Archive for the ‘Interview’ Category

Interview: Wendy Corsi Staub – The Perfect Stranger

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Today We are pleased to have with us Wendy Staub, author of The Perfect Stranger.

Rhodes Review: What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

Wendy Staub: I’d say roughly half my time now is devoted to the business end of my career, and I’m on the road frequently promoting my books at reader conventions, author conferences, and of course on book tours. I’m also a married mom of two kids who keep me busy. I’m writing three books a year right now, and unfortunately, I’m not one of those fortunate authors who can pop open a laptop on the fly and write a chapter or two in an airport. So when I’m home, I’m invariably in my office from 12-14 hours a day, seven days a week, living and breathing my fictional world until the book is finished. The total immersion process works best for me.

Rhodes Review: What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

Wendy Staub: Several times a year, I have to produce a 100,000 word novel in 8-10 weeks. Math was never my strongest subject, but that’s what it comes down to: I divide my target number of pages by the number of weeks I have until deadline. Every Friday on my desktop calendar is marked with a page number I need to reach by that day. I never allow myself to miss these personal mini-deadlines, because my publishing contract deadline depends on it!

Rhodes Review: How did you start writing?

Wendy Staub: My mom was an avid reader and my father and paternal grandfather were fantastic verbal storytellers, so it was in my blood. As a little girl in grade school, I would write “novels” longhand on notebook paper. Later, I wrote for school newspapers and literary magazines and was submitting my work for publication even back then. I finally made my first sale in college – I published a poem in Seventeen magazine – and placed in Writer’s Digest’s annual short story contest a year or two later. I sold my first novel at 27, after I’d moved to New York City and gotten a job as an editor. Over eighty books and two decades later, I’m blessed to wake up every day and make a living doing what I love best.

Rhodes Review: Do you have any suggestions to help my readers become a better writer? If so, what are they?

Wendy Staub: Decide whether you’re writing for yourself, or writing for an audience. There’s unlimited creative freedom if you’re not trying to sell your work. But if you’re focused on a writing career, keep in mind that you aren’t just creating art–you’re creating a product. That means being open to constructive criticism and perhaps realizing that your vision isn’t necessarily always going to mesh with the publisher’s vision. Learning to let go and adapt your work for the market is the first crucial step on the road to publication.

Rhodes Review: Do you read reviews of your books? If so, do you pay any attention to them, or let them influence your writing?

Wendy Staub: I absolutely read my reviews in trade magazines like PW, RT, Suspense Magazine,  Kirkus, etc., and I read blogger reviews. When it comes to online reader reviews, I used to be obsessive about checking them. I’m always grateful when someone takes the time to post an honest review, whether it’s positive or negative. But open forum reviews online can be frustrating. They might contain a so-called “review” from a reader who will give my book, say, one star on Amazon, stating in the opening line that she didn’t read it but is protesting the price or the publishing company, that sort of thing. Or people post a spoilers, ruining the book for potential buyers—and it’s time-consuming for my publisher to get them removed. These days, I scan online bookstore reader reviews from time to time and I absolutely absorb feedback—what do they like about my books? What could be stronger? But I’m a very active presence on social media, and that’s where I interact with my readers in an ongoing dialogue that is invaluable not just because I incorporate their feedback but because I want them to know how much I appreciate their input. They’re tremendously loyal and without them, I would not be able to do what I do.

Rhodes Review: If you were to do your career as an author again, what would you do differently, and why?

Wendy Staub: Truly, I wouldn’t change a single thing. I was blessed to make my childhood dream come true, and I want my kids—and kids everywhere—to know that no dream is impossible. I did it, and so can you, if you’re willing to give it your all.

Rhodes Review: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Wendy Staub: My third grade teacher praised the first thing I ever wrote—an Abraham Lincoln essay–and I went home from school that day and told my parents that I wanted to become an author when I grew up. I never looked back!

Rhodes Review: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Wendy Staub: I’m passionate about travel—my husband and I set out to visit all 50 states with our sons when they were in elementary school. I’ve been to all but one (Wyoming), and the boys are missing only two. When I’m not traveling, I love nothing more than to cook for a crowd and sit around our dining room table laughing and talking for hours. That’s how I grew up! I come from an enormous extended and close-knit family and I married into one, and I’m fortunate to have maintained friendships from all phases of my life.

Rhodes Review: What do you think makes a good story?

Wendy Staub: When I’m writing a suspense novel, I never lose sight of my goal, which is to keep my reader turning pages, trying to figure out whodunit. My trademark is to mask a villain behind a familiar face so that the reader is blindsided by the final twist. If they say, “Wow! I never saw THAT coming!”—then I’ve done my job.

Rhodes Review: What are your favorite authors/books?

Wendy Staub: There are far too many to list here, and I count many household name authors among my personal friends, so I don’t want to leave anyone out! When I’m writing a novel—which is pretty much always—I try not to muddy the waters by reading one. I want the only fictional voice in my head to be my own.

Rhodes Review: What was the inspiration for The Perfect Stranger?

Wendy Staub: This is the second book in my social networking suspense trilogy for HarperCollins. The three novels are connected not by characters or setting, but by theme: do you ever really know who might be lurking behind a familiar screen name on the Internet? THE GOOD SISTER (Harper, October 2013), was about cyber-bullying and a fictionalized version of Facebook; THE BLACK WIDOW (Harper, March 2015), is about online dating. THE PERFECT STRANGER revolves around a group of breast cancer bloggers who are scattered all over the country and find kindred support and friendship in each other that they haven’t found in their real lives. They meet in person for the first time at a funeral when one of them falls victim to a random murder—or so they believed. Now they wonder if she shared too much online and if her killer is a fellow blogger who might go after one of them next.

The decision to write about breast cancer survivors was a personal and poignant one. I’ve lost my mom, mother-in-law, and her sister to breast cancer. In our family, we didn’t know anyone who had beaten the disease; only three beloved women who had lost their battles. So when my sister-in-law, who’s just my age, was diagnosed, she found herself turning to online resources –including blogs–for support and information. She’s a fiercely private, even shy, person but she eventually wound up writing her own cancer blog and meeting a network of women who became friends. I was so struck by these strong, courageous women and the bond they developed that I knew I had to write about it.

Rhodes Review: What was your favorite  part of the book?

Wendy Staub: Because it features a group of characters who are scattered around the country, I visited all the locations in person to make the settings (Alabama, Indiana, Cincinnati, Kentucky, Boston, and L.A. in addition to my own home city New York) as authentic as possible. As I said, travel is my passion and I enjoy every minute of my on-location research.

Rhodes Review: What was the hardest part to write in the book?

Wendy Staub: Cancer is inherently seen as a dark subject. But this isn’t a medical thriller; it’s a domestic psychological suspense novel just like my others. My heroine has waged two fierce battles for for her life: one against cancer, the other against an unseen internet predator masked behind a familiar face. I worked hard to strike the right balance between them.

Rhodes Review: What if anything do you wish was different about the book?

Wendy Staub: I dedicated it to my sister-in-law and two of my closest friends who are survivors. Recently, I learned that another close friend has been diagnosed and it was too late to include her name. Other than that…no regrets whatsoever. Early feedback has been very positive and it seems that my readers are pleased to find this one filled with my trademark twists and turns and a final blindside.

We’d like to Thank Wendy for taking the time to talk to us, and be sure you go over and check out her review here

About the Author

New York Times bestseller Wendy Corsi Staub is the award-winning author of more than seventy-five published novels and has sold more than four million books worldwide. Under her own name, Wendy achieved New York Times bestselling status with her single title psychological suspense novels. Those novels and the women’s fiction she writes under the pseudonym Wendy Markham also frequently appeared on the USA Today, Barnes and Noble Top Ten, and Bookscan bestseller lists.

Wendy’s latest suspense novels for Harpercollins are linked by a social networking theme and include THE GOOD SISTER (Harper, October 2013), which has been optioned for television by Fox, as well as the upcoming THE PERFECT STRANGER (July 2014) and THE BLACK WIDOW (2014). Earlier in 2013, she concluded a bestselling, award-winning trilogy that was launched by Harpercollins in September 2012 with NIGHTWATCHER, which won the 2013 Westchester Library Association Washington Irving Prize for Fiction. It was followed in October by the New York Times bestselling SLEEPWALKER, which went on to become a finalist for the prestigious Simon and Schuster Mary Higgins Clark Award presented at the Mystery Writers of America Edgars Symposium in April 2013. The trilogy’s final title, SHADOWKILLER, was released in February 2013.

Wendy’s thriller LIVE TO TELL (Avon Books, March 2010) received a starred review in Publishers Weekly and was also a finalist at the 2011 Mystery Writers of America Edgar Awards for the Mary Higgins Clark Award. The sequel, SCARED TO DEATH, (Avon Books, January 2011) was honored with the WLA Washington Irving Prize for Fiction and the trilogy concluded with the bestseller HELL TO PAY (Avon Books, October 2011).

She contributed a short story, “My Father’s Eyes,” to the FIRST THRILLS anthology edited by Lee Child (Forge, June 2010).
As “Wendy Markham,” her most recent title, THE BEST GIFT, is a sequel to the acclaimed 2006 Christmas Time Travel romance, IF ONLY IN MY DREAMS (both from Signet).

