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Character Interview: Cassie (Scot) Blackwood from Christine Amsden’s urban fantasy novel, Frozen (Cassie Scot Book Seven)

character interviews logoWe’re thrilled to have here today Cassie (Scot) Blackwood from Christine Amsden’s new urban fantasy, Frozen (Cassie Scot Book Seven).  Cassie is a 23-year-old private investigator living in Eagle Rock, MO.

It is a pleasure to have her with us today at Beyond the Books!

Thank you so for this interview, Cassie.  Now that the book has been written, do you feel you were fairly portrayed or would you like to set anything straight with your readers?

It’s as fair as she could make it! I mean, hindsight is 20/20 and I’ve learned some things since the end … but that’s a story for another book.

Do you feel the author did a good job colorizing your personality?  If not, how would you like to have been portrayed differently?

The personality is spot on. If you met me in real life, you wouldn’t have any trouble connecting me to my books.

What do you believe is your strongest trait?

I think determination. But my husband says it’s compassion.

Frozen_medWorse trait?

Self-doubt. I wish I could say it was altogether gone after the first four Cassie Scot books (the original quartet), but as I say in Frozen, self-actualization is more a journey than a destination. I’m proud of who I am now, but that doesn’t mean I’ve reached some perfect state of inner peace!

Do you have a love interest in the book?

I’m married in this book! I know, right? But seriously, life doesn’t end when you get married. I mean, the original quartet did, and then I figured out that I still had more stories to tell.

So to make a long story short: Yes, my love interest is my husband, Evan Blackwood. And I’m just as attracted to him as I ever was. (His magical kiss doesn’t hurt anything … but I don’t want to spoil that for you if you haven’t read the first book.)

At what point of the book did you start getting nervous about the way it was going to turn out?

When a thick fog rolled in, and the temperature began to drop sharply, and I was sure I’d freeze to death the same way Nadine did. :(

If you could trade places with one of the other characters in the book, which character would you really not want to be and why?

My mom. She’s fallen apart, and doesn’t seem capable fo taking care of my younger siblings anymore. I might have to step in …

How do you feel about the ending of the book without giving too much away?

Honestly, more nervous than I felt at the beginning. I solved one mystery, only to uncover a bigger one!

What words of wisdom would you give your author if s/he decided to write another book with you in it?

Don’t be afraid to challenge me; I can take it. But if you put my kids in danger, we’re going to have problems!

Thank you for this interview, Cassie.  Will we be seeing more of you in the future?

Oh yes! Christine haven’t started writing it yet, but a sequel to Frozen is in the early, brainstorming stages now. In addition, she’s written two other books, each of which starts a completely different, unrelated series.

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Christine Amsden has been writing fantasy and science fiction for as long as she can remember. She loves to write and it is her dream that others will be inspired by this love and by her stories. Speculative fiction is fun, magical, and imaginative but great speculative fiction is about real people defining themselves through extraordinary situations. Christine writes primarily about people and relationships, and it is in this way that she strives to make science fiction and fantasy meaningful for everyone.

At the age of 16, Christine was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, which scars the retina and causes a loss of central vision. She is now legally blind, but has not let this slow her down or get in the way of her dreams.

Christine currently lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, Austin, who has been her biggest fan and the key to her success. In addition to being a writer, she’s a mom and freelance editor.

Social Media Links:

 Apparently, life doesn’t end when you get married.

When a couple freezes to death on a fifty degree day, Cassie is called in to investigate. The couple ran a daycare out of their home, making preschoolers the key witnesses and even the prime suspects.

Two of those preschoolers are Cassie’s youngest siblings, suggesting conditions at home are worse than she feared. As Cassie struggles to care for her family, she must face the truth about her mother’s slide into depression, which seems to be taking the entire town with it.

Then Cassie, too, is attacked by the supernatural cold. She has to think fast to survive, and her actions cause a rift between her and her husband.

No, life doesn’t end after marriage. All hell can break loose at any time.

