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Character Interview: Rudyard Bloodstone from Chris Karlsen’s suspense/thriller ‘Silk’

character interviewWe’re thrilled to have here today Rudyard Bloodstone from Chris Karlsen’s new suspense, Silk.  Rudyard is a 31 year old Detective Inspector with London Metropolitan Police Service and living in London, England.

Silk HighRes (2)It is a pleasure to have him with us today at Beyond the Books!

Thank you so for this interview, Rudyard.  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?

Yes. Ms. Karlsen showed several different sides of my personality, which I appreciate. I’m not just a detective. I do have outside interests and friends. She also portrayed me as a bit rough around the edges, which I am. I’m not, and never have been, a smoothie. She was honest about me not being one spoiling for a fight but not afraid to mix it up either.

I’d like to clarify that it might seem like I don’t miss my family in Wales as I don’t speak about wishing to go for a visit or having them visit me. I do miss my family and the lovely countryside around Brecon where I grew up. But, I had nine brothers and sisters, most of whom are married with children of their own. Chaos rules the day when we’re all together. I always need a rest after, plus, my work keeps me busy. Opportunities to go home aren’t many.

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

She mentioned my Victoria Cross for extreme valor in the face of battle. Those are the Queen’s words, not mine. I do not feel a hero. I did what was necessary at the time. Nothing more, nothing less.

What do you believe is your strongest trait?


Worse trait?

I’ve a short temper.

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!)?

Karl Urban

Do you have a love interest in the book?

There are two different ladies I see socially. Not at the same time, though. I enjoy their company, but I’m not in love with either.

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

When Chief Superintendent Effingham and Detective Inspector Napier from the City of London Police Department interfered in my investigation.

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?

Viscount William Everhard. I never want to slip into madness the way he did and become fiend.

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

I approve. I was surprised and glad my partner and I finally discovered what we needed to solve the difficult case.

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

I hope she does write another. I understand she plans to. I look forward to trouncing Napier who is, and always has been, a thorn in my side so please include him. I enjoy my police colleagues so I’d like to see most of them again. I’d like to have more fun with my adopted stray, Winky. He’s as incorrigible as a canine can be, but I love him.

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

Yes, sometime early next year, I believe.


Title: Silk

Genre: Thriller

Author: Chris Karlsen


Publisher: Books to Go Now

Purchase on Amazon


London-Fall, 1888

The city is in a panic as Jack the Ripper continues his murderous spree. While the Whitechapel police struggle to find him, Detective Inspector Rudyard Bloodstone and his partner are working feverishly to find their own serial killer. The British Museum’s beautiful gardens have become a killing ground for young women strangled as they stroll through.

Their investigation has them brushing up against Viscount Everhard, a powerful member of the House of Lords, and a friend to Queen Victoria. When the circumstantial evidence points to him as a suspect, Rudyard must deal with the political blowback, and knows if they are going to go after the viscount, they’d better be right and have proof.

As the body count grows and the public clamor for the detectives to do more, inter-department rivalries complicate the already difficult case.



Chris is a Chicago native. Her family moved to Los Angeles when she was in her late teens where she later studied at UCLA. She graduated with a Business Degree. Her father was a history professor and her mother a voracious reader. She grew up with a love of history and books.Her parents were also passionate about traveling and passed their passion onto Chris. Once bitten with the travel bug, Chris spent most of her adult life visiting the places she’d read about and that fascinated her. She’s had the good fortune to travel Europe extensively, the Near East, and North Africa, in addition to most of the United States.

After college, Chris spent the next twenty-five years in law enforcement with two agencies. Harboring a strong desire to write since her teens, upon retiring from police work, Chris decided to pursue her writing career. She currently writes three different series. Her historical romance series is called, Knights in Time. Her romantic thriller series is Dangerous Waters, and he latest book, Silk, is book one in her mystery/suspense series, The Bloodstone series.

She currently lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and five wild and crazy rescue dogs.