Wendy won the 2008 RT Award for Career Achievement in Suspense and the 2007 RWA-NYC Golden Apple Award for Lifetime Achievement. A proud recipient of the RWA Rita award, she has also been honored five times with the Westchester Library Association’s Washington Irving Prize for Fiction and was recognized as one of WLA’s Millennial Authors in 2000. Her Wendy Markham novel SLIGHTLY SINGLE was named one of Waldenbooks’ 100 Best Fiction titles of 2002. Her novels SLIGHTLY SUBURBAN, THE LAST TO KNOW, and ASK ME AGAIN were nominated for RT Reviewers Choice awards, and five of her novels, DON’T SCREAM; THE LAST TO KNOW; MIKE, MIKE AND ME; HELLO, IT’S ME; and BRIDE NEEDS GROOM, were awarded a month’s top pick review by the RT BOOK club magazine.

Her work has been translated into more than a dozen languages worldwide and her titles are regularly selected as features for Mystery Guild, Literary Guild, Doubleday Book Club, Large Print Book Club, and Rhapsody Book Club.

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Interview: Georgette Todd – Foster Girl

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

Rhodes Review: How has the reception been to Foster Girl?

George Todd: Mixed, which is to be expected. My book is not an easy read and I hold nothing back. I don’t sugarcoat or imply – I grab readers by the jugular and walk them through the darkest recesses of human behavior. That said, from child abuse survivors and former foster youth, I’ve been touched by their support and validation of how accurate I nailed the youth perspective. They also all thought I was funny, and there is quite a bit of humor amongst the darkness. As for others, I’ve been told my book is too graphic and just too much. Different people have different curiosity levels and sensibilities. Above all however, just about everyone who has responded to me all wonder how I get out of bed in the morning given all that I have been through.

Rhodes Review: What was your writing process like when writing Foster Girl?

George Todd: Time really does fly when you’re enjoying what you’re doing. I would happily spend 12-14 hour days doing nothing but writing, reading what I wrote, editing and rewriting – and I loved every minute of it. When you’re immersed, there’s a possession that takes over and nothing exists but your memories, emotions, and a strong desire to tell the best story you possibly can. I enjoyed the process even more as I got closer to finishing. Interestingly, I did experience psychosomatic responses during certain passages. Some scenes, which could be as little as three paragraphs, took so much out of me that I would immediately take a nap. I noticed I gained weight while writing and rewriting certain chapters as well. Strange.

Rhodes Review: What did your family think about you writing Foster Girl?

George Todd: I don’t really have that many family members, and the ones who I have reconnected with have all died. The very few left were all pretty much dead set against it. I think they were afraid of what I would write about them, which I really didn’t. I didn’t go into depth about the others because, well, this is not their story – it’s mine.

Rhodes Review: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

George Todd: Read or move. I’m reading some science fiction right now. When not reading or writing, I need to move my body by hiking or walking for miles, lifting weights or kickboxing. Also, spending time with my close loved ones brings me a lot of joy, especially with my fiancé or little niece.

Rhodes Review: What would you tell people who are going through or been through the foster care system?

George Todd: For those in foster care, I’d tell them to stay out of trouble. Don’t make things worse for you than they already are. I know it’s rough but this time will pass and there are people who can help you. You have to be willing to show that you want to help yourself however. Also, find a safe and harmless way to release all your justifiable anger, depression and upset. For those who have been through foster care, I would stress that they take care of themselves first and foremost. Be selfish and care for you in a way a parent should have done. I’ve noticed some former foster youth – myself included at one point – wants to help other youth…but that kind of work can lead to being re-traumatized and burn out. I had a nervous breakdown after years of working around the clock and being So, I’d tell them to take care of yourself first and I’d encourage them to seek a career outside of foster care. I get the

Rhodes Review: Do you ever run into any of the people you were in homes with?

George Todd: Only online thank God! People from my past in foster care have tracked me down, which I have mixed feelings about. I do however, still talk to one girl I lived with in a group home. My greatest fear though is for both my dad and stepdad to contact me. I hope that never happens.

Rhodes Review: What are some areas/problems you see with the Foster Care system and how do you think they should be addressed?

George Todd: I think the main problem outside of foster care is the lack of awareness of what goes on and how the system operates and how people can help. Inside the system, there should be more emphasis on family finding earlier on.

Rhodes Review: As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

George Todd: To write novels and stories. Now I want to go back into journalism and write screenplays.

Rhodes Review: What inspired you to write Foster Girl?

George Todd: The fact that I wanted to read stories like the one I lived and I could not find any. So, the absence of my type of stories on the bookshelves was what initially inspired me.

Rhodes Review: How did you start writing?

George Todd: I wrote the first draft as a teenager, 19, when the memories were fresh. Then I learned how to write. When I was in graduate school, I got a copy of my case file (300 pages) for research. It took me a couple years to piece out and decide which court report, letter or psychological assessment to include in the book, where to them and why in the story.

Rhodes Review: What was your favorite part of Foster Girl?

George Todd: Completing it, to be honest. How does one write the worst experiences in one’s life in a coherent, linear way? I was able to accomplish that and I’m proud of the result.

Rhodes Review: What was the hardest part to write in Foster Girl?

George Todd: The abuse scenes narrated from the child’s perspective. I had to regress and relive the most traumatic moments of my life over and over in order

Rhodes Review: What do you wish was different about Foster Girl?

George Todd: I wish I didn’t have to write it. I wish I had a normal, healthy upbringing that resulted in me being completely well adjusted. But that didn’t happen, and as a result, I felt compelled to say what was unsaid, write about an experience most people don’t have.

Rhodes Review: I know you went on to become an advocate, what is involved in that job, and what do you like about it?

George Todd: I used to work in child welfare and to be honest, it gave me a completely new perspective as a professional. I was burnt out, frustrated and ultimately, discovered that no matter how hard or long I worked, it was never enough. I salute those who continue to work in the field. As for what I liked about it – I liked the purity of intentions in the beginning, and finding people who genuinely shared my passion in making lives better. But I was shocked and disappointed to see so much politics involved in child welfare.

Rhodes Review: What are your current writing projects?

George Todd: I write a weekly column for the Chronicles of Social Change at https://chronicleofsocialchange.org/ I just wrote about the Dylan Farrow/ Woody Allen sexual abuse allegations, titled: “No One Wants to Be the Poster Child for Abuse” I’m also working on a screenplay that is a family drama and magazine articles. It may be awhile for me to write a whole book again. It just takes so much out of you.

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Interview: James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell – Innocent Blood

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

Today, Rhodes Review is pleased to welcome James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell, co-authors of Innocent Blood on sale now at bookstores near you.

James Rollins is the New York Times bestselling author of thrillers translated into forty languages. His Sigma series has been lauded as one of the “top crowd pleasers” (New York Times) and one of the “hottest summer reads” (People magazine).

Acclaimed for his originality, Rollins unveils unseen worlds, scientific breakthroughs, and historical secrets—and he does it all at breakneck speed. Find James Rollins on Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, and at www.jamesrollins.com.

Rebecca Cantrell’s Hannah Vogel mystery novels have won the Bruce Alexander and Macavity awards and have been nominated for the Barry and RT Reviewers Choice awards; her critically acclaimed novel, iDrakula, was nominated for the APPY award and listed on Booklist’s Top 10 Horror Fiction for Youth.

She and her husband and son just left Hawaii’s sunny shores for adventures in Berlin. Find Rebecca Cantrell on Facebook, and Twitter, and at www.rebeccacantrell.com.

Rhodes Review: Have you ever been surprised by a controversy among fans or reviewers – for example, you created a character without thinking too much about what people would think of him, and found some readers loved him and some hated him?

Rebecca: All the time. Every reader brings something different to the book, so you never know! For INNOCENT BLOOD, I predict that we’ll get very mixed reactions to Elizabeth Bathory.

Jim: I personally loved the resurrected Elizabeth Bathory, but that’s just that twisted side to me. But, yes, sometimes I’m caught off guard by people’s reactions. Someone once told me they cried when I killed off the villain of my novel, Sandstorm. I wasn’t expecting that reaction.

Rhodes Review: Have you ever written anything that you thought would be controversial and found it wasn’t?

Rebecca: I thought that vampires living only off transubstantiated wine would be more controversial than it was. There were definitely some readers who had strong reactions, but most readers just went with it.

James: We were definitely battening down the hatches for some negative reaction to vampire priests, but I think we showed enough reverence and respect in general for the Catholic Church to temper elements that some might consider blasphemous.

Rhodes Review: What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

Jim: I must have a Rockstar energy drink before I start my workday (and I believe that company owes me shares for the number of times I’ve plugged them).

Rebecca: I wrote the scariest parts of The Blood Gospel at the beach in the sunshine. I wrote another book on the subway.

Rhodes Review: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Rebecca: Read. Read. Write. Every day. And have fun.

Jim: Exactly. With the caveat that you should write from a place of passion. If you’re bored with the subject matter, it will come through.

