We are delighted to welcome author Joe Hart to CrimeFiction.FM’s digital interview booth today.
Joe’s new novel is THE LAST GIRL (Thomas & Mercer) in which a mysterious worldwide epidemic reduces the birthrate of female infants from 50 to less than 1 percent. Governments around the world scramble to solve the problem, but twenty-five years later there is no cure, and an entire generation grows up with a population of fewer than a thousand women
THE LAST GIRL is told from the limited perspective of one fierce woman, and the author taps into the deep fears and struggles that we all share in this searing, explosive story.
We recently had the opportunity to spend some time with Joe to talk more about the book.
CFFM: Tell us a little about THE LAST GIRL.
Joe: THE LAST GIRL is a thriller set in the near future after a mysterious epidemic causes the female birthrate to drop below one percent. The main character’s name is Zoey and we meet her about twenty-five years after the phenomena appeared. She’s been held in a research facility against her will and told that a plague had caused the lack of female births before becoming deadly to humans in general. But Zoey’s not so sure she believes her captors, and with a program where no women has ever returned from looming on the horizon, she decides she has to take action.
CFFM: THE LAST GIRL is the first in of a trilogy. How do you expect your characters to evolve over the course of your series?
Joe: I love all the characters, and there’s a lot of them in this trilogy. They all have their little quirks but over the course of the books they’re going to learn just how far they’re willing to go for one another. The world they’re in is a very dangerous place and sacrifices will have to be made to survive. Zoey especially will have quite the character arc since she is subjected to some pretty harsh circumstances.
CFFM: How do you go about researching the settings for your books, particularly when creating a futuristic setting as in THE LAST GIRL?
Joe: Many times I set the stories I write in places I’ve already visited or live near, but for The Last Girl I knew I wanted it set in the Pacific Northwest and I had never been there. So one of my best friends and I did a crazy two-day drive pretty much all the way across Washington state and back and got to really soak in the surroundings. As far as the futuristic aspects go I always try to keep those from getting too wild or out of hand. I like to have little differences or subtleties when creating some new technology or setting, basically a twist on what we have now. I think those types of things are the most believable because readers can envision them and not have to make a huge leap with the imagination.
CFFM: What’s the best advice you’ve received about writing?
Joe: That one’s easy. Blake Crouch told me once, “No more small ideas.” It’s definitely served me well so far.
“No more small ideas” – Blake Crouch
CFFM: What hobbies do you have that might surprise your readers?
Joe: Haha, well I’ve been dabbling in making short films now for almost two years. I write and assist with production and one of my best friends directs. It’s absolutely grueling sometimes, even making a ten-minute film, but the outcome is so rewarding. Seeing a story come to life in a different medium is very gratifying.
CFFM: What’s the first crime story you remember reading and what was your reaction to the story?
Joe: The first crime story I ever remember reading was Dolan’s Cadillac by Stephen King. It’s definitely a revenge tale as well as crime but I remember it striking me as so different from anything I’d read before.
It was a working man’s revenge story, something only King could dream up and chilling in a way that made me read it again and again.
CFFM: What’s next for you?
Joe: I’m in the midst of writing the third book in the trilogy and after that I have an idea for a conspiracy thriller that has some supernatural elements in it. Very excited with the premise and the characters that are already chattering away in my head.
Joe Hart was born and raised in northern Minnesota, where he still resides today. He’s been writing horror and thriller fiction since he was nine years old. He is the author of five novels and numerous short stories, including the books The River Is Dark, Lineage, and The Waiting. When he’s not writing, Joe enjoys reading, working out, watching movies with his family, and spending time outdoors.
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We are pleased to welcome author Frank Scozzari to CrimeFiction.FM’s digital interview booth today.
Frank’s latest novel is THE WIND GUARDIAN, an edge-of-your-seat stand-alone thriller published on December 4, 2015.
This fast-paced thriller brings to life a very real threat facing the United States. With the help of an inside man, a group of determined terrorists siege a nuclear power plant, intending to spread radiation and wreak destruction into the world.
We recently had the opportunity to spend some time with Frank to chat more about the storyline of THE WIND GUARDIAN and the real life experience he brought to the book.
Interview with Frank Scozzari
CFFM: Let’s get started with your new book, what can you tell us about THE WIND GUARDIAN?
Frank: ‘The Wind Guardian’ is a story about a terrorist attack on a California nuclear power plant. Though purely fictional, the novel is based on true-to-life Nuclear Regulatory Commission security requirements and “in-use” nuclear reactor cooling systems. It explores weaknesses in security.
As in 9-11, the fictional terrorists in the novel intend to use the technology of great nation against itself by converting a nuclear power plant into the ultimate “dirty bomb” and spreading radiation through the wind.
CFFM: THE WIND GUARDIAN sounds like a thriller, is that how you’d categorize the book?
The Wind Guardian is definitely a Thriller, with elements of romance and crime fiction.
CFFM: What’s the elevator pitch for the book?
Frank: A group of determined terrorists, with the help of an inside man, siege a nuclear power plant with the intent to spread radiation into the wind, only to be foiled by two misfit security guards who left their posts to make love.
