Thank you all for coming back! I think we have a really great issue this week! As always, let me remind you that while you may have stumbled upon this site to just read about one author who you already know, you are more than welcome to read about all three. Maybe you'll discover someone new that you'll really enjoy!
On a personal note: This week I received a wonderful and encouraging note from movie director Steve Balderson! He has read and enjoyed The White Hairs, and I'm thrilled to hear from someone who's work I hold in such high esteem! Please take a moment to see what he said!
And now, on with the show!
Noahan Author Interview – Simon Wood/Simon Janus
NOAH K MULLETTE-GILLMAN: Simon, thank you for your time. Please tell us about The Scrubs.
SIMON JANUS: The Scrubs (http://www.amazon.com/The-Scrubs-ebook/dp/B003DQNXTS/) goes a little something like this. James Jeter, the notorious serial killer with a sixth sense, holds court inside London's Wormwood Scrubs Prison. He's the focus of the "North Wing Project." Under the influence of a hallucinogen, Jeter can create an alternative world known as "The Rift" containing the souls of his victims. Pardons are on offer to inmates who'll enter The Rift. Michael Keeler has nothing to lose and little to live for. He's sent into The Rift to learn the identity of Jeter's last victim and find out what happened to the previous volunteers. It's a mission where the guilty can be redeemed, but at a price...
Wormwood Scrubs Prison is a real life prison on the west side of London and it’s affectionately known as The Scrubs. What occurs in the story is wholly fictional.
NOAH K MULLETTE-GILLMAN:What can you tell us about Keeler?
SIMON JANUS: Michael Keeler is a convicted murderer. He was a bank robber who accidentally shot and killed a child during a bank robbery. He views himself as the lowest of the low for taking a child’s life even if it was an accident. He lives with the guilt of his crime daily. The North Wing Project dangles the carrot of a pardon if he succeeds in his assignment, but the pardon means little. This is about risking his life for others. Keeler is a man looking for redemption and entering The Rift is the only way he knows how.
NOAH K MULLETTE-GILLMAN: The Scrubs begins in London’s Wormwood Scrubs prison. You talk in the preview about wormwood, and about absinthe. Have you ever tried it? If so, what effect did it have on you?
SIMON JANUS: The drink absinthe inspired the story. I hadn’t realized that wormwood was an hallucinogen. It made me wonder about the prison and its literal roots. I tried absinthe once. The only effect it had on me was to never to try it twice. It’s foul tasting stuff.
NOAH K MULLETTE-GILLMAN: If you were a prisoner, and you were given an opportunity, like Keeler was, to commute your sentence – would you take it?
SIMON JANUS: That’s a really tough question. It would come down to the situation. Doing time is a scary prospect and I would have to find a way of coming terms with it. I would need an outlet or a distraction, such as writing or higher learning or even viewing a time where I would no longer be in prison. In that scenario, I probably wouldn’t. If I were in Keeler’s position, with no future and inconsolable guilt, I could see myself taking the offer. All the characters in the story are shades of me in one guise or another. Hopefully, I’ll never have to find out.
NOAH K MULLETTE-GILLMAN:What quality do you think is most important in telling a good horror story?
SIMON JANUS: For me, a good horror story has more to do with an uncomfortable predicament than it does with blood and guts. A really good horror good story should make the reader look at the dark places they're afraid to look. I create characters with flaws—emotional or otherwise—and force them to deal with them. I like to force my characters in my horror stories to deal with an awkward decision—whether it involves guilt, loss, shame, hate, love—and create insurmountable odds that force them to face that fear. Horror is a very emotional genre.
NOAH K MULLETTE-GILLMAN:Can you tell us about your background?
SIMON JANUS: I’m originally from the UK and I moved to the US in’98. That’s when I started to write. My background at that point had been mechanical engineering. I designed equipment to go on oil rigs and refineries. I also designed water treatment plants. In my spare time, I was a competitive racecar driver. I raced open-wheel formula cars in the UK.
NOAH K MULLETTE-GILLMAN: I understand that you’re a dyslexic writer, and also a qualified pilot who ‘can’t stomach heights.’ This must be a trend! Are you the sort of person who confronts his fears?
