The Casting Couch: Burnt River

Published on Jungle Red Writers

I always get a little anxious when people ask if my novels will ever be made into films. Given it’s highly unlikely a movie executive will ever call me out of the blue, I tend to see it as an unhelpful distraction. It’s difficult enough getting published these days. I don’t need the added pressure of chasing film deals. But, that doesn’t stop me from pretending to be a casting agent once in awhile. It’s fun to imagine your book on the big screen and I think most writers indulge now and again! It usually involves a glass or two of wine, a few close friends and a healthy dose of optimism. It is in this spirit that I write my fantasy cast list for the film version of BURNT RIVER, the latest novel in the Macy Greeley mystery series.

The Page 69 Test

Published in The Campaign for the American Reader

People buy books for all kinds of reasons. Some rely on reviews, others read the blurb on the back cover and there are those who may be attracted to the cover art. I was recently asked by Campaign for the American Reader to apply the ‘page 69 test’ to Burnt River. Apparently some people base their purchase on how good page 69 sounds. I turned to the page in question with trepidation but then sighed with relief. Turns out it’s a good page.

My Five Top Musical Influences

Published in Crime Spree Magazine

My childhood years can be mapped out in a series of top 40 hits that played on the radio so often you’d memorize every word without realizing it. Decades later I still get chills when I hear a song with a haunting narrative. My favorite ones have endings that are never completely resolved. In no particular order these are five of the musicians and songs that have influenced my writing.

Empathy through Art: Understanding War and PTSD

Published in Criminal Elements

It is estimated that as many of 830,000 Vietnam Veterans and 20% Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffer from PSTD and/or depression. The backlog of benefits claims to the VA peaked at 600,000 in 2013. On average, suicides amongst war veterans total 22 each day. That’s one suicide every 65 minutes. These are all startling statistics, and yet it is surprisingly easy to become immune to their impact. This is where writers like Pat Barker and filmmakers such as Bradley Cooper and Clint Eastwood make such a difference. They shine a light on issues without hitting us over the head with statistics. Returning war veterans come to life. We follow their stories and invest in their futures. We may walk away such experiences with heavy hearts, but that’s a small price to pay for empathy.

Joyce Carol Oates: ‘Where are we going? Where have we been?’

Published on Bookanista

‘Anyone who doubts a short story’s capacity to pack a powerful punch hasn’t yet read the much anthologised and analysed short story by Joyce Carol Oates ‘Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?’. Set in the mid-1960s, it is a tale that can be read as a crime story, an allegory, a snapshot of a shifting culture, a moral parable and a statement on feminism.’

Finding Magic in the Boneyard

Published on Bookanista

‘I have difficulty reading for pleasure now that I’m writing full-time. This was probably brought on by the endless rewrites I did getting my first novel Bone Dust White ready for publication. I’m hoping it’s temporary, but for the time being my editor has taken up residence in my head and he will not be moved.’

Setting the Perfect Place

Published on Jungle Red

‘A novel’s setting can be real or imaginary. It can be as isolated as a mountainside or in the middle of a teeming metropolis and as exotic as a Caribbean Island or as humble as a housing tract. Whether it’s a location that haunts your reader for a lifetime or inspires them to book a flight, it is important that the author makes a conscious decision regarding their novel’s setting. So much depends on the reader coming away with a lasting impression. The more visceral the experience the more likely the reader will want to visit again.’

My First Thriller

Published on Murder She Writes

‘At the age of eleven, I was probably too young to read my first thriller, but Not After Midnight, a short story collection by Daphne du Maurier, had been calling to me from the bookshelf for some time. Like The Exorcist that sat next to it, there was an unspoken warning – it didn’t matter if I was a precocious reader, I wasn’t ready for it. At first I didn’t understand my parent’s reticence. The opening pages of “Don’t Look Now” seemed so innocent. A loving young couple are holidaying in Venice. John and Laura linger over lunch. They gently tease each other and make up stories about the elderly twin spinsters a few tables away. What could be more idyllic?’