Monday, April 13, 2015

AD Starrling, Soul Meaning

AUTHOR: AD Starrling
BOOK TITLE: Soul Meaning (Seventeen Book 1), King’s Crusade (Seventeen Book 2), Greene’s Calling (Seventeen Book 3)
GENRE: Supernatural Thriller, Action-Adventure

Please tell us about yourself.

I was born and bred on the small tropical island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean and have been a writer since age 12. I came to the UK at age 20 to study medicine and after specializing in Pediatrics and working in that field for a number of years, my first love came calling once more and I started writing again. My first novel, Soul Meaning (Seventeen Book #1), was published in summer 2012.

Please tell us your latest news.

I am currently working on the fourth book in the Seventeen series and a series of short stories based in that world.

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?

I am a part-time writer and part-time doctor at present. I hope to be able to write full-time in the future. I currently write on pretty much all the days I’m not working at the hospital.

When and why did you begin writing?

I have been a storyteller for as long as I remember but did not officially put pen to paper until I was twelve. Following a scathing review of a fiction essay I wrote for school by my father, I decided to write a few short stories in an attempt to defy him. I enjoyed this process so much I started my very first novel later that year.

What inspired you to write your first book?

Soul Meaning was inspired by the number 17 written in dripping red paint on a black marker stone, on a sandbank in a lagoon off the shores of Mauritius. When I was trying to decide what to write for the British Fantasy Society Short Story Competition several years ago, I came across this number in my “story ideas” notebook. I decided to write about a man who could die seventeen times. That short story made the finals of that competition.

What do you do when you’re not writing/editing or thinking about writing/editing?

Likely working in my other day job or sleeping!

What are your thoughts about promotion?

It’s part and parcel of the writing career. You cannot write in a vacuum. With the advent of self-publishing, there are more books hitting the market today than at any other time in publishing history. Therefore, promotion and marketing are aspects of the business writers need to deal with. But what I would say from my own career to date and the advice of many experienced authors is that it’s probably best not to devote too much time, money, and effort to promotion until you have several books under your belt.

What was the toughest criticism given to you? What was the biggest compliment?

I think the toughest criticism I ever received was from a reviewer who said that all my positive reviews were from friends and relatives. It was evident from this review that the reviewer in question had not actually read the book. My first reaction was anger. Then I shrugged it off; I never responded to that reviewer’s accusation. Most authors I know are happy to tell their friends and family about their books. I always insist on impartial reviews if they wish to post one and tell them that they should be very honest about what they like and dislike about my writing so that I can learn and grow as an author. I think it’s very harsh to ban friends and family from posting reviews when they may have supported you through the writing and publishing process. It’s a bit like some review sites insisting that authors should not review other authors’ books. I was a reader well before I became a writer.

The biggest compliment I’ve ever received is when people tell me they could not put one of my books down. I can’t think of a bigger compliment that that! 

Do you ever have writer’s block? If so, how do you get through it?

I don’t believe in writer’s block. The reason is that by believing in it, you make it a reality. If I reach a point in my writing where I don’t know where to go next with the plot, it’s usually because I’ve taken the wrong path earlier in the book or something about it is bugging me unconsciously. By retracing my steps and correcting what felt wrong, the story usually flows again. This happened with Greene’s Calling (Seventeen Book #3).

Did you learn anything from writing your book, and what was it?

I learn something from each and every book I write. Usually it’s better plot flow, better dialogue, and overcoming little writing tics. I also learn a lot from reviews. For example, what I think is my favorite book in the series thus far, or even my favorite scenes within the books, are never my readers’ favorites! 

What genre do you write in and why?

The series I’m currently writing is in the supernatural thriller genre, although it crosses over heavily into the fast-paced, action-adventure genre. I fell into this genre accidentally would you believe it! I never in a million years thought I could write in this style; I started out in the humorous fantasy genre.  When the short story I wrote for an international competition made the shortlist, I knew it could become a book and I decided to embrace the challenge. That story became Soul Meaning (Seventeen Book #1).