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Character Interview: Joseph Dangelo from Robert Lane’s mystery, Cooler Than Blood

Cover ArtWe’re thrilled to have here today Joseph Dangelo from Robert Lane’s new mystery, Cooler Than Blood.  Joseph Dangelo is a 44-year old business owner living in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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

Thank you so for this interview, Joseph.  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? 

I don’t read books; such a tedious exercise. But I want to take this opportunity to say that I run clean, legitimate businesses. We do not tolerate or endorse violence. If everyone understands that, then we should have no problems.

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

‘Colorizing my personality.’ Okay, that’s a good one. Listen, I’m a family man. I got a daughter. She means the world to me. I hope that’s how that nut case, Travis, portrayed me, because nothing is as important as family. Travis? I think he understands that. I think he understands a lot.

What do you believe is your strongest trait?

My family and my businesses.

Worse trait? 

My family and my businesses. They’re my only traits. Capise?  They have to be both traits.

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!)? 

You seen Frozen? My daughter, she teaches third grade, took her whole class to see it. Made me watch it. Not bad for a ‘toon. Maybe one of those cartoon characters could do me. I don’t want any flesh and blood pretending to be me.

Do you have a love interest in the book?

You listening? My family and my businesses.

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

Again…I don’t know about the book, but I can tell you this: when Travis slammed me against the wall in my condo because he thought I insinuated that, well…you know…I knew his girlfriend, Kathleen? Was I nervous? Yeah. But—and he doesn’t know this, which is going to kill him because that smart-aleck thinks he knows everything—I was eating a cashew and it got stuck in my throat. So he’s thinking he’s putting the fear of god in me, and I’m thinking, I hope I don’t choke on this thing.

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? 

There’s this one guy and he’s cooked, you know. Way over his head. A shame, really. But he did it to himself. Don’t we all?

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

I don’t know how the book ended, but I can tell you about the last time I saw Jake Travis. I can—but I won’t.

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

Leave me out. I’ve got businesses to run.

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

You know I live in downtown St. Petersburg unless I get called back to Chicago. You seen the winters there? Travis is only fifteen minutes from me and that guy gets involved in some nasty stuff. I don’t know how he ended our story, but I’d be surprised if it’s the end of our story.




Genre: Mystery

Author: Robert Lane


Publisher: Mason Alley

Purchase on Amazon

18-year-old Jenny Spencer is missing after a violent nighttime encounter on a Florida beach. Jenny’s aunt, Susan Blake, asks wisecracking PI Jake Travis to investigate.

Susan and Jake had only spent one dinner together, but both felt an instant, overpowering attraction. Jake walked away.  After all, he was—and is—committed to Kathleen.  But having Susan in his life again could be dangerous:   dangerous in more ways than one.

As Jake and his partner, Garrett Demarcus, close in on finding Jenny, they uncover a shocking secret in Kathleen’s past.  Even more shocking is that Kathleen and Jenny’s life are strangely intertwined.

For Jake, this case may hit way too close to home—and what started as a race to find Jenny could become a fight to protect Kathleen.

As the case heats up and the danger escalates, Jake is forced to examine his moral boundaries.  How far is he willing to go for the woman he loves?   At what cost?  And what about that question that has dogged him since the beginning of the case: was there another person on the beach that night?


WinterSpring 2008 399


Robert Lane resides on Florida’s west coast.  He is also the author of The Second Letter.

Character Interview: Veronica Vasquez from R. Barri Flowers’ crime thriller, BEFORE HE KILLS AGAIN

character interviews logo

We’re thrilled to have here today, Special Agent Veronica Vasquez from R. Barri Flowers’ crime thriller, BEFORE HE KILLS AGAIN. Veronica is a thirty-five year old Criminal psychologist and profiler with the FBI’s Serial Killer Unit., living in Washington, DC, but visiting Portland, Oregon.

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


Thank you so for this interview, Veronica. 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? 