Buy Links

Frozen (Cassie Scot Book Seven)

Print Release: July 15, 2018

Audiobook Release: TBA

Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective (Cassie Scot Book One)

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Press release: Manhattan Novelist Awarded The Garcia Memorial Prize for Best Fiction

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Maryglenn McCombs, (615) 297-9875 maryglenn@maryglenn.com 

Manhattan Novelist Awarded The Garcia Memorial Prize for Best Fiction Book of the Year: Diana Forbes wins prestigious honor for her debut novel, Mistress Suffragette 

Mistress-Suffragette-IMAGE-e1512431996188AUSTIN, TEXAS – Manhattan novelist Diana Forbes has been awarded The Garcia Memorial Prize for her debut novel, Mistress Suffragette.  An annual award presented in conjunction with the national Reader Views Book Awards, The Garcia Memorial Prize is awarded to the best fiction book of the year. 

Sex and the Suffrage movement collide in Diana Forbes’s debut novel, Mistress Suffragette.  A brilliantly crafted work of historical fiction that unfolds against the backdrop of Manhattan’s Gilded Age, Mistress Suffragette has earned high critical praise. In a Starred review, Kirkus calls Mistress Suffragette “a sprightly, winning historical novel.” San Francisco Review of Books reports “writing of this quality is rare…a very welcome debut.”  New Theory Magazine notes:  “the plight of the clever main character, Penelope, has a timelessness that every 21st century woman will recognize.” 

About Mistress Suffragette:  Sheltered but feisty Penelope Stanton, growing up in Gilded Age, Newport, Rhode Island is tarnished by her father’s bankruptcy during the Panic of 1893.Penelope quickly attracts the unwanted advances of a villainous millionaire banker who preys on distressed women. After she flees him to nearby Boston, Penelope, by necessity, becomes a paid public speaker in the early women’s suffrage movement. Now she’s speaking out on women’s issues from Boston to New York. But will her disastrous choices in love unravel everything she’s fighting for?  In the glittering age where a woman’s reputation is her most valuable possession, Penelope will be forced to discover her hidden reserves of courage and tenacity—and she’ll have to decide whether to compromise her principles for love.

A mesmerizing tale that blends elements of history, romance, and women’s fiction, Mistress Suffragette is a beautifully-written novel that will stay with readers long after the final page is turned.  Meticulously plotted and brimming with multi-dimensional characters that spring to life within the novel’s pages, Mistress Suffragette leads readers on a rich, rewarding journey to a time long past.  An extraordinary novel by an extraordinary writer, Mistress Suffragette is a timeless, unforgettable tale. 

According to Susan Violante, editor of Reader Views, “We were overwhelmed by both the quantity and quality of entries in this year’s Reader Views Literary Awards. This year’s awards program featured numerous outstanding works of fiction.  Mistress Suffragette by Diana Forbes was a true standout. This incredible novel has it all:  excellent writing, a mesmerizing storyline, and memorable, realistic characters. Mistress Suffragette is an exemplary work of fiction and it is our honor to recognize this title as recipient of the Garcia Memorial Prize for Fiction.” 

Diana Forbes is a 9th generation American, with ancestors on both sides of the Civil War. Diana Forbes lives and writes in Manhattan. When she is not cribbing chapters, Diana Forbes loves to explore the buildings where her 19th century American ancestors lived, loved, survived and thrived.  Visit Diana Forbes online at: www.DianaForbesNovels.com 

Published by Penmore Press, Mistress Suffragette is available in trade paper and eBook editions. Mistress Suffragette is available where fine books are sold. The Reader Views Awards is an annual literary awards program that recognizes excellence in independent publishing. Founded in 2005, Reader Views(www.readerviews.com ) is based in Austin, Texas. The Garcia Memorial Prize honors the life and memory of Garcia, one of the finest Old English Sheepdogs to have ever roamed the earth. Members of the news media wishing to request additional information about the Garcia Memorial Prize or author Diana Forbes are kindly asked to contact Maryglenn McCombs by phone – (615) 297-9875, or by email –  maryglenn@maryglenn.com  

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The Story Behind ‘Traveling High and Tripping Hard’ by Joseph Davida

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Some folks might sa-ay that I’m no good

