Friday, October 28, 2011
Holding an MA in educational psychology, Marilyn has taught school, freelanced as a magazine writer and national book reviewer, dabbled in fiction and the arts, and maintained a constant fascination with the works of Jane Austen. So much so, Marilyn's acclaimed debut novel “According to Jane" revolves around a young woman following the wise and witty advice of Jane Austen's voice.
Her second offering, "Friday Mornings at Nine," takes the reader on a journey of self. Not self-discovery, but the pursuit to answer the question most have asked at least once – "What if?" This is a unique and expertly told tale of three women who step out of their norm and blur the lines separating fantasy from reality.
On Nov 29th Marilyn's latest novel "A Summer in Europe" will be released. Once again the author delves into the world of a woman unaware of what she really wants and needs out of life, until a summer in Europe sets her spirit free to take the chances and risks she has subdued and banished to the forgotten recesses of her mind. "A Summer in Europe" is a love story told with grace, humor, and the finesse established and new Marilyn Brant readers will enjoy for years to come.
Marilyn's Web Site
Q) Let's get this out on the table right now. I love anchovies. You don't. What's wrong with anchovies?
A) Ha! Well, I love your sense of humor, even though I don't share your adoration for anchovies. At all. They ruined an otherwise perfectly tasty pizza for me once, and I've never forgiven them. But they're also on an incredibly short list of foods I dislike (I even enjoy Vegemite, shark fin soup and okra -- in moderation), so, in that way, anchovies are very special...
Q) To be honest, "A Summer in Europe" isn't my usual preferred fare. Then I read the first three pages. I was hooked and yours to reel in all the way to the last page. How does it feel knowing for certain your writing can mesmerize a reader?
A) There's nothing like that feeling of being told something I wrote touched a reader, made him or her laugh, compelled someone to keep turning the pages or helped a reader feel less alone in having experienced an emotion. Authors whose stories I've loved have done that for me, and I'll always be grateful to them. It's a privilege to try to do the same for someone else. That said, unless a reader actually tells me in a note or through a review, I'm far from certain I've reached anyone or truly connected. As writers, we take a leap of faith on this every single day -- just hoping that, if we write with passion and honesty, something we've said through our characters will resonate for another person. It's a pure gift when the right book reaches the right reader...as much for the author as for the individual who picked up the story.
A) How do I count the ways? I'm convinced Jane was a genius -- not only in the literary world but also in the realm of behavioral science. What I think she did with sheer brilliance was to have understood human behavior so well (no doubt by observing it with such a sharp eye in her real life) that she could write character descriptions and reveal character motivations that ring as true and relevant now as they did 200 years ago. There's a timelessness and a universality to her work. I was only 14 when I first read Pride and Prejudice, but I remember being able to immediately recognize her characters in my daily life -- in the behavior of my friends, family members, even myself. Jane understood the inconsistencies, foibles and self-delusions of us all. In the decades since, I've come to appreciate her creativity and perceptiveness even more. And, you know, I loved her insights enough to write an almost 300-page book in homage to her. No one can claim I don't take my devoted fandom seriously.
Q) Your love of travel obviously played a part in writing "A Summer in Europe." Do you believe a writer has to visit a location in order to successfully use it as a backdrop for a story?
A) I think it's often easier if someone has visited a place to bring the sights and sounds specific to that location to life. But, no, with so many research options available, I don't think a writer has to have been somewhere to write about it. I think what a writer does need, though, is to really know the main character's point of view very well, especially prior to writing scenes that involve that character interacting with his or her environment. We have to be aware of how that person is going to filter the images, noises, tastes and textures of a given setting. How that character will react emotionally or intellectually to a particular place. What aspects of the experience will be most memorable and meaningful to this individual at this precise moment in time. Novels are about change and how the characters populating a story deal with it. So, as writers, we need to know whatever it is about any setting that might play into that change...that might stand out as a significant detail for the character whose voice is narrating the scene. To me this means that while knowing about a place will always be important, it's still secondary to knowing about the person who's visiting that place. Of course, going on a research trip is especially tempting when the location is somewhere like Venice or Paris or London... I'd love to claim I had to go there again, just to make sure I got the narrative details right!