Yes, I believe the book was pretty accurate in its depiction of me as a career FBI criminal psychologist, a widow still hoping to find love again, and a sister seeking to reestablish the bonds with my estranged sister. 


That said, I would like to tell the readers that I didn’t run away from my hometown of Portland for the sake of running away, per se, but rather because it was time to start a new life. Though there have been some regrets along the way, I firmly believe that things happen as they were meant to, for better or worse. 


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


Before He Kills Again_CoverYes, the author was spot on in colorizing my personality. I am basically the same down to earth, yet analytical character with an open mind as a profiler and tender heart for those who mean something to me as illustrated. Like other people, I have a few flaws and am continually trying to rectify them. 


What do you believe is your strongest trait?


My dedication to the job, even as other things were falling apart in my life. An honorable mention would be a willingness to look at the big picture while zeroing in on the smaller one. 


Worse trait? 


My worst trait is perhaps a stubbornness that I inherited from my mother—in which I can be pretty inflexible to my own detriment. It’s something I’m working on. 


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!)? 


That’s a great question. If it were a television movie, it would definitely be Kelli Giddish, who resembles me physically and is a great actress. For a motion picture, I would say that Kate Hudson or Amanda Seyfried would be ideal choices to play me. If they decided on a British actress, I’d love to see Dominique McElligott in the role. 


Do you have a love interest in the book? 


Yes, I am happy to say. Things between me and Homicide Detective Sergeant Bryan Waldicott of the Portland Police Bureau become pretty intense as the story moves along.

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


I would say about three-quarters of the way when I think I’ve got the bead on the serial killer and am forced to look in a different direction, unsure just who the unsub is. 


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? 


I definitely wouldn’t want to be the killer that’s for sure, because he’s going down—if I have any say in the matter. 


Beyond that, though I love my sister Alexandra, I wouldn’t want to be in her shoes. Mainly because it would just be too weird as we know each other too well (not always a good thing). Also, I don’t get along too well with her new husband and certainly wouldn’t want to wake up one morning and find that I was married to him.


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


I feel it was really a great ending—everything you would expect in a good thriller with a heart pounding conclusion that wraps up everything while leaving open the door to the future.


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


I would tell him to keep my character three-dimensional while exploring new ways for me to do my job and pursue a social life. 


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


You certainly will. BEFORE HE KILLS AGAIN is the first in a new crime series, starring me as a tough but vulnerable FBI criminal psychologist and profiler, ready to do my part in solving cases and bringing perps to justice; along with continuing an exciting new romance and exploring its potential. 


Thanks for interviewing me. It was fun. Hope to do it again sometime.



R. Barri Flowers is an award winning criminologist and internationally bestselling author of more than sixty books–including thriller and suspense fiction, relationship fiction, young adult mysteries, true crime, and criminology titles.


Author Photo R Barri FlowersOther novels by the author include the bestselling relationship novel, FOREVER SWEETHEARTS, and young adult novels, COUNT DRACULA’S TEENAGE DAUGHTER, GHOST GIRL IN SHADOW BAY, and DANGER IN TIME.

Flowers has also written a number of bestselling true crime books, including THE SEX SLAVE MURDERS, THE PICKAXE KILLERS, SERIAL KILLER COUPLES and MASS MURDER IN THE SKY. He was editor as well of the bestselling anthology, MASTERS OF TRUE CRIME.

The author has been interviewed on the Biography Channel and Investigation Discovery.

Official Website:


Video Introduction to Author:

Amazon Author Page:











Mystery Fiction Blog:

Thriller Fiction Blog:

True Crime Blog:

Young Adult Fiction Blog:

Audio Books Blog:




Interview with Michael Bigham, Author of ‘Harkness’

Michael Bigham photo

Raised in the Central Oregon mill town of Prineville beneath deep blue skies and rim rock, Michael Bigham attended the University of Oregon and during his collegiate summers, fought range fires on the Oregon high desert for the Bureau of Land Management. He worked as a police officer with the Port of Portland and after leaving police work, obtained an MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College. Michael lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife, his daughter and a spunky Bichon Frise named Pumpkin. Harkness is Michael’s first novel. You can find him online at and His Twitter feed is @wassir.


Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Michael. Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

A: Harkness is my first novel, but I have had two short stories published: “American Clipper” in the anthology Coming Home and “Siren” in the anthology Aftermath.

Q: What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?

A: My first book was called Springtime in Tunisia written 20 years ago. It was a spy parody, very rough, very much a first novel. I took it to a writer’s workshop with Jack Cady in Cannon Beach, Oregon. He said it was very funny and that I wouldn’t have any problem getting it published, but he also told me not to publish under my own name, to reserve that for my “serious work.” It sits patiently in a trunk in my basement waiting for me to return to it.

Q: For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?

At least fifty rejection slips are in my desk. Shopping around a novel isn’t for people with fragile egos.

Q: How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?

A: Yeah, so my ego is a little fragile. No one ever trashed my prose, but it is a difficult process, especially the form rejections that I got. I relied on the positive comments I got from other agents and editors to bolster my spirits.

Q: When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?

A: The publishing business is in a state of flux. Traditional publishers are in trouble, so it was time to try something different. A couple of writer friends and myself decided to start up a small publishing house, Muskrat Press. We’re going to publish our stuff first with an eye toward publishing other writers somewhere down the line.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

A: It felt great. I immediately sent copies to friends and family and set to work on promotion and the next novel.

Q: What was the first thing you did for promotion when you were published for the first time?

A: I’m still trying to figure out the promotion thing. The first thing I did was to announce my book on Facebook. Social media is great for self-promotion.

Q: If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?

A: I’m happy with this option, but for the next novel I’m going to have a self-promotion plan in place before publication. I’ve discovered that you need to make the publication of your book an event. That’s something I didn’t do and now I have to backtrack.

Q: Have you been published since then and how have you grown asHarkness cover an author?

A: Harkness was published a couple of months ago, and I don’t have my next book finished yet. I hope I’ve grown as a writer. I have more confidence in my prose and in developing my characters. My main challenge right now is to plot before I write rather than winging it.

Q: Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up? What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?

A: There was a period when I stopped writing seriously. I had received some harsh criticism in a writing workshop and it shut me down for a couple of years. As a writer, you need to write constantly rather than suffer through long dry periods.

Q: What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?

A: I had a very successful reading in Portland a couple of months ago. Many of my friends and family were there, and I felt very proud of my book.

Q: If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?

A: Tough question. I was a cop for 27 years. It was one of those love/hate things. Sometimes I loved my job, but at other times I didn’t. I seriously thought about going back to school for a degree in social work or psychology. Those interests reflect in the depth of my characters.

Q: Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?

A: I’m exactly where I want to be. After leaving police work, I got a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Vermont College. It’s the best move I could have made, and I’m content with my decision.

Q: How do you see yourself in ten years?

A: Hopefully, I’ll have two series of mystery novels out in the world. I have an idea for a second series that will also take place in Eastern Oregon.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

A: Keep plugging away and remember that the publishing business is being turned upside down. The traditional path of getting an agent and shopping your novel to the big publishing houses isn’t the only path to your success as an author.

January Justice by Athol Dickson Book Blast & $25 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway

Reeling from his wife’s unsolved murder, Malcolm Cutter is just going through the motions as a chauffeur and bodyguard for Hollywood’s rich and famous. Then a pair of Guatemalan tough guys offer him a job. It’s an open question whether they’re patriotic revolutionaries or vicious terrorists. Either way, Cutter doesn’t much care until he gets a bomb through his window, a gangland beating on the streets of L.A., and three bullets in the chest. Now there’s another murder on Cutter’s Mind. His own.

