DA Kentner writes the column THE READERS' WRITERS for the (Freeport) Journal-Standard and GateHouse News Service. My alter ego KevaD lives under a stairway of dreams where he writes stories and grumbles about everything. Click the pic to visit KevaD's blog.
Drop me a line at dakentner@yahoo.com

I invite you to read my award-winning short story posted on Calliope Magazine's web site.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

An Interview with International Author Sam Reaves


Q)What was the defining moment or event that sparked the desire to become a published author?

A)I remember wanting to be an author as a child, just about as soon as I learned to read and figured out where books came from, i.e. that somebody has to write them. When I was in first or second grade somebody gave me a set of cards with pictures and bios of famous authors, and that glamorized the whole thing. I think I declared my intention to be an author about that time.

Of course, I also wanted to be a jet pilot, professional football player, underwater explorer à la Jacques Cousteau, and a million other things as the years went by. But the author thing stuck with me as the others fell by the wayside. In college, where we acquire most of our pretensions, I decided I was going to write literary fiction, and I spent a couple of years writing the first chapter of a novel that never got off the ground. And then finally I realized I should be writing crime fiction, which was what I had always most enjoyed reading.

Q)You are an educator, author, and family man who attends conferences, seminars, and book signings. You're one of the 'nice guys' who makes himself available to his fans. It has to be a hectic schedule. How do you handle it so it doesn’t take away from your family time, as I know how important family is to you?

A)I am fortunate enough to have a day job as a free-lancer that allows me to work on my own schedule, so I can take a few days off and go to a conference if I want to. I should do more in the way of promotion than I do; effective promotion is a full-time job. I just fit in what I can. To tell the truth, I consider conferences, signings and other events the perks of the job, a chance to get out and meet people. Writing is very solitary, and the payoff is to be able to go rub elbows with interesting people at a conference or workshop.

Q)In your private life you read and stay current on world events and political issues. Given your preference for engaging in conversation and debate about the world around us, what prompted you to write hard-boiled Chicago crime fiction?

A)I grew up reading crime fiction; my father, who was a theoretical physicist by trade, had been reading and collecting mysteries since the thirties and had a closet full of old Pocket Books with the wonderfully lurid covers and vintage Penguins from England acquired when he studied at Oxford in the fifties. In my teens I started working my way through my father’s collection, and I just got hooked. So it was natural that when I finally got serious about writing, my efforts would be channeled in that direction.

As for Chicago, that’s where I live. There is no better canvas for a crime writer (or any kind of writer) than Chicago; it’s the great American city, diverse and dynamic and with a rich tradition of corruption and intrigue to boot.

Q)As international author Dominic Martell you breathe life into Pascual Rose. What inspired that character and why Spain as his base of operations?

A)In college I spent a wonderful junior year abroad in Barcelona and fell in love with the place. Later I lived in France for a year; I’ve traveled widely and picked up a few languages and wound up working as a translator. So while my background is firmly rooted in Middle America, there’s this whole side of me that is deeply interested in foreign countries, the world at large. And my Dominic Martell books are just a way of dealing with all that in fiction. One of the authors I grew up reading was Eric Ambler, who wrote espionage/intrigue novels set in interesting locales, and I always wanted to write something along those lines. The Martell books have allowed me to take a few interesting research trips and write about places that fascinate me.

Q)I know it’s a bit trite, but any interview with an established author has to conclude with this question: What advice can you give to a struggling writer trying to become published?

A)Don’t quit! In addition to a modicum of talent and ceaseless work to improve your craft, persistence is what you need most to break into print. There is a great deal of competition, and success is not always determined by literary merit, sad to say. Good books get rejected all the time. Your manuscript has to land on the right editor’s desk on the right day. The only way to succeed is to finish that book, send it out and start collecting rejections and, most importantly, get to work on the next book. Don’t spend the rest of your life trying to sell one book. The more you write the better you get; there’s a learning curve in this as in anything else. I wrote four novels that were never published before I had one accepted. So keep writing, keep working on your game, and above all, don’t let anyone make you quit.

