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.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Internationally Acclaimed Author Simon Corbin

London's Simon Corbin isn't just a prolific writer unashamedly pushing boundaries others might find intimidating, he's a man cognizant of the world and its beauty, as well as its pitfalls and dangers, and embraces and implants all of that awareness in his stories.

An intensely dedicated man, Corbin's literary voice is profound and resonates both through the halls of academia as well as his fiction novels. While a lecturer and teacher of journalism, Corbin also opted to teach adult literacy to bus drivers, providing a much needed service, which is still on-going. A journalist and copywriter, Corbin has provided his services to a wide array of clients, from newspapers and magazines, to government agencies and blue chip companies.

But it is writing fiction that truly frees Corbin's spirit and curious mind.

His tales traverse life from the retrospective and provocative "All Things Nice," the story of a man on the brink of forty who hopes to find his future by rediscovering his past, to the alienation of a punk rocker rebel and his pain-filled rites of passage in "Rude Boy," to his current chilling release, "Love, Gudrun Ensslin." The latter is a story of the vulnerability of our world to those able to seize upon our worst fears and manipulate those fears for personal gain. In Corbin's words, the story "warns of the dangers of both ideology-led violence and greed-fuelled exploitation."

Simon Corbin is a writer who employs many genres, but always leaves his readers entertained, and most of all, thinking.
Simon's Web Site

Q) You donate portions of the sales from your books to support charities. Many "talk" about helping others, but you have acted. What was the catalyst that pushed you into action?

A) I’ve long thought along the lines of: If you’re not actively involved in trying to make this world a better place then how do you sleep at night or look at yourself in the mirror? It’s an ethos that informs my writing – although I try hard not to make my books overtly preachy or sanctimonious (which would be patronising and, to some degree, inappropriate for works of art). I just happen to think it’s important that people are aware that every individual (no matter how impoverished or apparently disenfranchised they may seem) really can make a positive difference to improving the lot of everyone and everything around them – and that, furthermore, this is a choice they can make for themselves: a conscious choice between being mean-spirited or generous in spirit. I also think the higher up the food chain you find yourself, the greater the onus in terms of responsibility to others – hence, I believe governments, corporates and the (unimaginably) rich owe a duty of care to society at large (and not the converse – which sadly seems to be the global status quo nowadays). I don’t think there was a particular catalyst in my case – I’m just trying to find the most appropriate way for me to do what I can. In that regard, I think it makes sense for me to use some of the profits gained from writing (such as they are!) to help those organizations that are clearly instances of generosity of spirit in action. I aim to choose an organization to benefit from each novel that somehow relates thematically to the novel itself. Hence, Rude Boy supports a charity for London’s homeless young people - Centrepoint. Love, Gudrun Ensslin supports an animal welfare charity – CHAT (The Celia Hammond Animal Trust). The idea that we are common humanity (and, by extension, common animality) sharing this thing we call ‘existence’ (and that we should help and support each other) – is really the central theme of my novel Love, Gudrun Ensslin.

Q) You hold a firm and public appreciation of artists, such as William Foreman and Simon Gales. What draws you inside a painting or sculpture?

A) I used to draw cartoons and caricatures as a kid – the caricatures, in particular, got me into quite a lot of trouble during my school years! There was also a time when I briefly considered doing a Foundation degree in art and trying to become an artist. My mother worked as an artist’s agent and managed a succession of art galleries in London – so I was brought up surrounded by art and artists. When I began in journalism I wrote regular art reviews for What’s On In London (a now defunct rival to Time Out) for several years – touring the galleries and producing double page spreads on the BP Portrait Award, Paula Rego, Georg Baselitz, Bridget Riley and so on. William Foreman and Simon Gales are contemporary artists I met and admired. I wrote an introduction for a book on Foreman and I am very keen to promote Simon Gales’ astonishing current body of work to a wider audience – check it out amigos! And to answer the second part of your question(!): I look for a visceral emotional response to a work – an instinctive attraction. My all-time favourite artist is George Grosz – his bitingly satirical canvasses are the closest thing I have ever to seen to the sort of art I feel I would have produced if I had actually followed that path. As pure technicians I hugely admire Cranach, Durer and Caravaggio.