Rhodes Review: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in writing your books?

Rebecca: How well some of the history of the Catholic Church maps to the world of the Sanguinists—wine turning into the blood of Christ, monks wearing hoods that cover their faces from sunlight, the requirements that monks be celibate, etc.

Jim: It was rather disturbing that the more we compared the tropes of the Catholic Church to the mythology of vampires, the more we uncovered…and are still discovering.

Rhodes Review: What do you think makes a good story?

Jim: Pairing up characters who a reader cares deeply about with a plot that raises the stakes throughout the novel.

Rebecca: Vivid characters in interesting worlds solving hard problems in unexpected ways. Plus: FUN!

Rhodes Review: What was your favorite part of Innocent Blood?

Jim: In this novel, we introduce a relatively young vampire-priest named Christian. He’s the young buck tossed amidst his centuries’ old colleagues. I loved the dynamic of his humanity still shining through—along with his humor.

Rebecca: All of the scenes with Elizabeth Bathory. She was a fascinating character to follow around—strong, independent, ruthless, but also very complicated.

Rhodes Review: What was the hardest part to write in Innocent Blood?

Rebecca: The scenes where Elizabeth is badly burned and Rhun tends to her. My father was badly burned when I was five, and those scenes gave me nightmares.

Jim: I think it was the climax of the novel, where the fate of a young boy hung in the balance. We were back and forth on his final fate.

Rhodes Review: What do you wish was different about Innocent Blood?

Rebecca: I could edit on parts forever, but overall I’m pretty happy with it.

Jim: I love doorstopper novels. If the market would allow us for that book to be 200 pages longer—to fill in more details, more background, more action—I would be thrilled. But perhaps a leaner and tighter story is best in the end anyway. Maybe down the line, Rebecca and I will write some compendium about this complicated, darkly beautiful world.

Rhodes Review: What are some of your favorite authors/books?

Jim: Michael Crichton still holds a place close to my heart, and I was sorry we lost him so young. I used his novel, Jurassic Park, as a template for “How to Write a Novel” when I was working on my first thriller, Subterranean.

Rebecca: This year I loved the Justin Kronin vampire series: The Passage and The Twelve. Right now I’m working my way through the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series—I love the characters and the fact that it’s always sunny in Botswana.

Rhodes Review: If you could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

Rebecca: The living one. Dead people take away my appetite. 

Jim: And zombies are not great conversationalists. If I have to pick one person, it would be Mark Twain. If nothing else, there would be good whiskey and lots of hilarious anecdotes.

Rhodes Review: Which question are you most sick of answering in interviews?

Rebecca: So far, none of them. Ask me at the end of the tour, and I might have an answer.

Jim: It’s “Where do you get your Ideas from?” I dislike this question, because I don’t really know for sure, and I’m afraid if you make me look too closely at the process, that font of ideas will dry up to dust.

Rhodes Review: How do the two of you collaborate living in two different countries?

Rebecca: Lots of email, and Skyping early in Jim’s day and late in mine.

Jim: I talk a lot by waving my hands, so video conferencing via Skype is a great asset.

Rhodes Review: How do you get it to read as one author?

Rebecca: Relentless editing.

Jim: And then more editing.

Rhodes Review: Will the series continue after the third one or will there be another series?

Jim: Rebecca and I have an entire second trilogy vaguely mapped out. It will depend greatly on how well the books are received.

Rebecca: And that we’re not burned at the stake by the end of the first trilogy.

Rhodes Review: Where do you get the ideas? Do you do a storyboard first together or separately?

Jim: See! I knew that was coming. I am going to sit quietly in the corner with my hands over my ears and let Rebecca answer that.

Rebecca: For INNOCENT BLOOD, we did an outline together via Skype, and relied on the World Bible that we created when we were writing THE BLOOD GOSPEL. And we’re always firing off emails to each other when we come up with new ideas. Would it be cool if… kind of stuff.

We’d like to thank Mr. Rollins and Ms. Cantrell for taking the time to answer some questions for our readers.


Interview: Marie Manila – Shrapnel

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

Today we are pleased to Welcome Shrapnel Author and fellow West Virginia native Marie Manila to our website.

Rhodes Review: What would your ideal career be, if you couldn’t be an author?

Marie Manila: I’m going to cheat here because at the moment there is nothing else I’d rather be doing. Like most writers I’ve had to have a day job, usually teaching, to subsidize my writing. I’ve finally reached a point, at least for the next couple of years, where I’m earning a living from writing. I’m actually being paid to do what I love. Go figure. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

Rhodes Review: Do you read reviews of your books? If so, do you pay any attention to them, or let them influence your writing?

Marie Manila: I do read reviews, and though I take constructive criticism very well, I try not to let critics’ voices set up camp in my head. Different readers respond to different types of stories and writing styles. Some people will be drawn to my work and some won’t. I set out to write books and tell stories that I would want to read, so the first reader I have to satisfy is myself. That said, I’m always trying to become a better writer. It takes time and a lot of practice to develop that writing muscle, and it will atrophy if I don’t keep at it.

Rhodes Review: Have you ever written anything that you thought would be controversial and found it wasn’t?

Marie Manila: I wasn’t sure how SHRAPNEL would be received since the main character, Bing Butler, is a bit rough around the edges. He’s a retired WWII veteran and a product of his time in that he wrestles with a variety of “isms”: sexism, racism, homophobia. I’ve had a few people approach me rather aggressively and ask why Bing needs to overcome his homophobia. As a politically progressive person it’s a no-brainer for me, but not everyone is of that opinion.

Rhodes Review: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer, and how did you start writing?

Marie Manila: I was born in West Virginia but began my professional life as a graphic artist in Houston. I always loved to read, but in Texas I became a voracious reader. One day I finished reading a story in a magazine and I smugly (and naively) thought: “Well, I can write a story at least as good as this.” So I wrote one story, and another, and that’s all it took to send me down a completely different career path. Of course I then understood just how difficult it is to write a good short story, so I began taking classes to learn the craft, and I ultimately earned an MA in English and an MFA in creative writing. Not everyone needs a degree to become a competent writer, but that path worked well for me.

Rhodes Review: How long does it take you to write a book?

Marie Manila: I’ve only written three novels. The first is in a drawer, the second is SHRAPNEL, and the third, THE PATRON SAINT OF UGLY, will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in spring 2014. It took about five years per book. I was teaching off and on at Marshall University during that time, so I really could only write during the summers. I’m trying to quicken my pace with my current novel-in-progress, but I’ve learned that I can’t rush writing. It takes me awhile to really understand the characters and the world they live in.

Rhodes Review: What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

Marie Manila: When I’m in the writing zone (which includes generating new material, researching, revising, editing, etc.) I treat it like a job, which it is. I get up in the morning, make coffee, and go to my office. I work until supper with breaks to walk the dog and eat lunch. If the writing is going well I’ll get back to it after supper. I usually write six days a week. I go a bit nutty if I write too many days in a row without a break. After I finish a big project I need a few weeks off. During that time I love to do physical work around the house: rip up carpet, paint walls, stain porches, plant vegetables. Writing is such a sedentary calling that it’s nice to flex those literal muscles. I also go a bit nutty if I take off too much time, and that’s when I know it’s time to get my butt back in the chair.

Rhodes Review: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Marie Manila: I am completely in love with my forthcoming novel THE PATRON SAINT OF UGLY, which includes a Sicilian grandmother who is a firm believer in the malocchio—the Evil Eye. She also believes in lucky amulets and talismans. As I was writing PATRON SAINT I began collecting my own talismans to scatter around my office. Not only did I hope the charms would give me the courage to write my heart out and do justice to the material, but I had such faith in the novel that I really wanted it to find a good home. Now that Houghton has bought it, I have to believe the talismans worked. I’ve even started collecting charms associated with the new novel I’m working on, and I love to let my eyes skim over them when I’m taking a break from the computer screen.

Rhodes Review: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Marie Manila: Aside from all that physical labor I mentioned above, I love to paint pictures. I’m not that skilled, but it’s nice to have another art to go to when the writing isn’t going well—especially when it’s an art I don’t feel I have to master. I can just have fun and relax. I’m a real foodie, too. I love a good meal with good friends and a nice glass of wine, which may be why good food—or lack thereof—is important to so many of my characters.

Rhodes Review: What does your family think of your writing?

Marie Manila: For the longest time I’m not sure they knew what I was up to. In the early years I just kept my head down and wrote-wrote-wrote like a maniac, short stories mainly. I was getting pieces published in journals around the country, but when I finally got a collection of stories published (STILL LIFE WITH PLUMS) I think my family and friends finally saw tangible proof of what I’d been up to all those year. For better or worse, there’s something about having a book in hand that adds legitimacy to the pursuit. Now my family and friends are my biggest fans whenever a book comes out. It’s cause for great celebration, and we need to celebrate those milestones that are so hard-won.

Rhodes Review: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

Marie Manila: I learned to trust my own writing process. In the early years I felt as if I needed to be in complete control of the writing, the story, the novel’s trajectory. Now I understand that there is magic in the process. When I’m wrestling with a writing problem I don’t fret the way I used to because I know that my subconscious is working on the solution, and if I’m patient the answer will present itself. The universe will conspire on my behalf if I just get out of the way.