An Interview with Author Barbara Sheridan


Barbara Sheridan, author of Timeless Wish amongst many others over her two decades of writing, took a few minutes to chat with me. You can find her at barbarasheridan.com

Q: What was the defining moment or event that sparked your desire to become a published romance/mystery author?

A: It pretty much started when I was left unsatisfied by the end of Interview With the Vampire. I took a little spiral notebook and wrote a new ending. Making my own stuff up was fun and creating my own characters even more fun. And addictive.

Q: Originally published by Berkley, your latest novels such as Falling Through Glass are e-published. How do you rate e-published novels against traditional paper books?

A: Quality and entertainment wise I'd put books from the top e-publishers up against books from "the big guys" any day. If you want "different" books, such as multicultural, GLBT, unusual settings, historical periods and unique characters, you can certainly find them from e-publishers.

Q: Do you think there should be some form of e-filtering system to root out manuscripts that simply aren’t worth reading?

A: There already is a filtering system of sorts. The long established e-publishers, and some newer, smaller ones have high standards when it comes to accepting manuscripts. They also put a lot of effort into making those books the best they can be once contracted.

Q: You have partnered with Anne Cain on several books now. How did you two become acquainted?

A: It was pretty accidental actually. We both belonged to an email loop that started as a fan group for the Japanese anime Rurouni Kenshin. An online role-playing game spun off of that combining established fictional and historical characters along with original characters. Anne and I both created a set of original characters (Anne's Chinese assassin and my fictional son of a real Japanese samurai) who interacted and entertained us so much that we had to play with them outside the game and give them their own involved plot.
The storyline was awesome so we eventually reworked it into a 3rd person point of view into what would become The Dragon's Disciple. We co-wrote thirteen books that tie into the DD Universe and I did a short story and two novellas on my own that tie in as well. It’s truly its own little universe, spanning historical, paranormal, and contemporary sub genres.

Q: What advice can you give to a struggling writer trying to become published?

A: Read as much as you can in as many genres as you can. I'm a big believer in subliminal learning. I didn't have any formal writing training beyond the classes I took way back in high school, but I've read millions of words of fiction and non-fiction and "how to tell a good story" sunk in eventually. *laugh*
The most important bit of advice might be don't think that getting that agent or big publisher contract means you've "made it" and will have smooth sailing from then on. Things that are out of your control can happen. Soul crushing things that make you want to quit and never even think about fiction or submitting again. But, just like life in general, you have to keep going, suck up the crappy things and tell the stories that need to be told.

An Interview with Award-Winning Author Sean Chercover


Sean Chercover, for those who haven't ventured out of their bomb shelters in a couple of decades, is an outstanding crime, mystery, and thriller author based out of Chicago. Check him out at www.chercover.com.
Sean's literary achievements include an Anthony Award, Crimespree Award, CWA Short Story Dagger Award, and a Dilys Award, just to name a few.

Q) What was the defining moment or event that sparked your desire to become a published author?

A) Not sure there was one defining moment or event. My mom used to read me bedtime stories - Curious George was a favorite - and when we ran out of books, she'd sit by the bed and make up new Curious George stories. I remember being struck by the idea that all these amazing books were actually written by someone, just like my mom was making up stories. So the interest in storytelling started very early. By the fifth grade I was entertaining the fantasy of writing fiction as an actual job, and it was around that time I wrote my first short story.

Q) You enter a lot of contests and have done well in them, and deservedly so. How has that affected your writing career?

A) Actually, my publisher enters my books for awards, and I've been very lucky, and won more than my fair share. Those awards are helpful to my career, both in terms of validation, and in terms of making my name more familiar to a wider range of readers.

