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, August 26, 2011

Mystery & Suspense Author Cheryl Crane

Cheryl Crane is a writer and accomplished author. Yet to this day she first has to place a past she never asked for behind her in order for the power of her distinctive literary voice to be heard. So, let's do that right now: In 1958, fourteen-year-old Cheryl became a ward of the state after the stabbing death of Johnny Stompanato, then boyfriend of Cheryl's mother, actress Lana Turner.

We can ask the obvious questions of did that affect Cheryl's life, has it followed Cheryl throughout her life, is she more attune to abuse, what was her mother like, what was it like being Lana Turner's daughter… But the truth is, we already know the answers to those questions as we've seen the story played out on TV and in articles dozens of times. Add to that, as part of her own life path, closure if you prefer, Cheryl authored "Detour: A Hollywood Story" in which she openly discusses and shares her life - good and bad, no holds barred.

Still, we can't disconnect our past from our present any more than Cheryl can. Cheryl utilizes her insider knowledge of Hollywood, its glitz, its drama, and its dark secrets, to weave masterful tales of murder, mystery, and suspense. "The Bad Always Die Twice" is the first book in a new series featuring realtor-turned-amateur sleuth, Nikki Harper. Nikki finds herself the unwanted center of a killer's attention when a dead man resurfaces, only to die, again. "The Bad Always Die Twice" is a whirling thrill ride through the behind-the-curtains Hollywood, told in a way only one who lived it could.

Cheryl Crane, mystery author, has definitely arrived, and readers are in for a crime fiction experience that will have them turning on the lights and keeping the phone within reach as they savor every word.
http://www.kensingtonbooks.com/finditem.cfm?itemid=19630

Q) What inspired you at this stage in your life to begin writing fiction?

A) Writing has really been a part of my life for the last thirty years, not only with my autobiography, “Detour,” and my coffee table book, “Lana, The Memories, The Myths, The Movies,” but I have also written articles for Architectural Digest, not to mention writing hundreds of Real Estate ads over the years.

Q) Of all the genres to choose from for your debut, why mystery/suspense?

A) It has always been one of my favorite types of reading material. Mother and I had a real life experience when a famous friend and celebrity was being held incommunicado and having their money drained from their accounts, we figured out what was happening and Mother made a few interesting phone calls and we solved the problem….but that is for another book.

Q) The past is instrumental in determining who we will become, but does not define who we are. How would you describe today's Cheryl Crane to a stranger?

A) Extremely happy and content with my life.

Q) It's not uncommon for writers to create heroes/heroines who parallel the author's life. Nikki Harper shadows your life. What attributes did you instill in her that you would have liked stronger within yourself?

A) Nikki is younger than I and as such has a determination and confidence that I didn’t have at that age.

Q) What's the one question interviewers fail to ask you would like asked, and how would you answer it?

A) Over my lifetime I believe that I have been asked everything!

Q) Any parting thoughts for your readers?

A) I hope they enjoy the book and come to care for Nikki and Victoria as much as I do.



Friday, August 19, 2011

Author Erica O'Rourke

Chicagoland's Erica O'Rourke, mother and wife with a fondness for sushi, naps, and coffee, is a quiet and reserved young woman who has no idea what is about to happen to her. Now an award-winning author with her debut novel "Torn," the first of a Young Adult fantasy/romance trilogy, in the bookstores, Erica is on the verge of discovery by thousands of readers. Readers who will quickly become fans of this writer's fresh voice and ability to grab the reader's full attention with one, brief opening sentence:

"I woke up to the smell of Lysol and the end of the world." 

"Torn" is the tale of a young woman needing to understand why her friend was murdered. What she finds is a world of magic, mystery, and shifting alliances, and two men who may be just as wrong as they are right for her. 

Erica is dedicated to writing, has stories to tell, and conveys them in a manner everyone can relate to and enjoy. She vividly paints settings in the readers mind so well, one reviewer commented reading Erica's work was like watching the story unfold on TV. High praise indeed. Her plots are fast paced, intricate, and designed with one purpose in mind – to keep the reader entertained and turning the page. 

Erica O'Rourke is mild mannered and almost shy, until she sits down at the keyboard. Then she becomes a gifted storyteller with the capability of captivating readers for decades to come.

Q) Why did you choose to write urban fantasy romance with magical elements?