SIMON JANUS: I try to face my faces. I don’t always succeed and sometimes, I don’t have the guts to face them. But my turning to writing and learning to fly had little to do with facing my fears and more to do with conflicts. I decided to write because I always had stories and ideas in my head and I reached a point in my life where I wanted to do something about it. The dyslexia was a handicap that I had to work around to realize a dream. When it comes to flying, I’ve always loved aircraft and flying was something I wanted to do. Vertigo was something that wasn’t going to get in my way—too much.
NOAH K MULLETTE-GILLMAN: I have recently heard authors say that conventional three-act storytelling doesn’t work anymore: To grab a modern reader you have to start basically at the second act, in the middle of the action. One might argue that you’ve done this in The Scrubs. What are your thoughts on this?
SIMON JANUS: Personally, I don’t much worry about rules. If the writing is sharp and inventive, it’s all good. If the story works, it doesn’t matter how it’s done. That said, my personal credo when it comes to storytelling is to begin at the tipping point. I believe that stories should begin when the catalyst is introduced—a crisis or event that forces the characters to change their actions. In a murder mystery, the story kicks off when the first body is found. In The Scrubs, it begins when Keeler gives himself over to the North Wing Project. The reasons why he's doing this and what went before are weaved into the story as it progresses.
NOAH K MULLETTE-GILLMAN: You have a number of other works available. Can you please briefly tell us about one or two of them?
SIMON JANUS: My latest novel is Terminated (http://www.amazon.com/Terminated-Simon-Wood/dp/0843963670/) and that centers on workplace violence. I found out that 20 people are murdered at work every week in the US and that sparked a cat and mouse story between a female boss and a disgruntled coworker.
The other Simon Janus title is Road Rash (http://www.amazon.com/Road-Rash-ebook/dp/B003DZ1EU4). It’s another crime story with a supernatural twist. It deals with a thief on the run who steals a car from the scene of a fatal car wreck and when he develops a severe rash, he's forced to put everything on the line if he wants to save his skin.
NOAH K MULLETTE-GILLMAN: If you could leave your body and travel astrally, would you? Where would you go?
SIMON JANUS: As long as I could return to my body, sure, I’d leave it behind for a day or two. I love to travel. As to where I would visit the north and south poles. It would be fun to stand on the top and bottom of the world and not feel the cold. I wouldn’t feel the cold, right?
NOAH K MULLETTE-GILLMAN: What is your deepest, darkest secret?
SIMON JANUS: I have one or two, but I’m not sharing. They wouldn’t be secrets if I told, although they might appear in part in my stories. I won't say which.
FOR NOAH: How far would you go to help a
friend? Would there be a point where
you'd draw the line?
NOAH K MULLETTE-GILLMAN: Of course there is. I imagine that there might be a graph. One the X axis is how badly they need my help, and on the Y axis is how much that help would cost me. If, for example, they were sort of hungry and I would have to lose an arm to feed them - they're gonna go hungry! ;)
I’d like to think that I’m a good friend and I would certainly go out of my way to help anyone who needs my help, but I’m not a martyr. Are you asking if I would take a bullet for someone I love? A non-fatal shot to save a life would be acceptable, but I wouldn’t literally die to save the life of anyone in my life right now. Perhaps in a few years if I get married and have children, I might feel differently.
I wouldn’t donate my organs. Not ever. That has always felt wrong to me….horrifically wrong.
Noahan Author Interview – Phillip Thomas Duck
NOAH K MULLETTE-GILLMAN: Tell us about "Excuse Me, Miss".
PHILIP THOMAS DUCK: "Excuse Me, Miss" is a story about fidelity and loyalty. We are at time in our country when marriages and relationships fall apart everyday for a myriad of reasons, most notably mistrust, betrayal, and infidelity. Through fiction, "Excuse Me, Miss" shows both sides of the coin, the side that’s betrayed, as well as the side that does the betraying.
NOAH K MULLETTE-GILLMAN: Tell us about Victoria Frost.
PHILIP THOMAS DUCK: Victoria Frost is a sexy decoy who works for a private investigation firm. Women who suspect their husband of cheating hire the firm to "test" the fidelity of their partners. Victoria is charged with the task of being sexy, engaging, and interesting when placed in these scenarios with the men. The idea is if she's able to gain their interest on an inappropriate level, then their wives will have the understanding that their partners are not capable of being loyal.