CFFM: Your story features terrorism, nuclear power plants and more. How much of your own personal and professional experience have you included in the book?
Frank: I was once employed in the field of nuclear security and also have 20+ years experience in the Justice system. So I have included a great deal of personal experience in this particular novel, especially as it relates to nuclear security, firearms, and police procedures.
CFFM: Thanks for joining us, Frank!
Author Website: www.frankscozzari.com/index.html
Mark Allen Smith
We are delighted to welcome author Mark Allen Smith to CrimeFiction.FM today.
Before writing his first novel, Mark spent ten years as a television investigative news producer and documentary producer-director, and over twenty years as a screenwriter. He lives in New York City with his wife, Cathy Nonas, has three children—Zachary, Lexie and Rachel—and plays music and softball every single chance that he gets.
We had the opportunity to catch up with Mark a couple of weeks ago to chat about his new thriller, THE CONFESSOR.
CFFM – Can you give us the one or two sentence summary of THE CONFESSOR?
Mark – In THE INQUISITOR, Geiger – legendary interrogator in the field of ‘Information Retrieval’ (translation: torturer) – unearthed his own humanity and a measure of redemption by saving a boy’s life. In THE CONFESSOR, Geiger – now presumed dead and living secretly in Brooklyn making furniture – comes back out into the open when his ex-partner Harry is kidnapped in Paris, knowing full well that he is the prize in a rival’s extraordinary game of vengeance, and that sacrifice and atonement will be the only way to save lives.
CFFM – How do you expect your characters to evolve over the course of your series?
Simon & Schuster UK
Certainly, Geiger is the center and heart of the books. From the start, I knew the greatest challenge would be finding a way to introduce him to the reader without minimizing his coldness, his strangeness, his near-monstrousness – and without apologizing for them, either – but still draw the reader to him, so they would invest in him, so they would care enough to take the ride and find out what made Geiger who and how he is. So – with that in mind, my plan for Geiger’s ‘evolving’ was to let events trigger internal shifts in him, book by book – moments of revelation that opened him up and changed him, revelations that he and the reader experienced together. Not so much ‘peeling back layers of the onion’ as breaking down inner walls, one at a time. In this way, Geiger discovers his buried humanity, begins to understand the damage and trauma of his past, and feels himself changing at the same time that the reader’s feelings change toward him. In a sense, then – the character’s ‘evolution’ is a shared experience, and I think it helps the reader bond with the character even more deeply.
CFFM – How much of your own personal and professional experience have you included in the book / series?
Mark – In the 1970’s and 80’s I was a television investigative news and documentary producer – it was during those years that I first became interested/involved with the issues of political torture and family abuse – and those experiences led, ultimately, to THE INQUISITOR and THE CONFESSOR. During the twenty years I worked solely as a screenwriter (1985 – 2005) the subject became something of an obsession for me – and I tried to come up with a film treatment about political torture, but always ended up feeling/knowing that the nature of the studio system would prohibit the script, IF it was ever even produced, from reaching the screen in the form and intensity I wanted. So – I ended up taking the risk and tackling the subject in book form, where I knew I’d have the freedom, for better or worse, to create the story I needed to write.
CFFM – How would you describe your writing process?
Mark – As a novelist and screenwriter, I often discover a character in my head before I have a story to put her/him in, and as I obsessively fill in that character – back story, psychological makeup, habits, eccentricities, physical appearance, agenda – a story will usually start to grow around the character organically…and then I get to work.
I put together a basic outline, and constantly add notes for beats as I go – but I try not to lock everything into place ahead of time. I like having ‘room to move,’ allowing myself space to change direction, to have moments where some new plot beat hits me out of nowhere and takes me places I hadn’t considered before. One of the greatest joys of writing, for me, is surprising myself – so while my working focus, hour to hour, is pretty intense I try, at the same time, to keep a creative landscape in my head that’s has no boundaries. It’s something of a juggling act, and a little schizzy – but it’s a wonderful rush to be working on Page 250 and suddenly get hit out of the blue by some possibility you never saw before…and go for it.
CFFM – Describe Your Writing Environment
Mark – I have an office in my home in Harlem with a massive 150-year old, eight-foot long wooden desk that I’m sitting at with my coffee every weekday morning by 9.00. (Weekends, I push back the starting time till 11.00 or 12.00.) My large window is directly in front of me, with a view to the east – open sky and a multitude of buildings – that I look up to a thousand times a day. I am surrounded by photographs of my family and friends, which is (and has always been) crucial to my working mindset. I gaze at them frequently. (Gets a little lonely sometimes, being a writer.) At both ends of the desk at 90 degree angles are electric keyboards/pianos, and whenever I finish a decent chunk of prose, or, when I’m getting zilch done, I swivel in my chair to one of them and play music for ten minutes or so. It’s very interesting – that playing music has become part of the actual writing process for me.
CFFM – Do you have any specific outside interests that have worked their way into your book?
Mark – The element of music plays a major role in both books. Music is Geiger’s life-force, his energizer, drug, zen, inspiration, anchor. He is either listening to it come out of a speaker or listening to it inside his head, 24-7. I took that plot element right out of my life and put it into his.