A) Thanks to my father, I was raised on a steady diet of science fiction and fantasy of all sorts, thanks to my father – Roger Zelazny, Robert Heinlein, Raymond Feist, Piers Anthony, Anne McCaffrey  – and when I began writing, those genres seemed like a natural fit. I chose to include a romance because falling in love, especially for teenagers, is a complicated, sometimes-messy, sometimes wonderful process that reveals a lot about someone’s true character. 

Q) The first book is the "easiest" as it is written at the author's leisure, conforming to the author's daily routine. The second comes with deadlines and levels of expectation set by the publisher, editors, and readers. What changes to your lifestyle did you have to make once that reality set in?

A) For starters, we eat a lot more frozen pizza. And I vacuum a lot less – not that I ever vacuumed very much, since it’s my least-favorite chore. Exercise has gone right out the window. In all seriousness, I realized very quickly that I had to treat writing as a job, albeit one that includes pajama pants as part of the dress code. My husband and I sat down and discussed what changes we needed to make – enrolling our youngest in preschool, shifting household responsibilities around, etc. The biggest shift was my own mindset: once writing ceased being a hobby, I had to write every day whether I felt like it or not. That discipline has improved my writing tremendously, which is a lovely side benefit.

Q) You loath fish, but love sushi. Care to explain?

A) I am terrified of fish. They are slimy and fast and many of them have sharp teeth. As a kid, my parents used to take me to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, and they have a giant tank right inside the entrance where there are sharks and fish of all kinds. It’s very dimly lit and exceedingly creepy. I used to have recurring nightmares that the tank would break, and all the water would rush out and fill up the room. And then the fish would eat me alive.

Sushi, however, is delicious – fresh and healthy and an utter delight. And one of sushi’s most sterling attributes is that if I am eating it, there is one less fish in the world likely to eat me. I win.

Q) A true Chicagoan, you set "Torn" in the Windy City. What is it about Chicago that you found so appealing to make it the story's backdrop, or was it simply using a setting you're familiar with?

A) Part of my decision to set TORN in Chicago was certainly a result of knowing the city. But a bigger part was that I wanted Mo, the heroine, to come from a very specific background: a working-class, South Side Irish family. She’s an ordinary girl at the beginning of the story – smart, hard-working, unpretentious – and she discovers a strength in herself she didn’t know existed, but has been there all along. That felt quintessentially Chicago to me. We might not be the most glamorous city in the world (although parts of it are breathtakingly beautiful) but we do have an incredible amount of heart and grit.

Q) What is your long-term literary goal? Where would you like to be in twenty years?

A) My long-term goal isn’t much different than my short-term goal – to write books that people love, and to improve my craft with every story. There’s always something I can do better, some way to stretch myself. Each time I sit down and type “Chapter One,” I am just a bit terrified, but that’s a good sign. It’s important to do something that scares you, because otherwise, you stagnate.

In twenty years, though, I’d hope to have the mess in my office a little more under control.  And I’d like a dog. With three kids and two cats, my husband is holding firm to the “no more pets” policy, but in twenty years, I’ll probably have worn him down.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Bestselling Author Richelle Mead

Holding a Bachelor of General Studies, a Master of Comparative Religion, and a Master of Teaching degrees, Kirkland Washington's Richelle Mead left her teaching career when her debut novel "Succubus Blues" was sold, and hasn't looked back. A steamroller of productivity, this demure redhead has seen fourteen urban fantasy novels published since 2007. An astounding pace. 

Her latest, "Iron Crowned," the third in the "Dark Swan" series was published February 2011, and "Succubus Revealed" along with a new series entitled "Bloodlines" are due out this coming August. She also penned the "Vampire Academy" young adult series which has been translated into thirty languages, and the "Storm Born" comic book series.

But Richelle refuses to substitute quantity for quality. Her efforts and mastery of the written word have landed her books on the NYT and USA Today bestseller lists. 

The lady has skill, class, and style. She's also a Tim Gunn fan and recently stood in a long line for the chance to meet him – while five and a half months pregnant. Now that's a dedicated fan.

Richelle avails herself to readers on Facebook, Twitter, and her blog "Even Redheads Get the Blues."

Q) Although you’re wrapping up two of your series this year, you have a fourth series debuting this August and just released a Storm Born comic. How do you manage to get so much accomplished in so little time? 