That I wouldn’t settle down if I could

But when that open ro-oad starts to callin’ me

There’s somethin’ o’er the hill that I gotta see

-Hank Williams,

Ramblin’ Man (1951)

I always knew I wanted to travel and see the world. My first “real” trip abroad was to Italy in 1988, when I was 12 years old. We were mainly there to visit my family’s villa in Sorrento, but first, we had to fly in to Rome. It was my first glimpse of the ancient world, and after seeing things like the catacombs, the Colosseum, and the Sistine Chapel—I was absolutely blown away. Aside from some of the amazing artifacts at the Met and Museum of Natural History, nothing that old existed anywhere near where I grew up in New York, or even in North America for that matter. And while I loved taking class trips and seeing all the antiquities at the museums, it couldn’t compare with actually standing inside an arena where gladiators fought to the death.

It wasn’t just the monuments that made Rome different…it was the food, the language, and even the pornography! On one of the first nights there, my mother tried to save a few bucks on a hotel and decided we would stay at a local convent. Earlier in the day, I picked up a copy of some weird Italian nudie mag, and hid it under my mattress before going to bed. The next morning, one of the nuns who made up the rooms found it and started screaming at me in Italian. Although I was definitely embarrassed and in fear of my life…I quickly realized that this was what traveling was all about! There was something about getting into trouble in a foreign place that made things more fun…and somehow the memories that got made became that much more vivid.

And that’s why I wrote Traveling High and Tripping Hard…to try and share some of my adventures from around the world before I forget them all. And while I might not get the chance to trot around the planet the same way that I used to, there are still plenty of things over the hill that I gotta see. If all goes well, maybe I’ll write a sequel in another thirty years: “Traveling with a Walker and Tripping Harder”.

Because ultimately, no matter how old you get…it’s never too late to jump on a plane and find some trouble, and hopefully get yelled at in a language you don’t understand.

Pixel Egypt Dave

Joseph Davida is the pen name of a successful Nashville- based entrepreneur, former rock musician, and New York native.  He is currently at work on his next book, as yet untitled. Connect with him on the web:

www.josephdavida.com

https://www.facebook.com/Joseph-Davida-1434314893350886/

http://josephdavida.com/blog/

Character Interview: Olivia Becouche-Albukerk from M. J. Joseph’s novel, The Lübecker

character interviewWe’re thrilled to have here today Olivia Becouche-Albukerk from M. J. Joseph’s new novel, The Lübecker.  Olivia is her merchant family’s 23 year-old emissary to the political and social milieu of pre-World War I Constantinople, Turkey. It is a pleasure to have her with us today at Beyond the Books!

Thank you so for this interview, Olivia.  Now that the book has been written, do you feel you were fairly portrayed or would you like to set anything straight with your readers?

9781614935247-JacketGray_Lubecker COVER.inddI believe that my younger life and my family’s history should have been more thoroughly presented, but I have to give Mr. Joseph the benefit of the doubt, now that he has admitted to me that The Lübecker represents Book I of The Lübecker saga. He refuses, however, to tell me if I will have my own book, like the character whose name he deliberately allowed me to see him write next to “Book II”.  He’s so, how do the English put it, dreadfully cheeky?

Do you feel the author did a good job colorizing your personality?  If not, how would you like to have been portrayed differently?

I believe Mr. Joseph produced a careful, perhaps, hesitant, rendering of my character for Book I, while strongly suggesting deep mystery and an almost unearthly sensuousness, if you’ll forgive my presumption.  I believe that I know what he’s up to, especially since he calls me Esther sometimes or admits to calling me Justine when he’s dreaming about me.   

What do you believe is your strongest trait?

The projection of my intelligence, undiminished by my incredible beauty. What? Should I just say, “my good looks?”

Worse trait?

Spitting pistachio shells at Old Benetar.

If you could choose someone in the television or movie industry to play your part if your book was made into a movie, who would that be (and you can’t say yourself!)?

Easy! Gal Gadot, but with enhanced eyes and lips, of course.

Do you have a love interest in the book?

Yes, and that’s all you get from me.