Do you outline before you write?  If not, what’s your initial process?

I am what author James Scott Bell describes as a “tweener” in his book Write Your Novel from the Middle. This means I’m halfway between a serial planner and a fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants type of writer. I normally start with characters and plot, figure out how to start and end the story, think up a few pivotal and usually explosive action scenes, and then start writing. I started using Scrivener from Book 4 in the series and I love how I can keep all my character profiles, pictures, research articles and links, and even storyboard in one place. I also use a large dry-wipe board for mind mapping and find Evernote crucial for those moments when I get a great idea and I’m nowhere near my computers.

What comes first: the plot or characters?

Characters usually.

How did you decide how your characters should look?

I usually have an actor or actress in mind when I visualize my characters. If I don’t immediately know what face to put to that character but have a general idea of what I want, I look at pictures of actors and actresses until I find the one that “fits” best.

Did your book require a lot of research? If so, what kind?

All my books have necessitated days of research to date. The Seventeen series being very much globetrotting and action-packed adventures, I wanted to keep the non-fiction aspect of the plot as accurate as possible. This meant making sure I described the locations, the science, the organizations, and the weapons featured in the novels as accurately as possible. I am too fond of the research process and can spend hours reading up on the most fascinating of subjects. Some of this research may never actually feature in the books but I like that they add to my overall general knowledge nonetheless.

What do you look for in a book when you sit down to read for fun?

Something that captivates me within the first page, usually a tense or suspense-filled scene, an action-packed one, or dialogue that makes me laugh. I love to lose myself in a book.

What seven words would you use to describe yourself?

Perfectionist. Obsessive. Leader. Kind. Generous. Humble. Cautious.

Book Summary:

‘My name is Lucas Soul. Today, I died again. This is my fifteenth death in the last four hundred and fifty years.’

The Crovirs and the Bastians. Two races of immortals who have lived side by side with humans for millennia and been engaged in a bloody war since the very dawn of their existence. With the capacity to survive up to sixteen deaths, it was not until the late fourteenth century that they reached an uneasy truce, following a deadly plague that wiped out more than half of their numbers and made the majority of survivors infertile.

Soul is an outcast of both immortal societies. Born of a Bastian mother and a Crovir father, a half breed whose very existence is abhorred by the two races, he spends the first three hundred and fifty years of his life being chased and killed by the Hunters. One fall night in Boston, the Hunt starts again, resulting in Soul’s fifteenth death and triggering a chain of events that sends him on the run with Reid Hasley, a former US Marine and his human business partner of ten years. When a lead takes them to Washington DC and a biotechnology company with affiliations to the Crovirs, they cross the Atlantic to Europe, on the trail of a French scientist whose research seems intrinsically linked to the reason why the Hunters are after Soul again.

From Paris to Prague, their search for answers will lead them deep into the immortal societies and bring them face to face with someone from Soul’s past. Shocking secrets are uncovered and fresh allies come to the fore as they attempt to put a stop to a new and terrifying threat to both immortals and humans. Time is running out for Soul. Can he get to the truth before his seventeenth death, protect the ones he loves and prevent another immortal war?  

Author Bio:

A.D. Starrling was born on the small island nation of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean and came to the UK at the age of twenty to study medicine. After five years of hard graft earning her MD and another five years working all of God’s hours as a Pediatrician, she decided it was time for a change and returned to her first love, writing. 

Released in July 2012, Soul Meaning is her debut novel and the first in the award-winning supernatural thriller series SEVENTEEN. The second novel in the series, King’s Crusade, was released in May 2013. The third novel, Greene’s Calling, was published June 2014.

She lives in Warwickshire in the West Midlands, where she is busy writing the next installment in the series. She still practices medicine. AD Starrling is her pen name. 

For a limited time, you can download Void by AD Starrling FREE:

Monday, April 6, 2015

Danielle Girard, Everything to Lose

AUTHOR:        Danielle Girard
BOOK TITLE:  Everything to Lose
GENRE:            Mystery/Suspense
PUBLISHER:    ePublishing Works

Please tell us about yourself.
I am the author of nine suspense novels, including the bestselling Rookie Club series, Chasing Darkness, which won the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, and Cold Silence, winner of the Barry Award.

Please tell us your latest news.
My 10th book, Exhume, is due out in May.

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?
Full-time. As for organization, I’d like to say that I’m one of those marvels like Stephen King or Michael Connelly who rises, grabs a cup of coffee (black, I’m sure and with no sugar) and sits down to pump out a few thousand words before lunch. Alas, no. I try to start writing by 10 a.m. It usually takes me an hour or two to settle in. After all, there are all sorts of fun things to check on Facebook and Twitter. And it’s essential that I know if there are new reviews…I mean, you can’t start writing until you know that. 

I’ve got school age children, so I have a hard stop at 3 p.m. That helps, I think. It means by noon, I’m starting to think ‘Uh Oh. Better get writing.’ I have a 1,000 words/day self-imposed goal. If I don’t get them done while the kids are at school, they have to be completed in the evening. I miss some days, but I tend to feel pretty lousy when I do, so it doesn’t happen too often.

When and why did you begin writing?
I wrote a little in college, but “writing” was not an acceptable career choice in my house, so it was always pushed to the side by “important” things like organic chemistry and calculus II. I was working in finance and met a woman who wrote romance novels. She inspired me to sit down and just start something. I had no idea what it would turn out to be until (on page five) someone got shot. I’ve been writing suspense ever since. 

What inspired you to write your first book?
I read a story in the New York Times Magazine about a police officer who had an accident and lost the use of his hands. The officer reflected on how his inability to shoot his gun was one of the hardest parts about the injury. Casey McKinley, protagonist of Savage Art, was born from that story. 

What do you do when you’re not writing/editing or thinking about writing/editing?
I love to be with friends and family and I also enjoy curling up with a good book or an episode of something fun on TV, like Sherlock. Mostly, my time is occupied by being mom to two teenagers. I sometimes joke that when I’m not writing about murder, I’m thinking about it. But truly, I’ve got great kids. (Not the I’m-not-realistic-that-they’re-perfect type but good ones. Inquisitive, compassionate, and interesting as well as combative and determined. All the things that will serve them well in life.) We are an active family (them more than me), so we’re always on the go. This time of year, mostly skiing—downhill or cross-country.

What are your thoughts about promotion?
I think promotion is important but it can never replace the time that must be spent writing. So, I do it when the words are done. I still think a good book will find its readers.

What was the toughest criticism given to you? What was the biggest compliment?
My first novel was called Murders & Acquisitions. It didn’t sell, but I sent it out to a lot of agents. One response came back, “The title of this is great, but the rest of it sucks.” In hindsight, I’m sure he was right, but it certainly wasn’t very kind.

The biggest compliments I get come from readers every day who reach out and tell me that they enjoyed a book. Or ask, ‘When is the next one out?’ That’s just wonderful for an author to hear.

Did those change how or what you did in your next novel?
I’m sure the criticism did, but not in a way that I can recall specifically. I think every rejection I got (and there were lots) made me a little more determined to publish a book. So, in the end, I guess I should be grateful to that jerk who said my writing sucked. I may have to think about that one a while….

Do you ever have writer’s block? If so, how do you get through it?
Mostly, writer’s block seems to be my brain saying one of two things: 1) you need a break from writing or 2) you’re moving the story in the wrong direction. Either way, I usually try to do something else like using a toothbrush to scrub tile or dusting every picture frame in the house. Something mindless and physical that lets my brain do the work on the problem in the background.

Oh, and I try to be patient, but I’m really not very good at that part.

How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?
I love to hear from readers! So please come find me!!

What genre do you write in and why?
I don’t know that I consciously chose mystery/suspense. More like the genre chose me; I started writing and there was the dead body. But I think the reason they appeal to me is that stories about life and death create the highest possible stakes. Everything is on the line for the protagonist. There is something very compelling about how people handle situations where everything is at stake.

Which of your characters do you love/hate/fear/pity the most and why?
I have a soft spot for broken characters. I think we’re all damaged in some ways. Some of us do better at hiding it, but it’s these little cracks in our plaster, these little breaks that make us interesting and also real. Jamie Vail, protagonist of Dead Center and lead member of the Rookie Club, is like this. She’s quite angry and a little self-destructive, but when push comes to shove, she’s also fiercely loyal and protective. I love this about her.

Did your book require a lot of research? If so, what kind?
I love discussing research with fellow writers and friends. For instance, Lisa Gardner researches every tiny detail before she starts writing. Harlan Coben, on the other hand, jokes about how he does zero research. I know this isn’t true, but he basically argues that research just gets in the way of the writing. I am somewhere in the middle. I am currently writing a protagonist who is a medical examiner, so “winging it” is out of the question. But I also work hard to reign myself in. I believe my readers are there to read about the human aspects of Annabelle Schwartzman more than they are there to learn how she draws vitreous fluid from a victim’s eyeball to get a more exact read on time of death.  

What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The beginning takes the longest. I feel like the first 10% (40 pages-ish) has to really hold together before the story can take off. I usually spend almost a month on that. After that, the rest of the book is usually written, edited, and prepared for publication in another 4-6 months. The end is always the easiest because it’s been teasing itself out in the back of my brain for so long.

What advice would you give a new writer starting out?
Write. Read. Repeat. Try to clear out the background noise. It isn’t easy, of course. Find a good critique group and supportive writing friends. (Note: I said writing friends. These are different than other friends because they understand the inherent insanity of the process.) On the other hand, make sure to have some good “other” friends because being in your writing world all the time isn’t healthy either. That, and good luck!

What seven words would you use to describe yourself?
Passionate. Loyal. Creative. Determined. Compassionate. Tough. Sensitive.

Describe your writing space.
It’s an absolute mess. I have a sign that says, “Genius is a messy process.” I swear it’s a quote I found somewhere, but my husband is convinced I made it up to explain my office. I don’t like to admit that he might be right.

At the same time, it’s a beautiful space. The walls are painted kind of a light sea green, the one behind my chair a little bolder. My husband and kids have framed all my covers, so they hang on the walls along with art done by my brothers (who are both artists) as well as art done by the kids and pictures. On one wall is a case with all my taekwondo belts in it, from the white one all the way through to my second degree black belt. These remind me that good things take a lot of time and effort. Not to mention sweat and blood and a few tears.

 Everything to Lose:
When the daughter of San Francisco socialites Gavin and Sondra Borden is brutally assaulted, Jamie Vail makes it her mission to find the attacker. A seasoned Sex Crimes Inspector with the SFPD, work is what Jamie does best. She isn’t distracted by the fact that her adopted son and the victim go to the same school.

Jamie can almost set aside that the man caught on tape with the victim is a man she’s been wary of for years, her son's biological father. At home, her son is performing poorly in school, becoming more reclusive, and nothing she does can draw him out. Every piece of evidence seems to bring her closer to home.

Desperate to be wrong, Jamie must find Charlotte's attacker before her son lands behind bars, or worse…

Purchase Links:

Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for CHASING DARKNESS
Barry Award for COLD SILENCE

About Danielle Girard:
As one of four children, Danielle Girard grew up in a house where the person with the best story got heard, and it's probably no surprise that fast-paced suspense stories have always been her favorite. Girard's books have won the Barry Award and been selected for the RT Reviewers Choice Award. Two of her novels have been optioned for movies. Visit her website at

Monday, March 30, 2015

Doug Solter, Rivals

AUTHOR:  Doug Solter
GENRE: Young Adult           
PUBLISHER: Indie published

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?

Unfortunately, I have to keep a day job to pay the bills so that forces me to be a part-time writer. I write four to six hours a day on my three days off. But on my ten hour work days I can only write for about two hours or do my promotional and/or author business tasks during those days.

What was the toughest criticism given to you? What was the biggest compliment?

A review on Amazon said I wrote like a child. Given I write young adult fiction, I should take that as a compliment.

The biggest compliment was from a female reviewer who thought I wrote the inner thoughts of a teenage girl very well. Being a man in my forties, I took great pride in that compliment.

Do you ever have writer’s block? If so, how do you get through it?

I don't personally believe in writer's block. There are times when creativity is higher or lower on any given day. Yet, you still must force it out. In my opinion, writer's block is a resistance to something. You must drop all of your resistance and go where the muse is telling you to go. You can evaluate and judge it later on, but when you're writing, all that matters is getting something down on paper.

Did you learn anything from writing your book, and what was it?

I learned not be afraid when things go off the rails during the writing process. This novel was originally 156,000 words and I faced a big decision. Gut the middle of it to bring it down to a reasonable word count. Or rewrite the structure of the story arc and turn it into two books. I decided to rewrite the structure and I'm so happy I did. Rivals feels like a complete book in terms of its own story structure, yet it feeds nicely into the next book of the series Legends.

What are your current projects?

I'm working on Legends the third book of the Skid series which will finish the story arc created in Rivals. The book should be out by the summer of 2015.

What do you plan for the future?

I plan to return to my paranormal romance series My Girlfriend Bites and write the next two books of that series together to finish it off. Then I have some exciting new book projects I want to work on in 2016.

How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?

You can find out a lot by going to There you will find links to all my social media platforms. My twitter handle is @DougSolter.

What genre do you write in and why?

I write in young adult fiction because I love the fresh point of view of teens. They see the world differently. As an adult, the genre stirs me out of my complacency about the world that most adults fall into and never climb out of. To me, that complacency can kill your creativity as a writer. I also want to help teens cope with this crazy period in their lives as best they can. For me it was hell.

What influences your writing?

Movies are a big influence so I like writing big, epic stories full of escapism. The more a story strays from reality, the more I'm attracted to it. I want teens to read my books because they want to escape from their own situations and connect with characters who show them life from a new angle.

What do you hope your readers will take away from this book?

That no matter how talented a person is, they still need help from others. We all need a support system of friends and family to keep us grounded and focused on what's important. Success can be bitter if one has no friends to share the glory with. And difficulties can be made far worse when one has no friends to lean on.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

Thinking of a satisfying ending after I chopped the original story arc into two books. Legends received the original kick-but ending, but then I had a problem with the ending of Rivals. The mid-point of the main story arc wasn't strong enough to support the ending of a book. So I decided to strengthen the romantic sub-plot of the story arc and make the ending of that sub-plot the actual ending of Rivals. When I did that, I found it fit perfectly with the main-story arc continued in the next book Legends.

Do you outline before you write?  If not, what’s your initial process?

I always outline. I find it essential for me getting through a first draft. Without a guide that prompts me forward, I tend to get lost in my own story, writing in circles and getting absolutely nowhere while becoming very frustrated.

What do you look for in a book when you sit down to read for fun?

I look for an intriguing story concept. A setting or a subject that interests me. Now having said that, there are certain sub-genres like spy novels which I love and will generally pick up even if there's nothing particularly unique in the author's approach to them. But then the main character becomes more of a factor. But if I love the character, I'm hooked.

What, if anything, bugs you when you read a novel?

Exposition done poorly. Information dumps are particularly annoying. I read one novel which did a great job sprinkling necessary bits of information throughout the book...until I ran into three entire chapters composed of info-dump. It dragged the novel to a screeching halt and I had to stop reading.

Synopsis for Rivals:

Last season seventeen-year-old Samantha Sutton shined as the hottest new racing star of Formula One, but her rise to the top takes a hit when her boss steals her arch-rival Emilio Ronaldo away from Ferrari and makes the sexist jerk her team's number-one driver. This sends Samantha's perfect life into a tail spin that threatens to destroy everything she's worked so hard for. 

Besides her six wins last season, the best thing Samantha won was Manny, the cute German boy who saved her from herself. But Manny chafes against the self-absorbed racing star rising above the ashes of the simple girl he fell in love with. Can he save that simple girl from destroying herself again? 

While Samantha's performance on the track suffers and her status on the team plummets, Emilio rises within striking distance of another championship. Is this the final wake-up call the girl needs to beat Emilio and win the world championship? Or will the pressure break her. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Jake Kerr, Tommy black and the Staff of Light

AUTHOR:                   Jake Kerr
BOOK TITLE:            Tommy Black and the Staff of Light
GENRE:                      Middle Grade fantasy action/adventure
PUBLISHER:              Self-published (Currents & Tangents Press)
BUY LINK:       

Please tell us about yourself.

I went to college with Laura Hillenbrand, who once hit me in the head with a lacrosse ball. I left college and taught at Phillips Andover Academy, where I got to introduce young men and women to the work of Philip K. Dick. I then worked for a radio station, where Lou Reed thanked me for organizing a record release party with the gift of an Andy Warhol Factory print. I then worked for a record company where I got to ride with Henry Rollins on his tour bus between Denver and Albuquerque. Then I was a music journalist, during which Creed lead singer Scott Stapp once punched me. I then started writing fiction, got nominated for a Nebula Award, and was hugged by Neil Gaiman at the Nebula ceremony.

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?

I mostly write part-time at night, usually on my Macbook while sitting in my bed with my wife watching TV beside me. But I tend to write wherever I can. So I’ll sneak some time in at Starbucks while escorting one of my daughters around town or while traveling on business in the plane or hotel rooms. My computer is truly my office.

When and why did you begin writing?

Ever since I read The Hobbit when I was nine years old I wanted to be a writer. Well, a reader really, but that quickly evolved into wanting to be a writer. However, I didn’t start to truly write fiction until I was in my forties. Before then I would start a piece, see how awful it was, and then give up. It wasn’t until I had written close to a million words of journalism that I tried fiction again, and after countless writing exercises and critique sessions at the Writer’s Garret in Dallas, I was finally happy with the results.

What do you do when you’re not writing/editing or thinking about writing/editing?

I like relaxing with my family. That can include everything from just watching TV with my wife to watching my daughter ride her horse to cooking with my youngest. Beyond that I am focused on self-publishing. So publishing and marketing have filled the time when I’m not writing or revising. Examining and testing book marketing and how difficult it is to move the sales needle is a humbling but very enriching experience.

What was the toughest criticism given to you? What was the biggest compliment?

The toughest criticism I ever received was when my mother, with the best of intentions, recommended I apply for a job as a shoe salesman. It was based purely on a practical reality—I was dirt poor and my mom had found a job opening—but the implication of failure was very difficult for me to grasp. My mom was telling me to spend less time pursuing my dream and more time working. It was a perfectly legitimate criticism of my life choices, but I did not listen to her criticism, whether that was due to wisdom or luck is unknown. And there is a lesson in that: Sometimes the best criticism is the criticism you ignore because it focuses you not on short-term solutions but what you are really trying to achieve.

The biggest compliment I ever received was from a grizzled old radio music director in El Paso, Texas. I worked at a record company, and he was a client of mine. I flew in to see if I could convince him to play one of my records.

I was at his house, and we were playing chess and drinking beers, and he was regaling me with tales of Juarez and its nightlife. I hadn’t spent a lot of time with him, but the time we spent together was always fun and positive. More than anything we were more like old buddies than business colleagues.

We’re about halfway through our game of chess, and he looks at me and goes. “Did you know I’m a Vietnam veteran?” I replied that I didn’t. He kind of said it out of the blue, and I was surprised because it didn’t seem to have any context. He then added, “Well, I am. So know that there are very very few people I would say this to.” He then leaned close enough that I could smell the nicotine on his breath, and said, “I would go to war with you. You’re the kind of guy that you want in a foxhole or guarding your back.”

That was the biggest compliment I’ve ever received.

Did those change how or what you did in your next novel?

All experiences change you, and while I was perhaps coy with my answers above by not directing them to my writing, the truth is that they shaped me and my work. The criticism reinforced in me that all I needed to count on to get ahead was myself. For a writer, this is powerful stuff because you are constantly being judged. The compliment gave me a confidence that I could relate to others, another powerful thing for writers to know about themselves. After all, if you can relate to others to the level of them going to war with you, you can be confident that they’ll identify with your words and that they are in good hands when entrusting you with their imagination and dreams.

Did you learn anything from writing your book, and what was it?

In terms of the craft of writing I learned one of the most important lessons of my writing career: I do not know how to end a book if I just write it on the spur of the moment. When I started Tommy Black I did what many writers do: I took an idea in my head and just followed where it took me.

Before I knew it I had 80,000 words but was nowhere near an ending. In fact, I didn’t even know how the book would end. It was at that point that I made a conscious decision to stop writing via discovery and look at the book holistically and figure out how it would end, even if it was a clinical decision and not a creative one.

Of course any time you are inventing something it is creative, so even when creating the structure of a novel you are creating, and that was the lesson: Plotting a novel out in advance does not destroy the magic of creation.

I plotted the book from the beginning, writing all the key markers down in an outline. When I was done I realized that the beginning was mostly fine, but I needed to cut 40K words from the end and then rewrite that from scratch. That was painful but necessary. I have already plotted out book 2 and 3, although that outline morphs and changes as I think of new ideas to add, but make no mistake: The core path is there and the odds of cutting 40K words again is unlikely.

What are your current projects?

I’m currently revising book two of the Tommy Black series and putting the finishing touches on the outline of book three. I am also preparing to publish a special edition of my award-nominated story, “The Old Equations.” As it was written as an homage to the legendary fifties era science fiction story, “The Cold Equations,” I am going to publish them both in a single volume with some additional material.

What do you plan for the future?

I am tentatively planning on adding a book four to the Tommy Black series, and I have two long-delayed projects I want to get to: A young adult fantasy series and a literary novel with light science fiction elements based on the world I created in my story “The Past Within.” Beyond that, who knows? I need to write faster, though.

How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?

Tell us about the current book you’re promoting.

Tommy Black and the Staff of Light is the first in what will most likely be a four volume series. It is set in 1938 and tells the tale of a young boy named Tommy Black that is thrust into a magical adventure using his grandfather’s magical staff. The thing is—magic is dying in the world and considered a sideshow curiosity, so to Tommy the idea of magical creatures and a magical artifact is almost as fantastic as we would consider it. The novel deals with how Tommy tries to rescue his grandfather with a magical artifact that he barely knows how to control and which comes with a troubling history.

Oh, and there is a young girl named Naomi who is confident and powerful in magic. She wants nothing more than to push Tommy aside to get things done, and their dynamic is one of my favorite parts of the book.

What genre do you write in and why?

I am primarily known for my science fiction short stories, which is amusing to me because my first few novels will be middle grade historical urban fantasy. I’ve published literary stories and am planning on a literary novel for release at the end of the year. But the truth is that I’ll never stray far from my fantasy and science fiction roots.

What is your experience working or being around children or teens?

I originally wanted to be a teacher, and I spent a semester student teaching seventh graders. I also spent a summer teaching talented high school students at Phillips Andover Academy. And, of course, I have three daughters who are aged 10, 13, and 18. So dealing with children is my full-time job!

Why do you feel qualified to write a children’s or teen novel?

I love all kinds of books in all kinds of genres. Three of my favorite books are Tom Jones, Wuthering Heights, and The Great Gatsby. My college thesis was on Shakespeare’s first and last plays. I love thrillers, mysteries, and literary novels. My love of literature is deep and broad.