NOAH K MULLETTE-GILLMAN: What are your personal thoughts on entrapment? If someone is lead into committing a crime that they might not otherwise commit is that the same sort of crime as it would otherwise be?
PHILIP THOMAS DUCK: I understand the argument that some would have that what Victoria does is entrapment, but at the same time, obviously these men have less than loyal intentions if they are capable of being tricked. Mark Jackson was one of my favorite professional basketball players and we all know about the sense of entitlement and all the temptations that professional athletes have. During the prostitution scandal that threatened the NBA several years ago, one of the prostitutes testified in court that she knocked on Mark Jackson's door and propositioned him. He promptly told her that he was married and closed the door. His spirit is a righteous spirit and therefore he is incapable of being entrapped. That is the bar that all men and women should strive to achieve.
NOAH K MULLETTE-GILLMAN: I notice that your writing is extremely visual. Can a story that is told less visually affect a reader in the same way?
PHILIP THOMAS DUCK: I suppose it could, but as a reader myself, I love stories where I can see the action, feel the emotions; stories where I can practically touch the furniture in the room, smell the odors and aromas in the air. My goal is verisimilitude, in other words, I want the characters to be as real to life as possible. I want everything in the story to come to life for the reader.
NOAH K MULLETTE-GILLMAN: What have you done and what are you doing to promote your work?
PHILIP THOMAS DUCK: Mostly online social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as participating in forums such as Kindleboards and MobileRead. Also setting up a blog, www.ExcuseMeMissPTD.blogspot.com, a hub where we can feature information about my work, and other authors as well.
NOAH K MULLETTE-GILLMAN: You have a large body of work. Can you briefly tell us about one or two other books that you would like the readers to check out?
PHILIP THOMAS DUCK: "Dirty Jersey" and "Dirty South" which were both honored with the distinction of American Library/YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) quick picks for reluctant teen readers. I choose those two titles because reading is fundamental to overall success in life and I'm thankful that I've contributed two works that may spark a young person's lifetime love of reading.
NOAH K MULLETTE-GILLMAN: You have published a number of novels through the traditional system. What led you to release this book digitally?
PHILIP THOMAS DUCK: I have published several books traditionally and in fact am contracted to publish some more. That said I have paid attention to all the challenges and changes that have taken place in the publishing industry and the whole concept of ebooks and the Kindle device were intriguing to me. I thought "Excuse Me, Miss" would be a perfect project to release through the Kindle and I was interested in knowing if I was up to the challenges of self-publishing. So, basically it was an experiment that is going very well. I couldn't be more pleased.
NOAH K MULLETTE-GILLMAN: What’s up next?
PHILIP THOMAS DUCK: "Modesty", Book 2 in the Excuse Me, Miss Series.
NOAH K MULLETTE-GILLMAN: If you could leave your body and travel astrally, would you? Where would you go?
PHILIP THOMAS DUCK: I would. And if it also afforded me to go back in time, I would love to have been in a certain manger in Jerusalem, witnessing the birth of a very special baby boy.
NOAH K MULLETTE-GILLMAN: What is your deepest, darkest secret?
PHILIP THOMAS DUCK: I included the winning numbers of the next Powerball drawing on the last
page of "Excuse Me, Miss" :-)
PHILLIP THOMAS DUCK (Question for Noah): I'm always interested when I'm in the presence of a writer, to find out what it was that inspired them to write that first novel, and despite the difficulties of this craft, what inspires them to continue?
NOAH K. MULLETTE-GILLMAN: In my case? Dharma. This is my reason for being in the world. When I was a little boy I made up stories; playing pretend or with my toys. Then as I got older I started playing Dungeons and Dragons. As a child, I misunderstood how TSR and Gary Gygax meant us to play the game. They wanted us to use dice and rules etc etc…. I would just turn to my brother or one of my friends and say; “What do you do?” And then they might ask me where they are, what they have, and we would go from there. No dice, no books, no pre-written adventure, just talking as we walked around. I would just make up the story around them and they would have to react to it.