Q) “A Sleep Not Unlike Death” is an award winning Gravedigger Peace tale. He’s chilling, no doubt about it, and yet a character we want more of. What are your future plans for him?

A) Thanks very much! I'm thrilled by the response that I've gotten from readers to Gravedigger, and to that story. I suspect, at some point, Gravedigger will get his own book - maybe even his own series. Time will tell...

Q) I know you moved your writing office out of the house. How is that working out for you?

A) It's working beautifully, thanks. My productivity has gone way up. The office is a five minute walk from home, but it is a world apart. No phone ringing, nobody knocking on the door. When I'm at work, I'm at work. And when I close the computer and come home, then I'm no longer at work, and my family gets my full attention. I'm not tempted to sneak away to my home office and write. If I really want to work in the middle of the night (and that's not unusual), I take the walk back to my office. But the separation of the two is very good, both for my work and for my family life.

Q) Do you still have your Popeil Pocket Fisherman?

A) I do, and it still works! Been a couple years since I've put it in use (I do have a "real" fishing rod) but thanks for the reminder - I'll give it some action this summer.

Q) What advice can you give to a struggling writer trying to become published?

A) 1. Write (fiction - not blog posts, not Tweets, not Facebook status updates).
2. Read (fiction - not blog posts, not Tweets, not Facebook status updates).
3. Repeat steps 1 & 2, six days a week, for the rest of your life.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Dennis Jordan. You’ve probably not heard of him, and that is your loss.

It has been said that the measure of a man is how he lives his life. It has also been said that the true heroes remain nameless.

Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Dwight Eisenhower signed the 1957 Civil Rights Act. Martin Luther King Jr made them reality.

The one thing those men share is that they did none of it alone. Thousands of the nameless carved out the trails they paved.

John Jordan co-founded FOR (Freedom of Residence), a multi-racial community organization with one goal – to ensure Freeport, Illinois, residents could live where they chose. An intolerable situation today that most cannot fathom, but reality in 1964. Being the wrong color in the wrong neighborhood had dire consequences at that time. Whether it was a black family moving into a white neighborhood, or a white family moving into a black neighborhood, FOR was there to defend that family’s right to live where they chose. He also fathered a son – Dennis.

Raised in that atmosphere of ‘doing what is right irregardless of color,’ Dennis has never strayed from that belief. As president of the local chapter of the NAACP for many years, Dennis held to his convictions that every person matters. Sometimes that didn’t make him so popular on either side of the color barrier. And in those times Dennis stood alone. But that is what makes Dennis so memorable. He stood. He stood for his beliefs then, just as he stands for them today.

When neighbors wanted to do something about drug dealers, Dennis was there. When a gang-related shooting occurred outside his house, Dennis was there… armed only with his faith in the human spirit.

When programs were started supplying impoverished children with basic school supplies such as pencils and paper… Dennis was behind the scenes feverishly working to get it done.

When the police wanted to establish a substation in a high-crime neighborhood, Dennis was there assuring the residents that it wasn’t about police domination; it was about community concern. And it was Dennis who was present at the first community meetings in the community meeting rooms built within the remodeled house originally slated for demolition. And it was Dennis who made sure those same doors were open on Sunday mornings for a neighborhood church that formed and had no place to meet.

When the police chief walked the neighborhoods at night, it was Dennis walking beside him.

When a resident felt the police had wronged them, it was Dennis pounding on that same chief’s door, demanding the wrong be righted. I know. I was that police chief.

And when Dennis decided it was time to knock down walls and bridge the gap between police and the community, I was proud to stand with him and swing that sledgehammer, and then build that bridge with him. That bridge became known as the Community-Police Review Panel. It was a panel of residents and police who heard complaints of suspected or perceived racial injustice and discrimination. They did so with complete independence – without police or city government interference, and without community sentiment swaying their decisions and opinions. Dennis and I made sure of that.