Rhodes Review: Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?

Marie Manila: It’s important for all writers to understand that we are not what we write. We are not our novels or short stories or poems. When we remember that, we can be more objective about our work—about when it’s working and when it’s not—and we’ll be open to constructive criticism from those readers we trust. Our goal must always be to write the best prose or poetry we are capable of at the time and to always strive to mature as writers. We need to keep our egos in check for the good of the work. Separating ourselves from the work also protects us when critics give us harsh reviews. They aren’t criticizing us as human beings; they are merely criticizing the work.

Rhodes Review: What do you think makes a good story?

Marie Manila: I’m a fan of character-driven literary fiction, so my idea of what constitutes “good” stems from that. I love well-drawn, psychologically plumbed, believable characters who are put in difficult situations that they must overcome—or not overcome. To me, this transcends genre. The best sci-fi, horror, western, mystery, fantasy, etc. writers also create well-drawn characters I can root for. Nothing turns me off more than flat characters, unbelievable motivation, or characters used as mere props, particularly when those characters are women used as vehicles for sex or degradation.

Rhodes Review: What are your favorite authors/books?

Marie Manila: Here are a few seminal writers I return to again and again. They have taught me so much about craft, as well as about taking risks and infusing prose with humor and magic: Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty, Carson McCullers, Raymond Carver, Salman Rushdie, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende, Sandra Cisneros.

Rhodes Review: If you could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

Marie Manila: I enjoy a good dinner party, so naturally I’d have to invite a few people. I would love to have supper with Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty, and Carson McCullers. I’d get them tipsy and just let them go on and on about writing…about being women writers in a time that was even less hospitable to women writers than it is now…about defying assigned gender roles…about issues of faith…about what it means to be southern in a world that often considers southerners dolts, and oh, so many things. I’ll need a lot of wine at this party.

Rhodes Review: What inspired you to write Shrapnel?

Marie Manila: I am from West Virginia, but my first post-college job was in Houston. I met so many men like Bing Butler, the main character, in Texas. There are men (and women) like him everywhere, but it was in Houston that I really began to notice people with these entrenched stereotypes about women, blacks, Latinos, gays, West Virginians. For me, writing is a way to understand the world, so I decided to slip into Bing’s skin for a while to see what made him tick. Ultimately I understood that so many of his “isms” were fear based. Men like Bing were once at the top of the food chain, but he’s losing dominance fast. When I made that discovery, I could then write him with compassion. SHRAPNEL really is a coming-of-age story in the nick of time for Bing.

Rhodes Review: What was your favorite part of Shrapnel?

Marie Manila: I love Bing’s growth. One by one, so many of his “isms” are challenged. We get to see him wrestle with his ideology as he learns that though he may not agree with everyone’s lifestyle, he must learn to respect that people have the right to a place in this world regardless of race, gender, social class, or whether he agrees with their lifestyle choices or not. He also learns that beneath all the labels are people he may have more in common with than he would have ever thought possible.

Rhodes Review: What was the hardest part to write in Shrapnel?

Marie Manila: I had to write Bing as a vulnerable soul in need of grace. It’s not always easy to pull the rug out from under your characters and watch them flounder and flail. It was difficult for me to watch Bing come to terms with his son’s death in Vietnam. Writing those scenes when Bing imagines his son’s last moments was tough because I needed to handle it just right, but also in a peripheral way, which is how Bing would have approached it. I needed to honor all the soldiers who died in Vietnam.

Rhodes Review: What do you wish was different about Shrapnel?

Marie Manila: What I now understand is that people often look at the title and cover and expect it to be a book about war. Though I love both the title and cover, I see how together they misrepresent the book a bit. The novel is a family saga about the effects of war on three generations of the Butler family. It’s about the emotional shrapnel this family has been carrying for decades. In general terms, I’ve learned something from every book I’ve written. My first novel-in-a-drawer was a bit experimental. I played with time and had multiple points-of-view. In SHRAPNEL, I set out to write a straight-forward story so I could learn about structuring a novel. It was also in SHRAPNEL that I began tiptoeing into magical realism with the inclusion of the “ghosts” of Bing’s dead wife and son. To me, the “ghosts” are manifestations of Bing’s grief, but including them opened the door for the magic that appears in THE PATRON SAINT OF UGLY.

Rhodes Review: Was familiarity with the locations a help or hindrance, i.e. did you find yourself too critical in your descriptions of locations?

Marie Manila: I grew up in Huntington, West Virginia, and I worked in Houston, the two settings for Shrapnel. I’m not opposed to bending the landscape to suit my needs. It is fiction, after all, and I need to do what’s best for the world of the novel even if it differs somewhat from the reality of the actual place. It’s the big picture that matters. I paint milieu with a broader brush than some. It’s the essence of place I’m going for.

About the Author:

West Virginia native Marie Manilla is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.   Her fiction has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Mississippi Review, Prairie  Schooner, Calyx, Portland Review, NewSouth, South Writ Large, and other  journals. Her novel SHRAPNEL (River City Publishing, 2012) was selected by author Daniel Wallace as winner of the Fred Bonnie Award for Best First Novel.  Her collection of stories, STILL LIFE WITH PLUMS (West Virginia University Press, 2010), was a finalist for the Weatherford Award and ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year. Her novel THE PATRON SAINT OF UGLY will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in spring 2014. Learn more at www.mariemanilla.com.

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Interview: Stacy Green – Into The Dark

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

Today we are pleased to welcome to Rhodes Review, Stacy Green, author of Into The Dark who is currently on tour to promote her book.

Rhodes Review: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Stacy Green: I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but for a long time, it was something I never thought I could accomplish. It wasn’t until a good friend read some recent work and started pushing me that I finally decided to take the plunge.

Rhodes Review: How did you start writing?

Stacy Green: I’ve written little stories since I was a kid, but the first thing I remember writing that had any plot to it was a story about New Kids on the Block, probably around 1989. I would have been 12 and thought it was a masterpiece. My mom still has the notebook

Rhodes Review: What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

Stacy Green: I’m a SAHM and do part-time child care, so I’m able to get a lot done as long as I don’t procrastinate. I usually try to write for a couple of hours before lunch as well as after. On my off days, I can write straight through, but when the kiddo is around, it’s choppy.

Rhodes Review: What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

Stacy Green: Hmm. I suppose the natural light thing. I don’t like to write at night anymore, partially because I’m always beat, but I also like to be in a room with the main light off and lots of light in the windows.

Rhodes Review: Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

Stacy Green: I watch a lot of true crime shows, so I’m always looking for ideas there. I also keep a journal of any sort of “what if” question that might pop into my mind. With INTO THE DARK, I originally wanted to write about a SWAT officer saving the damsel in distress. Then I discovered the tunnels beneath Las Vegas, and the book took on an entirely different meaning.

Rhodes Review: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Stacy Green: Read! Relax. Spend time with my daughter. We try to cram in as much family stuff as possible on the weekends.

Rhodes Review: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

Stacy Green: How crucial back story is to the plot and how very little of it actually makes it into the book. You can’t tell a good story without knowing what happened before, so in a sense, you’re writing two books. You just can’t bombard the reader with the details.

Rhodes Review: Do you have any suggestions to help someone become a better writer?

Stacy Green: Keep writing. And read, read, read. Read the books in your genre, study how they are telling their stories. Read outside your genre, too. Look for fresh sentences that stand out, and always write the story you want to. If you love it, others will, too.

Rhodes Review: Which of your books was the easiest/hardest to write?

Stacy Green: I can’t say that any of them were. Into the Dark is my debut, and as a new author learning story structure, it had its own set of challenges. My April release, TIN GOD, was tough because the plot was much more intricate than Dark’s. And the book I’m currently working on has a pretty intense subplot, so it’s tough as well. And that’s how it should be – if you’re learning as you write, every book will present new challenges.

Rhodes Review: Which of your characters is most/least like you, and in what way(s)?

Stacy Green: Emilie has some of my personality, in that I’ve dealt with letting go of the past and not letting my mistakes eat me alive.

Rhodes Review: If you were to do your career as an author again, what would you do differently, and why?

Stacy Green: That is really tough, because I feel I’m still at the start of my career. If anything, I wish I’d had more faith in myself early on and not taken so long to get to this point.

Rhodes Review: What inspired you to write Into The Dark?

Stacy Green: Many things. Originally it was simply the idea of a hot SWAT guy. And then I wanted to write about a woman with some secrets. But it wasn’t until I found out about the tunnels and the homeless living inside them that I really started to understand who the bad guy was, how he could use those tunnels, and how the plight of those living inside could shape both Nathan and Emilie’s lives. So it really started to come together after that.

Rhodes Review: What was your favorite part of Into The Dark?

Stacy Green: A couple of scenes. First, when Nathan discovers what’s under the bank and realizes what the Taker has done. Second would be much later, when Emilie is in true peril. I really felt like that’s when the theme came together.

Rhodes Review: What was the hardest part of Into The Dark to write?

