden and empower us, by allowing us to see the world in new ways and glimpse new possibilities – different plot lines and alternative endings, if you like. An effective story takes us out of ourselves for the duration of our reading – like a song does, but for longer – while also inviting an intense connection, through empathy or identification, with the characters, and beyond them, even if we don’t realise it, the writer. For better or worse, we escape our own lives and live instead in the world of the book.
What do you appreciate about the way Lee Child tells a story?
Another big question! Presumably the fact that it feels like someone’s ‘telling’ me the story! What is commonly referred to as narrative ‘voice’. His voice has an effortless quality to it, which is down to his acute sense of rhythm and timing. But the appearance of effortlessness tends to be an effect of great artistry – the accomplishment of someone who is master of his craft. And mixed in with those musical qualities you have the sweeping historical vision, the unique mix of humour and pathos, and plenty of painterly and poetic touches too, especially in the depiction of weather and the evocation of landscape. I’m always surprised by the range and rhetoric of Lee’s discourse, and his idiosyncratic turn of phrase in both speech and writing. Contrary to popular opinion, I think his voice, while very distinctive, is almost impossible to imitate without lapsing into parody.
What was your initial reaction when Lee Child asked you to write his biography?
It wasn’t really like that. He never outright asked me. It was more an agreement we reached over the course of a long conversation. Whenever we met, which at first was a purely social thing, he would tell me stories about his life growing up in the Midlands, which was very different to mine growing up on the west coast of Australia. It was the same when we corresponded. I loved those stories in miniature, that teased and tantalised and left me wanting more. I guess I was always asking questions, with one question leading inexorably to the next, a form of research that was entirely organic, but when the idea of a biography took hold it proved impossible to shake off. It felt to me like the book I was meant to write, and I think Lee, in his empathetic way, sensed that too. But to be given formal permission to go ahead? That was a thrilling moment, and that’s for damn sure!
What was it like working with him?
Pure unalloyed pleasure. Because of the situation I’ve just described – the ongoing conversation. And we got to meet up in all sorts of places, many of them new to me. I’d try to catch him on the wing in the UK whenever I could, and then I had the great good fortune of spending a year in New York, which made it easier to fit in with his crazy schedule. It was there I did most of the writing, and had the chance to look through family photos, which was so illuminating. He was very generous with his time, and remarkably non-interventionist. Maybe I was just good at self-censorship, but despite this being an authorised biography there were very few things he asked me not to write. He never tried to tell me how to do things, but simply encouraged me to follow my own storytelling instinct. So yes, emboldening and empowering, without a doubt!
What were some of the challenges of writing?
The biggest challenge was structure. I wanted to tell the story in a broadly chronological way (and I did), but there was no escaping Reacher from page one. It was immediately obvious that anyone reading the book would already know that Lee Child was the author of a bestselling series, so to wait until his thirty-ninth year before introducing Reacher would be absurd. Instead I found myself telling the stories of Lee Child, Jack Reacher and Jim Grant (who created them both) all at once. But I tried not to overthink it. I just let Reacher pop up where the narrative journey took him, as is the case in the novels. And I conceived of each chapter as a self-contained story, governed by a single moment or idea or image, which I think helps the reader too. It’s a big book, but that approach makes it easy to dip in and out. If you were to ask Lee the same question, he would say the biggest problem was that of memory – how individual it is, and how different people often have differing recollections of the same event.
After writing his biography, how has your view of storytelling, the works of Lee Child, and his craft changed?
Though all the words remain exactly the same, his books resonate with me now on a more personal level. And even as he has so spectacularly escaped his origins, as was always his wish, I see that his loyalty to the Midlands remains as fierce as ever. We’ve had some fascinating conversations since The Reacher Guy was published at the end of September, mostly in the context of all the brilliant digital festivals we’ve done in lieu of our planned live events (postponed, circumstances permitting, to next year). Reading the story of his own life has given even Lee new perspective on it, and brought certain moments and experiences more sharply into focus. At the same time, we’ve both become more conscious of the overlap between fiction and creative non-fiction – two variations on the storytelling theme.
Lee Child comments: “I met Heather Martin some years ago, and we started talking about why people love telling and hearing stories. To get more depth and detail we started talking about why I do. Eventually I said, ‘If you want to really get to the bottom of it, you’re going to have to write my biography.’ So she did. It was a fun and illuminating process. I had forgotten a lot, and it was fascinating to be reminded. Now it all makes sense.”
An insomnia pandemic is sweeping the globe, leaving people unable to function and society on the brink of collapse…
Dr. Cooper Delaney believes he has the answer: Noctural, a new sleep-aid—one with absolutely no side-effects—which in early testing shows 100% effectiveness.
The only problem is, it doesn’t work. With no warning. No explanation.
Unable to accept the drug’s inexplicable failure and unwilling to concede to the competition, lines are crossed, ethical boundaries are pushed to the breaking point, and disturbing realizations come to light that could completely unravel civilization as we know it… and throw into question humanity’s place in the universe.