Q) Does your love of art ever transcend into your writing, and if so, how?

A) It has not done so in any overt way so far – but I wouldn’t rule it out in the future! However, it has actually happened the other way around – in that the afore-mentioned Simon Gales read my novel Love, Gudrun Ensslin and totally ‘got it’ in a way not every reader does. It could be that an artist’s sensibilities allow him (or her) to view a work of art (i.e. a novel) in a particular way. Whatever the explanation, Simon (Gales) posted a spot-on review of Love, Gudrun Ensslin on French Amazon that I hope to use in promoting the novel further. By the way, David, I must add that you have also totally grasped where I am coming from in my writing – and I thank you for the intro you have written to this Q&A section.

Q) While your stories may appear eclectic, the common thread is the spirit of the individual. What is it about people that so enthralls and fascinates you?

A) The principal focus for me is exploring the human condition – and the medium I have chosen is the novel. My first degree (at London University) was a BA (Hons) in Philosophy – and philosophical enquiry still absorbs me. Writing novels adds a layer of freedom and creativity beyond the codified strictures of philosophy (as an academic discipline) that is perfect for me (as someone who instinctively kicks against artificial boundaries). So, you’re right! Superficially each of my novels appears to be wholly different to its predecessor but each one in some way concerns the experience of being human – albeit in a variety of contexts. The plight of the individual is the focus precisely because the ‘human condition’, by its very nature, is necessarily subjective – we all go through life experiencing it from a unique perspective; how we might transcend that is fascinating to me and constantly plays out in my fiction.

Q) Describe the perfect morning of the perfect day for Simon Corbin.

A) At its simplest level (and this does happen quite often – UK weather notwithstanding!) – the sun is shining and I am off to play hours and hours of tennis! On a purely selfish level, I look forward to the day when I can wake up knowing I am earning my sole income from writing (and that it is sufficient to sustain my writing into the indefinite future). On a wider level, a perfect morning also involves knowing all is well with various family and friends. Finally, on the widest possible level, the most perfect morning ever will involve waking up to find that the real world has somehow become the ideal world – somehow the ‘goodies’ among us have finally won; there’s an end to hatred, injustice, cruelty, avarice, greed, warfare, murder, corruption, exploitation (etc!) – i.e. a real life Hollywood ending! One lives (and writes!) in hope!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Thriller Author Cat Connor

New Zealand's Cat Connor is the self-described mother of a "bunch of children" ranging from just in school to married. Needless to say, this lady is extremely busy with life in general. Yet, somehow, she has managed to author ten novels. However, it was the creation of the heroine, Special Agent Ellie Conway, that ultimately propelled Cat's work to the public's attention and peer recognition. "Killerbyte" was a finalist for the 2010 EPIC Award in the Mystery and/or Suspense category – a very respectable and noteworthy accomplishment.

"Killerbyte," a story of innocence in a chat room that results in murder, was inspired by reality. Yeah. You never know who is really on the other side of the monitor looking in at you.

In "Terrorbyte," the wise-cracking, psycho-prophetic Agent Conway returns to take on a killer using murder to camouflage his true agenda. Now, in "Exacerbyte," Cat's latest release, the special agent is taking on a new threat, seemingly even more intelligent, and thusly, more dangerous than the others Conway has faced. Due to this series' unquestioned success, a fourth book is in the works.

Cat Connor exploded out of the gate with a book that caught immediate attention and a devout following. She's only now coming in to her stride, and we can expect to see much more from this talented writer.
http://catconnor.wordpress.com/

Q) Why thrillers? What is it about this genre that attracts you?

A) I have always read thrillers and mysteries. As a teenager I read a lot of Ian Fleming, (among many others). James Bond was pretty damn cool (and he still is), but like most thriller protagonists, male. The older I grew the more I noticed a lack of thrillers with female protagonists. We were getting the raw end of the deal and being portrayed as weak and in need of rescue – or worse, strong female protags were bitchy, nasty, and quite unlikable. Where were the real women in thriller fiction that I could identify with? Well, there really weren’t any when I started writing to amuse friends and myself.