A) It’s really all about time management. I think there’s a romantic image about an author’s life, that you can just kind of lounge around and wait for the muse to come. That would be great! The reality is, there are contracts and deadlines, and to make it all work, you have to treat this like a “real” job and put in the hours each day. I always have an eye on when things are due and parcel out my workload to make it manageable. It’s when you let things slide until the last minute that it gets a little crazy!  

Q) Speaking of personal life, what do you enjoy doing when you pry yourself away from the keyboard? 

A) I wish I could say I had some really cool extreme hobby, but my daily life is pretty tame. I’m content just to hang out with friends and do low-key things, like watch movies. I do like to travel for fun sometimes, but they have to be spaced well away from my book tours. There’s only so much airport time a person can handle!  

Q) Succubus and she-demon Georgina Kincaid is your "flagship" character. Where did she first come from, and how did you develop her into a character readers can't seem to get enough of? Also, why do you think Georgina holds such appeal for the readers? 

A) I wanted to have a sympathetic paranormal protagonist, and there weren’t (and still aren’t) too many stories about succubi out there. I also wanted there to be a love story at the core of this series, and a succubus’s life provides a lot of drama and obstacles for romance. I think there’s something achingly real about Georgina’s emotions that readers really connect with. It’s one of the joys of writing a paranormal protagonist that people often don’t realize: non-human characters teach us a lot about what it means to be human. 

Q) Having finished the Georgina Kincaid series with the release of Succubus Revealed in September, do you think you’ll miss her character? Do you think there could be a spinoff to the Georgina Kincaid series in the future?  

A) It’s not too sad for me because Georgina’s story needed to wrap up. She needed closure. I knew where her series was going and how it would end from the first day I sat down to write her. At the moment, I don’t have any plans to come back to her, but I have a very long writing career ahead of me, and I’m usually only looking ahead a couple years at a time. It’s hard to say what’ll happen in the future!  

Q) Do you foresee a time when you will branch into other genres beyond urban fantasy? If so, what genres would you like to explore? 

A) It’d be great to try something new, though that’s not always an easy thing when publishers and readers want you to stick to the same genre! It helps that I really love what I write, so this is certainly something I can stay with for a while. If I do branch out, it’ll probably be into sister genres, like fantasy or sci-fi. I don’t see myself doing any westerns anytime soon!  

Q) What is your next big career goal / your next step?

A) More of the same! Books and more books. My young adult series is contracted out for the next few years, so that’s definitely on the agenda. Both of my adult series are ending soon, but that just means I’ll have room for a new adult project eventually. I’m not sure what that’ll be, but I can say with certainty I’ll always be writing something.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Unrelenting M. William Phelps

M. William Phelps is classified as an investigative journalist, an author of nonfiction thrillers. However, while such labels may be necessary to determine on which shelf his books should be placed, they don't begin to fully describe what Mr. Phelps does or the passion within him. 

Mr. Phelps surgically dissects crime. Then, fiber-by-fiber, reconstructs the lives of everyone involved, disclosing not only the facts of the case, but the emotional paths that collided, and the devastation left behind. To do this requires not just a curious and dedicated mind, it requires a heart capable of connecting to the tragedy and sorrow of the families, on both sides, who will never fully comprehend the answer to the most elusive question known to man – Why? 

The pursuit of his passions have led him to become an award-winning, bestselling author, past consultant for the TV series "Dexter," to dozens of TV appearances on Montel Williams, Learning, History, and Biography channels, Geraldo At Large (to name a few), and he has his own TV series DARK MINDS debuting on Investigation Discovery channel (ID) in early 2012. Add to this his latest release "Love Her to Death," a book about the Michael Roseboro case out of Denver, Pennsylvania, and the upcoming "Too Young to Kill," the story of the Sarah Kolb/Cory Gregory case in East Moline, Illinois, and we begin to clearly see a man who shouldn't have so much as a moment to himself. Yet Mr. Phelps readily connects with fans on Facebook and public appearances, and invites readers to send him their books so he may sign them with a personal note.

Q) What first inspired you to investigate a crime, and when did you realize that decision would become a lifelong career? 

