5 Questions for H. E. Roulo

HERoulo_Headshot_200x300I met H. E. Roulo the first year I went to BayCon, way back in 2015.  The Horror Addicts Guide to Life had just come out and the two of us had pieces in it, which we read at a panel at the convention. She impressed me with just how smart she is.

H.E. Roulo is a Pacific Northwest fiction writer whose stories have appeared in several dozen magazines, anthologies, and podcasts, including Fantasy’s special Women Destroy Fantasy issue and twice in Nature. She’s the first annual winner of the HorrorAddicts.net Wicked Women Writers Challenge, was Best in Blood, which is given to an author whose episode on HorrorAddicts.net gets the most downloads for the season. She went on to be a guest judge for The Next Great Horror Writer contest. Her short stories have been published in several dozen magazines, anthologies and podcasts. Her first novel, Plague Master: Sanctuary Dome, was published in 2015.  The sequel, Plague Master: Rebel Infection, is out now.

Synopsis of Plague Master: Rebel Infection:

Trevor is hailed as a hero for returning with a vaccine for the zombie infection. His celebrity also makes him a dangerous threat to the powerful Founders of his home world. Revolution is in the air, and Trevor is caught in the middle.

Despite his home world’s troubles, a message from a Plague Master forces Trevor to seek reinforcements on other worlds. He hunts for the woman he left behind, and an answer to why the vaccine is failing.

He and his friends must fight in space stations and worlds overtaken with infected to discover the terrible truth about his cure.

Heather Roulo book cover

Did something in the real world inspire the Plague Master series?

Thankfully, I have no firsthand experience with zombies or infection. The idea for the first book, Plague Master: Sanctuary Dome, started as an audio drama for the Omega Road Chronicles. Necropolis Studios selected it and made a full-cast production you can find online at http://necropolisstudioprod.com/orc.html.

Next, I turned the idea into a short for the Live and Let Undead anthology and that sold right away. At that point, it seemed a no-brainer to expand the world I’d come to love. I already had Samantha, who is searching for her brother’s murderer. For the novel, I added the story of Trevor, a teenager from a downtrodden planet. He wants to fight against the zombies swarming his world, but opportunity is scarce. He’s working as zombie-bait for the local militia when the girl he likes becomes infected. They get sent to the Sanctuary Dome, a punishment that’s actually a big improvement, but he’s not infected and is trying to save everyone, even his home world, from this disease.

The new book, Plague Master: Rebel Infection, deals with the aftermath of returning home, because he now knows just how bad his home world is, and the mystery of why the zombie cure stops working.

What is your favorite scene in the book?

It’s funny because the scenes that are fun to plan and convince me to go ahead with the book don’t usually end up as my favorites, just because they don’t surprise me. Action sequences are enjoyable, like when our heroes fight their way through a space station or in underwater tunnels, but my favorites always end up being the quiet scenes between friends. You learn so much about characters and what they’re thinking. Their relationships are, ultimately, what matter.

When I was searching for excerpts to share during my blog tour, I had to be careful because the most satisfying scenes are the ones with big reveals!

What was your writing process like as you wrote the book?

I’m a plotter. At this point, I have a pretty firm writing process where I know the beginning, ending, a few key plot twists, and action scenes in between. Then I throw the ideas into chapters and plan what comes in between so I can make sure there’s a nice balance.

The key for getting the book done was I committed to 2,000 words a day, five days a week. I can’t always do that, but it’s a good goal.

 What was the best thing that happened during your promotion of the book?

My teenage daughter really got into this series, and she made SIMS characters to match the ones in my book. It was amazing to see another person’s interpretation of the characters in my head. I loved that, so I asked her to put some of them up on my blog. [For example: http://www.fracturedhorizonnovel.com/2015/05/25/introducing-sparklyjemzs-corner/ and http://www.heatherroulo.com/2015/06/08/sparklyjemz-corner-kristin/]

What do you have planned next?

There’s a final book in the trilogy that I’ve planned since the beginning, tentatively titled Plague Master: Apocalypse Plague. I’m also working on an urban fantasy book and might see about releasing a dark humor superhero novella where the main character is a villain.

Pick up your own copy of Plague Master: Rebel Infection from Amazon: https://amzn.to/2KPmp1L

For more information about Heather’s work, visit heatherroulo.com or follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/heroulo/ or on twitter at @hroulo.

See all her books at https://amzn.to/2L5Ti94

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5 Questions for Gene O’Neill

geneI met Gene many years ago at one of the first Morbid Curiosity open mics I hosted at a World Horror Convention. We’ve run into each other again and again at horror events over the years. This spring, I had the honor of including one of his short stories in Tales For the Camp Fire: An Anthology Benefiting Wildfire Relief.

Gene has seen about 200 of his stories and novellas published, several of which have been reprinted in France, Spain, and Russia. Some of these stories have been collected in Ghost Spirits, Computers & World Machines, The Grand Struggle, In Dark Corners, Dance of the Blue Lady, The Hitchhiking Effect, Lethal Birds, and Frozen Shadows & Other Chilling Stories. He has seen six novels published. Gene has been a Stoker finalist twelve times. In 2010 Taste of Tenderloin won the haunted house for collection; in 2012 “The Blue Heron” won for Long Fiction. A series of two novels in The White Plague Chronicles will come out in 2019—The Sarawak Virus followed by Beyond Pandemic. Also out in 2019 will be Entangled Soul, a collaborative novella written with Chris Marrs. Recently, Gene finished “The Beast with Two Backs,” a novella with a strong Maya background.