Funnily enough, I made no conscious decision to write thrillers. The decision was to write a book I wanted to read, period. My stories have a lot of action, high stakes, and are fast paced, because that’s what I enjoy, but I didn’t particularly have a genre in mind.

In fact, when I eventually wrote killerbyte I had no clue what genre it actually was. At various stages of the process, killerbyte had been labeled with many genre suggestions. I’d even been told it was a romance, which I didn’t see, at all! (Romance to me involved throbbing and heaving… I don’t do throbbing and heaving! I’m way more into killing and maiming.)

I’d been told that thrillers are plot driven and literary fiction was character driven. That was even more confusing! My books are both character and plot driven. The _Byte Series books are equally about Agent Conway and whatever plot line emerges.

Q) With your family and schedule, how do you in fact find any time to write?

A) Most of the battle is planting bum in seat and fingers on keyboard – once I do that, I actually have about 6 hours a day in which to write. Writing has always been something that fitted around life, but now that I have more uninterrupted time, I can write during the day and treat it a little more like a real job. Although, if I’m caught up in a scene – everything get’s pushed aside until I’m finished. So on those days I might be serving up canned spaghetti for dinner and writing late into the night! (And quite frankly, don’t expect me to have done the laundry, vacuumed, do dishes, or to dust when I’m working.)

If you really want to write you will find the time.

Q) How did it feel when you learned "Killerbyte," was a finalist, a true contender for an EPIC Award?

A) I learned killerbyte was a finalist for an EPIC award the same week that terrorbyte was released. It was a crazy week. I do believe there was a lot of shrieking and celebrating. If I recall rightly we celebrated with South African wine! There was a heady mix of was delight and surprise that my first novel was being so well received. It didn’t matter that we didn’t win, it was enough of a confidence boost to be a finalist!

Q) What is it about your heroine, Ellie Conway, that you believe has attracted fans?

A)The appeal with Ellie (in my opinion) is her realism. She’s not an airheaded bimbo who runs down the middle of the road when being chased by someone in a car. I used to see those women/girls in movies and grumble to myself, “you deserve to die, you are just too stupid to live!”

Ellie is smart, funny, and can hold her own in any given situation. She may not enjoy everything she does in her job. Every now and then it gets all too much, she’s been known to vomit when a confronted by a particularly gruesome crime scene but she won’t compromise the crime scene doing so. Ellie is tough enough to gain the respect of her team and human enough for us to still like and really want good things for her.

She isn’t perfect, but then who is?

And she is a whole lot of fun to write, which probably comes through in the text.

Q) Do you have any new characters on the horizon readers should be watching for, or any plans to expand into other genres?

A)I introduced two new characters in exacerbyte, which was a lot of fun. The idea of having a rock star character really amused me – you’ll get to see a little more of Rowan Grange in future books and it’s highly likely there will be other new characters coming in.

As for other genres, yes and no. I don’t think I’ll be straying too far from action filled fun and games that are thrillers, but I have a historic novel I’m working on (when I get time and the inclination). It’s more a historic thriller than anything. I also have a kiwi series I’m toying with, but think that will probably be classified thriller too.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Humbling Genius of Dr. Ervin Laszlo

Hungarian Ervin Laszlo was a child prodigy on piano. But his creativity, vision, and insatiable appetite for exploration refused to be satisfied with stopping at internationally acclaimed virtuoso.


Today he is the holder of the highest degree of the Sorbonne (the State Doctorate), four honorary Ph.D.s and numerous awards and distinctions, including the 2001 Goi Peace Award (the Japanese Peace Prize) and the 2005 Assisi Mandir of Peace Prize. He has authored or contributed to more than 80 books and is a two-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee. A former professor of philosophy, systems theory, and futures studies in the U.S., Europe, and the Far East, Laszlo is founder and president of an international think tank (the Club of Budapest), as well as the General Evolution Research Group.

Now, he has elected to tell his story. But not as a remote personality at a podium, or a stranger in our midst. Laslo has penned "Simply Genius: And Other Tales from My Life" in the manner of an old friend sitting on our couch, a cup of lemon tea in his hand, saying, "Let me tell you where I've been the last seventy-nine years." And that in and of itself lends insight to the uncommon genius of Ervin Laszlo.