At what point of the book did you start getting nervous about the way it was going to turn out?

When I took to the wine-dark sea.

If you could trade places with one of the other characters in the book, which character would you really not want to be and why?

Charlotte Meckler, because she hadn’t the power to see her wishes fulfilled.

How do you feel about the ending of the book without giving too much away?

I am grateful. For now.

What words of wisdom would you give your author if he decided to write another book with you in it?

I must suffer, slightly like Durrell’s Justine.

Thank you for this interview, Olivia.  Will we be seeing more of you in the future?

I can’t be avoided.  Thank you; this was fun.

View More: http://aislinnkate.pass.us/joejoseph-miniBorn and raised in Florida, M.J. Joseph maintains membership in the English Goethe Society, the Siegfried Sassoon Society and other literary associations. He is a supporter-member of the Society for the Study of Southern Literature, as well as an Associate of Lincoln Cathedral. Prior to retiring, Joseph enjoyed a lengthy and rewarding career with an industrial firm where he served as CEO and managed the company’s merger with a larger international corporation. He divides his time between Europe and his home on Florida’s northern coast. M.J. Joseph and his wife Ann have two children and reside in Florida.

Character Interview: Sam Grist from Jody Gehrman’s psychological suspense novel, ‘Watch Me’

character interviews logoWe’re thrilled to have here today Sam Grist, from Jody Gehrman’s new psychological suspense novel, Watch Me. Sam is a twenty-two-year-old student living in Blackwood, Ohio. It is a pleasure to have him with us today at Beyond the Books!

Thank you so for this interview, Sam.  Now that the book has been written, do you feel you were fairly portrayed or would you like to set anything straight with your readers?

A lot of readers will no doubt write me off as a sociopathic stalker. Ladies and gentlemen of the book-reading jury, answer me this: Was Romeo a stalker? He hung out around Juliet’s balcony, watching her from the shadows. Did that relegate him to the category of literary scum? Not at all. It elevated him to the highest order of romantics. That’s me. I’m passionate. I have single-minded focus when it comes to getting what I want. If that’s a crime, so be it. I’m a criminal for love.

Watch Me CoverDo you feel the author did a good job colorizing your personality?  If not, how would you like to have been portrayed differently?

She did okay. I feel for the poor thing; I’m not an easy guy to capture.

What do you believe is your strongest trait?

My commitment to the moment.

Worse trait?

My commitment to the moment.

If you could choose someone in the television or movie industry to play your part if your book was made into a movie, who would that be (and you can’t say yourself!)?

A young Wes Bentley (circa American Beauty).

Do you have a love interest in the book?

Kate Youngblood. She’s my professor, my obsession, my world.

At what point of the book did you start getting nervous about the way it was going to turn out?

Pretty much page one.

If you could trade places with one of the other characters in the book, which character would you really not want to be and why?

Kate goes out with this guy a couple times, Raul. He’s unworthy of her. Things don’t go well for Raul; let’s keep it at that.

How do you feel about the ending of the book without giving too much away?

Disaster is its own reward.

What words of wisdom would you give your author if s/he decided to write another book with you in it?

Forget it.

Thank you for this interview, (name of character).  Will we be seeing more of you in the future?

I’m a star burning bright and hot that will not come again.

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About the Author:

Jody Gehrman has authored eleven published novels and numerous plays for stage and screen. Her Young Adult novel, Babe in Boyland, won the International Reading Association’s Teen Choice Award and was optioned by the Disney Channel. Jody’s plays have been produced or had staged readings in Ashland, New York, San Francisco, Chicago and L.A. Her newest full-length, Tribal Life in America, won the Ebell Playwrights Prize and will receive a staged reading at the historic Ebell Theater in Los Angeles. She and her partner David Wolf won the New Generation Playwrights Award for their one-act, Jake Savage, Jungle P.I. She holds a Masters Degree in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California and is a professor of Communications at Mendocino College in Northern California. Watch Me is Jody Gehrman’s debut suspense novel

www.jodygehrman.com

https://www.facebook.com/jody.gehrman

https://twitter.com/jodygehrman

https://www.youtube.com/user/jodygehrman

https://www.jodygehrman.com/blog

Meet Gabriel Valjan, Author of ‘The Good Man’

