Debut Author Q&A

Debut Author Q&A: Meet Rob Dircks

A funny thing happened on my way to an author event at the Seaford Library in Seaford, N.Y…. I got to meet some cool authors! (Imagine that!) One of those authors was Rob Dircks. I had the pleasure of being Rob’s tablemate that day, and we spent most of the time chatting books, publishing, and writing. I’m so happy to announce that Rob’s first novel, a science fiction comedy titled, Where the Hell is Tesla?, is available on Amazon. Below, Rob and I continue our chat about how this novel came to be. I wish him much success!

rob-portrait Name: Rob Dircks
Name of book: Where the Hell is Tesla?
Book genre: Science fiction/comedy
Date published: March 2015
What is your day job? For the past 20 years, my brother Dave and I have owned and operated a Long Island ad agency, Dircks Associates. Probably the most recognizable creative we did is the AOL CD — you know, 250 Hours Free? We did most of them. Now I write and design print and online communications, and do some photography/videography/audio for other national clients, such as AARP.

Your book has such an intriguing title. What is your book about? It’s a combination buddy comedy/fish-out-of-water story/sci-fi romp. A slacker security guard finds the lost journal of Nikola Tesla and talks his best friend into exploring Tesla’s secret invention, the Interdimensional Transfer Apparatus. They bounce from one misadventure to the next trying to get home until the existence of the entire multiverse winds up depending on these two unlikely heroes.

Why did you want to write this book? Ever since elementary school, I’ve been into comics, then sci-fi books and movies, and I’ve got this weird fascination with conspiracy theories. One day, I stumbled across this outrageous conspiracy theory article about Nikola Tesla — how he had secret journals that disappeared after he died, that the FBI took them, and that they contained plans for death rays and god-knows-what else. Maybe an hour later, I was still digging down this Internet rabbit hole, finding little scraps of hints and clues, this wonderful bottomless pit of Tesla intrigue, and I said to myself: What if he had something REALLY crazy in those journals? Like an Interdimensional Transfer Apparatus?

At the same time, I knew I wanted to write a comedy about a normal guy stuck in extreme circumstances. So at some random moment it all came together as “What if a slacker security guard discovers the lost journal of Nikola Tesla?” And boom. There it was.

What would you say is the most challenging part of writing a book? 1) Carving out time to write. My “real life” is constantly tugging at me, to make sure I get my paid work done and satisfy my clients. 2) Marketing. Ironically, even though I’ve been in advertising for so long, I’m less “marketing-y” than I probably should be. So I find the mechanics of promoting my work very challenging. But I’m learning.


By |2015-03-10T12:02:56-04:00March 10th, 2015|Debut Author Q&A, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Debut Author Q&A: Meet Colleen Oakley

Today’s featured debut author, Colleen Oakley, is a former editor of mine! Her articles, essays and interviews have been featured in The New York Times, Ladies’ Home Journal, Marie Claire, Women’s Health, Redbook and Martha Stewart Weddings. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, two painfully cute kids and a huge lapdog named Bailey. Her new book, Before I Go, is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, and at your favorite local bookstore.

021015_colleen2 Name of book: Before I Go
Book genre: Fiction
Date published: 1/6/15

What is your day job? I’m a writer. Focusing on my second novel now, but I also still write for a few magazines and websites.
What is your book about? A 27-year-old woman who’s dying of cancer decides she needs to find her brilliant-but-charmingly-helpless husband a new wife to take care of him after she’s gone. So, you know, an upper.
Why did you want to write this book? I’ve always wanted to be a novelist, but this book I wanted to write in particular because I wanted to explore what happens in young, desperately-in-love relationships when one person gets that devastating diagnosis—that they’re not going to be able to live happily ever after. Sure, it’s a theme that’s been done before, but I wanted to put my own spin on it. Specifically, I wanted to find the funny and highlight the irony in this tragic circumstance so it wasn’t just your typical sobfest.
What would you say was the most challenging part of writing this book? To find that balance—to be funny without being flippant, and to hit the real emotional depths without being too maudlin.
What was your favorite aspect of the writing process for this book? I really fell in love with my characters and enjoyed bringing them to life (even under such dire circumstances).


By |2015-02-10T08:04:27-05:00February 10th, 2015|Debut Author Q&A, Uncategorized|1 Comment

Debut Author Q&A: Meet Alison Pratt

allison_pratt_IMG_2813 - Version 2I’d like to introduce today’s featured debut author: Alison Pratt is a native of Delaware and came to New York, where she currently resides, to go to graduate school. She has been a clinical psychologist for over 20 years, is an adjunct assistant professor at Queensborough Community College, and is a board member of the Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island. She is married with one grown stepson and, she says, a teenaged son who has one foot out the door. Alison’s book, A Murder Before Eden, tells the story of her great-grandfather, who was murdered at age 81.