A jetset medical thriller meets sci-fi adventure with an unforgettable cast of characters, Percivious Insomnia presents an alternate history so compelling that it could possibly be true. The first book in the Percivious Trilogy from husband-wife author duo JJ Cook & AJ Cook, MD, Percivious Insomnia sets a unique and original course for fiction of the future, and paints a timely, prescient portrait of today’s globalized society… and what may exist beyond the realm of our current understanding.
Behind the plot of Percivious Insomnia was a singular idea or more specifically a question. What would happen if someone or something could exploit your sleep hours for their own benefit? This question blossomed in a separate direction for each of us, likely from the beginning. For AJ Cook, the story was based in science fiction and for JJ Cook it involved exploring an idea never considered before and how it would impact people individually and society as a whole. In the first chapter the reader meets Dr. Cooper Delaney, a talented star at a leading pharmaceutical company. His place at the beginning of the novel is critical and his role is what fostered our first discussions about the storyline. What was at first a collection of ideas captured on paper, eventually became sentences, which were then fashioned into paragraphs, chapters and finally the novel itself.
Medical research is at the heart of the novel. AJ Cook’s expertise brought plausible medical science to life in what would otherwise be a story of strictly fiction. Both of us are life-long learners, always curious about the why behind the what, and the depth of the characters echoes this sentiment throughout this first book in the trilogy. Elements of science were added specifically to provide believable explanations for key elements such as the description of our ancient humanoid cousins as well as the plateau of our own evolution referred to as human pinnacle theory in the novel. As the story unfolded, the science gathered through our research continually lead and supported the story to the point where it became eerie as we found ourselves launching a novel about a pandemic in the midst of a real one.
Writing with a spouse, quite literally, is a double-edged sword; pushing for the very best from each other and simultaneously disagreeing about major facets of the plot certainly make for an interesting dialogue on many nights. What keeps us balanced is a genuine love for this story, the anticipation of where it will lead next and the exhilaration we both experience when making breakthroughs with the plot, the characters and the marriage of science and fiction. Nothing is more rewarding than creating paragraphs that scream to be believed despite not being true. Authoring something that could be possible is second only to writing those few sentences that refuse to be forgotten. The ones that stay in your head long after you have finished reading them, or writing them in our case. It is important to us both that we keep up the momentum in this next novel, the second in the trilogy, Percivious Origins. We want the reader to fall in love with a new cast of characters, a new setting and quite literally a new world that will be required to reach the depths of this story. The base line of the first novel was that question we mentioned – what if someone or something could exploit our sleep hours? In the second novel, the entire premise revolves around the exploitation of a prehistoric plant and how it changed the course history and the destiny of our ancient humanoid cousins. Percivious Origins will amplify our place within the environment and the importance of respect and stability between Homosapiens and nature.
The overarching theme of the trilogy remains intact, the definition of Percivious – the ultimate in altruism. Self-sacrifice in order to benefit others with no regard to reward or reciprocity. This is the soul of all three novels and is the true reason we as a couple are so dedicated and passionate about this adventure – about writing together. We quite literally could not have penned this novel without one another. Finishing each other’s thoughts and sentences have quite literally become, in our case – not only possible…but a dream come true.
Alex Segura is a novelist and comic book and podcast writer. He is the author of the Anthony Award-nominated Pete Fernandez Miami Mystery series, which includes SILENT CITY, DOWN THE DARKEST STREET, DANGEROUS ENDS, BLACKOUT, and the upcoming MIAMI MIDNIGHT, all via Polis Books. He has also written a number of comic books, including the best-selling and critically acclaimed ARCHIE MEETS KISS storyline, the “Occupy Riverdale” story, ARCHIE MEETS RAMONES and THE ARCHIES one-shot and monthly series. He also co-created and co-wrote the LETHAL LIT podcast for Einhorn’s Epic Productions and iHeart Radio, which was named one of the Five Best Podcasts of 2018 by The New York Times. He lives in New York with his wife and son. He is a Miami native.
Steven James is a national bestselling novelist whose award-winning, pulse-pounding thrillers continue to gain wide critical acclaim and a growing fan base.
His latest novel, SYNAPSE, a near-future thriller, is set to release on October 8, 2019.
Suspense Magazine, who named Steven’s book EVERY WICKED MAN one of their “Best Books of 2018,” says that he “sets the new standard in suspense writing.” Publishers Weekly calls him a “master storyteller at the peak of his game,” and RT Book Reviews promises that “the nail-biting suspense will rivet you.”
Steven deftly weaves intense stories of psychological suspense with deep philosophical insights. As critically-acclaimed novelist Ann Tatlock put it, “Steven James gives us a captivating look at the fine line between good and evil in the human heart.”
Equipped with a unique Master’s Degree in Storytelling, he has taught writing and storytelling on four continents over the past two decades and has spoken more than two thousand times at events spanning the globe.
Steven’s groundbreaking books on the art of fiction writing, STORY TRUMPS STRUCTURE and TROUBLESHOOTING YOUR NOVEL, have both won Storytelling World Awards. Widely recognized for his story-crafting expertise, he teaches regularly as a Master Class instructor at ThrillerFest, North America’s premier training event for suspense writers. He also hosts the biweekly podcast, The Story Blender.
When Steven isn’t writing or speaking, you’ll find him trail running, rock climbing, or drinking dark roast coffee near his home in East Tennessee.