In high school I became very interested in comic books. I wanted to be a comic-book writer when I grew up. In college I wrote poetry. After college I was in a series of rock bands. I was the singer and wrote the lyrics.
This grew into short stories, which grew into movie scripts, and then into novels. I’ve actually written quite a lot that I haven’t chosen to publish. I’m not the sort of author who puts everything he does out there. I wait until it’s just about perfect before I share it with the world.
But, perhaps the most touching experience I’ll ever have as a writer occurred when I was five years old. My grandmother was a smoker, and she was dying of lung cancer. I wrote her a poem:
“I love you as high as the sky,
As deep as the sea,
And as much as they whole world round.”
She hung it on the wall in her hospital room. This was during my parents’ divorce. She would look at this poem all day, every day and think about how much I was going to need her with my father gone. She lived another twenty years, and always told me that it was because of my poem.
Noahan Author Interview – Chris J Randolph
NOAH K MULLETTE-GILLMAN: What can you tell us about Vengar the Barbarian in… The King, His Son, Their Sorcerer and His Lover?
J RANDOLPH: To begin with, it has a very long
title. The title is so long that I
caution the elderly and those with respiratory problems not to attempt reading
it out loud. Doing so could result in
light-headedness, cardiac arrhythmia, and in some cases, explosive projectile
Once you get past the title, Vengar is a novella, novelette, or some other pygmy-scale-sibling-to-a-novel that I wrote last Fall as an homage to old school pulp adventures. Pulps, which were usually bombastic and larger than life, have always had a special place in my heart. I find the style totally irresistible, partly because such lurid, bald-faced pandering is so rare these days... outside of journalism, of course.
My story follows Vengar the Barbarian, a king cursed to never remember his homeland, who wanders the prehistoric world. This wandering brings him to a troubled kingdom called Tensara, where his clumsy attempts at womanizing get him tangled up in a plot to start a civil war. In traditional barbarian fashion, he proceeds to cut his way out with a big honkin' sword.
NOAH K MULLETTE-GILLMAN: What sort of chap is this Vengar character?
CHRIS J RANDOLPH: To recycle a few descriptive phrases from above (it's part of my green initiative), he's bombastic and larger than life. He's the kind of barbarian who always makes a dramatic entrance, drinks till he can hardly stand, and beds any woman who will have him. He hates sorcery, loves treasure, and generally stomps around the world as if he owns the joint.
In short, he's not the sort of fellow you'd want to have for a friend because he'd steal your jewelry, abscond with your lady, and possibly decapitate you just for laughs. On the other hand, if you found him in a bar telling a story, you couldn't stop yourself from pulling up a seat to listen.
NOAH K MULLETTE-GILLMAN: What’s funny?
CHRIS J RANDOLPH: To be honest, I think nearly everything is funny in the right light. The challenge is in finding that light, the unexpected angle that reveals how absurd the commonplace really is. Of course, some subjects just lend themselves to comedy: love, stupidity, failure. It's good fortune that those three so frequently travel together.
Oh, and hip waders. Man, those things make me giggle every dang time.
NOAH K MULLETTE-GILLMAN: What does Robert E. Howard mean to you?
CHRIS J RANDOLPH: My feelings about Howard are kind of complex. He was a wonderfully creative writer, but his creations are more widely known through other people's work. For instance, Conan the Barbarian brings to mind Arnold Schwarzenegger, Marvel Comics, or Robert Jordan for most folks. If asked, few could tell you who originally created this globally recognized character, and I find that depressing.
At the same time, there's something unintentionally comical about Howard's original stories. He tried to infuse every moment with the utmost possible drama, and today it often reads like parody. It's also partly due to his vocabulary, which tended toward the obscure. Some writers can pull it off, but with Howard, I can't help but imagine him excitedly digging through his thesaurus, hoping to excavate some crusty, cobwebbed word in order to give a dull sentence a little arcane flare. It's a quality of his that I deliberately lampooned in Vengar.
Finally, the end of Howard's own personal story often comes to mind. When he was thirty years old, his ailing mother slipped into a permanent coma, and on hearing the news, he walked out to his car and shot himself in the head. Simple as that. It's a chilling thought, especially since its so easy to sympathize with him. I'm almost the exact age he was at the time, and I find myself struggling as a writer... we all have dark times, but the sadness he experienced must have been monstrous.