Stacy Green: The hardest part was learning story structure and understanding how much that plays into the plot. Writing a story is very different from writing a book, and I really had to learn (and am still learning!) how to do that.

Rhodes Review: What did you wish was different about Into The Dark?

Stacy Green: You know what? It’s my first book, and I’m happy with it. There are little things I would change, but there will always be something you wish you’d done differently. At this point, you have to be proud of what you’ve done and let it go.

Rhodes Review: What are your favorite authors/books?

Stacy Green: Lisa Garder, Thomas Harris, Stephen King, Anne Rice, Greg Iles. Gardner’s Say Goodbye is a standout to me, as is Silence of the Lambs, The Shining, The Queen of the Damned, and Turning Angel. But all of their books are great.

Rhodes Review: If you could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

Stacy Green: Nefertiti, although I’d need a translator. I’d like to know what her life was truly like in ancient Egypt, and if she was as beautiful as her famous bust shows.

Rhodes Review: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

Stacy Green: That writing a book is a lot harder than I thought! It’s one thing to have a bunch of great ideas, but putting them together in a cohesive plot that isn’t too far fetched yet keeps readers on the edge of their seats is tough, and a constant work in progress!

Rhodes Review: Stacy, thank you so much for joining us here.

Stacy Green: Thanks so much for having me! I hope your readers enjoy INTO THE DARK.

INTO THE DARK is on sale for $2.99 for a limited time only!

INTO THE DARK/Blurb

IT’S THE MOMENTS FROM OUR PAST THAT BIND US.

Branch Manager Emilie Davis is having a day like any other–until two masked men storm into WestOne Bank demanding cash. Her hopes of a quick end to her terror are dashed when she realizes one of the men has no interest in the bank’s money. Emilie is his prize, and he’s come to claim her.

When hostage negotiator Nathan Madigan and Las Vegas SWAT enter the bank on a rescue mission, Emilie’s captor makes a shocking escape into the abyss that lies beneath the city: the Las Vegas storm drains, a refuge for the downtrodden and the desperate.

HOW WILL IT END?

Who is the man the media has dubbed the “Taker?” Why is he after Emilie, and what is the connection he’s convinced they share?

Emilie can’t run from the Taker, and she can’t escape her own past. As her life closes in on her, she has nowhere to turn but to Nathan. The lines of professionalism blur as Nathan becomes determined to save Emilie. Together they venture into the depths beneath Las Vegas and discover a shocking piece of the puzzle.

But the Taker remains one step ahead. Desperate for the threat to emerge from the shadows, Emilie makes a bold move to reclaim her life, and it may cost her everything.

Amazon for Kindle
MuseItUp Store for all digital formats
Smashwords for Nook, iTunes, and other digital formats: (use Coupon Code: CF97D)

Sign up for Stacy’s newsletter by February 19th to be entered into the contest for a $25 Amazon Gift Card. Subscribers will only be contacted with pricing and contest exclusives for them!

BIO

Stacy Green is fascinated by the workings of the criminal mind and explores true crime on her popular Thriller Thursday posts at her blog, Get Twisted.

After earning her degree in journalism, Stacy worked in advertising before becoming a stay-at-home mom to her miracle child. She rediscovered her love of writing and wrote several articles for Women’s Edition Magazine of Cedar Rapids, profiling local businesses, before penning her first novel. Her debut novel, INTO THE DARK, is set in Las Vegas and features a heroine on the edge of disaster, a tormented villain, and the city’s infamous storm drains that house hundreds of homeless. INTO THE DARK is available on all digital formats and paperback November 30th.

Website: www.stacygreen.net

See our Review of Into The Dark here and our Giveaway here.


Interview: Giacomo Giammatteo

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Rhodes Review: Who were some of your favorite characters in Murder Takes Time?

Giacomo Giammatteo: My favorite character was Nicky. I had the most difficult time writing him, which is probably why I liked him so much.  After that, I think Mamma Rosa.

Rhodes Review: Which of your characters would you most/least to invite to dinner, and why?

Giacomo Giammatteo: Mamma Rosa because she cooks such magnificent meals. Johnny Much because he’d be frightening to have in your house. At any time, let alone dinner.

Rhodes Review: What would your ideal career be, if you couldn’t be an author?

Giacomo Giammatteo: An editor, but if we limit choices to something outside the publishing business, then I’d have to say something dealing with helping animals or kids.

Rhodes Review: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Giacomo Giammatteo: Not until late in life. When my youngest son was a teenager, we started reading fantasy books together. When we finished, we’d discuss them, talk about plots, characters, what we would have done differently. That led to us saying, “hey, we could write one of these.” And so we did, although being a teenager, he quit on me after we plotted out the first one. By then, though, I was hooked.

Rhodes Review: How long does it take you to write a book?

Giacomo Giammatteo: That’s a loaded question. I can usually write the first draft pretty fast. I did this book in two months. But…and this is the key, it takes a lot of time after the first draft to get it to the point where you say, “Okay, this is ready for publication.”

Rhodes Review: What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

Giacomo Giammatteo: My days are hectic, and yet, organized. My wife and I have an animal sanctuary with 41 animals, so I get up early—6:30 or so—feed some of the animals, do some work with Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, etc… then go to work on my normal job. I take off in mid-afternoon to do the primary feeding of our animals, then back to work. I quit work around 6:00, go inside to eat, spend more time doing social media things, and then spend a few precious minutes with my wife. After she goes to bed, I write until late at night.

Rhodes Review: What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

Giacomo Giammatteo: If you mean writing process, it’s probably writing with loud music and several dogs beside me. If you mean regarding the books’ content, I’d say it would be that I put my animals in all my books.  There is always a character/animal that is represented.

Rhodes Review: What are some of your favorite authors/books?

Giacomo Giammatteo: Favorite book of all time is The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas. Modern day, I’d have to say Frank Hebert, author of Dune, and in the mystery category, John Sandford’s Prey novels.

Rhodes Review: I know you are bringing back Rat and Bugs in the next book, can you provide any details?

Giacomo Giammatteo: I’m not one to spoil things for readers. About all I can say is that it will be another dual plot line, and will take place in Brooklyn and Wilmington.

Rhodes Review: What were some writers who influenced you?

Giacomo Giammatteo: Dumas for his storytelling. Sandford for his brevity. Hebert for his meticulous attention to detail. I can’t compare to any of them, but I strive to get there.

Rhodes Review: What was your favorite part of the book?

Giacomo Giammatteo: When the kids were young. I loved writing that, mostly because the majority of it was real.

Rhodes Review: What was the hardest part to write in the book?

Giacomo Giammatteo: Some of the death scenes. I don’t mean the murders, but the ones where the good guys died. I had to dig deep for those emotions, and it took more than I thought it would.

Rhodes Review: What do you wish was different about the book?

Giacomo Giammatteo: This is a difficult question because I don’t want to sound like an ass, but I really am happy with the book. I don’t think I’d change it.


Interview: Joshua Graham – Darkroom

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Today we are pleased to once again have Joshua Graham join us. Joshua is the author of the recently released Darkroom.

About Josh

Joshua Graham is the award winning author of the #1 Amazon and Barnes & Noble legal thriller BEYOND JUSTICE.

His latest book DARKROOM won a First Prize award in the Forward National Literature award and was an award-winner in the USA Book News “Bests Books 2011” awards.

 

Rhodes Review: What gave you the idea for Darkroom?

Joshua Graham: It started with the title, which I thought would make for a great double entendre, then I remembered how ghostly some of the images in an old fashioned darkroom looked when they were coming up in the developing solution on the contact paper.  They start off looking like a negative, then they turn out normal.  But I thought:  What if someone could see clairvoyant images in the darkroom, the way Johnny Smith did in THE DEAD ZONE by Stephen King, when he touches someone?

Rhodes Review:  It goes heavily into background in Vietnam, what was the research process like?

Joshua Graham:  It was fascinating! I learned a lot from historical records, but I also got a lot of firsthand information from people who were actually there, especially around the fall of Saigon.

Rhodes Review:  Is there any chance of the characters returning in other stories?

Joshua Graham:  Does the name Jodi Bauer sound familiar to you?  If you read BEYOND JUSTICE, you’ll remember that she was nick-named Jodi the Piranha, and was the defense attorney for the serial killer in that novel.  Well, the attorney that defends Xandra Carrick in the last part of the book comes from her law firm.  So, as you can see, my characters sometimes inhabit the same world.  And they might
even cross paths, who knows?

Rhodes Review:  Which character would you most and least like to invite to dinner?

Joshua Graham:  Interesting question.  Of course, I think Xandra would be a real kick to hang out with.   She’s got quite a personality and is not boring.  She’s feisty (as one reviewer put it) and she doesn’t let things go easily, so I bet she’d be fun to get into a debate with.  I’d also love to meet her father Peter Carrick and hear the stories he has to tell from the Vietnam War.  Who would I least like to invite to dinner?  Mark Collinsworth.  Everyone has their story, but his cocky attitude really grates me.  Great for a book character, but for a dinner guest, not so much.

Rhodes Review:  What do you think makes a good story?

Joshua Graham:  That which draws you in, such that you forget your reading a book.  And it should also provide a healthy dose of catharthis.