Name of book: A Murder Before Eden
Book genre: True crime/history mystery/nonfiction novel
Date published: 2010

What is your book about? The events take place in a small, segregated North Carolina town in 1947. This is the true story of my great-grandfather, Tom Pratt, his new young wife, and his murder at age 81. His wife claimed to have seen the attack that killed him, and blamed a 17-year old black neighbor for the crime. But Tom’s sons (my grandfather and great-uncle) did not think the boy was guilty and hired the best defense attorney money could buy to represent him. The trial made history, though few noted it at the time. This book looks into people and what they might have been thinking in the midst of a series of events that spiraled out of control to change them, and history, forever.

Why did you want to write this book? It was an incredible family story. No one had ever researched it fully or written it down. The more I looked into the story, the more fascinating details emerged; for example, this trial was the first capital case trial in North Carolina with women on the jury. Women had just been awarded that right in North Carolina earlier that same year. Women had served on juries for lesser crimes, but this was the first murder case.


By |2015-01-06T21:42:00-05:00January 6th, 2015|Debut Author Q&A, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Meet Author Katie McNight

Today’s featured debut author is Katie McKnight, whose husband underwent surgery at the age of 25 in order to repair a hole in his heart. “This was the first grown-up problem in our marriage,” she told me, “and I had a difficult time dealing with it.” What Katie decided to do was keep a diary as a way to express her fears, and soon her journals turned into fictional stories. Twenty years later, and after completing online writing courses, Katie’s first novel, Secrets Revealed, was born. And her husband’s heart is healthy!

072313_DSC02474Name: Katie McKnight

Name of book: Secrets Revealed

Book genre: Suspenseful romance

Pub date: August 1, 2013

What is your day job? I work in the middle school my children attend. They love that…not! I also work as a reference verifier for a background firm.

What is your book about? The book is about a Broadway actress named Melanie O’Shaughnessy and her new husband, Hollywood heartthrob Ryan Carlisle. Work obligations force the young couple to live on opposite ends of the country a good part of the year. With their latest projects completed, they leave work, fans and the paparazzi behind to enjoy an overdue holiday vacation. When a secret from Melanie’s past brings the celebration to a horrifying halt, Melanie fears a public scandal. What she doesn’t realize is that someone in her life is masterminding a plan for murder.

Why did you want to write this book? I wanted to quiet the characters in my head. It still mystifies me that an idea can haunt you until you get it on paper.


By |2013-07-23T20:41:10-04:00July 23rd, 2013|Debut Author Q&A, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Meet Julia Munroe Martin

Today’s Debut Author Q&A features a very special writer to me and to this blog. Julia Munroe Martin has been a supporter of Baby Grand and Making ‘Baby Grand’ for as long as I can remember. It is a privilege and an honor to have her here today to talk about her debut novel, Desired to Death. Her answers to my questions made me think about my own fiction journey – our paths are very similar, our ideas for our novels formed many years ago. So without further ado, I bring you the world’s newest mystery writer.

043013_Head-WUName: Julia Munroe Martin (writing as J.M. Maison)
Name of book: Desired to Death (Book 1 of The Empty Nest Can Be Murder mystery series)
Book genre: Mystery
Date published: April 29, 2013 (ebook); paperback in about 3 weeks
Where can we find your book: Amazon
What is your day job? This is it! I am a journalist by education, worked as a technical writer for about 10 years, then as a freelance writer. Now I focus almost exclusively on fiction.
What is your book about? This book answers the question: What am I going to do with the rest of my life? After her daughter leaves for college, former-SAHM Maggie True is faced with an empty nest and doesn’t know what to do with herself. Never in her wildest dreams does small-town Maggie imagine the answer will come in the form of a middle-of-the-night call for help from an estranged friend who has just been arrested for murder. But it does, and as Maggie solves the mystery of who killed A.J. Traverso, a sexy kickboxing instructor, she also solves the mystery of what to do for the rest of her life.
Why did you want to write this book? This idea came to me after my son left for college, when I wondered what the future held. It was a very tough transition for me, especially when a few years later my daughter left for college. Going through that transition, from stay home mom AND writer to “just” work at home writer, wasn’t easy. I’ve always been the kind of person who observes and watches everything and, clearly, makes up stories about it all. And my loose ends led me to ask the question “What if?” or maybe even “If only.”