Laszlo's father was a shoe manufacturer - his mother played the piano. At age nine, Laszlo performed his first concert with the Budapest Symphony Orchestra. By age fifty-two, he participated in clandestine meetings behind the Iron Curtain to explore if it might be possible to identify an evolutionary path toward a better world should mankind destroy this one. Where many see a world filled with degradation, polarization, and disaster, Laszlo sees the possibilities of navigating our future toward humanism, ethics, and global sustainability.
Dr. Laszlo's Web Site

Q) As a boy in Hungary you enjoyed Apache Indians, candy, and suffered the same skinned knees as any other child. In fact, during your debut with the Budapest Symphony, the child you were was focused on whether a particular box of candy had arrived. When did you realize your life would not parallel other children?

A) I never realized it, certainly not as a child. I always thought of myself as "one of the boys" - playing soccer in the summer, ice hockey in the winter and bicycling all year 'round. I enjoyed listening to music - loved the phonograph I got for my 10th birthday and avidly collected the large and scratchy 78 rpm disks I would listen to over and over. My mother played the piano for me every morning and then I played the same pieces in turn - it was great fun. Then I went on with my life - a boy's life, like any other. That I also performed on the piano for others was just more fun. Great fun, in fact.

Q) What prompted you to write your story now?

A) Actually, friends and publishers prompted me, but I didn't want to do it. I said I am not interested in looking back, just forward - what has been, has been. But finally I agreed to write down the anecdote I would come up with when journalists would ask, "how did you shift from being a concert pianist to being an academic - a philosopher?" That is quite a story, and since I have told it quite a few times, I just sat down and wrote it out. It only took a few hours. Then my friends came back saying fine, but can you add how you met and married the Finnish girl who became your wife? That was another question I was often asked and I got used to giving an answer to it. So that took another half-day. To make one long story into several short stories, within three weeks I had a dozen "short-stories" on my laptop. And I began to enjoy myself. It was fun going back over the years and living myself into bygone and I thought long-forgotten times. They were as vivid as ever. For a day I would be an eighteen year old growing up and having romantic adventures in New York, then a thirty year old in Switzerland timorously seeing if he could make it as a budding scientist and philosopher. Or a fifty-five year old becoming an international civil servant and being privy to some of the backstage discussions at the UN that would shape the world (or so I thought). And so it went, until I had all twenty-two stories in hand and said, now basta - that's enough. I added some recollections of how I reconnected with my hometown Budapest over the years, and the book was born.

Q) During my research I encountered one of the obvious detractors of your work. Claims of extremism, a blatant hint at fascism, and the intent to create a one-world government abound. How do you maintain your composure against such inordinate criticism?

A) I have been called many things (though being a fascist and a one-world government advocate is frankly ridiculous) and I never really minded it - I remember Gandhi saying that when you innovate first you will be ignored, then denigrated, and then (with luck and perseverance) your ideas will be embraced as if we would have known them all along. Best is to get past the phase of being ignored. Fine then to become accepted even without being recognized for what one is accepted for. The main thing is to get the ideas across - that's what I had always wanted.

Q) Of all your accomplishments, professionally and personally, which is the one that continues to warm your heart?

A) What I most want and have always hoped for and appreciated is having loving people around me: my immediate family and close friends. I have that privilege, though I don't feel that I really deserve it. Perhaps I have been lucky. In any case, I thank my lucky stars for that.

Q) Throughout your life, it is music that seems to be the blood in your veins that fuels your passion, the drive to pursue your intuition, and your love of wisdom. Should all of us seek to identify a passion beyond the rote of routine?

A) I should say, yes, absolutely. Living for something is what makes life worth living. Having a vision, no matter how pedestrian or how pie in the sky. The ultimate hobby, the ultimate satisfaction, is to do something that you think is worthwhile. For me a day when I pursued my vision-hobby is a day well spent. Otherwise it seems like a day pretty well wasted.

Q) What message do you hope to leave with your readers?