When Emma finds a dead body on her porch with her name written on the dead man’s hand, she uncovers a sinister clue to the mystery that has haunted her since childhood.
FBI Agent Emma Griffin is sent undercover to the small sleepy town of Feathered Nest to uncover the truth behind the strings of disappearances that has left the town terrified.
To Emma, there is nothing that can lay buried forever. Even though her own childhood has been plagued by deaths and disappearances. Her mother’s death, her father’s disappearance, and her boyfriend’s disappearance. The only cases that she hasn’t solved. Her obsession with finding out the truth behind her past was what led her to join the FBI.
Now, she must face what may be her biggest case. In cabin 13, there lies an uneasy feeling. The feeling of her movements being watched. When a knock on her door revealed a body on her porch and her name written on a piece of paper in the dead man’s hand. Suddenly, her worlds collide.
With the past still haunting her, Emma must fight past her own demons to stop the body count from rising.
The woods have secrets. And this idyllic town has dark and murderous ones. Either, she reveals them or risk them claiming her, too.
In Feathered Nest, nothing is what it seems.
The girl in cabin 13 is about to find out that the dead may have secrets of their own.
I’m always a sucker for FBI books. Insert The Girl in Cabin 13! It’s a good mystery with great suspense that’ll keep you turning the pages to find out what happens next. Told in first person point of view, author A.J. Rivers takes you deep into the mindset of embattled FBI Agent Emma Griffin. Good plot, characters that jump off the page, and a narrator that delivers a solid audiobook. Recommended!
How did you celebrate after finishing this novel?
I am a major coffee lover, so I really enjoy celebrating wrapping up a book by getting out of my writing room and relaxing with a good cup of flavored coffee. I drink my coffee black all the time, and I’m usually drinking very dark, robust blends. My favorite is actually called Death Wish. So when it’s time to relax and “indulge” a little, it’s with a cup of still black, but flavored coffee. My current choice is S’mores, but we’re getting close to pumpkin season. Since the end of books is always the most intense when it comes to writing, I also love to let off steam when I’m done by bringing my dog Daisy out for a long walk and enjoying the fresh air.
In your opinion, what are the pros and cons of writing a stand-alone novel vs. writing a series?
There is definitely a time and place for both. A stand-alone novel is a great opportunity to tell one focused, explosive story that doesn’t have to rely on any previous world-building or leave room for other books. It’s a shooting star situation. One bright moment that is contained within itself. Stand-alone is also great for much longer works. A series is all about creating a world for readers to live in. They get to know the characters like friends and family, and go on these adventures with them. It’s a blast to be able to revisit the same places, get to know the people, businesses, and little quirks, and keep up with them as time passes. It makes you want to keep coming back, so you keep reading the books. A series lets you explore big story arcs and delve deeper into the characters. But it also requires organization and attention to detail. You have to be able to come up with layered people and realistic places that readers will care about, as well as complex stories that can unfold a little at a time.
What’s your favorite:
I don’t have one set favorite, but I love Indian food. Chana masala is my go-to. I am always in the mood for raw vegetables or fruit salad.
Thriller, by Michael Jackson.
Dream Boy, by Jim Grimsley
Murder investigation shows, Matlock, Murder, She Wrote, Golden Girls, and in the spirit of full disclosure, my guilty pleasure shows include Catfish and anything having to do with Halloween through holiday cooking or baking
The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, Dirty Dancing, Ghostbusters, Nightmare Before Christmas
Beatles. Michael Jackson is my favorite musician, I love girl groups from the 50s and 60s, disco, and 80s music
Are any of those things referenced in appearance in your work?
All the time. Because I have some pretty obscure tastes in some ways, I sometimes find myself having my characters reference things or make jokes and cultural references I then wonder if the readers will even get, so I have to go back and replace them with something easier to recognize. Especially when it comes to music and movies. I’m not a huge movie person and the ones I particularly love are pretty old school, so when I whip out references to Luther Heggs, I have to remind myself that probably isn’t going to ring a ton of bells.
What bits of advice would you give to aspiring authors?
I’ll repeat the same thing that’s been said over and over, but that is so true. Write. Write. Write. Write all the time. Don’t just rely on your computer. Bring a notebook and pen around with you and write things down. You never know when you’re going to hear a phrase that inspires you, or get an idea, or even just hear a name that you like. Write it down. I also highly recommend talking through dialogue out loud. It can feel awkward at first, but the natural, believable conversations and thoughts are key to really enjoyable books. They make the characters more relatable and the action smoother. The best way to make that happen is to carry on the conversation. If you have a voice-to-text program on your computer, put it on and just talk through the conversation like you are the characters. Don’t worry about the spelling, punctuation, or accuracy at this point. Just talk it through as naturally as you can and let it come out. You can then take what you said and write it out in your draft with proper tags and action.
I’d also tell aspiring authors to take their writing seriously. There can be a lot of pressure to only seeing writing as art and something that can only be done in the right mood or situation. There is definitely art to good writing and crafting a book, and it’s always easier when the mood and inspiration are right, but if you are going to consistently create strong, enjoyable books, you have to see it as work. You have to work hard, get the words out even when they aren’t flowing smoothly, and be willing to edit mercilessly. The best advice I ever got was from my college professor who told me to kill my darlings. You have to be willing to not see every word you write as precious, but also fight for your voice and your vision when it’s important.