By |2013-04-30T10:09:19-04:00April 30th, 2013|Debut Author Q&A, Uncategorized|11 Comments

Meet Author Jessica McCann

Today’s featured debut author is Jessica McCann, a professional freelance writer and novelist who lives with her family in Phoenix, Arizona. Her debut historical novel, All Different Kinds of Free, was awarded the Freedom in Fiction Prize and is available in trade paperback, ebook and audiobook, which is what we chat about today.

040213_jessica_headshotName: Jessica McCann

Name of audiobook: All Different Kinds of Free

Audiobook genre: Historical fiction, literary fiction

Date published: Audio, June 2012; paperback/eBook, April 2011

What is your book about? The novel is inspired by the true story of Margaret Morgan, a free woman of color in 1830s Pennsylvania, who was kidnapped with her children and sold into slavery in the South. She fought hard to regain her freedom, and she endured tremendous loss and hardship. Her ordeal led to one of the most pivotal Supreme Court cases in America’s history, Prigg v. Pennsylvania. The history books will have you believe the story of Prigg v. Pennsylvania is important because it ended in controversy and fanned the early embers of the Civil War. This book will have you believe the story is important because it began with Margaret.

Why did you want to create an audiobook for your historical fiction? The novel had been well-received in trade paperback and ebook, and audio seemed like a logical next step. My publisher and I wanted to share Margaret’s  story with as wide an audience as possible.


By |2013-04-02T12:02:09-04:00April 2nd, 2013|Debut Author Q&A, Uncategorized|2 Comments

Meet Kellie Larsen Murphy

Today’s featured debut author is Kellie Larsen Murphy, a freelance writer who has worked in both the banking and publishing industries. In recent years, she has written on a variety of subjects and has been featured frequently in several mid-Atlantic magazines. Her debut novel, A Guilty Mind, is the first in a series featuring Detective Michael Cancini. Kellie lives in Richmond, Virginia, with her husband, four children, and two dogs.

022613_kellieName: Kellie Larsen Murphy

Name of book: A Guilty Mind

Book genre: Mystery/psychological Suspense

Date published: September 2012

What is your day job? Freelance writer and mother of 4

What is your book about? George Vandenberg is a broken man, haunted by the memory of the young woman he once loved and “accidentally” killed. When his psychiatrist turns up dead, George emerges as the primary suspect even as he becomes a target himself. To prove his innocence, George must face an unyielding detective, his manipulative wife, and the past he’s been unable to forget.

Why did you want to write this book? I remember once being at a girls’ dinner and the question came up, “If you could have any talent, what would it be?” Every single person at the table said “singing” except me. I said I wanted to be a really good writer! Freelance writing is fun and rewarding, but writing fiction is what I love best.

What would you say is the most challenging part of writing a book? For me, finding the time to write is very challenging. Often, I have to write in short periods. Also, I have a tendency to work on the same chapter over and over until I feel it’s close to right before moving on. Some writers are able to speed through a first draft but I’m not one of those.


By |2013-02-26T14:18:07-05:00February 26th, 2013|Debut Author Q&A, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Meet Victor Giannini

Today’s featured debut author is Victor Giannini. His novel, Scott Too—which was inspired by events from Victor’s own life—was published in December and is available in paperback and as an eBook.

012913_VG headshot 2Name: Victor Giannini

Name of book: Scott Too

Book genre: Magical realism or speculative fiction, depending on your cup of tea.

Date published: December 2012

Publisher: Silverthought Press

What is your day job? The last few years, I’ve been teaching with YAWP, The Young American Writer’s Project.  They send me into schools, grade 7-12, to teach playwriting or creative writing for a semester.

What is your book about? Being in direct conflict with yourself. Being forced to look at your own lackluster life and take responsibility for it. Thirty is the new 20, and this odd decade of extended teenage years can be a curse, so what do you do when it goes wrong?  What do you do when another creature steals your life and lives it the way you wished you could?