A) Life is a great adventure. The adventure of finding out what it - I mean life - really is all about. And if you can have fun while looking for the answer, so much the better. I abhor being so serious about anything that the sense of adventure is lost, and there is no fun pursuing it. There is a well-known expression in German (which I have known as a child, since it has its equivalent in Hungarian) tierische Ernst, meaning "beastly seriousness." I have always disliked it, in myself even more than in others. I hope this comes through between the lines in all these "tales from my life."

Friday, June 3, 2011

Romance Author Lauren Fraser

Canadian Lauren Fraser was giving her two daughters the "follow your dreams" speech when she realized maybe she should follow her own advice. Today Lauren is a multi-published author with many more wonderful tales to come. Claiming a huge romantic heart and to be a sucker for happy endings, she naturally gravitated to romance as her writing interest and chosen genre.

Preferring tea, she has a cupboard filled with varying flavors. She's also a self-proclaimed chocoholic. But don't let her gentle persona fool you, she's an avid mixed martial arts fan and has broken off more than one conversation so she didn’t miss a single round of a bout. Lauren's also a lover of the outdoors and regularly goes camping, hiking, and kayaking with her husband and children.

Certainly, a number of Lauren's novels such as "Sex, Sin, and Surf" contain the jaw-droppingly handsome hero whose mere appearance on the page curls your toes in anticipation of his meeting the heroine. But Lauren also believes men with brains can be incredibly sexy. From that belief she penned the novel "The Geek Next Door," the story of a successful and powerful woman who discovers the fantasy she thought would only remain an intangible dream actually lives next door in a man who uses his mind to make her fantasies reality.

And while today's dating world may utilize the Internet to meet, Lauren still believes in what she calls the "Wowza!" moment when your gaze falls on that certain someone who sends your heart into cardiac arrest, and your mind to the clouds.

If you enjoy romance, love, and unforgettable characters and prose, you need to spend some time with a Lauren Fraser story.
Lauren's Web Site


Q) "Undercover Attraction," a story about a DEA agent, was your first published story. How nervous were you about how the readers would accept it?

A) First let me just say thank you so much for having me as a guest today. I'm really excited to be here. Now onto your question, how nervous was I? Goodness, nervous doesn't even begin to describe it, it was more like terrified, but then I am every time I have a book released. LOL

Q) Outwardly, you don't appear shy, yet you claim to be naturally introverted. How have you overcome that in order to communicate with readers, which I know you do regularly.

A) Well I have to admit it's a whole lot easier to get over my nerves when I don't have to do it face to face. Honestly a big part of being an author is getting your name out there so people actually know to look for your books, so even though it wasn't originally in my comfort zone, I put on my big girl panties and did it. Now that I have done several different promotional things it has gotten considerably easier, thank goodness. Although I admit, on social media stuff, I do still find it easier to comment on existing conversations rather than starting my own, but I'm trying to get better at that too. *grin*

Q) You worked in the child protection field for a number of years. Not an easy job at times. How has that experience influenced your writing?

A) I like to think it has made me more in tune with my characters and their conflicts. I'm always trying to figure out what shaped them into the people they are now, upbringing, experiences in the past, etc. all have a huge impact on how you handle various situations and I hope I create characters that have that depth to them.

Q) I know you to have a wicked and off the hip sense of humor. Your book "Aged to Perfection" offers a hint of the depth of your wit. Who do you attribute your humor to?

A) Hmm that's a tough question. Can't I just plead I was born with it? LOL I'm not really sure, but I'd probably have to give a lot of the credit to my grandpa. He had an amazing sense of humor and he used to make up these fantastic stories and in hindsight they were obviously fake but he was so good at spinning these tales and lacing in the real life humor of those situations that I always believed him. He also taught me the importance of being able to laugh at myself which I think helps. Other than that I have no idea.

Q) As a relative newcomer to being published, what advice would you have for those who have a story to tell but have yet to put pen to paper?

A) Umm... get your butt in the chair and write it. LOL I know that sounds a bit simple but it's true. It's really easy to put it off and not write, Life has a funny way of sidetracking you from your goals if you let it. You can always edit the story later and fix POV and punctuation etc. but you can't fix it if you don't write it. Honestly you learn soooo much just getting it down on the page. When I look back at the first things I've written I realize I've learned a lot through this process, but you can't see your growth if you don't have a starting point.