Rhodes Review:  What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

Joshua Graham:  Wake up, get the kids ready for school, have breakfast, study the Bible and pray, check email, social media, write, write, write…answer phone calls, emails, write, write, write…

Rhodes Review:  What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

Joshua Graham:  Once in a while, I interview my characters.  Ask them probing questions, then let them answer in their own voice.  Some of them have gotten pretty mad at me, some of them have broken down, and still others have made me laugh so hard I was grateful I didn’t have a mouthful of coke.

Rhodes Review:  What was your favorite part of Darkroom?

Joshua Graham:  The surprises and twists.  Which ones?  Well, I could tell you…

Rhodes Review:  What was the hardest part to write in Darkroom?

Joshua Graham:  Definitely witnessing the human atrocities where innocents are killed and tortured.  These are things you never want to imagine.  But they have happened, tragically.  And in order to fully bring it to life, I had to put myself in the scene and imagine the details, the emotions, from different points of views.   As a husband and a father, these kinds of images (scenes) are always the most difficult to write (as it was in the opening chapters of BEYOND JUSTICE.)  My readers have had the same reaction to these pages as mine.  We all wanted to go and hug our children after reading them.

Rhodes Review:  What do you wish was different about Darkroom?

Joshua Graham:  Maybe that a major motion picture studio had already optioned it before the book was published?  So many people (early readers) have told me that this book must be made into a movie.   I even have an agent from one of the top Hollywood talent agencies who approached me and said the same thing.   On the other hand, it’s probably better that the book comes out first, because a book and a film adaptation are very different creatures, and must be viewed as such.

Rhodes Review:  Which of your books was the easiest/hardest to write?

Joshua Graham:  None of them are what I would call easy.  I already described
what was difficult about them to write.   But the truth be told, DARKROOM came through divine providence and inspiration.  I never completed a first draft as quickly as I did DARKROOM.  The words and story just flowed and I practically typed non-stop from start to finish.

Rhodes Review:  Does writing a book get easier as you write?  Ie. Is it harder to write your first book, then your 14th?

Joshua Graham:  I’ll let you know when I get to book 14. :)   Each book has its own
challenges and rewards.  On one hand, being more experienced makes it easier.  But then, the challenge is to write with equal and better quality, and remain fresh.  After about 4 novels, I can tell you that the latter concern is becoming more and more of a challenge.  But it’s a challenge ALL writer’s must face, nothing new under the sun.

Rhodes Review:  If the author could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

Joshua Graham:  C.S. Lewis, for sure.  He was a remarkably gifted man of deep insight and literary skill.  I love everything he’s written in regards to his literary, philosophical, and theological viewpoints.  And, from what I gather, we share a similar sense of humor—I think.

Rhodes Review:  How did you get interested in writing?

Joshua Graham:  I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember.  Even in the 1st grade, with crayons and construction paper, my pictures had a separate sheet of paper with a story (caption).  Since then, I’ve enjoyed writing scripts for plays, movies, and all kinds of stories.   It was only later in life that I rediscovered this passion for storytelling, and at the urging of some great friends, decided to pursue it
professionally.  Little did I know it would alter my destiny and be there, ready and waiting, when my 12 year career in IT disappeared, making way for my life as a writer.

Rhodes Review:  What are some of your favorite books/authors.

Joshua Graham:  GOD:  The Bible

C.S. Lewis’ Narnia, The Screwtape Letters

Stephen King: The Dead Zone

John Grisham:  The Rainmaker

Rhodes Review:  Do you have any suggestions to help my readers become a better
writer? If so, what are they?

Joshua Graham:  For those interested in becoming a writer professionally, remember, the key characteristic needed more than talent, connections, more than anything else combined, is persistence.  Never give up until you’ve arrived.  Even then, you have to keep honing your skills, learning the business, making connections, learning from others.  You’ll either love the sound of that, or hate it.  Chose this path carefully, because like all things worthwhile, it will come at personal cost and sacrifice.  But it will also come with unspeakable rewards, if you are looking for the right things.

Rhodes Review:  If you were to do your career as an author again, what would you do differently, and why?

Joshua Graham:  I might have spent a lot less time worrying about what others think because ultimately, the books I’ve written that drew the most negative comments from other aspiring writers, have gone on to become #1 bestsellers and have given me a new career (all thanks to God!)

Rhodes Review: Would you like a Snickers bar?

Joshua Graham:  If you even have to ask….

YouTube Preview Image

Connect with Josh at the following:

Website: www.joshua-graham.com/blog
FACEBOOK: http://joshua-graham.com/fb
Twitter: @J0shuaGraham

 

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Interview: Mikey Weinstein – No Snowflake in an Avalanche

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

Today we’re pleased to welcome with us, Mr. Mikey Weinstein, author off the book No Snowflake in an Avalanche.

Mikey Weinstein: We’re very greatful that you’re taking the time to take a look and give us your thoughts and want to thank you for making the effort.

Rhodes Review: A lot of people would say you and the book are anti-Christian, and that it’s just a liberal attack on religion. How would you address that?

Mikey Weinstein: Well, I would say they’re full of shit. Let me explain why. That is a canard. That’s like saying that if you fight back against bullying in schools, you know that new movie Is out bullies, that you’re against bullying. In our situation we have just between 80 and 90 people that work in our foundation around the country. Most of our folks are full time volunteers. The vast majority of our staff are Roman Catholic and Protestant. We had 27,385 clients as of a few hours ago. It is just like a universal constant. It stays right around 96% of our clients are Christians. About 3/4s are Protestants of pretty much every denomination alone. We have 21 different varieties of Baptists alone. The other ¼ of the 96% are Roman Catholic. Only 4% of our clients are non Christians. Ironically some of our best donors are very conservative Republicans but don’t want people to know what their names are.

Our largest organization supporter is none other then the California Council of Churches IMPACT Organization. They interviewed and followed us for many years then made the decision to endorse us. Get this, there are 5,500 individual protestant churches in the state of California, 21 Different protestant denominations, and it’s 1.5 Million California Protestants. So if we are anti-Christian, that’s news to our staff, our donors, our endorsers, our clients. If you saw the video (link) I tried to explain we are absolutely at war with the American Christian Fascistic Taliban and that’s what the book is focused on and those are Fundamentalist or Dominionist Christians, they follow the great Commission

Mark 16:15 – And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

Matthew 28:19 – Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

They feel they have the right to scream Jesus in a crowded theater. They feel there is no time, and there is no place, and there is no manner that can restrict them from proselytizing. That’s why one of our largest growth areas is Evangelical Christians. We now have them on our advisory board, as clients and donors. Of the 368 Clients we have from the Air Force Academy, the only one that is out is a Conservative

Evangelical Christian Republican. Even the Evangelicals follow the great commission, but they refuse to proselytize in a manner that is constitutionally noxious. So to say that is like saying we’re against all of Islam because we’re also against the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, etc. Of course we’re against Fundamentalist Islam. 10% of every Muslim American in the U.S. Military is our clients, and we never have any of them saying you’re anti-Muslim because we’re fighting the Fundamentalists in Islam. We don’t hate anybody’s God, we don’t favor or oppose anyone’s faith, we support our Constitution. It allows everyone to celebrate what faith they have or no faith. The rules are since we have a social contract in this country, you need to follow the rules of the law. And we have a Constitution that represents that social contract that there is a place, time and manner you can proselytize to your hearts content, but we also have the rules when you can’t do that, and if you want to violate it, then we’ll see you in that court.

Rhodes Review: I liked where you mentioned you even had a few Jedi clients.
Mikey Weinstein: I’d never heard of the Jedi Faith before, I think it’s a lot like Bahai. It’s not our position to sit there and say “What a ridiculous faith”, that is more than a slippery slope, one of our most well known clients, a highly decorated combat Medic, told us when he was told he had to stand in formation and bow his head to a Jesus prayer, mandatory, military, U.S. Army Formation, he told his first sergeant he didn’t want to do it. The sergeant told him he could follow his own religion when he wanted to, but when the Army tells you you’re going to do this. He told the first sergeant “My religion requires me to absent myself from people attempting telepathic contact with imaginary beings.”

Rhodes Review: You and your family face a lot of hatred and hostility as well as anti-semitism. How do you cope with that on a day to day basis?