Gabriel Valjan is the author of the Roma Series and The Company Files from Winter Goose Publishing as well as numerous short stories. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts, where he enjoys the local restaurants, and his two cats, Squeak and Squawk, keep him honest to the story on the screen. You can visit him at his website. He’s here today to talk about his new suspense series.
Thanks for this interview, Gabriel. Tell us about yourself.
I hide my love of dogs from my cats. English was not my first language, and I read fiction in more than one language. I was a sponsored triathlete. Cancer survivor. I weighed one pound at birth. Hearing-impaired. Ambidextrous. I went to school with Peter Dinklage.
Have you always been creative? When did you start writing fiction?
As a writer, no. I drew and painted at a young age. I read voraciously as a child, but when I did take an interest in creative writing, it was poetry. My first publication was a poem in 1989.
In this your new series, The Company Files, you move from the present Rome of your Roma Series to historical post-war Vienna. Why did you choose this particular time period?
I should state up front that I wrote The Good Man before I wrote Roma, Underground. To answer your question…History interests me. For those who don’t know, Vienna was divided into four zones, the American, the British, the French, and the Russians after World War II. Vienna would become, for a brief time, a Wild West.
It’s not the first time a city or country had been divided after a conflict. Vienna, however, bears a crucial distinction in that it became the crucible for the Cold War and the birthplace for the post-war intelligence community. Modern nation states in Europe then were designated as either friendly to US-led Western Bloc or to Soviet-led Eastern Bloc countries. There is, of course, the fun of researching the social mores of the era. Leslie in The Good Man and Bianca in The Roma Series are a half-century apart, and yet confront similar issues of survival in a man’s world.
The book is described as historical noir. For readers who aren’t familiar with this genre, can you tell us about it?
First, noir is a cinematic term. Film noir is, in my opinion, a visual display of Existentialist philosophy. The prevailing undercurrent to film noir and the crime fiction it inspired is that the Average Joe is doomed no matter what he does. He’ll make one bad decision after another, whether it’s planning a heist that goes wrong, keeping found money and unwittingly inviting the bad guys into his life, or lusting after the wrong woman. His life is a blues song. If he didn’t have bad luck, he’d have no luck at all.

Historical noir, as I use the phrase to describe The Good Man, is when characters make decisions within a certain context. The world is still morally compromised and fatalistic. The historical circumstances offer both flavour and plot device. The reader has the advantage of hindsight. November 22, 1963, for example, has only one inevitable conclusion. Genre sets the expectation, and I leave it to the reader to decide whether I abide by or violate those rules. Is there justice in the end? Does the guy get the girl?

Like in your Roma Series, you pay particular attention to team work among your characters. What draws you to this quality?
The Good Man is the result of my love for what I call the middle period of noir fiction, the 1940s. I’m not hard-boiled as Hammett’s Continental Op and Sam Spade from the 1920s, nor as violent as Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer in the 1950s. I envisioned a softer cynicism found in Raymond Chandler’s Marlowe.
In reading contemporary crime fiction, which I think harkens back to hard-boiled, I can appreciate the antihero and the protagonist who can’t catch a break, but I find most of it too nihilistic. While I don’t believe that Good always triumphs in real life, I found myself asking: Are we so cynical as to find value in the bleak and ultra-violent stories? Does it take visiting the darkest depths to feel better about our own lives?
Don’t get me wrong about violence and profanity. Mexican cartels are violent, but the Average Joe criminal is not that sadistic. My complaint is that there’s no glimmer of hope in a lot of contemporary crime fiction, unless it’s the razor blade on the sidewalk. Algren, Bukowski, and Fante wrote to show how the other half lived, but so did Upton Sinclair and Steinbeck. What is the point, if there’s nothing positive in the universe?
Writers have to compete with movies, with visual media, so why not work the vein of human relationships in close quarters? I’m not saying people can’t be flawed. The series Breaking Bad is a perfect example. People pushed to extremes are forced to work and trust each other, to some degree. In The Good Man, there is a triangle of characters who entrust their lives to each other. Jack, Walker, and Whittaker have a foundation – their shared war experiences – for trusting each other. Another triangle in the story is Leslie, Sheldon, and Tania: they have to prove themselves. There is history, camaraderie and debts, recognized and repaid.
Tell us about your protagonists and what makes them stand out.
Jack Marshall is the leader, principled but agile. Walker is the romantic, the fellow caught up in history’s current and unsure of his abilities. Whittaker is the doer, which doesn’t always require brains. Each man makes questionable decisions. Leslie is a woman with skills in an unappreciative world and she’s acutely aware of it. Sheldon is savvy, almost suicidal. Tania is precocious, another survivor, and a damaged soul.
Jack and Walker fought in the war together, depended on each other and owed each other something. In a life and death situation, would they choose friendship over duty?
Jack and Walker have a moment in The Good Man where they question Whittaker’s loyalty, but they extend the benefit of the doubt. Political pressure is hammering both men. Friendship and duty coexist and are in conflict with each other. The question is how long can they hold out. Jack and Walker choose Loyalty because of what they’ve experienced together. Few would understand it.
I found Walker and Leslie’s relationship sad. Does love have a place in their dangerous professions?
Their story continues in the sequels, The Naming Game and Diminished Fifth. My take on their relationship is that Leslie realizes times are changing and she is trying to hold onto her independence. The social mores of the day were especially hard on women. Women during the war years experienced a few years of financial freedom before the country asked them to return to the kitchen and home.
Leslie knows she has the credibility for a career in intelligence, but how much of that can she keep or maintain if she is perceived as ‘attached’ or ‘compromised’? I also believe Leslie is better grounded than Walker. He is trying to find his place in the world. I’m not sure Leslie can wait for him, or sacrifice what she has accomplished on her own. Their profession adds the complication that their lives are shrouded in secrecy and they must be ciphers to most people around them.
There are a number of intriguing secondary characters, like Sheldon and Tania. Were they difficult to write about? What challenges did you face getting into the mind of a vigilante and a 13-year-old Lolita-type character?
They weren’t difficult since I didn’t have to venture far to create them. As I mention in the Afterword, there were Jewish concentration camp survivors who were incensed that known war criminals were evading justice, so they became ‘vigilantes’ and hunted them down. Sheldon is a complex character and his “activities” are ambiguous, depending on your moral compass. The late Simon Wiesenthal hunted down former Nazis to have them arrested or exposed because so many escaped the courtrooms.
My opinion is that justice was selective and in the hands of the dominant player after World War II, the United States. There were businessmen and companies who benefitted from Nazi labor camps. Have a look at the I.G. Farben Trials, and note that none of the defendants was American, though Ford Motor Company, General Motors and IBM benefitted from their dark alliances with Hitler’s Third Reich.

The plot for The Good Man revolves around Operation Paperclip, where the U.S. collaborated with allies to shield former Nazis. The physicist Wernher von Braun is a notorious example. His work accelerated the U.S.’s space program. Reinhard Gehlen, another example, traded in his Nazi Army shoulder boards to become a Communist hunter. Eichmann’s whereabouts were not a complete mystery to U.S. intelligence, but it took the Israeli Mossad to defy both the U.S. and international laws to kidnap him from his apartment in Buenos Aires in order to bring him to Jerusalem to stand trial.

Tania was a wonderful creation. She’s flirtatious and, like most victims of sexual abuse, she acts precocious and manipulative. Her pedigree as a victim, however, runs deeper. As a Slav, she had dodged the Nazis, who would’ve worked her to death in the camps; had she presented herself as a refugee seeking asylum in Vienna, the Americans would’ve seen her as a Communist. There is also her ideological heritage: her father was a casualty of a Stalinist purge. She is a young girl without a country.
Were you thinking of Sheldon when you came up with the title?
Yes, but I think the question, “Are you a good man?” can be put to Jack, Walker, and Whittaker, too.
Post-war Vienna came alive for me in the story. Tell us about the importance of settings.
Context and circumstances are everything. I tried to develop the noirish aspect of time and place. I mentioned earlier that Vienna was a unique historical situation. Vienna was a playground for intrigues and for the Cold War, the silent world war. Whereas Berlin had a literal wall to divide antagonistic ideologies, hotels and landmarks designated the governing powers in Vienna.
With the War over, the Americans and British were now uneasy allies. Russia, an ally for the Americans, was now the new enemy. The bad guys, the Nazis with special insider information, became tentative allies. That the entire drama plays out in a German-speaking Austria was not lost on me. Austria, Hitler’s birthplace, while German speaking, is not Teutonic in the sense that it’s Protestant and its division into Bundesländer, or city-states, came after the dissolution of the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy.
In the café scenes, I tried to capture this sense of a world that had fallen away from what Stefan Zweig called The World of Yesterday. Walker is out of his depth in not knowing the German language and Austrian culture well, and both he and Jack are also caught up in the clashes of American and European, and West with East, when they encounter Sheldon and Tania. 
What appeals to you about European settings? Have you been in the places that appear in your books?
Differences in perception and outlook. Travel and living abroad have educated me. My use of settings is more than just ‘colour’ in my novels. While I have not been to Vienna, I’ve visited Austria. I’ve travelled around Great Britain (attended graduate school there), been to France, Germany, Italy, and the former Yugoslavia. I try to illustrate and incorporate cultural differences; how people interact with each other and relate to authority. In the Roma Series, I explore the unresolved North and South divide in Italy, among other sensitive issues.
I witnessed a balance between Work and Life in Europe that does not exist in America, whether it was Ferragosto in Italy, or strikes in France by all workers to protest raising student fees in France. Americans work longer and harder and our health suffers for it. If American education and healthcare were run according to the business model of rewarding performance, then there would be true reform.
I find it morally reprehensible that, for a country of such wealth and resources, the U.S. has the worst rate for maternal deaths in the Developed World, with 26 deaths per 100,000 live births. Sense of perspective: The World Health Organization tracks 180 countries and the US ranks 137 on that list for maternal deaths. Other findings are sobering and irrefutable. Will McAvoy, a character on Aaron Sorkin’s The News Room, summarized it in his answer to the question, “Can you say why America is the greatest country in the world?” You can find the clip on youtube.com
Experiencing Europe, I realized that Americans and European society are socially engineered around a different definition of ‘citizen.’ I’m not naïve: Europe is a tiered society and mobility is limited, but I think it’s disingenuous to think America doesn’t have a class society. I’m not blind to disconcerting parallels between the U.S. and Europe, such as the uncanny similarities between Berlusconi and Trump.
Americans, however, have drunk the ideological Kool-Aid and I’m afraid we are losing our standing in the world. I cited ‘citizen’ as an example, so let me provide an example of distorted logic. There were protests against Obamacare. The idea of national healthcare is still derided as ‘Socialism’ and ‘Communism.’ Protestors claimed that in other systems, a patient died waiting for care.
There is no such evidence. President Obama himself said he watched his mother worry not about the ovarian cancer that would claim her life, but rather how she would pay for healthcare. I’ll set aside the obvious ignorance that Socialism and Communism are apples and oranges, but nobody has considered the European view that healthcare is a citizen’s right, and that healthy citizens are an investment in Society.
For this book, how much and what type of research did you have to do?
With any topic that is not native to your experience, research is required; it’s a matter of ethics. I had to read history books and memoirs about the period covered in The Good Man. I cited some of them in my Afterword. With respect to people who lived during that time, those I knew are dead now. I am aware that with people I knew, the material is anecdotal and subjective, the lens of history made hazy.
The Good Man tries to show decent people in terrible situations. Mistakes were made, people fooled, and terrible compromises made. There was also a consolidation of extraordinary power in individuals such as the Dulles brothers at the CIA, and J. Edgar Hoover at the FBI. The United States would see a similar nexus of power again with the Kennedy brothers.
I do believe that the CIA was founded on the noble (and necessary) premise of national security, but the nature of spy craft and politics is such that it’s a losing proposition. When governments resort to secret agencies or programs, or leverage the methods of their former enemies Hermann Göring’s propaganda and Stasi surveillance methods are alive and well then what do we have? Enemies yesterday, friends today; and friends today, enemies tomorrow. Case in point: President Reagan continued Operation Cyclone to counter the Soviet presence in Afghanistan, funding mujahedeen leaders who would later become the founding members of the extremist al-Qaeda.
In general, what do you struggle with as an author?
Visibility. It’s a struggle because there are so many books out each month.
What is a regular day like for you? Do you set yourself a minimum amount of words or hours on a daily or weekly basis?
I write in the mornings. I find that my mind is clearer and focused then. While I understand setting goals as a form of discipline, Word Counts mean nothing to me. I don’t lack discipline. The way my imagination works is that I envision a scene and I write until it is done, whether that takes one day or several days. I see writers posting daily Word Counts, and I don’t know what to make of it. Quantity over Quality? A form of humblebrag? Jack Torrance sat every day at his typewriter and typed, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy …” and look how that turned out for him.
How do you set yourself challenges and grow as an author with each new book? For example, what lessons did you learn with your first series that you now implement in this new series?  What are you discovering about yourself as a writer while writing these new series?
I challenge myself by writing in different genres. Horror. Crime fiction. Cozy mystery. Genre gets bashed as low-brow, and not as “Literary Fiction,” which I think is nonsense. Genre is like poetry. You have to know the rules, the meter, and the expectation. Break the rules after you’ve mastered them, but learn them first and appreciate their inherent challenges. The same approach applies to reading in and out of your comfort zones. I mentioned earlier that I read foreign literature. Translators have made other writers available. Read a French ‘polar’ and ‘policier’ and observe the space dedicated to describing violence and exposition. As with any foreign culture, note workplace hierarchy and formalities.
What can readers look forward to in the sequel? When is the next book coming out?
The Naming Game delivers more of the Walker and Leslie relationship. Readers will become acquainted with the turf war between the nascent CIA and J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI during the Red Scare in Los Angeles.
What do you look forward to as an author in 2018?  
I look forward to reading more of Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano. I hope to meet readers at conferences such as Malice Domestic, and New England Crimebake. I have not made a decision about attending Bouchercon in Florida.
What else would you like to tell readers?
If you are at a conference and know that I am there, please stop me and say hello.