About the Author: A.J. Rivers
A.J. Rivers loves all things mystery and thriller. Growing up in a sleepy small town, A.J. spent her days enthralled in crime solving novels and movies. She started creating stories at a young age to escape and create adventures for herself. As a child she dreamed of solving crimes and becoming a crime fighter. She dreamed of being as great as her favorite crime solving character Sherlock Holmes. While in college she realized that leading a crime fighting life might be more gruesome than she could stomach. She decided that the best course of action would be to fuse her love of writing with her love of thrilling mysteries together.
She finds inspiration from researching true crimes and is passionate about writing suspenseful novels with crazy twists. Twists that you’ll never see coming. The inspiration for her first novel came when she read a news article about a missing young woman in a small town that was never found. Her question on who, what, and why brought her to her journal to discovering the dark twisted story behind the disappearance and to seek justice for the victim through her writing.
Her thriller novels have elements of mystery, suspense, and romance.
When she’s not absorbed in a novel or working on her next thriller mystery, her favorite past time is spent with her husky. She finds great inspiration while going on hikes with her dog.
Claire Duncan is a multi-award winning actress living in NYC. She has performed Off-Broadway, regionally, and in national tours, and appeared in the Drama Desk nominated revival of The Threepenny Opera. She has played the lead in a dozen films, and received a Best Actress Award for her work as Rosetta in the dark comedy Rosetta’s Blues, which debuted at Cannes. As a singer, she had the honor of performing at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, and toured the country as a travel host with Visit The USA.
Claire’s broad career has shaped her into an exceptional and flexible voice artist. You can hear her on Nickelodeon and Comedy Central, in hundreds of national commercials, and in over thirty audiobooks.
“Claire Duncan was a dynamo” – New York Stage Review
“Simply side-splitting… a terrific comedic actress” – Show Business Weekly
Stefano Caruso always does things the right way. With a grandfather who was forced to flee the venal Sicilian mafia and start life anew in America, Stefano now heads the corporation his father and grandfather built. Handsome and successful, he’s on top of the world…until one day he has an unexpected visitor and gets shocking news. Stefano is being cheated and lied to, and the company his family built from the ground up is in mortal jeopardy. That’s when Benito Cuggi, the face of the modern-day mafia, comes into his life. Cuggi appears to live by a strict code of morals that the laws of Western society cannot enforce. Loyalty and trust are rewarded, while betrayal is punished. Now Stefano faces a difficult choice. Can he ally himself with what he’s been taught to hate and fear? Or should he let what generations of his family built be stolen out from under him?
Fraught with moral complexity, Siracusa is a fast-paced, exciting crime thriller that pits good against evil and righteousness versus deception, while asking whether good men should sometimes do bad things to punish evil….
Sean Rea studied at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, majoring in communications and minoring in management. He has travelled much of America and nearly all of Italy. Like his protagonist, Stefano, from a young age Sean was exposed to the world of big business through his father and nonno, and he drew on much of this in crafting the business aspects of Siracusa. Sean is a long-time fan of the crime-fiction genre and all things mafia-related. THE DON OF SIRACUSA is his first novel.
Q&A Mystery Thriller Week
Author: Sean Rea
Title: “The Don of Siracusa”
What was it like writing your first book?
Challenging, rewarding, infuriating, and fun. I started writing “The Don of Siracusa” when I was right in the middle of pursuing my degree, so I didn’t have too much time to devote to writing. When I finally did get a “finished” manuscript together the first thing I did was ask friends and family what they thought, and they confirmed what I basically already knew – the book was a mess!
Back to the drawing board I went, and when I had actually completed university, I decided that enough was enough. I poured everything I had into fixing the scattered manuscript and after much trial and error, and some help from a few close friends that edited and made suggestions, I had something I was proud of.
I learned so much in the process of writing this first one, and although it was infuriating sometimes, I can’t wait to get to work on my second novel. Whether that will be “The Don of Siracusa 2” or another idea I’m fleshing out is yet to be seen.
“Stay faithful to the stories in your head” – Paula Hawkins
What was the most challenging aspect of writing?
Many writers complain about lacking motivation to write, or hitting a writer’s block, but I rarely seemed to run into that issue. Something I’ve always been good at is pouring my thoughts onto a page relatively unrestricted and incredibly quick. Unfortunately for me, that style of writing is what creates the challenge for me. I abhor editing my own work, though I realize the importance of it. For me, my often “planless” writing leads me down roads I don’t know my way back from. This results in a ton of deleted content, and plenty of hours trying to piece together scenes, dialogues, or plot points that don’t quite make sense.
The other challenge for me is being such a heavy critic of myself. There are times when I may feel like the quality of my writing isn’t quite up to snuff. I always want to be improving as a writer, and critiquing my own work so harshly allows me to improve, but it can also hold me back. It’s about finding a balance between not getting complacent when writing, but also not criticizing yourself into a standstill.
What was the most rewarding?