When I was seated as chairman of the local Salvation Army board, I approached Dennis with my concern that there were only white faces on that board. Volunteers arrived for the next meeting and the board became integrated for the first time.

I’ve retired. Dennis hasn’t. His job isn’t finished yet. Today he remains in the same neighborhood he and his family have lived in throughout their lives.

He still investigates allegations of injustice without concern for color. His concern is for doing what is right. When he has to, he calls the Department of Justice and any other organization he needs to in order to right the wrong.

My hope is that one day Dennis Jordan can retire, his job finished once and for all. But until then he will remain one of those thousands you will never know the name of. He will get up every morning and go to work defending those who believe no one cares. Every night he will go to bed knowing he will get up the next morning to continue the same battle his father fought. And every day he will hope his own children do not have to carry on the fight.

There will be those who will continue to say Dennis is an agitator, a pain in the ass, and not willing to listen to reason. They are the same people who are the problem.

As for me, I will call him ‘actively and genuinely concerned with the rights of all people to live their lives as they choose.’ But most importantly, I will continue to call him “friend.”

Saturday, March 6, 2010

An Interview With Author JA Konrath


THE READERS’ WRITERS

Joe “JA” Konrath is a multi-talented author in numerous genres. His series with protagonist Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels, the latest being “Cherry Bomb,” the seventh volume soon to follow, is climbing the literary charts with its recipe of action and spit-milk-through-your-nose comedy.

But Joe’s success isn’t what makes him unique. It is his understanding of print vs digital:
“By stating they won't ever give up print books, print aficionados are giving value to the journey. The act of turning pages, the smell of paper, seems to be just as enjoyable as the story itself. I don't buy it.”

Joe used the printed publishing industry as a stepping stone to break into the digital world where he's hit the #1 Kindle best seller spot, and six of his e-novels are amongst the top 1000. He's currently selling over 150 ebooks per day. In February 2010 alone, Joe’s e-sales topped $3400.

“The Internet is permanent. Your digital name on digital paper (the world wide web) works twice. First, it works for those who see it when it happens. Next, it works for those who see it weeks, months, or years after it happened.”

And getting his name out there is working for him. To that end he offers several of his pieces free, such as “Serial.”

“I wrote TRUCK STOP specifically for Kindle. And I had an insidious reason for doing so. TRUCK STOP is a Jack Daniels novella. It is basically a gateway drug. Those who read SERIAL for free, or TRUCK STOP for $1.99, will often go on to read AFRAID and the entire Jack Daniels series. TRUCK STOP is a fun story, with some thrills and laughs, but its ultimate goal is to lead people to more of my writing.”
Visit Joe’s web site at jakonrath.com.


Q) What was the defining moment or event that sparked your desire to become a published author?

A) When I was nine years old I read my first mystery, by Robert B. Parker. I've been paying homage to his writing ever since. "Homage" is a French word, meaning "ripping off."

Q) How do you believe the advent of e-books will affect the traditional community library?

A) Ebooks and audiobooks are already being lent out to patrons at libraries around Chicagoland, and I assume this is happening elsewhere and will continue to gain momentum. Libraries will always be hubs of the community; places to gather and study and borrow media, whether it be print or digital.

Q) Have you considered creating your own e-publishing/distribution company, given your command of that media?

A) Happily, I'm too busy writing at the moment. But there's a goldmine there, for those who are interested.

Q) JA Konrath, Jack Kilborn, and Joe Kimball, all pen names of yours, have unique voices in their respective genres. Do these personalities ever conflict with each other?

A) Very often. In fact, my wife got mad at me last weekend for drinking too much, but I explained that wasn't me, it was Jack Kilborn. That Kilborn guy is a real troublemaker.

Q) What advice can you give to a struggling writer trying to become published?

A) I acquired more than five hundred rejections before I landed a publishing deal. But I kept writing and kept trying, even though I had to write ten novels before I was able to sell one. There's a word for a writer who never gives up... published.