Q) Here's the question I have to ask: A wife and mother, are you living your dream, or are your stories your own subtle pursuit for the answer to "What if"?
A) Oh, what a thoughtful question. Brevity being the soul of wit and all, I wish I could dash off a quick response, but this requires a longer one.
I think a great draw of becoming a novelist is the sense that we're granted a new lifetime with every book we write, and we can answer some of our personal what-ifs through our characters. For a time, we inhabit their fictional worlds and, thus, get to travel down a range of paths, ones frequently left unchosen by us in real life. For instance, when I was writing "Friday Mornings at Nine" I got to fully imagine three women whose lives were, in many ways, fairly different from mine. I drew inspiration for their backgrounds, interests, marriages and temptations from a number of real-life sources and even from a few situations within my own life, but my close friendships, family and feelings about marriage and motherhood didn't directly mirror any one woman's journey in the story.
So, it becomes a fascinating cycle -- a crisscrossing of art and life -- that brings such meaning to every day as a writer. Observing something relevant to my friends in the real world, then considering it from multiple viewpoints in a fictional world and, finally, reflecting back on it with others in the real world again satisfies my curiosity, motivates me to keep writing and is personally very fulfilling. Definitely my definition of "living the dream."
Q) Any parting thoughts for your readers?
A) Thank you...always!
Friday, October 21, 2011
On the day of his death, Moore's first full-length short poetry collection "Dead Reckoning" was released. Moore didn't write about paths less travelled, swans on glass lakes, or spring's first blossom. That wasn't the world he was shown. I think Moore described his work best in this excerpt of his instructions for reading "Dead Reckoning":
"I write poetry the way some people bet on roulette. I write poetry the way John Dillinger robbed banks. I do it compulsively, I do it quickly, I do it incessantly, I do it explosively because writing poetry means engaging in an act of unpredictable psychic aggression. When I write a poem I intend to assault you. I need to pull you into my long unforgiving nightmare war. And, make no doubt about it. My poetry is an assault on your person, your identity, your eyes, your skin. When you read one of my poems, you enter into a minefield that is not of your making."
To gain perspective of the world Todd Moore grew up in would require a keyhole to the past. Moore's son, Theron Moore, created that keyhole in a compilation of his father's poems and essays about his youth - "Gangsters, Harlots & Thieves: Down and Out at the Hotel Clifton."
The Hotel Clifton in Freeport, IL, was that place every film noire, hardboiled, private eye slept with a half empty bottle of bootleg liquor under the bed. It was a place where seedy contacts were made, deals broken, lives ignored. It was a place of gangsters, harlots, and thieves, and where Todd Moore lived as a child with his father, a would-be gangster who did odd jobs for the Capones.
"Gangsters, Harlots & Thieves" is a snapshot of desperate and tangled lives we can't pull our eyes from. It is a boy snatching the ten-spot from the hat of man found hanged, the disposing of a murder weapon, and a brittle outlook of "you have to die if you want to dream."
If you haven't read Todd Moore's work, do. But start at his beginning with "Gangsters, Harlots & Thieves."
Todd Moore Appreciation Group Epic Rites Press Amazon.com Buy Link
Q) Theron Moore, what prompted you to create this book of your father's work?
A) There was a lot that prompted me to do this, actually. For one thing, I had heard the Clifton Hotel horror stories growing up. I can remember being a kid and hearing my dad, aunt and grandma talk about my grandfather’s drinking and living at that place, and this could be intense, at least to a kid’s ears, to hear those details told by the folks who actually lived it.
A few months after his passing, I was going through all of his floppy disks (60 total), organizing, and saving all of his writing and decided to take the time and really read what he had written, something I had done over the years, but not to this extent. I found poems and essays that talked about the Hotel Clifton, his experiences living there, his father, etc. so I decided to put them all together and see what I had, and five days later, I had something like 90+ pages of poems and essays and excerpts from essays collected.
There were times when I worked extensively on this book, and then I’d have low times, where I’d have to let it sit, because it was all emotionally too much for me, thus the reason why it took nearly a year to start the book, edit it and then publish it.