The most rewarding aspect of writing, to follow up on the previous question, is when it all comes together. I am definitely quite hard on myself when it comes to my writing, but that’s not to say there aren’t times where I go, “Damn, maybe I’m actually pretty good at this thing.”
I really love the English language and writing in general. I have such an appreciation for when words come together to make you feel something, and I’m always looking for the best way to put words together. So, when I craft a great monologue, or write a scene that gets your heart to race or ache – that is what it’s all about.
As for the most rewarding moment, walking into Chapters and seeing my book on a shelf… that was a pretty insane experience.
What elements make a good crime thriller?
This may be a somewhat subjective answer, but for me a great read has to be visceral. I want to feel what the character feels, I want to be emotionally invested in characters, and of course I want to be engaged in the journey they’re on.
Dialogue, to me, is something that many writers struggle with, and clunky or non-realistic dialogue is an immediate immersion breaker for me.
I think characters are always at the heart of a novel, because I’ve read some great books with mediocre or seemingly uninteresting plots, but never a great book with poorly written characters.
Everything else comes about as a result of a great character, because once the reader cares, they’ll follow that character down whatever path you take them. The same goes for me when I read a book – what really gets me to fly through the pages is when I need to know what happens to a character.
And it never hurts to sprinkle in a generous serving of sex, violence, and depravity to keep a reader interested…
Who are your favorite crime writers?
I love both true and fictional crime stories, and I’ll read most any crime story out there.
My obvious favorite crime writers would be Mario Puzo and Nicholas Pileggi. Mafia fiction, in both book and film form, is my favourite genre. But I also happen to really enjoy John Grisham, Dan Brown’s earlier novels, and I’ve recently begun, and fallen in love with, Truman Capote’s works. And of course, I used to be obsessed with Sherlock Holmes and the Hardy Boys, perhaps that’s where this all started!
However, the obsession doesn’t stop at reading… when I’m not reading or writing I’m usually watching some true crime documentary, or some crime thriller film/tv series. Most recently I binge watched the entirety of the Mindhunter Netflix series on serial killers, promptly ordering and binge-reading the novel written by the main character’s real-life counterpart.
As for me, I would love to attempt writing something Grisham or Baldacci-esque, although I am also tempted to stray from the crime fiction niche and try my hand at something more classic. Regardless, the world of crime fiction has been very good to me, and I take so much inspiration from all the writers listed above.
I have always aspired to write a novel, ever since I was a child. As a first timer I had a sense of how difficult it would be, and still I underestimated by a lot. Lions of the Sky was motivated by my desire to share the inherent drama of naval aviation while telling a thrilling story. It’s such a fantastic world, filled with wildly interesting people and daily craziness. And when you add the peril of actual military action to the mix, it elevates the stakes even further.
In learning how to write fiction what helped you the most?
I love reading fiction. I’m a voracious consumer of books. I took note of how my favorite authors crafted their stories and did my best to write with purpose. I love characters, so I took great care to create fully developed, real people who would react in a natural manner to the circumstances I threw them into. I also love the details of flying jets from aircraft carriers and wanted to share the intricacies with the reader in a manner that pulled them into the cockpit as a participant without overwhelming them with minutia. Lastly, I have always enjoyed explaining how the high level global maneuvering of governments affect the individuals at the pointy end of the spear. When you read the news about “The Chinese” aggressively building up their military presence in the South China Sea, and “The Americans” sending ships to sail through the islands asserting freedom of navigation, there are actual humans representing those nations who are put at risk. I tell stories where the global tensions build on a macro scale, but the reader gets to focus on how those tensions affect the individuals at the points of contact.
How did you come up with the title Lions of the Sky?
I must say that coming up with a good title was almost as challenging as writing the book itself. I was in the Blacklions squadron myself, so I am partial to that squadron name. My characters end up in the Blacklions as well, once the trials of their training are complete, and are then sent to face the threat in the South China Sea. I liked the simplicity and allusion of Lions of the Sky.
How competitive are fighter pilots?
The short answer is, massively competitive. Every aspect of being a fighter pilot is a competition. From the moment we decide we aspire to be fighter pilots we are put into a pool of applicants that far exceeds the number required. I don’t know the exact numbers, but say thousands per year for just a couple hundred slots at the far end of the funnel. Every academic test, every flight, every physical fitness test, every medical exam, is an opportunity to fail and be removed. Over the course of our 18 months of flight training we fly hundreds of flights, each graded. If one fails too many flights, you are washed out. Once we finish flight school and get to the Fleet the competition changes gears. Each aircraft carrier landing is graded and all the grades are posted in each squadron’s Ready Room for all to see.
It is such a competitive environment that when we dogfight against each other, before each flight we recite the Training Rules in an almost religious manner. They are strict guidelines designed to reign in our natural desire to win every fight so that we preserve a measure of safety while practicing aerial combat.
So yes, fighter pilots are extremely competitive.
As the instructor what role does Sam Richardson play in shaping the younger pilots?
Sam’s role is to make sure that the students he greets at their arrival to the F/A-18 training squadron are transformed from excited young bucks eager to play with their new toy into men and women who are prepared to go into combat the day after they graduate nine months later. He sets the tone with his example and experience but he’s also approachable in that he’s only four years older than his students.