Link to purchase:

Athol Dickson’s mystery, suspense, and literary novels have won three Christy Awards and an Audie Award. Suspense fans who enjoyed Athol’s They Shall See God will love his latest novel, January Justice, the first installment in a new mystery series called The Malcolm Cutter Memoirs. The second and third novels in the series, Free Fall in February, and A March Murder, are coming in 2013.

Critics have favorably compared Athol’s work to such diverse authors as Octavia Butler (Publisher’s Weekly), Hermann Hesse (The New York Journal of Books) and Flannery O’Connor (The New York Times). Athol lives with his wife in southern California.




Pump Up Your Book and Athol Dickson are teaming up to give you a chance to win a fabulous prize!

Here’s how it works:

Each person will enter this giveaway by liking, following, subscribing and tweeting about this giveaway through the Rafflecopter form placed on blogs throughout the tour. This promotion will run from March 18 – Mar 22. The winner will be chosen randomly by Rafflecopter, contacted by email, and announced on March 25, 2013. Visit each blog stop below to gain more entries as the Rafflecopter widget will be placed on each blog for the duration of the tour. Good luck everyone!

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If the Rafflecopter form doesn’t load, please visit the JANUARY JUSTICE TOUR PAGE to enter the giveaway:

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Character Interview: Charlotte Dashiell from Chris Karslen’s romantic thriller, Byzantine Gold

character interviews logoWe’re thrilled to have here today Charlotte Dashiell from Chris Karlsen’s new romantic thriller, Byzantine Gold.  Charlotte is a 30 and a nautical archaeologist living in Istanbul, Turkey.

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

Thank you so for this interview, Charlotte.  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?

I think I was fairly portrayed. This was a very turbulent time for me. With the threat to Atakan’s life, my visa status up in the air, Atakan’s ex-girlfriend showing up asking all kinds of questions, then discovering my dive partner is a terrorist, and to top matters, Atakan’s mother making an excellent case for my leaving, I was grateful for the recovery project. It kept me focused on the wreck and from falling apart emotionally.

I am a little embarrassed about suggesting the Ipecac for Saska. I’d like the readers to know that is not something I’d normally do but the first thing I could come up with fast in that situation.

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

I think she did a good job with my personality even including my bad tendency to being secretive when I shouldn’t be.

What do you believe is your strongest trait?

My intellect, I’m a quick thinker in bad situations and logical.

Worse trait?

As I mentioned, I’m too secretive at times and it always comes back to bite me in the butt—so to speak. 

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!)?

Photo credit: Tyler Parker

Photo credit: Tyler Parker

I’d love Stana Katic to play me. I think she’s drop dead gorgeous and I love the fact that her character in Castle is smart and has good sense of humor. For Atakan, I see Oded Fehr. I’ve liked him since I first saw him in The Mummy. He’s handsome in a very masculine way, which I find attractive. 

Do you have a love interest in the book?

Yes, Atakan Vadim. He’s an agent with the Turkish Ministry of Culture, an archaeologist, like me. He’s one of the most honorable and ethical men I know, in addition to being handsome.

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

When Maksym Tischenko, who tried to kill Atakan once before, was spotted in Kusadasi, which isn’t that far by boat from Cyprus, where we were. At that point, Atakan and the Ministry figured he’d head to Cyprus and come after Atakan again. I worried knowing there was no way we’d discover where exactly he’d hide. He could sit on a boat any number of places off shore.

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?

I wouldn’t want to be Rana. She filled her head with girlish romantic notions about Tischenko. She couldn’t have fallen for a worse man.

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

I’m happy with it. Everything happened so fast and I’m glad I was able to participate.

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

I’d love for Chris to include Atakan and I in the next book, but I’d like my brother Nick to be one of the heroes as I’d also like to see Iskender in one of those roles too.