About six or seven months into the writing and editing of Gangsters, Harlots & Thieves… it finally dawned on me that not only was I putting together a kind of cool, film noir styled book that would showcase my father’s writing to folks outside of the small press community who didn’t know my father or his body of work, but I was also creating something of a historical document, a snapshot in time, if you will, of what Freeport, IL was like back in the late 40’s - early 50’s, which also doubled as a biography of my father’s childhood as well. It was all unintentional, but it just kind of worked itself out that way.
I really like the way the book looks and reads, in fact, I’ve had people tell me that Gangsters, Harlots & Thieves… is very reminiscent of Frank Miller’s Sin City comic series and the movie itself, which is high, high praise indeed.
Q) Your father's childhood molded his future. What did he do to ensure his children never lived as he had?
A) My father hated the fact that he and his family lived the way they did when he was growing up at the Hotel Clifton. He vowed, at an early age, that if he ever had a family, he would never subject them to that kind of life. His father was an alcoholic – some days were good, but most were bad, and my dad was a self-professed juvenile delinquent who stole and burglarized. He knew he had two choices – he could continue living his life on skid row just existing as a professional criminal or he could make better choices – go to college and make a real life for himself. He chose the latter, thank god.
Q) What one ideal did your father ensure you possessed?
A) Always see something through to the end, never give up, and be tenacious about it, whatever you’re doing. Don’t quit, see it through and get it done.
Q) Will there be more books like "Gangsters, Harlots & Thieves," and when can we expect them?
A) Oh yes, a lot more. I’m actually working on editing / compiling two other books as we speak. The first book should be ready by spring of 2012. It deals with how certain segments of American pop culture have influenced the genre of Outlaw Poetry. Again, it’ll be my father’s work and maybe the inclusion of interviews I’ll do with a few other folks as well.
The second book is “to be determined,” nothing firmed up yet. Beyond that, I’ll be tackling my father’s body of writing regarding “Dillinger,” which is several thousand pages of loose paper in addition to 300-500 more pages he had saved on computer disk. I definitely have a lot going on here regarding publishing his work.
A) First of all, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to talk with me. I very much appreciate it, and I’m very humbled. All I’ll say in closing is, if you enjoy movies like “Public Enemies” with Johnny Depp, gangster movies, or Frank Miller’s “Sin City,” you’ll really dig Gangsters, Harlots & Thieves: Down and Out at the Hotel Clifton. Trust me, this book is right there.
Friday, October 14, 2011
Still, in spite of, or because of that impressive resume, this amazing author remains down to earth and fiercely loyal to his fans and readers. So much so, he personally responds to each and every letter and email and commits himself to a weekly blog post, inviting anyone and everyone to weigh in on his thoughts. In other words, Gilstrap is who he has always been, a man passionate about life, writing, and the people he encounters.
Gilstrap wrote four novels before seeing one published. That book was "Nathan's Run," the internationally acclaimed story of a twelve-year-old accused of murder and his lonely flight to survive against an entire country convinced of his guilt. Then came the obvious question; how do you follow up "overnight success"? Gilstrap's answer came with the equally successful "At All Costs."
But a collaborative effort with Kurt Muse resulted in the nonfiction book "Six Minutes to Freedom," and a turn in Gilstrap's writing. Six Minutes is the true story of Muse's rescue by Delta Force from Panamanian thugs ordered to execute him. Gilstrap met and interviewed a number of the men directly involved in the rescue and learned how gentle and kind these professionals willing to risk their lives against unthinkable odds to save one man, truly are.
John Gilstrap's prose is superb, his plots mesmerizing, and every character wonderfully crafted.
Mr. Gilstrap's Web Site
Q) You committed fifteen years of your life to being a volunteer firefighter. What was it about being a fireman that captivated you?
A) One word: Adrenaline. Imagine being 23 years old and walking into the worst moments of other people’s lives and bringing order to chaos. That’s pretty heady stuff. I’ve delivered babies, rescued people and animals from burning buildings, and talked a very angry woman out of using a very sharp knife on me—all in the company of my firehouse brothers and sisters. For a long time, the fire service doubled as my social outlet. I recommend a stint in public service for everyone—particularly when they’re young enough to bounce without breaking.
Q) The character Jonathan Grave was partly inspired by your meetings with the Delta Force members. However, you have an innate belief in justice and that good things should and will happen to good people. To what do you attribute this abiding faith that right will conquer wrong?
A) Right doesn’t conquer wrong on its own—it takes a lot of hard work, and the dedication of people who will accept nothing less. It’s a personal adage of mine that failure cannot be inflicted on a person; that it has to be declared by the individual. If you detect injustice, you must confront an important choice: do you accept it, or do you fight back? The bad guys win occasional battles, sometimes inflicting enormous damage in the process, but if the good guys are willing to do what it takes to prevail, I believe that in the end, they always will. It’s about not giving up.
Q) How did you and Kurt Muse come to collaborate on "Six Minutes to Freedom"?
A) This is a story of pure serendipity. If we’d met just a few weeks before we did, the collaboration would never have happened. My writing career had hit a pretty severe slump. After having been repeatedly orphaned by my editors at Atria Books, my novels Even Steven and Scott Free were pretty much ignored by my publisher, with the result being really awful sales numbers. I was on the brink of not being able to find an outlet for my next books.
When he was betrayed and arrested, Kurt’s 15-year-old daughter had to flee the country alone with her 12-year-old brother. When he was ultimately liberated in the opening moments of Operation Just Cause, he was reunited with his family just in time for one of Washington, DC’s very few white Christmases. I was shocked that his story had not yet been written.
This was exactly the kind of thriller that I write as fiction, but it was entirely factual. He and his wife met with me and my wife, and we realized that we were a perfect team. We even have the same birthdays.
Q) What many people don't know is that you wrote the original script for the movie "Red Dragon," of Hannibal Lecter fame, but received none of the credit. We could fill pages with the obvious "what if" scenarios. Instead, what did you gain from that experience?
A) Okay, let’s be clear here: Film credit is awarded by an arbitration process, and through that process, the single screenwriter for the film Red Dragon is Ted Tally.
That said, I did write an earlier version of that film—the first version—and in my opinion much of what was in my script is in fact in the movie. Please read nothing into that beyond what it is. My version stuck very close to the book as did Ted Tally’s. I’ve been told that he maintains that he never saw my script, and because we both stuck so closely to the original material, I have no reason to disbelieve him.
As for what I learned through the experience, it’s that Hollywood is a tough town. You can’t take stuff personally in the entertainment business. Through my screen work, I met some extraordinarily talented people—among them the legendary Dino DeLaurentiis, who invited my family and me to his 80th birthday party on the Isle of Capri in Italy. Credit schmedit. That alone was worth it.
Q) As with a number of successful novelists, you frequently refer to yourself as a storyteller and not a writer. In your mind, what is the difference?
A) The difference for me is pivotal to whatever success I can claim. My first novel, Nathan’s Run, was in fact the fourth novel I’d written. Writing is a craft, after all, and like any craft, it continually improves with practice. When I started writing Nathan, however, I made a conscious decision to stop thinking in terms of writing a book and instead thought in terms of telling a story. I wrote that novel—and I continue to write my books today—as if I were telling the story verbally. I became less conscious of sentence construction and more conscious of creating a mood. I don’t know if I explain it well here, but it worked.
Q) Any parting thoughts for your readers?
A) Only to express undying gratitude to them for reading. Without you, none of the rest of this would matter a lick.
Friday, October 7, 2011
To battle this dragon, Lorna donned armor of self-determination, a shield of self-reliance, and wielded a sword of life yet to be lived. In her novel "Dirty Bomb Shell: From Thyroid Cancer Back to Fabulous," Lorna's message is clear: Never give up, never stop fighting. Dragons can be slain. Furthermore, she is adamant about providing a shoulder, ear, or whatever we have to offer those in the battle for their lives against the many diseases preying upon young and old. For no one is too young, too active, too careful to fall victim.
Lorna practices what she preaches. Today she advocates support for numerous organizations such as the Children's Miracle Network, Make-A-Wish Foundation, and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. The bottom line is those afflicted need our help and support.
"Dirty Bomb Shell" is a tale of survival told with wit, charm, honesty, and most of all… heart.
Q) The obvious question we'd all like answered is, how are you doing today?
A) I have been clean of cancer for the past six and a half years. (Can I get an Amen?) Plus I have recently lost over thirty pounds being a member of the new Reality TV series Wicked Fit on STYLE Network airing in October 2011. I feel FABULOUS!
Q) You're an actor, director, performer, almost any role within the arts and helping people to gain the confidence and skills to pursue their dreams. To what do you credit your intense dedication to the arts and people?
A) Music is literally in my blood. My great grandmother Jovanina Gandolfo sang opera in Boston. My mother Wanda sang in night clubs in Boston. My uncle Wayne sang in a rock band. We always had music playing in our home. I remember holding a hair brush and belting out Debbie Boone’s version of YOU LIGHT UP MY LIFE when I was four years old. My happiest memories involve music.
The connection between my love of music/art and my passion for giving back occured in 1989. A few hours after my high school graduation, I realized that I was the recipient of the Louisa Burt Wood Pratt Scholarship. Louisa was a talented artist who began teaching voice, piano and cello in my hometown during the 1920's. Upon her death in 1973, a scholarship was founded in her name for students pursuing music studies. The scholarship enabled me to attend The Boston Conservatory. As a girl praying to find the money to study at a state school, an education at the prestiquious top ranked conservatory was a dream come true. Years after I graduated from The Boston Conservatory I opened The Burt Wood School of Performing Arts in honor of Louisa. I have been paying it forward ever since.
Q) You sang the National Anthem at Fenway Park. I have to ask, how did that feel?
A) I walked onto home plate at Fenway Park nine months after September 11, 2001. The despicable attack on America was ever present in my mind when I opened my mouth to sing. The roar of the over 34,000 fans cheering and applauding to the lyrics of our great country’s anthem is a sound that I will never forget. Within four minutes the song was over but the overwhelming pride I felt that day is tattooed on my heart forever.
A) It is without question that the medical technology (and equipment) used for thyroid cancer screening and testing has improved over the past twenty years. An ultrasound guided fine needle aspiration biopsy is a very successful way to determine thyroid cancer.
During my research I was shocked to learn of the link between exposure to radiation and the environment to thyroid cancer. The radiation from something as simple as a dental exam can put people at risk. I encourage everyone to ask for a thyroid protection extension bib during their next dental X-ray. If your dental office doesn't have an extension bib please pull the lead blanket up over your thyroid during the X-ray.
I grew up in a thyroid “hot spot” section of southeastern, Massachusetts. There are several cases of thyroid disease and disorder in a cluster of communities surrounding my hometown Middleboro, Massachusetts. For years Middleboro was known as the Cranberry Capital of the World. Pesticides have been linked to cancer and were used on the bogs to protect the berries. I lived near bogs and swam in lakes that served as a water supply for bogs. A large nuclear power plant was very close to my home. I swam in water near the plant. Toxic chemicals such as Perchlorate (released from rockets and jets) have been known to spike thyroid dysfunction. I spent a lot of time on Cape Cod near an air force base. My father was in the army when I was a child. I spent many weekends on a military base. Military training grounds are known to have high radiation levels. Cell phones, microwaves and even granite counter tops emit low levels of radiation. The labels on most of the prepared foods we buy are filled with preservatives and chemical additives that we have a hard time pronouncing. Cancer causing agents are all around us. We need to listen to our bodies and have our necks checked annually.
Q) Obviously, family support is critical. What did you and your family do together to prepare for the coming battle against cancer?
A) We laughed every day. Occasionally our cancer humor offended a few "old school" people who think it is taboo to joke about disease. Cancer comedy saved my sanity and soul! If you had to choose between laughing or crying with the people who love you, which would you prefer? Immediately following my surgery I needed a lot of support. I was unable to drive and cleaning the house was out of the question. My family pitched in and kept my life in order. My mother and husband drenched me in daily doses of "You look great", "Keep up the good work", "You can do this", and "Cancer is going to regret messing with you!"
Q) Any parting thoughts for your readers?
A) The morning after I found out I had cancer I left the house without making our bed. It was the first time since high school that I didn't take the time to make the bed. During my recovery that spring weeds popped up and were left to flourish in our flower beds. Pre-cancer little things like messy beds bothered the hell out of me. Cancer made me realize that our time here is both precious and limited. We need to be devoted to the things that bring us joy and nurture our spirit. Life is short. I wish you long laugher filled days, weeds in your garden and lazy mornings lounging around in messy beds.