NOAH K MULLETTE-GILLMAN: Who was a better writer? Robert E. Howard or H.P. Lovecraft? Which was a better fighter? And which was a better lover?
CHRIS J RANDOLPH: I have to give the writing nod to Lovecraft, who's an absolute favorite of mine. In contrast to Howard, he was the sort of writer who could wield an obscure vocabulary because it came naturally to him; his style was so fabulously strange, alien, and archaic, and I think that's just who he was. I'm also amazed by his concept of horror, which revealed a vast and chaotic universe that might suddenly snuff out humanity on a whim. His work was revolutionary, and he would've been an amazing person to meet.
I have no doubt that Howard would win in a fight, though. Lovecraft was a spindly, sickly antiquarian, while Howard was a practiced fighter in my weight-class (which is to say, "chunky"). You might as well match a cave worm against a grizzly bear.
As for their relative merits as lovers, I have to assume Howard wins there as well. It's a subtle thing, but I've always detected a faint misogyny in Lovecraft's work. Women rarely appear as characters in his stories, and when they do, they're usually witches or the hollow vessel of some ancient evil. The most prominent female in all of his works was Shub-Niggurath, the Black Goat with a Thousand Young, and I rather think that speaks for itself.
Editor: Surprised you gave the lover nod to Howard..... We all know he was a mama's boy at heart, and well, H.P.'s name IS "Love-craft", baby!
Response from Mr. Randolph: I'm afraid the name was false advertising. I'd put good money on him being one seriously cold fish. ;)
NOAH K MULLETTE-GILLMAN: You have another book coming out soon, Stars Rain Down. When is it coming out and what can we expect?
CHRIS J RANDOLPH: Stars Rain Down comes out September 20th, and it's about an alien invasion that bashes human civilization into rubble. In the wake of this tragedy, a diverse cast of survivors struggle with the new order of things and begin to fight back any way they can.
It's a large story with a handful of major twists which I think readers will find exciting and maybe a little unsettling. It's chocked full of action, suspense and surprises, yet still finds time to explore complex themes like terrorism, pacifism and the perils of preemptive warfare.
It may not be high literature, but it's a thoughtful story, and I just hope readers enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
NOAH K MULLETTE-GILLMAN: I have noticed that you have taken some unusual steps to promote and fund your work. What have you done and what are you doing?
CHRIS J RANDOLPH: There are two things in particular that probably seem unusual. The first is that I've decided to release all my work as free, Creative Commons licensed downloads, meaning that readers can snag a copy wherever they find it, share it with friends, and even alter the text or write sequels if they like. This arguably adds value to my product, and in exchange, all I'm losing is control. I don't know about you, but I find losing control kind of exciting.
To take a wider view, I believe that the piracy we demonize today will be the mainstream distribution of tomorrow, and it's our job as creators not to fight the advance of technology, but to instead adapt and learn how to make it work for us. I haven't quite figured out that last part just yet, but I have ideas, and this seems like a pretty effective way to build an audience in the meantime. I'm fighting obscurity with every tool in my arsenal.
The other unusual step I've taken is my Kickstarter project. For anyone unfamiliar with Kickstarter, it's a website which helps connect creators with charitable supporters. A creator launches a project with a specific funding goal and a time limit, and then tries to attract donations. If they don't meet their goal, the project fails and no money changes hands.
There's a specific problem that inspired me to try Kickstarter, and I suspect you've encountered it as well. As independent writers, we have to do all our own promotion, but there's a lot of resistance out there. Most sites worth approaching completely bar self-promotion and turn indie writers away, which leaves us with precious few options. Of course, they'd be more than happy to sell us ad space, so I aimed to raise money for just that purpose.
Things haven't gone quite as planned, though. As I write this, I've only raised $975 of my $3,500 goal and my deadline is less than 15 hours away. Kickstarter is a wonderful platform with an assortment of impressive success stories; I'm just not one of them, and I'll have to find another clever answer to my marketing Catch-22.