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

Oh, I believe so.


chris karslenChris Karslen is a  retired police detective. She spent twenty-five years in the law enforcement with two different agencies. The daughter of a history professor and a voracious reader, she grew up with a love for history and books. She has traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Near East, and Northern Africa satisfying her passion for seeing the places she read about. A Chicago native, Chris has lived in Paris, Los Angeles, and now resides with her husband, and five rescue dogs in the Pacific Northwest.

Learn more about Chris and her work on her website and blog.

Listen to an audio interview with the author on At Random LIVE.

Watch the trailer of Byzantine Gold on YouTube.

Purchase the book on Amazon.

A Chat with Gabriel Valjan, author of Wasp’s Nest

My guest today is Gabriel Valjan, author of the Roma series, published by Winter Goose Publishing. The first book,Roma, Underground, came out earlier this year. The sequel, Wasp’s Nest, was just released this week. The third installment is scheduled for August 2013.

Valjan attended the University of Southern California for his undergraduate education and completed graduate school in England at the University of Leeds. Ronan Bennett short-listed him for the 2010 Fish Short Story Prize. Valjan’s short stories continue to appear in print and online literary journals. He recently won ZOUCH Magazine’s inaugural Lit Bits Contest. He lives in New England.

Find the author on the web: Website/blog / Winter Goose Publishing Author’s page / Pinterest for Wasp’s Nest

Wasp’s Nest is available on Amazon Paperback / Barnes & Noble Paperback / Kindle / Nook

Read my review of Wasp’s Nest on The Dark Phantom Review.

Thanks for this interview. Tell us a little about what got you into writing?

Like most things in my life the road was not always obvious or straight. I didn’t always know that I wanted to be a writer. As a child I read voraciously, so I was quite awed, quite intimidated, by the great talents on the bookshelves at my local library. I began with a lot of self-doubt about my ability to sustain an idea, create multidimensional characters, and capture the tics of dialogue. I knew what I enjoyed in literature, understood to some degree how it all worked. I was convinced (still am) that nobody could teach the idea that starts a short story, a novel, or a poem. When I had set aside the initial excuses and insecurities, I discovered that I was having fun and I had stories within me.

What was your inspiration for Wasp’s Nest?

After I wrote the first in the series, Roma, Underground, I knew that I had created my cast of characters. Two things happened then: one, I wanted to see how each of my characters would grow and evolve, interact with each other, the world around them, and bond emotionally; and two, I wanted to take my own sense of ‘what if’ thinking and create situations and see how my characters would negotiate them. I believe what makes my characters interesting is that they each of them has their own ‘issues,’ as we all do in life, but mixed in it all is a cultural collision of American and European. In Wasp’s Nest, the ‘what if’ has to do with cancer research and technology. What if someone had a way of detecting cancer at the level of DNA and prevent cancer from occurring without chemotherapy, radiation, and disfiguring surgeries? Since the majority of us will die either from heart disease or some form of cancer, there is that ‘what if.’ And then there is the ‘what if’ in Wasp’s Nest of the threat a potential cure poses to those industries that profit from chronic illness. I don’t suggest that ‘what if’ is a pure either/or. Dance with the angel of a cure, but don’t forget that the Devil was also once an angel.

For those readers who haven’t read this or the first book yet, what is the blurb of the series as a whole and how many instalments are you planning?

I haven’t committed to an exact number, but I had planned six novels. The overall arc of the series is watching friends learn how to love and trust each other, learn how to move within a morally compromised world. The main character Alabaster (or Bianca if you prefer her alias) is difficult to know, extremely intelligent, and dichotomous at times in her thinking. She sees things others do not, yet she struggles with intimacy and trusting another person. Dante, her boyfriend, is a nice guy, a little too patient with her at times. Farrugia is a stoical investigator with an edge to him. His peer Gennaro is a widower who has never forgiven himself for causing his wife’s death. Alessandro has brains but picks the wrong women. Then there is Silvio, the ambitious and humorous interpreter. In Wasp’s Nest, readers will be introduced to Diego Clemente, a garrulous, very Boston character. Throughout the Roma Series I try to infuse authentic Italian culture and food.