Mikey Weinstein: That’s a tough question. I’ve told people that we’re not activists. We’re actually civil rights fighters. It’s like I’m talking to you with a gun stuck in my face. This is not like riding a unicorn through a cotton candy forest handing out lollipops to little forest animals who are singing in English in unison. This is a bloodsport. This is very, very hard. It’s dangerous, lonely, and expensive. The book was to try to make people understand. It’s like what Gandhi said was right: There are four phases of fighting, the first stage they ignore you. In stage two, they ridicule you. In stage 3, they fight you. In stage 4, you win. We’re well beyond ignore, we’re well beyond ignoring and ridiculing, we’re into fighting and winning. This comes at a cost. You know the quote from Voltaire where the title of the book comes from “No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible”. Here’s another that explains this “It is very dangerous to be right in manners, upon which the established authorities are wrong.” . He also said “Courage cannot see around a corner but goes around it anyway. “ It’s something we realize we have to do. We’re not going to stop. We’re not going to be cowed. We do our best to protect ourselves with our weapons, our security, our firearms, whatever we’ve got. We’re trained to drive home in different ways, sit in restaurants in certain ways. I’m not asking everybody to be fighting this everyday, I’m just asking for one day of the lion. Give me just one day. Help us fight. It’s not like I don’t care about the starvation and violence in Darfur, or the HIV Crisis in Subsahara Africa, or global warming, or how to save the whales. I do. But the people we’re fighting want to use nuclear weapons to bring Jesus back. Dealing with this type of oppression and marginalizaton, we’ve had our windows shot out of our house, animals slaughtered, swastikas and crucifixes painted on our house, and we get it, you don’t like us being here. We also understand it’s important. The bill of rights which includes the first amendment where the Separation of Church and State exists, even though the Christian right says we don’t see those words there, they were put in to protect the minority. Frederick Douglas said “Power concedes nothing with a demand” so me, my family, and my foundation are the demanders of the commanders. The others out there are afraid to speak, to deal with the tyranny of the majority. The book is intended to be a primal scream to get people to understand, to make a call to action.

Rhodes Review: Tell us about the Chaplaincy of full Gospel and the Imprecatory Prayer. I remember similar prayers for the President?

Mikey Weinstein: About 12 days ago, the judge granted a summary judgement motion. He couldn’t see causation. We thought the judge was going to let it go to a jury, and let the jury decide. Yet the judge did not grant summary judgement.. The judge said how can you see a correlation between someone praying for someone to die and anything that happens to you.

[For the Readers: An Imprecatory prayer is a prayer wishing harm on others. In Obama’s case, it was for his days in office to be few and his children to be left orphans. In Mr. Weinstein’s case, it tends to be prayers for violence and death upon his family.]

Mikey Weinstein: Where are you going to post this review?

Rhodes Review: My own website, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

Mikey Weinstein: How many of these have you done in the past, you ask good questions.

Rhodes Review: Probably about 30 or 40.

Mikey Weinstein: Wow, I don’t’ want to take up your whole night, please continue with your excellent questions.

Rhodes Review: Is this just a problem in the airforce, or is it all branches?

Mikey Weinstein: Do you have a pen. Hold your pen up six inches over your desk. What made the pen drop?

Rhodes Review: Gravity.

Mikey Weinstein: Correct. That is exactly how systemic and ubiquitous and out of control Fundamentalist Dominionist Christianity is, in the technologically most lethal organization ever created by human kind which is our U.S. Military. We have roughly 1,000 military installations scattered around the world, in 150 countrys, as we garrison the globe. This is a national security threat to our Country. It’s inextricably entwined into the very DNA of the Pentagon or as we call it the Pentecostalgon. One of President Eisenhower’s most famous speeches was where he warned about the rise of the Military Industrial Complex. We’re facing this enormous Fundamentalist Christian Parachurch Military Corporate Congressional Complex. It is the very particulate of the department of Defense.

Rhodes Review: Can you tell us about the 68 Nuclear Missile Launch officers? The Jesus Rifles?

Mikey Weinstein:  The 68 Nuclear Missile Launch Officers were part of the Jesus Loves Nukes situation, I believe that’s chapter 14 of my book. The Jesus Nukes occurred late July/August last year, the Jesus Rifles were around January 2010.

We’ve had a lot of our stories go viral. The Nazi SS flag being used by the Marine Scout Snipers had over 16 Million News Hits alone. Nature Abhors a vacuum. If you’re being persecuted in the military because of your religious faith, you can’t go to the EO people, you can’t go to the inspect general, you can’t go to the Chaplain, You can’t go to the Lawyers, you can’t go to your chain of command, they’re the biggest perpetrators.

We think somewhere between 28 and 32 percent of the senior enlisted and officers are Fundamentalist Christians. People say what’s the big deal, but here’s the problem. The problem is they’ll come out and outrank 80% of the military. These other organizations such as the ACLU doesn’t speak military, we do. In every conceivable way, this is a template ofFundamentalist Christian Facism. We’re our own worst enemies in regards to Afghanistan, etc.

Rhodes Review: Are there any political leaders that we can depend on who are unaffected by this? It seems we’re in trouble either way sometimes.

Mikey Weinstein: No. In an election year they won’t touch us. I spent a lot of money with a very well appointed lobbying interest in Washington D.C. until they came and told us to stop paying them. I’m a registered Republican myself. Under Republicans it’s man exploits man. Under Democrats it’s just the opposite. It’s not a left or right issue, it’s a right or wrong issue. Martin Luther King Jr. said “In the end we remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” And there comes a time where silence becomes betrayal.

We live in an America where most people don’t speak truth to power. They don’t have the guts to do it, especially If it’s a spouse, teacher, particularly a boss, they’re too terrified. Most Americans are too docile to tell others to “shut the fuck up” if they’re talking in a movie theater, so how do you expect them to stand up and fight if they’re being told there is one approved solution for religion. It’s not a small matter. It’s well beyond racial, gender, sexual orientation. None of those have an ideological book telling you what to do. Of course the people we’re fighting, the Fundamentalists, have that stench, they are anti-semitic, islamophobic, misogynyistic, and homophobic.  They also have a virulent hatred of the constitution.

Rhodes Review: There are those who might think this was just another conspiracy theory such as birtherism. What would you say to such critics?

Mikey Weinstein:  Well I would tell people there were 300 spartans at the battle of Themopoly. In honor of those 300 brave men, give me two seconds of your time, give me six hundred seconds, that’s 10 minutes and go to Military Religious Freedom.org and look at the video, listen to the audio, read the text particularly the part that says you ought to read the book. Read the Book. There’s a reason Harper’s Magazine referred to me as the Constitutional Conscience of the Military, and I’m proud of that.

This isn’t about self-grandizement. I’m 57 years old, I don’t care if anyone likes me. Trust the message whether you like the message or not. I wrote the book because I knew I wouldn’t be happy until people were unhappy. Until people face some level of discomfiture, they won’t do anything.

Have you ever gone on a picnic? You and your wife go on a picnic and are surrounded by flies, no big deal, but if there’s suddenly hornets and wasps, that’s going to scare the shit out of you, you’re going to do something about that. So we had to make ourselves into hornets and wasps, because people won’t pay attention to anything else. Remember power pays attention only to demands.

The Department of Defense’s only weaknesss is bad press or being hauled to the federal or state court. There’s two things I want to say here. When you tell somebody they lack integrity, character, courage, intelligence, trustworthiness, honorability, and honor, because of their chosen religious faith, or lack thereof, there’s no difference between that and telling them they’re stupid because of the color of their skin or because they were born with a vagina.

What we’re dealing with here is a Fanatical religiosity. Not the enemy we’re fighting, not jihadist Islam, but Fundamentalist or Dominionist Christianity. You have one of it’s biggest leaders, Rob Parsley of World’s Harvest Church. He’s very fond on Sunday, and I’ve seen him on the videos, he’ll sit there and promise them a 200 mile long river, 4 ½ feet deep filled with nothing but human blood. Then he’ll say “Therefore my brothers and sisters, rejoice, rejoice because the worst is yet to come.”

So we’re dealing with a fundamentalist, fanatical religiosity tied in with a putrescent disgusting version of patriotism, and an unfettered access due to this draconian specter of vertically entrusted military command influence. What you have is a metastasizing cancer, a fundamentalist Christian, unconstitutional cancer that is of such magnitude that it’s almost impossible to believe unless you are complicit.

If you have a little tickle in your throat, your wife gives you hot tea. If that doesn’t work you see the doctor. The doctor gives you antibiotics. That doesn’t work they give you a shot. But ultimately at some point you need those adenoids and tonsils to come out. And we’re way beyond the stage of hot tea. It’s in our public schools, it’s in our sanitation departments, it’s in our cops. But they don’t have laser guided and nuclear weapons. If I can increase the level of trust and communication 1000 fold between the dark forces of Christianity then and only then can I fairly describe the relationship between them and us as two ships passing in the night.

Someone asked my wife how much do you owe? What did you have to give up, probably a lot huh? She was crying when she made the statement, “No, we didn’t have to give up a lot, we had to give up everything.” There is no retirement fund. There is no retirement home. There is no sense of security. But we’ve made the decision that someone has to do something. If you rescue a child who crawled into the street are you called a hero. No you are doing the right thing. I know the people we fight consider me at best to be an asshole, but to the people who we represent most of whom are protestants and catholics, and all of whom wear the uniform of this country, or have worn it, we are badasses, and we work hard to be hornets and wasps and bees.

Sorry if that’s too long winded.

That’s why this review is so important. We’re hope merchants. We’re supposed to give our clients AARP. Anonymity, Action, Results, and Protection. We have to give people hope. At any one time, we have a dozen clients on the cusp of suicide. It’s a horrible feeling of marginalization and people can only take it so long. I’ve had clients who were Muslim whose commanders told them the only good Muslims were dead Muslims, and they fantasized about killing themselves with a note saying “Am I a good Muslim now.”