CFFM – What’s the first crime story you remember reading and what was your reaction to the story?
Mark – I’m not positive – but I think the ‘first’ was THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES by Conan Doyle. I must have been eight or nine, and I clearly remember two significant things about the experience:
1) The obvious – that I was thrilled in a brand-new way by the suspense and scariness and foreboding darkness of the tale,
2) The realization, sometime after I had finished the story, that Conan Doyle had completely sucked me into a make-believe world he‘d created with his mind. The concept of being able to do that – to, in a sense, imagine something into existence…and then share it – and my sensing the freedom and power inherent in the act, helped make me the slave to writing that I’ve been most of my life.
For more information about Mark, please visit his website at http://sobelweber.com/featured-title/confessor
One of the many great things about having a website devoted to crime fiction is being introduced to great books and authors I might otherwise have missed. One of those books is AWAKE, a delightfully clever thriller/mystery/romance mash-up that I really enjoyed reading.
I had the opportunity to chat with the author, Melanie Surani, about the book, her experience with creepy art galleries and where to find a good meal without breaking the bank in New York.
Steve – Hi Melanie, Thanks so much for being here today. Can you give readers your author’s overview of the story in two or three sentences?
Melanie – AWAKE is about five strangers who wake to find themselves trapped in an abandoned art museum. They set out to free themselves – only to find that the illusion of death is sometimes worse than the real thing.
Steve – Interesting – While reading AWAKE I got the sense of a few different genres and it was hard for me to categorize. If you had to pick a single genre for the book, what would it be and why?
Melanie – We’ve been marketing it as a thriller, but that was a tricky one to land on. But the suspense stood out over the other sub-genres.
Steve – The primary setting of the art museum is a place many of might initially feel comfortable. But your rich description puts an entirely different spin on the museum idea. What was the inspiration for the museum in the story? Did it come to you all at once or did the setting evolve as you wrote the story?
Melanie – The story and setting definitely evolved over time. The setting came together when I visited Alexander McQueen’s Savage Beauty exhibit at the Met museum. The music, the lighting, the layout … the exhibit was creepy and I didn’t really like any of the pieces. But it stuck with me and seeped into the story.
AWAKE by Melanie Surani Booktrope, May 2015
Steve – The Met (the Metropolitan Museum of Art) is an amazing place, but as an occasional visitor to New York I always feel like I’m missing things when I visit. How cool is it to be able to visit whenever you like to see the new exhibits? Is this something you do on a regular basis?
Melanie – The Met is a wonderful place, and I really should be visiting more. But I have a kind of hate/hate relationship with the city (which is weird, I know, but the reasons are many) and I venture out of my apartment basically only for the day job and to buy groceries.
Steve – Josh and Sophia make for an unusual boy meets girl character study in the book. Did you have their complete story worked out before you began writing? If so, did it change as you were writing or did it stay true to your initial plan. If not, did the way their story develop surprise you?
Melanie – When I first started working on the story, the characters were totally different (including a few who were deleted). Josh and Sophia had nothing going on (Sophia had a little crush on him, but did nothing about it), and the first half of the book seemed flat. With every edit, the two of them got closer and closer until I had the beginnings of a romance novel going on. That was pretty surprising to me.
Steve – How interesting – Is this evolving storyline something that often happens when you write or is this unique to this book? If it is unique, did you find yourself fighting the way the story wanted to go?
Melanie – My stories usually change over time, so I’m cool with letting the characters do what they like. It’s a good way to keep me interested in the book while I’m writing it.
Steve – Do you write in the same place or do you move about the city?
Melanie – When I first moved to the city, I wrote in a lot of Starbucks locations. But now that I live in an area where any cafe/restaurant has a big “20 minutes while eating only!!!” sign, I tend to do my work at home.
Steve – Music plays a big part in AWAKE. Do you listen to music when you write? If so does what you listen to vary depending on what you’re writing?
Melanie – I listen to music all the time. For each project I do, the type of music I listen to varies a lot to keep the mood. I make playlists for each novel (which changes throughout, just like the plot!).
Steve – What’s your favorite under $20 dinner in New York?
Melanie – Mamoun’s Falafel House on MacDougal St. $3.50 for a falafel sandwich. I might be biased because I just went there for lunch and it was so good. Any time I’m in the area, I get something from them.
Steve – I’ve read that you love to travel. If you could live and write anywhere in the world, where would we find you?
Melanie – Edinburgh, for sure. In fact, I’m actively working on moving there. There’s so much literary history in that city that I feel like you have to be really hard not to find inspiration there.
Steve – Where can readers find you and your work online?
Melanie – Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iTunes are the most popular sites. And if you see me wandering around Manhattan, I might have a paperback you could buy off me.
Melanie Surani is a blogger, hair stylist, and author with a heart for international travel. She grew up in Memphis, Tennessee before taking extended trips to Canada, Germany, and Philadelphia.
When she isn’t cutting hair, Melanie is thinking about ways to kill people (for mystery novels). DVDs of British comedies help keep her calm. She lives with her husband and cat in New York City, where she is hard at work on her next novel with Booktrope Publishing.
Melanie’s author page on Amazon