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.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Literary Author Lorrie Thomson


When Lorrie Thomson began writing her debut novel “Equilibrium,” she never imagined how drastically her perspective would change before the story’s conclusion. 

“Equilibrium” is about a family coping with the aftermath of a husband/father’s struggle with bipolar disorder, and the ultimate tragedy brought on by suicide. It is the story of the impact mental illness can have on a family, both in life and death. Though poignant, “Equilibrium” avoids the trap of maudlin, telling the story through the eyes of a mother and daughter who have come to accept that life must be lived, only to see a new challenge surface that threatens their fragile stability. And it is that new challenge, the inherited bipolar trait in the son and brother, that rekindles all the fears and doubts and threatens to destroy what the family has rebuilt. 

Thomson devoted hour upon hour to researching her topic. But the full impact of what she was writing hit Lorrie’s heart when her son was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Though “Equilibrium” remained a fiction novel, the complex family dynamics became truth. 

“Equilibrium” is filled with drama. There is romance, love, dashed dreams, fear, and a boatload of emotion and conflict. But, always, there is hope. As stated, the story is told through the mother and daughter’s viewpoints. I liked that we could see how each handled the circumstances affecting their lives, and no matter how different they thought each other to be, in the end, their commonality far outweighed their perceived differences. 

Though technically a literary work, I would recommend “Equilibrium” to romance and young adult readers as well. There is definite attraction between major characters, and those relationships bring their own issues to an already struggling family. 

A former Bostonian, author Lorrie now resides in New Hampshire with her husband and children where she writes full time, hunts for collectibles, and chats with neighbors over a stone fence.

Q) How did your son’s diagnosis impact “Equilibrium”? 

A) I completed the first draft of “Equilibrium” before my son showed any symptoms of his disorder. After having experienced real-life trauma, and re-reading that draft, I was surprised by how accurately I’d portrayed the family’s reactions. In subsequent drafts, I’ve peppered in some from-real-life emotional responses. And the scene in which Laura and Troy visit the father’s/husband’s grave? That was written fairly recently, and helped me unravel a question I’ve been asking myself for years. How can you tell the difference between a loved one’s personality and his mental illness? 

Q) I find it interesting that a number of prerelease reviewers have recommended your book as a ‘must read’ for discussion groups and book clubs. You pounded the “I want to be published’ roads for ten years before finding a literary agent who believed in your work. So, how does it feel seeing those kinds of reviews for your debut novel? 

A) It feels wonderful! The response from the local high school has been overwhelming. I’m excited about the enthusiasm from both adult and high school book clubs. I can’t wait to sit down and discuss their reactions to the story. After hanging out alone with my characters, I’m looking forward to hearing the thoughts of many, many book clubs. 

Q) A follow-up question: What kind of pressure do those reviews put on you for your next book due out in 2014? 

A) Comparison is inevitable. That said, just like a parent with more than one child, I feel every novel I write is special in its own way. I hope the reviewers feel that way too!  

Q) Undoubtedly, some readers will be people who have suffered through the circumstances your
characters struggle with. What comfort do you believe your book can provide them? 

A) I believe there’s comfort in following the story of others who’ve weathered trauma, persevered, and ultimately thrived. There’s comfort in knowing we’re not alone. We all deserve real-life happy endings, even if those happy endings are different from what we imagined at the beginning of our journeys.  

Q) Your next book also deals with life after a loss. What is it about that subject that compels you to write? 

A) When searching for a story spark, I look to my own fears. And then, through my characters, figure out how to stand up to them. So many people have lost loved ones, and I admire their resilience. Even though “Equilibrium” and “What’s Left Behind” deal with loss, the story perspectives are very different. 

BTW, the 2015 book will deal with a different type of fear.   

Q) Any parting thoughts for potential readers? 

A) I hope readers come away from “Equilibrium” with the feeling of having connected with the Klein family, the warm fuzzy feeling of, yes, I’ve felt that too. I’ve been heard and validated.
DA Kentner is an award-winning author www.kevad.net

 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Historian and Fiction Author David O. Stewart


David O. Stewart is passionate about American history. His first three books were all nonfiction history books. “American Emperor” chronicles Aaron Burr’s attempts to undermine a fledgling United States and create his own empire. “Impeached: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln’s Legacy” takes readers behind the scenes into the dark world of politics and the real reasons for the battle for a presidency. “The Summer of 1787” follows the events, deals, and personalities that ultimately birthed our country’s Constitution. 

Stewart has now undertaken to explore a true mystery taken to the grave. On his deathbed, John Bingham, the lead prosecutor in the case against the Lincoln assassination conspirators, claimed Mary Surratt revealed to him a secret that could shake the republic. Bingham refused to disclose what the woman hanged for her role in a president’s murder told him. Master storyteller David Stewart elected to ‘discover’ for himself what that secret might have been, as well as the secret’s far reaching impact on a nation. 

“The Lincoln Deception” is Stewart’s fictional accounting of the information Bingham carried into death. In the story set in 1900, Stewart pairs a white small-town doctor with an African-American ex-baseball player, sending them on the adventure of their lives. Though the lead characters are fictional, the impeccable research utilized to tell this story is very real. “The Lincoln Deception” is a superb melding of fact, mystery, and imaginary ‘what-ifs’ that blow open the conspiracy shrouds surrounding the murder of a president and the unseen, dark forces behind the killing. 

Maryland resident David Stewart practiced law for over twenty-five years in Washington, D.C. His devotion to the constitution led him to argue cases before the United States Senate and Supreme Court. He is currently working on a nonfiction book about James Madison.

Q) You focused your law practice on criminal defense. Why? Surely, the victim’s rights are as
important to you as the accused’s. 

A) I wish I could report some deep thought on the subject, but it was a simple decision: I wanted to join the law firm in Washington that had the most interesting cases I saw anywhere – they defended lots of public officials, including Richard Nixon, and litigated many constitutional issues. So that choice put me on the defense side in criminal cases. I occasionally thought about trying the prosecution side, but I was enjoying my practice too much to switch. 

Q) “The Lincoln Deception” is about uncovering the truth behind Lincoln’s murder, about identifying all of the people and reasons. The accounting places the nation in the ultimate role of victim, and the lead characters find themselves in the roles of quasi-prosecutors/investigators tasked with bringing additional criminals into the light. So, how difficult was/is it for you to pursue the criminals instead of defending them under color of law? 

A) The emotional and intellectual choice was easy! First, I certainly wasn’t sympathetic to John Wilkes Booth and his fellow conspirators. Moreover, defense lawyers, particularly in the fraud and corruption cases I handled, spend a lot of time investigating exactly how something happened and why their client broke no law. Experience as a defense lawyer is very helpful for investigating a crime, like the Lincoln assassination, that happened 150 years ago. The defense has to be resourceful and creative, since it has far fewer tools for investigation: no policemen, no grand juries, no pretrial subpoena power. Not that different from doing historical investigation. 

Q) History will always be one of the greatest mysteries. No matter how much we believe we know, evidence constantly surfaces to question what we have held as truth. What was the primary thought or concern you wanted to leave with readers in “The Lincoln Deception”? 

A) The Booth Conspiracy was different. We have had four presidential assassinations. Three (Garfield, McKinley, Kennedy) involved lone assassins with a single target, the president. The Booth Conspiracy involved at least ten conspirators (probably more) who meant to kill at least four targets: Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson, Secretary of State William Seward, and General Ulysses S. Grant. If they had succeeded, it would not have been a mere presidential assassination. It would have been a coup d’etat. 

Q) For you personally, what is the most intriguing aspect of Lincoln’s assassination? 

A) The episode that begins The Lincoln Deception: that 35 years after the assassination, the lead prosecutor, John Bingham, said he learned a secret from Mrs. Surratt that he never revealed because it could destroy the republic. When I told friends about that episode, they always demanded, “So, what was the secret?” But Bingham took the secret to his death. That’s pretty darned intriguing! I wrote the book to try to figure out that secret. 

Q) As this is your first fiction novel, will we see another? 

A) Absolutely: I’m under contract to write another one. In it, Dr. James Fraser and former ballplayer Speed Cook will wrestle another historical mystery. 

Q) Having scanned dozens of reader reviews for “American Emperor” it is clear that your book opened many minds to the turmoil and greed this country had to overcome before it became settled on its foundation. What impact do you believe your book on James Madison will have on readers? 

A) Madison is a terribly underappreciated figure. He was a key actor in so many essential events in the nation’s founding: the Constitutional Convention, the ratification of the Constitution, the creation of the first federal government, the Bill of Rights (which he wrote), the creation of political parties, and our first war as a nation, the War of 1812. It’s an amazing record of achievement, yet he always seems overshadowed. I hope to explain why this small, quiet, studious fellow had such an outsized impact on the founding of the world’s first constitutional democracy. 

Q) Any parting comments for fans and readers new to your work?
 

A) Aside from thanks? Stay curious, I guess. It’s a huge world out there, and books can take you to the most fascinating parts of it.
DA Kentner is an award-winning author www.kevad.net

 

 

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Greatest Untold Story


What is the greatest untold story? The answer is actually quite simple; it’s yours. 

We all want to know where we came from, who our ancestors were and how they lived. It’s the lack of information and innate drive to fill the gaps that has made heritage and genealogy businesses so successful. It’s why children magically sit still, their mouths agape in wonder, when those ‘secret’ family stories are told about the time grandma was a little girl and tackled the neighbor boy to deliver a May Day kiss, or how grandpa attached wheels to a stolen outhouse and rolled it down Main Street on a Sunday morning. Okay – it wasn’t my grandfather. That was Dad and his cousin John Kincaid. And, yes, Mom wasn’t about to let that cute boy get away with leaving candy on the doorstep and escape without a peck on the cheek. For those who don’t know, May Day used to be the track ‘n field version of Valentine’s Day without the cards. 

The point is that these stories need to be shared. Video legacies are delightful, but they don’t truly convey the passion, the raw emotion, contained within the written word. Videos don’t allow for the tactile mystique a flower discovered pressed between a book’s pages can provide, or the lingering waft of perfume from an unsent love letter. 

You don’t have to be bestselling author Robert Tanenbaum, Juliet Marillier, Marcus Sakey, or Marilyn Brant to write your story. Nor do you need to hire editor Ellen Datlow. You just need to write, even if it’s nothing more than a line or two recapping the week’s events. 

You may think you have nothing to say, that you’ve never done anything noteworthy, but I promise that you are far more intriguing than you think. What you believe is an uninteresting quirk, such as absolutely needing a cup of green tea to start your Saturday or the entire weekend is off kilter, will have some descendent saying in wide-eyed amazement, “So that’s where I get that from.” The time you huddled under a blanket on the couch while your spouse, armed with a badminton racquet, chased a bat, only to slap the winged creature under the covers with you, will have your great-grandchildren rolling on the floor in laughter. And, I guarantee that passing down the secret ingredient to the butter noodles your family insists be on the table every Thanksgiving will elevate you to immortal fame. 

Write your story. Share what your father did every morning before he went to work; your sibling’s most annoying habit, how you pursued a singer’s tour bus to get an autograph, or, how you were too shy to tell that first crush how you felt and still wonder now and then about what might have been. 

So, how to begin, and then ensure you don’t stop? I’ll turn that question over to literary author and writing instructor Patricia Ann McNair. Patricia’s missionary grandfather rode a motorcycle over a Korean mountain range just because no one had ever done it before. How sad it would be if that story hadn’t been passed down for his descendants to treasure. Patricia and her award-winning novel “The Temple of Air” can be found at http://patriciaannmcnair.com/ 

Hi, All. Here are Five Steps to Writing Your Story 


1.     Get comfortable. Find a place where you like to sit, choose a pen that makes a nice line, get a journal that opens easily, stays open, and gives you room to write. Make the experience a pleasing one, even if you sometimes find the writing itself a challenge.

2.     Make a list, write it quick. James Thurber said, “Don’t get it right, just get it written.” A list can help you do that. Fragments, slivers, a gathering of possibilities. Start with these: “What I Remember;” “What I Don’t Remember;” “What I’d Rather Not Remember;” and “I’ve Been Told.” Don’t think too hard, jot down anything that comes to mind: big events, small details, small events, big details. Look at these lists often, and see what can (or needs to be) written and told more fully.

3.     Write a letter. Even though I knew my grandfather’s story, it wasn’t until I found decades of his letters from that time that I really knew the details of his “climbing the crooked trails” (as he referred to his motorcycle missionary work.) In your journal, it can help to address the writing as a letter—to a friend, to a relative, to a stranger who needs to know this story. Or, if you prefer to write an actual letter and mail it to whomever, make sure to keep a copy for yourself. (And not just on your computer…hard copy.) Letters are an invaluable part of our personal histories and narratives.

4.     Make it a habit. Some say it takes 21 days to develop a habit. Set aside some time every day for 21 days to write in your journal. You might start writing a story one day, and then leaving off before the “good” part. The next day’s writing should come easier then; pick up where you left off.

5.     Read. Every writer needs to be a reader. 

I (Patricia) thought I would alert you to the Chicago Writers Conference. http://www.chicagowritersconference.org/ I'll be presenting there, and the woman who is its founder, Mare Swallow, is really sharp. Past participants from the inaugural conference last year have already had some successes, including a woman who got a three-book deal. Just thought it might be an interesting thing for readers to know about.
DA Kentner is an award-winning author www.kevad.net