Why did you want to write this book? I wanted to write a dark comedy for a novella class I was taking at the Stony Brook Southampton MFA in Writing and Literature. What started as a “multiplicity style wacky sitcom” with super violent jokes and gore quickly turned into an absolutely different project. I saw my generation around me, where our twenties are different than previous generations’. Scott Alvin became a representative for this new generation. So I pit him against himself, a more aggressive, bitter, unrestricted self, to see what would happen. I wasn’t sure, I wanted to find out. And I did! And in all honesty, as I got inside Scott’s head, it was not what I expected at all …


By |2013-01-29T13:30:48-05:00January 29th, 2013|Debut Author Q&A, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Meet Author C.B. Knadle

I met today’s featured debut author Charlene Knadle at the book signing of a mutual friend, Jeb Ladouceur, at the wonderful independent bookstore, Book Revue, in Huntington, New York. I’ll be back at Book Revue this coming Monday, October 15—this time for my own book signing! I’ll be speaking, Q&Aing and signing copies of my debut novel, Baby Grand. Yippee!

Name: C.B. (Charlene) Knadle

Name of book: Paper Lovers

Book genre: Suspense/Mystery/Romance

Date published: June 2005

Publisher: PublishAmerica

What is your day job? I teach at Suffolk County Community College.

What is your book about? Dana Ritz, a.k.a. Charlotte Ruth, who writes romance novels, attends a banquet where writers exchange books. She meets a man who writes romances under a female pseudonym, Roberta Rhodes; she’s been curious about him and has read his earlier books. She goes with him to his car where he has copies of his latest. He throws her into the car and takes off. At his residence are four other women—some of whom she recognizes. Unlike herself, they are happy to be under his domination. Her presence inadvertently disrupts the peace; troubles ensue. With difficulty, she devises a means for escape. There is a trial, at which surprising events and revelations occur.

Why did you want to write this book? I liked the idea of combining the genres of suspense, mystery, and romance, but the trigger for the book was a dream that gripped me.In the book, it is only a half-page scene, but it was the seed for the whole drama.

What would you say is the most challenging part of writing a book? That’s really hard to say; there are so many challenges. For one thing, there’s the old cliché that “life interferes.” But once you begin writing and know in a general sense what your story is and who the characters are, it isn’t hard at all. Each bit of writing suggests the next. Then you have to stop to deal with other responsibilities. It’s important to find on-going time to write.


By |2012-10-09T18:33:47-04:00October 9th, 2012|Debut Author Q&A, Uncategorized|3 Comments

Meet Emma Woodcock

“You may get a bad review. Take it professionally, please.” So advises today’s featured author Emma Woodock who discusses the road to publication for her debut novel, Darklands.

Name: Emma Woodcock
Name of book: Darklands
Book genre: Young adult fantasy
Date published: August 2011 (eBook), April 2012 (paperback)
Publisher: Feed a Read
What is your day job? Web designer
What is your book about? Fifteen-year-old Sophie is not the most popular girl at school. She’s not thin enough, she’s not pretty enough, and she’s way too interested in math and physics to be even remotely cool. So when she finds herself mysteriously transported into another world where it never rains, the sun always shines, the people all think she’s fantastic and their impossibly handsome King dotes on her, she can barely believe her luck. But Sophie begins to realize that all is not as well as it seems in the Darklands. Why are all the visiting delegations so angry with the king? What is the mysterious millenniversary everyone keeps talking about? And quite what is Sophie’s role in it all? As the seemingly idyllic Darklands reveals its grim secrets, the fate of both worlds relies on Sophie escaping the despotic king and finding her way back home—preferably without turning the universe inside out.
Why did you want to write this book? The initial idea was that I wanted to write about something sinister occurring in an incongruously beautiful, serene setting. My first point of reference was the 1975 film, Picnic at Hanging Rock. There is something very powerful and unsettling about that story, particularly how it remains unresolved. I echoed that in the prologue to Darklands, in which a school girl disappears while playing in the woods on a bright, sunny day. You don’t find out anything more about her until right near the end of the book.
Did you conduct any kind of research in order to write this book (visit certain locales, etc.)? Very little research was needed for Darklands, as it takes place in a small town very like the town I grew up in, and in a fantasy world, where I could make up the rules. On the other hand, my next novel Kikimora takes place in sixteenth century Hungary and is largely concerned with mining. I’m in the middle of the second draft, and I still find myself regularly having to do extra research. It’s been really hard work, and perhaps the hardest part is knowing when to ignore the reality and just go with what makes it a good story. Too much harsh realism just doesn’t sit well in this sort of story.
What motivates you to write? I love telling stories. I love magical worlds and alternate ways of looking at the universe. I love speculation—what if the world was like that instead of like this? What if…? Writing is the best job in the world. Well, I say job. It’s more voluntary work at the moment…


By |2012-09-25T20:26:02-04:00September 25th, 2012|Debut Author Q&A, eBooks|0 Comments
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