My website is http://oktopods.wordpress.com/
NOAH K MULLETTE-GILLMAN: What effect do you hope your novel has on your readers?
CHRIS J RANDOLPH: With Vengar, the answer is simple: I want people to laugh. If my story brings a smile into your day, then I consider it a job well-done.
Stars Rain Down is a different matter altogether, and it runs the whole emotional gamut, from laughter to sadness, through anger and even disgust. When readers hit the last page, I want them to feel drained, introspective, and maybe just a little inspired to make their world a better place.
This may sound perverse, but I also hope someone bloody hates it. I'd love to hear that a reader despised it enough to rip out all the pages and burn them one by one. I know it's strange, but I just want folks to feel strongly about it... if I strike a nerve, at least I know I'm cutting in the right place.
NOAH K MULLETTE-GILLMAN: If you could leave your body and travel astrally, would you? Where would you go?
CHRIS J RANDOLPH: I definitely would if I could. As for a destination, would the girls' locker room be too trite an answer?
More seriously, I wouldn't want to put any bounds on where I'd go. We live in a universe so huge it's literally beyond our comprehension, and I want to see all of it. I want to blast through strange stars and swim through nebulae, circle black holes and skim the surface of planets never touched by man. I want to know what lies at the edge of our existence, and then I want to step beyond.
...but failing that, the girls' locker room would suffice.
NOAH K MULLETTE-GILLMAN: If you could ask any one character in your novel a question, what would it be?
CHRIS J RANDOLPH: Tough question. I'd like to think I interrogate my characters pretty thoroughly, but there must be something I haven't explored.
I guess the one question I have is for Kai, a character in Stars Rain Down. I'd like to know if he was disappointed when Jack chose not to pull the trigger.
CHRIS J RANDOLPH: So, I understand I get to ask you a question now. What do you feel is the greatest challenge facing independent/self-published authors, and what would you do to fix it?
NOAH K. MULLETTE-GILLMAN: I think the two biggest problems that self-published authors have are publicity, and the perception that some people have of self-published authors being less legitimate than ones published through the traditional system.
There are a number of ways around the publicity problem. If you’re fortunate enough to have some money to spend on the problem, then you’ll certainly overcome it. The need to advertise your product is common to any business owner in the country. It is often an alien system to a bunch of literary types who are used to reading and writing and may not know much about business, but if they put in the work/ have the money, anyone can get the word out eventually.
Of course, this doesn’t guarantee sales. Even if everyone in the country has heard of your book, if it doesn’t appeal and if it isn’t a quality product, then you won’t last long. No one will buy it.
As far as the perception some people have about self-published authors as being less legitimate; this is a more interesting problem. Anyone who wants to can now be a published author. There are a lot of companies out there who are happy to publish you and then let you and your sympathetic friends buy copies of your book. Your book may or may not have been good enough to publish, they don’t judge.
I’m sure that there is a vast amount released every year by self-published authors which is not high quality. But this is similar to what’s happening to all sectors of art these days. Think of the musicians who don’t need to sign with a major label. They sell MP3s and CDs directly from their Myspace pages. I’ve found some really good bands that are doing exactly that. A lot of them are making more money than they would if a corporation owned them. In fact, most bands that get signed with a major label end their careers in debt to that label.
Does music sound better if a corporation owns the rights to it?
There are painters and photographers who will sell you prints directly from their web pages. You can buy used books, CDs, movies, anything you want on Ebay directly from their previous owners without involving any middle men. This is the way art is moving; away from the hands of the corporations and into the hands of the artists. They may sell fewer copies, but they may also end up making more money by the time they’re done!
I think that the way a reader should approach a book published independently is the same way they should be approaching one published through a corporation. Take a look at the reviews. Do they look legitimate? Remember: corporations and independent artists alike might try and sneak a fake one or two on there, so read through them and judge. Any product with only one review, and that one a gushing five stars review, is suspicious.
More importantly, I always read the free previews before buying a digital book, just like in the store I almost always read the first chapter or so before buying a book. This may be even more important with an independent artist, but we should all be doing it anyhow.
That's it for today! What an issue! I hope that you'll now take the time to check out the work of our artists. We're all hard working, talented, and here to entertain!