In this novel, you dive into the controversial world of biotechnology, genetics, and pharmaceutical companies. Is the theory about wasps, the methyl toolkit, and their connection to cancer in your story a real thing?

The Nasonia wasp is real. There are three species indigenous to the U.S. and a fourth was indeed discovered in Brewertown, New York. In the novel I mentioned Mendelian genetics, which should return readers to basic biology. I try to keep it simple. I address the reason why this wasp was selected and why the fruit fly is an imperfect model. The reader will discover that the Nasonia wasp is no pleasant creature, but what I said about its genetics is true; it is easy to study, easy to manipulate, but the ‘what if’ is that current research in Nasonia is devoted to the development of pesticides. The concept of the methyl toolkit is real. The ‘what if’ I propose is pointed at oncology. I don’t think that it is misleading to say that we all have the potential for cancer. Women with a familial predisposition to cancer, for example, can be tested for the BRCA1 and HER2 genes for ovarian and breast cancers, respectively. A while back, the actress Christina Applegate tested positive for the BRCA1 gene, which was unexpressed, but she opted for a double mastectomy as a pre-emptive strike. This is an example where technology exists and the ethical debates begin. While some sophisticated ideas do exist in Wasp’s Nest, I tried to not make them inaccessible. I believe readers are intelligent and seek intellectual engagement while they enjoy a story.

How much research did the book required?

I always do a great amount of research, but I hope that what I decide to include is articulate and not beyond the grasp of the reader, or so implausible that it is science fiction. I research technology online and in technical libraries. While I don’t have a Ph.D, I’ve retained a working vocabulary from my scientific education. With the methyl toolkit I did speak with an immunologist and instructor who researches cancer and teaches at the graduate level. While I was remiss in thanking him in the Acknowledgements I had him in mind when I introduce readers to Portuguese food in Wasp’s Nest.  I should also mention that another form of research necessary to the Roma Series is cultural in nature. Two of my friends act as my editors. Dean proofreads all my work; and Claudio does the ‘cultural editing.’ Both men are far more knowledgeable in Italian than I. Claudio is a native speaker, a linguist, a journalist and a professional translator, with northern and southern Italian culture in his veins. While I can read Italian with respectable facility, only the native speaker can give you the authentic phrases and turns of phrase. This ‘cultural editing’ was crucial to the third novel, out in August 2013, since it deals with a volatile part of recent Italian history, with an unfortunate American connection.

I love the title, which of course suits the story well because it works on two levels. Did you come up with it right away or did you have to brainstorm?

I knew the title from the start. I had wanted to create a story in Boston. The title does work on many levels. It alludes to the insect, the Bostonian stereotype of the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, and the colloquial expression of getting into a mess, although I think the proper phrase has to do with a ‘hornet’s nest.’ One of the particular joys with Wasp’s Nestwas working with Winter Goose in designing the cover art. I should point out that the wasp on the cover is not a Nasoniacritter, but a yellow jacket wasp.

How long did it take you to write the novel and did you plot in advance?

I wrote Wasp’s Nest in four to six weeks, BUT I spent longer editing and shaping it before I submitted it to Winter Goose, where it underwent more editing with James Logan. Fellow Winter Goose authors Jessica Kristie and Sherry Foley provided me with invaluable feedback and suggestions before James touched the manuscript. Jessica is a poet so her contribution around imagery was helpful. Sherry is the author of two Winter Goose thrillers: A Captive Heart andSwitched in Death. She taught me other “suspense tricks.” I can’t emphasize how helpful they were for both Wasp’s Nest and for me as a writer. In terms of plotting, I knew where I was going with this novel. It did feel at times like “seat of your pants” writing, but I advocate getting the story down on paper and then editing afterwards.

What made you decide to make your main character a woman? Has this been challenging? If yes, in what way?

