Thursday, May 29, 2014

When Camels Fly - Author Interview

Publisher: NLBHorton, via Amazon’s White Glove (May 15, 2014)

Agent:  Mary Keeley at Books & Such Literary Management

Category: Contemporary suspense, thread of Romance

A mother’s fatal shot. A daughter’s deadly choice.

In Israel, archaeologist Grace Madison shoots her daughter’s abductor. Seconds later, a handsome shepherd drops from the sky to kill a second assassin. Their world changes in two blinks of an eye.
Unbeknownst to them, a fiercely ambitious evil is destroying everything in its path—the unconventional path Grace and Maggie take. They struggle to right a wrong as old as time, and discover time is running out in the race for their lives. Family and friends are swept into their vortex, extinguishing old flames while igniting new loves.
While the scale tips dangerously toward disaster, millions of lives hang in the balance. And the mother-and-daughter team soon realizes nothing is as it seems. Even each other.
Because choosing what’s right is all that’s left.
Where are you from originally?
I’m a fifth-generation Texan, which is meaningful to some people. Texas was a great place to grow up, get an education, build a business, get an advanced education, and start a family. By the time I retired, my interests (and those of Ranchman the Superhero) were elsewhere. So we moved to the Rocky Mountains, where I fly fish, hike, teach Sunday School, wing shoot, fly fish, cross-country ski, garden. Did I mention fly fish?

Tell us your latest news?

I just returned from March in Israel, where I revisited sites and archaeological digs that appear in When Camels Fly. Seven years ago, I did an archaeological survey as part of my graduate degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.
Much has changed, and little has changed!

I heard (and saw) heavy artillery again, but wasn’t buzzed by an IDF (Israeli Defense Force) bomber patrolling tels (raised mounds being excavated to expose layers of civilizations) on which I stood. I walked the same streets in the Old City of Jerusalem, and marvelled at how “at home” I felt. I worshipped in the same places, heard the same bells, saw the same semi-automatic weapons strapped to the backs of young soldiers, fed stray cats (they’re EVERYWHERE) in the same spots.

I’ve also just finished assessing and implementing the professional edits of the second novel, The Brothers’ Keepers (TBK). My editors are professional word assassins, and I learn SO MUCH from them with each manuscript. I leave for the confirming research trip for TBK in August, ahead of the November 17th release.

If you could have a dinner party with any authors from any time in history, who would you choose and why?

Like everyone else, I’d invite Jane Austen. I’d also add Daniel Silva, Laurie R. King, the Bronte sisters. The late Elizabeth Peters (AKA Barbara Mertz) would be a delight, and I suspect she and I would get into trouble before dinner was over. (The same might be said of Ms. King.) 

What books or authors have influenced your writing?

You drove me away from my desk and to my bookshelf with this question! It was like looking at an old friend. Thank you for that.

I have what my father calls a “lint-catching brain,” so I’m sure I was influenced by things and authors I’m not even aware are stuck in my grey matter.

I read the classics growing up — as in, all of them. I actually ran out of books that interested me in elementary school and junior high, which was a problem. I do remember that Austen’s sense of social justice resonated.

In contemporary terms, Silva’s masterful, intelligent storytelling makes me a better writer. I enjoy the precision of Charles Todd and Charles Finch. C. S. Harris draws her characters beautifully, and Donna Leon depicts Venice in a way that inspires me as I craft my locations. (I write only about places and settings I’ve visited and know well. The Internet only goes so far.)

I admire David Baldacci when his stories move quickly, and enjoy the totally wacky humor in Christopher Fowler’s Bryan and May (Peculiar Crimes Unit) novels. 

Is there an Author that you would really like to meet?

Silva. But I’d be mute, and just stand there stupidly awestruck. Then I’d probably trip over something. (This entire thought is embarrassing.)

Where do you get your ideas and what is your writing process?

Oh, dear. Now that’s a question, isn’t it? There’s a fine line between answering it, and having my office invaded by people carrying straight jackets!
My protagonist, Grace Madison, bubbled around in my head for years after I returned from Israel and Jordan in 2007. I have a long-standing interest in archaeology and studied it informally for decades.

We moved to the Rockies just before the biggest snow year on record in our area, so I drafted When Camels Fly then. To say the process was arduous is an understatement. But my background is in marketing and advertising, and I wrote for every school newspaper, then took my undergraduate degree in journalism. So I was prepared.

Ensuing manuscripts — The Brothers’ Keepers, set in Western Europe, and the third (untitled), set in Greece and Turkey — have been easier than the birth of When Camels Fly. I’m hoping that’s a trend because two more in the series are pushing forward in my brain; one set in Peru, the other in the Four Corners region of the United States.

As to the process, I’m a hermit. I barricade myself in my office when the voices in my head (cue the strait jackets) force me to sit down and write. I do a TON of research before this moment, and do a TON of research after as well, confirming that I didn’t miss anything, or misrepresent anything. Then I loop forward and back in the document; totally scramble the timeline (for which my front-line editor assaults me); literally read the manuscript out loud from the last chapter to the first; then hand it off to editors for abuse.

The last thing I do is develop  Readers Guide. I participate in a book club, so it’s a joy to think of my co-readers there, and develop a guide that stimulates them.

Are any of your characters based on real-life friends or acquaintances?

Can I plead the fifth?

Do you ever incorporate yourself into your characters?

Can I plead the fifth? (Do you note a trend?)

Tell us about your cover. Did you design it yourself, where did you get the inspiration?

I have far too much respect for graphic artists and designers to do my own art.

I know competitive point of difference drives sales. And that cover art is the single most important thing to trigger a reader to reach for the, or click on a thumbnail. If there’s a place to invest, once you’ve done your best on your manuscript, it’s here (in my opinion).

I knew exactly what I wanted and how to get there. So I did artistic direction for my cover. I studied demographics and the marketplace; polled beta readers and focus groups; worked closely with my literary agent, whom I adore. Then I started drawing. (If my old graphic director ever reads this, they’ll find him cowering under a piece of furniture somewhere.)

I put together the right team (artist and designer) to implement my vision for the cover. And I absolutely love it.

The same team is crating The Brothers’ Keepers cover right now, and I’ll give your readers a hint about what lies ahead. A HUGE, snazzy Napoleonic bicorne hat hangs off the back of an office chair as I type. Grace Madison will have never looked better!

Thanks for the opportunity to introduce Grace to your readers, and I look forward to their joining me on her journey!

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  1. Thanks for taking part in the tour and hosting NLB!

    1. It was my pleasure, I had a great time interviewing NLB !