What drives Keely Silvers to achieve her lifelong dream?
Keely is driven by the belief that the cockpit of a fighter is absolutely where she belongs. She is surprised at first that there would be any opposition to her becoming a fighter pilot based on her gender, then annoyed, then angry at constantly having to defend herself. Her crisis of confidence is especially powerful because it seems to validate the external beliefs she has been battling. And its resolution is particularly poignant as well, not to give away too much.
Does Lions of the Sky employ any themes?
Lions explores a number of classic themes including love, war, death, survival, prejudice, and in a manner particular to being a fighter pilot, coming of age.
Who are your favorite authors?
My current favorites are Daniel Silva (Gabriel Allon series) and Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch series). They both write character-centric thrillers and are masters at building tension while still writing beautifully. I aspire to their level of craftsmanship.
I have always loved Hemingway, Le Carré, and Elmore Leonard for much the same reason. They have the ability to tell beautiful stories that have a tremendous amount of tension and fantastic, rich characters.
Are you excited about the new Top Gun movie?
I am. The first was such a cultural event that has had amazing staying power. I have some friends still in the Navy that worked on the new film as liaisons and they assure me it’s going to be a good movie. I’m hopeful that the new movie will be just as fun and fix some of the cheesier parts.
What’s next for you?
I’m four chapters into the sequel to Lions, titled The Dragon. We join Slammer Richardson on his next adventure, which is completely different from Lions. It’s Slammer, this time, who is in crisis. Shot down, stuck behind enemy lines, rescued and captured. He’s got to find a way to make it back to the carrier so he can save the woman who helped him and stop an imminent war based on false pretenses.
In the world of fighter pilots, the most alpha of the alpha, competition is everything and the stakes are impossibly high. A Top Gun for the new millennium, LIONS OF THE SKY propels us into a realm in which friendship, loyalty, and skill are tested, battles won and lost in an instant, and lives irrevocably changed in the time it takes to plug in your afterburners.
During his active duty career in the U.S. Navy, Francesco “Paco” Chierici flew A-6E Intruders and F-14A Tomcats, deployed to conflict zones from Somalia to Iraq and was stationed aboard carriers including the USS Ranger, Nimitz and Kitty Hawk. Unable to give up dogfighting, he flew the F-5 Tiger II for a further ten years as a Bandit. Throughout his military career, Paco accumulated 3,000 tactical hours, 400 carrier landings, a Southwest Asia Service Medal with Bronze Star and three Strike/Flight Air Medals.
Prior to writing Lions in the Sky, Paco published extensively in Aviation Classics Magazine, AOPA Magazine, and Fighter Sweep, as well as creating and producing the award winning naval aviation documentary Speed and Angels.
Currently a 737 captain, Paco can often be found in the skies above California flying a Yak-50 with a group of likeminded G-hounds to get his dogfighting fix. A graduate of Boston University, Paco lives in Northern California with his wife Hillary, and two children.
Synopsis: The Containment Zone is a 500-mile radius surrounded by mountains and closed in by gates. No one can leave, and anyone who tries will die. Within are lawless bandits, corrupt soldiers, and once-human greyskins that hunt down people to spread the virus. Some say the Containment Zone is where the greyskin virus originated. Others say the people inside are little more than lab rats being studied by the nefarious Screven government.
When 12-year-old Skylar and her father, Liam, are caught trying to escape, they are taken to Vulture Hill, a government prison camp no one has ever left alive. Inside the prison, Skylar learns that the facility is little more than a testing site for finding people of a certain bloodline – the Starborn. These are people with special powers that manifests in various spectacular ways, and Screven wants to exploit them.
Skylar has always known there was something special about her family. For years, her father has had the ability to completely numb pain with just a thought. Lacerated skin, broken bones, they can all be ignored with enough concentration. Learning that her father is a Starborn means Skylar is probably one too, placing them both in extreme danger.
Now, father and daughter must do the impossible and break out of a prison known for killing so many. But Liam has leverage the government may be willing to buy – the cure for the greyskin virus.
The first two books of The Starborn Redemption are set 40 years after The Starborn Ascension and 17 years before The Starborn Uprising. Each Series can be listened to independently.
This book was BETTER than expected. Don’t you love it when that happens? YES. Author Jason D. Morrow does an excellent job ushering you into the point of view of the main characters; Father and daughter tandem Liam and Skylar as they navigate prison Vulture’s Hill. I was impressed with narrator Stacy Gonzalez with her ability to breath life into the characters.
Interview with Beyond The Gates narrator Stacy Gonzalez
What are the first things you do as you prepare to narrate a book?
Very first–read the book. A lot of people ask that question, and, yes, I read the book. After reading it, I try to think through the characters. I put either a person I know or a celebrity as sort of the touchstone for each character. Beyond that, I don’t really do too much. I like to jump into the narration once I’ve read the story and thought through the characters.
Does the author help you with voice creation, or is it up to the narrator?
I usually do it all myself, unless I have any specific questions. Or unless an author has something very specific in mind. However, in most cases, the narrator is left to create their own artistic take on the characters.