A) I met a James Bond-type investigator (who had worked freelance for the CIA, FBI, NYPD, DEA, Customs, Army’s CID)  in NYC back in the mid-1990s and, shadowing him, started writing about his life. This man, a Columbian, taught me how to investigate people, places, and things—and, more importantly, to care about and understand minorities in this country, who are largely marginalized to a disgusting degree. He gave me the tools I needed to begin an investigative journalism career. I wrote PERFECT POISON years later, my first published book, and fell in love with writing about people facing tragedy, how they respond to it, and how law enforcement works to solve complicated murder cases. A few years before I met my James Bond, my brother’s wife had been brutally murdered (we thought then by a serial killer). She was five months pregnant. My brother subsequently died. We had to raise their kids. What I call the ripple effect of murder was suddenly part of my personal life. I understood what tragedy on this scale could do to a family (and I still see those effects within my family today). 

Q) I have to ask. When do you find time to yourself, and what relaxes you when you need to step away from your frenetic life? 

A) Most people have a hard time managing the hours in a day. I make time for these important moments in my life. I read lots of religious (Catholic) history. I cook gourmet dinners. And lift weights. To stay grounded, I also attend Mass on a regular, semi-daily basis in the early mornings. It keeps me focused on the good in the world, while bringing some peace into my life. I see so much evil (darkness) throughout the course of my working day, I need to keep the focus on the light. It may not work for everyone, and not all may agree, but the Catholic Mass and the Church sacraments are incredibly humbling and rewarding to me. 

Q) It is your unique outlook and ability to connect with viewers and readers that made the "Deadly Women" TV crime series and your books so successful. How do you believe you were able to find that thread of connection when so many others haven't? 

A) I try to be myself on camera and out in the world. This person you see on TV, that is who I am. I have always said what I wanted to about certain subjects and never tried to play to one group or be politically correct in any way. I tell it like it is, I guess you could say. I’m no different than that person reading the book or watching television, so we have a common bond, and most people pick up on that energy. I don’t come from an elitist background, or silver spoon upbringing; I grew up in the city in a small home with six people; we lived near the projects. We did not have a lot. I never even went to college. I can relate to the everyday, working-class person punching a clock because I was there. I also remind myself every day that I am lucky to be doing what I love. I am grateful every day of my life for what I have. I try to practice absolute humility. As someone said to me recently, which I took as a great compliment, “You know what I like about you, Phelps … you don’t walk around with your head stuck up your ass!” 

Q) Have you encountered a case where something about it stopped you in your tracks, and you just had to walk away for your own peace of mind? 

A) No. But I never want to write about children being raped and murdered. That subject tears me apart. I worked a case like this on my Investigation Discovery (ID) TV series and it nearly broke me. I should note that there were a few instances throughout filming the series, mostly involving women being victimized by men, that weighed heavily on my emotions. I was literally brought to tears a few times by the stories of female crime victims. I learned a tremendous amount about life and our role in the world as a so-called caring society … we need to do more for victims of crime. We need to do more for women in general. In some cases, we treat the perpetrators of a vicious crime a hell of a lot better than we do the victims. That fires me up. I am appalled by some of what I have seen. 

Q) What you do isn't easy, and I don't think most people can fully appreciate the range of emotions you must deal with not just within the people you speak with during an investigation, but in yourself. How do you put an investigation behind you in order to move on to the next one? 

A) Thank you for this observation—because it is very true. Just coming off some nine weeks on the road filming my ID series, I can say that emotion plays a major role in what I do and it is a balancing act to keep track of who you are and how you view the world. You can become cynical and jaded very easily doing what I do. I don’t kid myself and say it doesn’t bother me. It definitely does. But I do things, as I said earlier, to keep my soul centered and grounded on the light. I don’t want to get philosophical here, but we all need to have a space to enter where there is peace; we need to think about our place in the world and how great life is and what a gift we have been given. I also like to do things for other people who are less fortunate than me. This helps me stay grounded in, well, reality. We can all do more for our neighbors. The emotional toll this job takes on me is easily manageable if I do the right things. I can move on to another investigation quite naturally after I know in my heart I have done everything I can for the case before it. I also stay connected with crime victims and their families from the cases as much as I can. We share a bond. I like to let them know that I am always there if they need to vent their frustrations.  

Q) Crime never ends. But one day M. William Phelps will have to say "enough." When will you know that day has arrived … 

A) I cannot answer this. Crime is my life. My goal is to open up the minds of my viewers and readers and help them understand the “why” question … Why do people kill? Why does evil exist? I am also a proponent of women’s rights and tend to write about female victims of crime and their courageous stories of overcoming adversity. 

Thanks for this opportunity to answer some interesting (and important) questions.