The genesis for the Alabaster character came from a dare. I was talking to a work colleague whom I’ve known for over ten years. Margaret knew that I was writing short stories at the time so she suggested that I try my hand at writing a female character.  The result was a short story entitled “Alabaster.” Yes, it is challenging to write out of gender and I would add that it is also difficult to write from a child’s perspective. I have a deep respect for children’s authors since they have to modulate story and vocabulary to their audience. I don’t think writing from a female point of view is insurmountable. Research can get you the answers. The skill is in transforming the knowledge into believable action and dialogue.

In Book I, it was Rome. Now, it is Boston. In both novels your locations are fleshed out in vivid detail. How important is a sense of location in a story?

In the Roma series I try to make the location a character. We can take our environments for granted. Wasp’s Nest takes place in Boston, the third, fourth, and fifth novels take place in Milan, Naples, and Boston. Cities change all the time: think of Whitman’s Manhattan and New Jersey, T.S. Eliot’s London, and Baudelaire’s Paris. The modern metropolis provides a remarkable backdrop to our individual and social conflicts and pleasures.

How do you keep up with what’s out there in terms of spy gadget technology?

I hope readers don’t think that they are getting Jane Bond. John le Carré Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy proved that spy-craft is a slow game of chess. As I mentioned earlier, I read a lot so I read the geek articles whenever I find them, rummage in the libraries when an idea takes root, but in terms of gadgetry I think I use a remarkable device called the ‘intelligent brain,’ and it happens to belong to a woman.

As it’s the case with book I, there’s a lot of marvellous food description in Wasp’s Nest

Starving is not an option in Italy. How could you not love the food and the attitude of La Dolce Vita?

If you could narrow down the three main elements of a good spy story, what would they be?

Ambiguity. Misdirection. Movement. A story has to move; the pages have to turn. Ambiguity in character and motivation is true to life. Human beings are not selfless creatures; that is why I think altruism is a virtue. One of the joys of a good mystery is watching intelligent people being intelligent.  This is damned difficult to write, since your protagonist has to be smart enough to spot something that neither the other characters nor your readers can see, even though it’s right in front of them.

You also write poetry and short stories, having published many in literary journals. What do you find more enjoyable: working in a poem, a short story or a novel?

Each has its appeal. Poetry is a house with all the necessary language; and by its nature, not often natural language. The short story is an airplane with a short runway and flight is imminent or the plane crashes. The novel is an endurance race, where there are miles to go, numerous paths to take, but you have only so much water and food: use them wisely. For me poetry is intimate and personal. While I enjoy the short-fiction format, I have noticed that what was once acceptable – twenty to fifty pages is now impractical, with most stories clocking in at 5,000 words. Flash or micro fiction is challenging. Is it a story or a vignette? I’ve only had one flash-fiction piece published; it was a 111-word story that I did for a contest for ZOUCH Magazine.

Congratulations on winning first prize in ZOUCH Magazine’s Lit Bit contest. Can you tell us about it?

I was searching for the “calls for submission” web pages and I saw page after page of requests for flash fiction. I felt dismayed but then I thought: What can I tell in a short, SHORT piece? I wrote one sentence that told a hero’s journey. The brevity of the form drew upon my experience in writing poetry.

What’s on the horizon for you?

I’m almost done writing the fifth book in the Roma Series. I’m trying to find a publisher for a three-volume noir series that I have written. It has two main characters, an American and a British woman, who are part of the American intelligence community. The novel starts in Vienna and continues in McCarthy-era Los Angeles and New York, highlighting the time, the mores, and the dark rivalry between the CIA and FBI.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers?

Write because you love to write. No matter how great you think the writing is, please have someone edit it for you. Respect your reader and try to understand that not everyone will like you, that criticism, while an opinion, is an opportunity for improvement. If you find a writer that you like then write a balanced review on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads. Last but not least – thank you for reading.

This interview originally appeared in Blogcritics

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