How do you keep the characters straight in your head as you read through the text?
I usually keep a little mp3 with a snippet of that character voice. Sometimes, there’s a word or phrase that I have to say to key me in to that character. There was a character in a book I did under my romance pseudonym where I had to pause the recording and say a really angry “F**K” to get in to that character. He was an angsty sort of neo-nazi.
Do you have a method for characterizing, or portraying each character?
Once I get the voice down, I just let the story guide me. My method is just to let the author’s words tell the story.
How do you feel about being a medium through which readers can access a story?
I just love doing this. As an avid listener myself, there is nothing better than the feeling of not being able to stop listening. I hope that I can give listeners that feeling. I love when I’m listening to a book while running or cleaning–both of which, for me, can be activities that are hard to keep on doing past a certain point–and I HAVE TO run or clean longer because I just cannot turn the book off.
What do you want readers to know about narrating audiobooks?
I hear a lot of non-listeners say that they like to hear the story how they hear it in their own heads. I would just want to say that listening to the book does not take away from that experience. You still use your imagination as a listener in a very similar way that you would as a straight-up reader. And listening can enhance the experience in different ways.
About the Author: Jason D. Morrow
Jason D. Morrow is the author of more than 15 books in the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres, including The Starborn Uprising, The Starborn Ascension, The Starborn Redemption and Prototype D.
Stacy Gonzalez is a Chicago based narrator and commercial voice actor. She is feisty, bright and expressive. Stacy specializes in YA, self-help and romance, especially when the narration calls for a good handle on comedy, wit and sass. Audiofile Magazine has praised her pace and her ability to create bold characters. Stacy, who is half Colombian, speaks conversational Spanish. She has a great love for Old Hollywood—watching the movies and listening to audiobooks about any and every aspect of it! Follow her on Twitter at @stacygonzalezvo or visit her website at stacygonzalezvo.com.
Two traffic officers are killed on an isolated mountain pass in North Wales. Inspector Drake is called to the scene and quickly discovers a message left by the killer – traffic cones in the shape of a number four. The killer starts sending the Wales Police Service lyrics from famous rock songs. Are they messages, or is there some hidden meaning in them? Does it all mean more killings are likely?
When a politician is killed, Drake has his answer. And then the killer sends more song lyrics. Now Drake has to face the possibility of more deaths, but with numbers dominating the case, Drake has to face his own rituals and obsessions. Finally, when the killer threatens Drake and his family, he faces his greatest challenge in finding the killer before he strikes again.
If you read a book by Stephen Puleston you’re going to get a solid story. Brass in Pocket is a traditional detective mystery, and excellent British crime thriller starring Inspector Ian Drake. I haven’t digested a British crime book in a while, so this was quite refreshing. The audiobook production, sound quality, narration by Richard Elfyn were nothing less than spectacular. Now I’m on to book #2! WORSE THAN DEAD.
*What do you enjoy most about writing crime fiction?
As I write a series involving Inspector Drake I enjoy developing his character and family life alongside the hurdles he faces day to day with the challenging and changing world of fighting crime. Crime fiction also gives me the opportunity to develop current themes faced in society today.
*What were your inspirations for creating Detective Ian Drake?
I’ve read a lot of the years and there isn’t one thing that inspired me other than a love of crime/mystery fiction and a desire to write a good story. I have a background in the law so I draw a lot on my work in the criminal courts and doing divorce work for inspiration. My home country Wales also gives me great inspiration for the background and setting of the books.
*Who are your favorite detectives?
I enjoy a wide ranging and varied writers. Philip Marlowe must rank as one of the great fictional creations as the classic hard-boiled detective. I am a great fan of Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch too. In the UK I would have to say that John Rebus by Ian Rankin is one of my favourites – grumpy and irascible but determined too. And for great detective drama I think Spiral from France and Craith/Hidden from Wales are top class.
*What was the best feedback you’ve received from readers?
The feedback I most enjoyed was from a reader in the outback of Australia who lives in a remote location and loved being able to learn about Wales from reading my books.
*What was it like preparing for an audiobook production?
Great fun! I enjoyed preparing the spreadsheet of characters with various accents for the narrator and coordinating all the arrangements for the production with the studio.
*What do you think about experiencing audiobooks as a different medium than paperbacks, or ebooks?
In many ways audiobooks complement ebooks – using Amazon’s whisper sync technology allows you to move from ebook to audiobook without loosing your place. And that should encourage reading, which can only be a good thing. And audio books are a performance in themselves which make them a different sort of experience altogether.
About the Author: Stephen Puleston
I write crime fiction based in Wales and about Wales. The rural landscape of north Wales provides the backdrop to the Inspector Drake novels. And Cardiff, the capital of Wales, provides the setting for the Inspector Marco novels set in a modern urban environment.
I love the novels of Raymond Chandler, Ian Rankin, Mark Billingham, Henning Mankell, Val McDermid – the list could go on! And I enjoy watching detective series on the television the recent Hinterland series based near Aberystwyth in Wales was great. One of my favourites is the French series Spiral but The Bridge and Broadchurch and the Rebus series with Ken Stott and Kenneth Branagh in Wallander are great too.