Yet the books that will always resonate the most in my heart, the ones that fill me with the greatest sense of wonder and joy, are the action adventure novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs, the novels Ursula Le Guin wrote for girls and boys, the epic fantasies that would keep me up late at night as I traveled through space, time, and reality and truly lived in the world of the Shire or Pern.

So, I am qualified to write children’s literature because I never stopped being a child. Of course, I matured and aged, and my tastes became more refined--I am still awed by the stark beauty of Blood Meridian, for example--but that doesn’t mean that I can’t pick up The Land That Time Forgot and lose myself among the dinosaurs. 

And you know what? I actually didn’t write Tommy Black for children. I wrote it for me. It’s the kid’s book I loved when I was a child and the kind of book I wanted to write for myself in my forties. That children truly love it was my hope, of course, and the fact that they do pleases me to no end.

What influences your writing?

Nothing influenced my writing more than Edgar Rice Burroughs’ novel The Land That Time Forgot. The novel opens with the narrator finding a manuscript rolled up in a glass bottle. He starts reading, wondering where in the world and from what ocean it came from. At one point he speaks directly to the reader, preparing them for the fantastic story to come, and says something like, “In a few pages you will forget that I exist.”

Burroughs was such a master storyteller that he was explicitly telling the reader, “I’ve set the story up, and now I will tell it with such skill that you will be totally immersed in it and forget that anything else exists.” And he does it! He is so good that you are immediately lost in the world he created.

As a writer, it takes a special kind of confidence to know that your words will carry the reader away to another place, but it takes a transcendent story teller like Burroughs to warn us its going to happen and then do it anyway.

I wanted to write like that. I want to write like that—to make the reader entirely lose their sense of place and time as they enter the world I created.

What do you hope your readers will take away from this book?

What a great question. While I first and foremost wanted to write a fun action adventure story for young readers, I also wanted to delve into some important moral questions without being overt about it. So I really want to have my young readers come away from the book with some important questions that they can share with their parents or teachers.

For example, the artifact that Tommy inherits has a dark and horrible origin. How do you deal with something when you find out it has a history that you find morally questionable? Also, there really is no villain in the book. There are unlikable characters, but the motivations of everyone can be conceivably explained as being due to trying to do good. What is it like when multiple people all have conflicting agendas, and they all have a reasonable claim to being “right?”

The depth I purposely added to the novel is why the edition that came out in 2015 includes an educational supplement, part of which is a study guide for the difficult questions raised by the book.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

Read, watch NBA basketball and Hell’s Kitchen, spend time with my family, walk my dogs. I also spend an extraordinary amount of time on the publishing side of my career—learning, designing books, marketing, and all the pieces beyond just the writing.

What books have most influenced your life?

Two very closely linked books: The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin and The Great Gatsby. Both books outline a powerful personality who had a goal and created a plan to achieve it. Despite all the challenges and difficulties, both men achieved their goals.

What is interesting to me is that the fiction book is the one that does a better job at presenting the complexity, the price you may need to pay, and even the tragedy of achieving your dreams. But the yearning for that dream is tangible in both books. I’ve felt it my whole life, and it is that yearning that keeps me going, even to this day. 


For fourteen-year-old Tommy Black, nothing is worse than being raised by an overprotective grandfather in the city that never sleeps. That is until his grandfather is captured by magical creatures and Tommy has to save him with his family's magical staff.

That wouldn't be so bad, but the only magic he can do with the staff is weak--making light. What the heck can you do with light?

Tommy finds out as he fights golems, shadow creatures, and djinn in a journey that features a magical river, an enchanted train, and an illusionary fortress. But the worst part of all? Tommy has to save his grandfather with the help of Naomi, a girl whose talent with magic is only rivaled by her ability to hurl insults.

From Nebula, Sturgeon, and Million Writers Award nominee Jake Kerr comes the Tommy Black trilogy, an action adventure series for readers of all ages.