There’s a saying “One often finds their destiny on the road one takes to avoid it.” I didn’t ask for this to happen. I was at point A in my life in 2004 when I was faced with anti-semitism and I didn’t care if I lived or died, someone was going to get a beating, and I was going to do it. Now I’m at point B, whenever I see unconstitutional religious tyranny of any type from any client, I don’t care if I live or die, someone is going to get a fucking beating, and I’m going to be the one to do it.

For those on the religious right, those fundamentalist Christians who say separation of church and state isn’t in the constitution. I’ll ask them if they were arrested and taken to jail, would they have the right to a fair trial? They’ll always say yes, but it’s not. You have the constitutional right to a speedy trial and a public trial, but not a fair trial. That right is given by something called legal precedent case law just like Miranda rights.

Remember we’re dealing with an American populace more focused on Dancing with the Stars, and the book is intended to be a wakeup call.

Rhodes Review: What advice would you give to those wanting to get involved?
Well, I would say read the book, buy the book, get the book to as many people as you can. Donate to us. We’re the tip of the spear. It is a way to reach out to politicians, they will not touch us. And finally give me that one day as a lion.

We’d like to thank Mr. Weinstein for joining us here at Rhodes Review and for taking the time to talk to you about this issue, and about his book.  As part of this, We’ve been given permission to offer two signed and personalized copies of his book, “No Snowflake in an Avalanche” to our readers.  To Enter the contest go here.  And be sure and read our review of No Snowflake in an Avalanche here.

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Interview: Cesar – Author of Book of Prophecies

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Today, Rhodes Review is proud to welcome to our pages, Cesar. Cesar is the author of Book of Prophecies. Welcome Cesar.

Rhodes Review: What persuaded you to write the Book of Prophecies?

Cesar: Well its a tough question because it is hard to explain, at the time I was working on other books, and I felt God just saying to me that I need to stop writing what I was, and to start a collection of prophecies to get them published.

Rhodes Review:  When you see these Prophecies are they physical images, mental images?

Cesar: They are mental images, sort of like what people would describe as day-dreams.  Although day-dreams are achieved by mere thinking, these images were achieved by not thinking.

Rhodes Review:  In the book you mentioned the Two who will follow, who are these two?

Cesar: There will come a time where two individuals will cause chaos across the world, in my mind, they would either have ways of attracting audiences or they will be fluent with technology itself.  They will be seen as being against the world and many people will try and stop them, maybe even try to destroy them.  I wrote a note aimed to them because, at some point with a person such as this, they would need confirmation that they are not crazy.

Rhodes Review: Can someone be trained to tap into their abilities, or is it a case of you have the ability or not?

Cesar: Funnily enough I have asked myself the same question a hundred times.  I don’t think that a person can be trained to do it, it is something that must seep through a persons mind body and soul, sure you can teach methods but you cannot teach a person to truly believe.   But I do believe that the gift of prophecy can be given to anyone.

Rhodes Review:  What is your background?

Cesar: I was brought up in a devout Christian family here in Ireland, but I have been walking on a somewhat different path for the last eight years, learning the ways of the world and experimenting with a lot of stuff too such as walking haunted graveyards and so on.  But for the last two years I have almost lived as a hermit, I guess in quiet contemplation about my life.

Rhodes Review:  What are some events that you prophecied correctly?

Cesar: Well the book is only out, however, on launch day (Jan13th) a disaster struck the Costa Concordia and I will give you a few extracts from the book;

“death to men, peril to ships” 1(vii)

“A man runs from responsibility and it will bring loss of affection” 3(ii)

“abandoned, plates left overturned, it is empty… silence on the ship” 7(iii)

“ship lost, danger, death, balance lost” 7(iv)

“a champagne glass sideways in a picture on the wall where green curtains hang” 10(xi)

“man found in orange by boat overturned” 12(vii)

Rhodes Review:  There were two predictions at the beginning of the book for what seemed to be the United States, can you expand on these?

Cesar: Well basically those two prophecies are claiming a downfall in the economy of the United States, but also about wrong decisions being made by the politicians making it worse, seemingly pushing to gain International recognition of their strengths, only to fall flat on their faces later on.

Rhodes Review:  When did you realize you had this gift of prophecy?

Cesar: I have known for a number of years that there was something strange about me, like foreseeing things in my personal life and with my friends and so on.  But I thought that maybe I was just psychic or something like that, but I know now that its nothing like being a psychic.  I had a lot of people offer to review my book before its publication, one of which was a psychic, and every time she went to read it on her computer, it would crash on her and eventually she refused to review it on the terms that it ‘was not meant for her eyes’.   The source of prophecy differs to the sources used by psychics, in fact, they are in opposition in ways.

Rhodes Review:  I’ll be honest, I didn’t understand a lot of the book, much as I don’t understand a lot of what Nostradamus wrote, is there a way to learn how to read books and interpret books such as this?

Cesar: I will admit that even I struggle to read what Nostradamus wrote!  Well there are almost like a set of rules about using prophecy, as knowing and foretelling the future can actually change the present which in turn changes the future and if the future is changed, then the prophecy may never come true.  This is why they are written as they are.  But there is enough information given so that you can get the general idea, and I have given twin interpretations to try and help people to understand.  People can, if they wish, purchase a dream book to interpret for themselves the meaning in the cryptic script section of each prophecy.  I believe that Nostradamus is so hard to understand because the imagery he used is hundreds of years old, meaning that we cannot use modern dream interpretation methods on his work.

Rhodes Review:  Besides writing, what are some things you enjoy?

Cesar: I enjoy reading, I love random road trips or any sort of travel, I enjoy meditation and I also dabble with art and music.

Rhodes Review:  What are some writers you enjoy reading?

Cesar: At the moment I am reading the Game of Thrones series by George R R Martin and I am enjoying his style of writing, I’m on the fourth book. 

Rhodes Review:  If you had any advice to offer myself or my readers, what would it be?

Cesar: To buy my book? Only joking.  No, I would like to offer a little guidance and suggest to everyone to research their own spiritual beliefs as there are so many misguided people out there.

Thank you again Cesar for joining us.  As this is the last stop in Cesar’s tour, he has offered the following coupon.

The discount code is:  78CCCRH8.  In addition, Cesar is sponsoring a giveaway through Goodreads in which you can win a copy of his book. You can enter the giveaway here. Also be sure to see our review of The Book of Prophecies here.

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Interview: James LePore

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Today we are pleased to welcome James LePore to Rhodes Review. Mr. LePore’s latest Novels Gods & Fathers is available today at your bookstores or online.

Thank you for joining us Mr. LePore.

Rhodes Review: What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

James LePore: I write every day in the morning for four or five hours.

Rhodes Review: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

James LePore: I play golf, I read, I take walks with my wife.

Rhodes Review: What inspired you to write Gods and Fathers?

James LePore: I had been following the story of the Rafik Hariri assassination since it happened in 2005. My first instinct was that Syria was behind it, and that Iran was behind Syria, which was not unique to me. Almost everyone who follows Mideast politics reacted the same way. I remember wondering at the time if the UN commission appointed to investigate the assassination would have the courage to aggressively pursue it. I was then surprised, and disappointed, to see that Washington, in 2009, appointed an ambassador to Damascus, for the first time since we withdrew our embassy after the Hariri assassination in 2005. I then began seeing articles suggesting that the US might be offering Syria a get-out-of-jail-free card if it would help broker a peace between Israel and the Palestinians. This was the genesis of the political aspect of the plot of Gods and Fathers. (It turns out that the UN has indicted four memebers of Hezbollah, who take orders from Iran, in the Hariri case, an act of courage I did not see coming. This is still brewing, however, and God knows what will happen).

As to the personal story, the one involving Matt DeMarco and his son, Michael, my inspiration came, as always, from my great interest in the dynamics of family. I had not explored the father-son relationship in my prior work and felt it was time. Family pain can be very intense, but dealing with it is one of the fundamental ways in which we grow, or not grow, as human beings. When things got very difficult, both Matt and Michael had choices to make, choices that would determine the nature of their relationship for the rest of their lives. The real story of Gods and Fathers lies in how and why they chose the way they did.

Rhodes Review: What was your favorite part of Gods and Fathers?

James LePore: I liked writing the action scene involving Bill Crow in Stone Ridge, New York. And the scene toward the end between Matt and his ex-wife, Debra, in a restaurant, is one of my favorites.

Rhodes Review: What was the hardest part to write in Gods and Fathers?

James LePore: I have a hard time with love scenes. I hope I did okay with Matt and Jade.

Rhodes Review: How long does it take you to write a book?

James LePore: From the first word to my last look at the copyedited final version, one year.

Rhodes Review: What are your favorite authors/books?

James LePore: I am a big Hemingway fan and also love Alan Furst. I recommnend anything written by either of them.

Rhodes Review: Do you have any suggestions to help others become a better writer?

James LePore: Read the great novelists. Write every day. Find a professional editor whose criticism you know is right even though it hurts to hear it. Be ready to rewrite.

Mr. Lepore is currently on tour promoting his book Gods and Fathers.  Be sure and enter our giveaway for A World I Never Made another of his novels here. Also check out our review of Gods and Fathers here.

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