I was born in Anglesey an island off the north Wales coast and after leaving school in Holyhead I went to University in London before training as a solicitor/lawyer. I practised in a small family business doing criminal work in the magistrates and crown courts, divorce and family work.
I still live on Anglesey, North Wales near the beach and the mountains of Snowdonia.
Richard Elfyn is a hugely experienced and talented actor with film credits including APOSTLE, MARIAH MUNDI AND THE MIDAS BOX, THE KILLER ELITE and THE DARK. TV credits include THE CROWN, KEEPING FAITH, HINTERLAND, EMMERDALE and STELLA and numerous leading regular roles for S4C including political drama BYW CELWYDD. Richard is regularly heard on BBC Radio 4 dramas and is a highly skilled voice over artist. He has re-voiced many Welsh language versions of popular animations including FIREMAN SAM, BEN 10 and SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS.
Jonathan Quinn is the best at what he does: making bodies disappear. Within the espionage world, his reputation is impeccable.
There was a time, though, when that reputation was still being built under his mentor, Durrie. A time when the very man who had taught Quinn all he knew could have derailed the young cleaner’s future.
Fifteen years ago, Quinn was offered a job. On the surface, a straightforward mission to stop a terrorist. But the client gave Quinn the additional task of taking on Durrie as his number two, as a last chance for the veteran agent to be rehabilitated.
Durrie had been on a downward spiral, going from being a highly respected operative to an unreliable has-been. These changes threatened to destroy everything—not only in Quinn’s life, but Orlando’s, too. She was Durrie’s girlfriend, and Quinn’s best friend.
Both she and Quinn were desperate to help Durrie return to the person he once was.
They hoped this job would be the answer.
Discuss the evolution of freelance operative and professional “cleaner,” Jonathan Quinn.
When Quinn shows up in The Cleaner, the first book of the series, he’s been in the business for, I think, just under fifteen years. His first five years were spent as an apprentice, then, after being on his own, he becomes one of the best body removal specialist in the espionage world. To be clear, he’s not an assassin, though if he needs to act, he will. He’s the guy you hire to “clean” the scene of an operation so that it looks like nothing happened. This includes making whatever bodies have been left behind disappear forever. With the exception of his apprentice, Nate, from the first time we see Quinn, he’s basically a loner. But, over the course of the series (twelve novels, several short stories and a novella, so far), he reunites with Orlando, the woman he has secretly loved for years. With her and Nate, they become a team that only gets better and better at what they do.
How did the relationship between Quinn and Orlando originate?
Quinn and Orlando started off as apprentices at the same time, for mentors where friends. So, they often worked together. Quinn found himself drawn to her from the very start. But his mentor, Durrie, made the first move, beginning a relationship with Orlando that left Quinn out in the cold. Five years later, after a tragedy that threatened to divide Quinn and Orlando forever, Quinn has little choice but to go to her for help. From that moment, their relationship begins to mend until it becomes something even more than Quinn could have ever hoped.
Who are the members of Quinn’s team?
Orlando, of course, who is both a badass in the field and pretty handy with computers. Nate, who is Quinn’s apprentice in the first several books, and partner in those that come after. Daeng, a former Thai monk who is pretty chill even in highly stressful situations. And, most recently, Jar, (my current favorite character) a young Thai woman who is on the autism spectrum, and is even better at all things cyber than Orlando. She’s also getting better at working in the field, too. There are other operatives who make occasional appearances, but these are the core members of the team.
Discuss the development of the series featuring Nate in Night Man.
It wasn’t too long into the Quinn series that I began to think about featuring his apprentice Nate in his own stories. The problem was coming up with an angle that would set his books apart from Quinn’s. A few novels ago, an event happened in the Quinn novels that opened up an avenue I hadn’t even considered before. And from that came Night Man. I’ve also been able to set up up so that these “personal missions” of Nates come between jobs he does with Quinn, allowing him to continue on in the Quinn books, too. I’d tell you more but, you know…spoilers.
Did anything stand out in your writing process during Night Man?
A few things. The Night Man books—well, book at the moment—will all be more crime based thrillers as opposed to spy thrillers like Quinn. This have given me a whole new area to dive into, which is exciting. I love that Nate is driven to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves by…let’s just call it…a voice in his head that he can’t say no to. The stories are also told in first person by Nate, which is different than the Quinn books, too. I absolutely love writing in first person. Finally, Night Man was a blast to write. I’m not saying my other novels weren’t fun, too. It’s just that Night Man was enjoyable from beginning to end.
“Stay faithful to the stories in your head” – Paula Hawkins
In addition to the recently released NIGHT MAN, Battles has just published THE DAMAGED, another novel in his Jonathan Quinn spy thriller series. This time the story takes place fifteen years ago, when Quinn was still establishing himself as a cleaner—the person who makes bodies disappear—and centers around his deteriorating relationship with his mentor, who may or may not be going mad. A dangerous thing in a world full of guns and secrets and death.
Brett Battles is a Barry Award-winning author of over thirty novels, including Rewinder, the Jonathan Quinn series, the Logan Harper series, and the Project Eden series. He’s also the coauthor, with Robert Gregory Browne, of the Alexandra Poe series. You can learn more at his website: