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Author Spotlight no.139 – Valerie Laws

Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the one hundred and thirty-ninth, is of Valerie Laws.

Valerie Laws is a crime and comedy novelist, poet, performer, playwright and sci-art installation specialist. Her eleven published books include award-winning crime fiction (‘The Rotting Spot’) in paperback and as an indie kindle, and a comedy adult-YA cross-over e-book (‘Lydia Bennet’s Blog’), poetry (latest ‘All That Lives’, ‘CSI: Poetry’ of sex, death and pathology), drama…

In recent years she has been Writer in Residence at Gordon Pathology Museum, London and Kings College London Medical School, and at Newcastle University’s Institute for Ageing and Health, working with neuroscientists, dementia specialists, and pathologists on human specimens to study the science of dying and brain pathology.

She has written 12 commissioned plays for stage and BBC radio. Many prizes and awards include Wellcome Trust Arts Award, twice prizewinner in National Poetry competition, two Northern Writers Awards. Invents new forms of poetry, devising science-themed installations and commissions including the world-infamous Arts Council-funded QUANTUM SHEEP spray-painting random haiku onto live sheep, still widely published and publicised.

Her quantum haiku on inflatable beach balls featured in BBC2 TV’s Why Poetry Matters with Griff Rhys Jones, later live at Royal Festival Hall. Poetry audio-visual installations which move and change to reflect their subjects have featured in public exhibitions in London, Newcastle and Berlin, and her computer-controlled illuminated embedded haiku WINDOW OF ART is in St Thomas Hospital, London. Many other residencies, including in Egypt; newly at Dilston Physic Garden, Northumberland. She performs her work live at festivals and events and in the media worldwide.

And now from the author herself:

My latest book is my comedy e-book, my first as an indie author. It’s hard to pin down the genre, but if I say ‘Lydia Bennet’s Blog’ is Pride and Prejudice told in the voice of the youngest Bennet sister, the outrageous and shameless hussy Lydia, but in modern teen language with Georgian derivations, it will give you an idea! It’s not just a retelling from her point of view, for in my book Lydia is a lot cleverer and more ruthless than the others think, pulling the strings behind the scenes, and a lot goes on that Darcy, Lizzy, and even Jane Austen knew nothing about. It’s in the form of a blog so it’s a bit like Adrian Mole crossed with a younger Bridget Jones in Georgian times. The book idea just sprang into my head – I’ve always felt she gets a raw deal in the original book and I wanted to tell her story and for her to win! I like to cheer on underdogs! But I wanted her to stay shameless and full of herself. She is truly a modern teenager as Austen wrote her.

I’ve written ten books published in paperback by publishers – then my publisher let me put ‘The Rotting Spot’ on Kindle myself, cue learning all about formatting! Then I got an agent for ‘Lydia Bennet’s Blog’ but he couldn’t get me a publisher. They are wary of anything genre-busting, and also were wary of my heroine dissing the sacred Mr Darcy! So I put the book out on kindle and Smashwords, and it’s had great five-star reviews from writers like Linda Gillard, Catherine Czerkawska and Paul Magrs.

You’ll see a strong science thread running through my work, including physics, bio-medical science, pathology, and also comedy. I like to write in celebration, sometimes of things like skulls, and brains, and dead babies in jars, and the lives of people unsung by history. I like to give a voice to people and things both real and imagined. I like to know how, why, things work or happen. My Residencies in dissection, pathology and brains were my response to witnessing the deaths of both of my parents. I wanted to know what was happening inside when someone dies. This sense of exploration and wonder at human anatomy is in my poetry but also in my crime fiction – my first crime novel, ‘The Rotting Spot’, has a skull-collecting theme and forensic interests. It also has a sparky female homeopath protagonist, a sexy fit Detective Inspector who fancies and dislikes her, and family secrets in a sea-washed location.

But I also like to write comedy, I write funny poems about post-divorce dating and sex, my crime fiction has dark comedy in it especially in the dialogue, and my plays, mostly about local historical characters, combines moving tragedy with comedy. Sex and death, comedy and tragedy, laughter and tears, they are what life is about and I write about both sides of life!

Ah, I met Paul Magrs at booQfest in September. A really nice guy. You can find more about Valerie and her writing via…

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The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with crime novelist Mike Walters – the five hundred and sixty-second of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

** NEW!! You can now subscribe to this blog on your Kindle / Kindle app!

See http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B008E88JN0

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You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything. You can contact me and find me on the internetview my Books (including my debut novel!) and I also have a blog creation / maintenance service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

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Author Spotlight no.117 – Rick Reed

Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the one hundred and seventeenth, is of crime thriller author Rick Reed.

Rick Reed was a member of the Evansville Police Department and Vanderburgh County Sheriff Department for 30 years.  He worked as an investigator in the Criminal Investigations Unit from 1987 until 2003 when he was promoted from Detective to the rank of Detective Sergeant. He also served as a lead negotiator with the Hostage Negotiation Team.  He is also a handwriting expert and received his training from the U.S. Secret Service Academy in Georgia.

His last position was commander of the Internal Affairs Office.  That was what finally drove him out of police work and into an assistant professor position at Ivy Tech Community College in Evansville.

During his time in law enforcement he was lead investigator on several homicides, rapes and battery cases.

His acclaimed book, BLOOD TRAIL, is the true account of one of the homicides he investigated in 2000 that unearthed a serial killer with fourteen victims.

He retired from teaching in 2011 and moved to San Francisco, California, where he writes a serial killer-fiction series for Kensington Books.

His first fiction book, THE CRUELEST CUT, introduced detective Jack Murphy and his partner, Liddell Blanchard.

THE CRUELEST CUT has been translated into German and Polish.

The most recent release, THE COLDEST FEAR, is the second in a series of detective Jack Murphy novels and was released in September 2011. All books are available as e-books.

Reed is busy with the third book in the series, and is working on three more.

And now from the author himself:

I didn’t start out to be a writer like most authors, but I have always been a voracious reader.  In 1999, while living in a cramped apartment, working third shift as a police detective, newly divorced and trying to find ways to burn off the stress, I discovered that I enjoyed making up police stories.

Since I never expected to find an agent, much less a publisher, I started an underground police department newspaper.  It was short and crude and was written as a celebrity roast.  The celebrities were whatever unlucky police officer, or politician, I had in my sights for some mischievous—not malicious—fun. The paper was called THE MONKEY BOY GAZETTE, and there was an issue every month for ten years before my identity was discovered and unable to continue.  Before that happened though, I had a circulation of about one thousand readers, including the entire police department, city government, and local FBI.  After I was put out of the underground press business, I was told that my stories were being mailed all over the country to other law enforcement agencies, including the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. My paper had become a collector’s item, and the victims of the stories were framing them and hanging them in their offices and homes.

In 2000 I had the distinction to be one of the law enforcement officers to ever catch a serial killer.  My guy was Joseph Weldon Brown, whom I captured in Ohio where he had fled after killing his 14th and final victim.  And that was where I got my start as a published writer.

So my first book was a true crime and was co-authored with a writer from Pennsylvania who continues to write true crime.  I didn’t enjoy writing true crime and finally convinced my editor, Michaela Hamilton, at Kensington Books, that I could write fiction.

Over the span of my almost thirty years in law enforcement, I have pretty well seen and done it all.  That’s important because I have an unlimited amount of material to bring to my fiction.  I still have some of the tapes of my interviews of suspects, victims and witnesses.  When I need a new character, I don’t have far to go.

The interviews with the serial killer gave me a lot of insight into the mind of someone that has little to no conscience.  I thought that only described my ex-wife until I met Joe Brown.  I interviewed Joe inside the Chaplains Office of Indiana’s Supermax prison, Wabash Valley Corrections.  This is the same prison where the Oklahoma City Bomber, Timothy McVeigh, was housed and executed in 2000.

During one of the marathon interviews with Joe, he suddenly lurched out of his chair, grabbed me by the throat with both hands, and yelled, “I killed her just like that!”  He didn’t hurt me, he was trying to scare me.  It worked.  But the interview continued, and he repeated his reenactment one more time before he agreed not to choke me while we were talking.

You can find more about Rick and his writing via his website www.rickreedbooks.com. He’s also on Twitter as JMurphy1010 and Facebook as Rick Reed.

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The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with mystery author James M Copeland– the four hundred and eighty-fourth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me. I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

 

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Author Spotlight no.98 – Carrie King

Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the ninety-eighth, is of children’s author and illustrator Carrie King.

Carrie King was born in the tiny Hamlet of Sharpenhoe in Bedfordshire, England, which sits beneath a small hill, smothered in trees, known as The Clappers, nestled on the edge of the Chilterns. To any Reader of The Life in the Wood with Joni-Pip, that might sound a tad familiar!

She was the seventh of eight children, placed between her youngest brother, David and her youngest but older sister, Sylvia. When she was eight, her family moved to another tiny Hamlet in Bedfordshire called Bidwell. She so missed the woods and the hills.

Carrie was educated in Dunstable, Bedfordshire and loved school. English, Art and French were her favourite subjects but she decided to become a doctor! However, this didn’t happen, as she fell in love and was married at nineteen. Being a wife and the mother of three daughters, became her full-time career.

She began to write for television, encouraged by Christopher Walker, Head of Drama for Central Television and Pam Francis, Journalist for the Independent.

The Writing of The Life in the Wood with Joni-Pip for her Great Niece, Joni Philipa, began in November 1997 while staying in a villa at Center Parcs, Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire. Joni Philipa was three years old at the time and she was called Joni-Pip, by her parents Philip and Sarah.

Carrie started to draw her illustrations for The Life in the Wood with Joni-Pip, whilst staying at Center Parcs. She stayed there many times with her family, and each villa she stayed in provided her with yet another picturesque woodland scene.

Sadly in April 2000, writing was interrupted for a few years by the tragic death of Carrie’s husband in an accident.

The novel began as a story for little children but books take a long time to be written, printed and bound and Joni-Pip grew much quicker than the story. What began as a simple Child’s Tale evolved into an adventure for much older children, which adults have enjoyed too.

The Life in the Wood with Joni-Pip was finally finished in December 2007, over ten years after it was started!

And now from the author herself:

“Miss Carrie, that imagination of yours will surely get you into serious trouble one day!”

Thus came the damning declaration from my Nanny, or was it a foresighted prophecy? I was eight-years-old. What prompted such a censure from my parents’ hired Governess?

T’was most perplexing: every time I was caught red-handed (literally), in certain compromising situations: writing in big red letters on The Nursery wall or dressing up, plastering my apple shaped face in Mother’s lipstick, bedecked in her expensive ‘forbidden’ jewellery, I would instantly come up with the most fantastic and very logical reasons why I simply had to be doing such things.

“Nanny Pam,” I would earnestly remonstrate, “I must use the wall, otherwise we’ll have to cut down trees in the garden to make paper!”

Or….

“Nanny Pam, I’m off to The Ball! I can hardly wear plastic popper beads, what shame that would bring on the Family name.”

The problem was, Morgen, I truly believed these yarns I spun (brilliant pun, I congratulate the creator), when in truth, they were nothing short of lies.

Therein lies (my pun this time), the secret of the fantasy writer: we are all compulsive liars, shrouded in the delightful term, ‘imaginative’: even the word conjures up magic!

Take Joni-Pip for example: as in my favourite book, The Wind in the Willows, animals and also, as in my case, toys, talk. We all know that they don’t really converse, so that is a complete falsehood. My parents often found me embroiled in deep discussion and debate with my teds and dolls and to this day, I still do it in writing.  So real to me are the characters I create in words that I truly believe them to exist. Take Ethelred-Ted for example; he is Joni-Pip’s much beloved favourite toy, always a listener, always understanding of her point of view….until he comes alive. How shocked she is when he proves to be this talkative, very pompous and yet totally loyal, know-it-all. So authentic is he that once, in my Editor-in-chief’s office, I erupted into unbridled laughter on reading a couple of Ethelred-Ted’s lines (see, real characters). My Editor was puzzled.

“Listen to Eth,” I enthused, “he’s such a hoot. When Jack reminds him we are all only made of dust, Eth replies, ‘That blows me away!’ ”

I then continued, crimped in giggles.

Morgen, it didn’t occur to me that I was the maker of the mirth that had so enraptured me. So good are we fantasy writers at lying that we even fool ourselves!

Recently an African asked me if I was a ‘Liar’. I laughed and said I thought that was rather a personal question. He asked again,

“Are you a Liar?”

Uncomfortably, I laughed again.

“You look like a Liar,” he said seriously, “will you represent me in Court?”

African accents!

What it did make me think though, is that Lawyers might make brilliant fantasy writers or perhaps, I should say, fantasy writers might make brilliant Lawyers.

And read your own contracts. 🙂 Thank you, Carrie.

You can find more about Carrie and her writing via… www.joni-pip.com.

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with children’s author, poet, article writer and blogger Helen Ross – the four hundred and seventeenth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me.  I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

 

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