REVIEW: The Company Files: A Good Man, by Gabriel Valjan

the-good-man-by-gabriel-valjan_1Title: The Company Files: The Good Man

Author: Gabriel Valjan

Publisher: Winter Goose Publishing

Release date: December 2017

Pages: 251

Genre: suspense/espionage

Find out more on Amazon

It’s 1948, post-war Vienna. In this tale of international espionage, friends and ex-army buddies Jack Marshall and Walker are trying to gather intelligence for the Company in a time when Americans are ruthlessly trying to keep ahead of the Russians. To do so, they must sort Nazis out and question them. But a vigilante with a vendetta against former Nazis is getting to them first. Can Jack and Walker trust a vigilante killer to help them, and if yes, at what price? Add to the mix a beautiful Company analyst as well as a young Russian refugee girl who happens to be under the care of the vigilante. And at the core of it all, a rare priceless coin. As tension escalates one of them must become bait in order to unmask the traitor amongst them.

In a world of intelligence and counter-intelligence where an ally can turn into an enemy—and vice versa—at the flip of a coin, who can you trust? The Americans, the Russians, the British? Who is working for whom in this ruthless race for power?

I thoroughly enjoyed this historical noire. Valjan’s skillful and often witty prose flows elegantly through the pages. The setting is excellent and post-war Vienna comes to life during winter, especially the refugee areas with their gritty bleak streets, run-down cafes and dark cold rooms. There’s an array of interesting and well-crafted characters and the mystery accelerates at a steady pace until the very satisfying ending. In sum, I recommend this read for lovers of spy and international intrigue novels a la James Bond.

 

The Company Files: A Good Man is book one in Valjan’s new Company Files series. He also has another series of international suspense set in the present titled The Roma series. Check his Amazon author page to learn more.

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