Gene lives in the Napa Valley with his wife, Kay. He has two grown children: Gavin, who lives in Oakland, and Kaydee, who lives in Carlsbad and rides herd on his two g-kids, Fiona and TJ. When he isn’t writing or visiting g-kids, Gene likes to read good fiction or watch sports—all of them, especially boxing.

Gene’s new book is Deathflash: Book 3 in the series The Crime Files of Katy Green

DeathFlash - Front Cover, 300 dpiYoung Billy Williams has been elevated to status of Shepherd of the Flock—leader of a zealous religious cult—and granted gift of the Deathflash, the ability to see the soul as it departs its mortal form at demise. Billy is also given an ancient knife-like talon and “commanded to do the Lord’s work,” which he does fanatically, slaying drug addicts in San Francisco who are poisoning their bodies with heroin.

Retired police detectives Katy Green and Johnny Cato find themselves drawn into the grim case of the murdered underclass, whom no one seems to care about until the brother of one victim comes forward with his incredible suspicions… So begins a journey of addiction, tracking a killer through the dope dens and seedy rehab houses of the Tenderloin district. As time passes, junkies begin to die faster and faster for Billy Williams has given himself entirely to his own addiction: the rush of viewing the Deathflash.

Did something in the real world inspire Deathflash

Maybe fifteen years ago, I read a translated copy of some obscure Russian experiments. They were taking photos of the radiation leaving the body at the moment of death. Amazingly, they said that the radiation was 100 times that considered normal in a body. What was that flash? Even a non-religious person thinks: It’s the soul. I never found a replication here in this country of those experiments, because of ethical issues. But I had a neat story premise.

What is your favorite scene in the book?

Of course I love the initial scene where the boy, the new Shepherd, first sees the death flash. The following two descriptions of the flash are awesome, too.

What was your writing process like as you wrote the book?

My writing process is always similar. I pretty much have the premise, title, main character’s name, and an ending before I start a project. Then I write every morning, six days a week, until I finish the project. I spend most of the morning going back and revising before adding something new—usually 500 words or so. Of course, this makes me a much slower writer than my contemporaries.

What was the best thing that happened during your promotion of the book?

Eric Guignard, the publisher of Dark Moon Books, is a good promoter. He already has two important signings lined up for DeathflashSept 8th at Dark Delicacies in Burbank, California, and at a date and time to be determined at a prominent bookstore in Berkeley. I always enjoy meeting old fans or new folks at signings.

What do you have planned next?

I’ve finished a two-book series, The White Plague, and it’s in to JaSunni. They will hopefully bring out the first, The Sarawak Virus, by this Fall, and the second, Beyond Pandemic, a little later. I think this series, based on a high premise, is written as well and as compelling as my well-received four-book series, The Cal Wild Chronicles, available from Written Backwards Press.

Pick up your own copy of Deathflash: https://amzn.to/2lwuBtx

You can check out all of Gene’s books on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2ly9TJP

DeathFlash - Back Cover, 300 dpi

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My Panel History

I’ve been appearing on panels at conventions since my first World Horror Convention in 2000, when I was on a panel with Michael J. Straczynski. I’ve never pulled all those panels together — and this will probably be of no interest to anyone but me — but as I pitch panels to conventions, I often wonder what exactly I’ve been on before. So I’m pulling that information together.

I’ve only been keeping track of panels and their descriptions since I started attending my local Bay Area conventions in 2016.  Since then, I’ve been on 25 panels. So there’s a lot to keep track of!

Anyway, this is going to be a work in progress.  At least I’ve finally made a start.

2019 Convention Panels:

FogCon:

Debut Author Lessons 
Friday, March 8, 2019 at 3pm
I joined Vylar Kaftan, Tina LeCount Myers, and Tyler Hayes to talk what we learned — or wish we’d known — as beginning writers.

How do you sign books? What’s the etiquette when talking to bookstores? Join our panel of authors, some brand new, others with several books behind them, as they discuss the things every debut author needs to know, from signing contracts to signing books.

Down to Earth: The Future of Green Burial
Saturday, March 9, 2019 at 9 am
Moderated by M. Kennedy, with E.M. Markoff, Terry Weyna, and me.
“We’re not detached from Earth. We turn *into* earth.” Inspired by Becky Chambers’ Record of a Spaceborn Few, this panel is a discussion of death customs in science fiction and an introduction to existing environmentally conscious burial methods. How can human decay be a catalyst for helping forests flourish, or repopulate coral reefs, or nurture a family garden? What resources exist for people like Kip, who want to care for the bodies of loved ones without prior formal education? Readers inspired by the work of Caretakers like Chambers’ Eyas may be interested to learn that several organizations in the Bay Area not only specialize in providing green burials, home funerals, and death midwifery, they actively seek to train volunteers to provide this care for their own communities.

2018 Convention Panels:

BayCon:

Fan Fiction: A Stepping Stone or a Waste of Time?
Saturday, May 26, 2018 at 10 am
Moderated by Denise Tanaka, with me and David Coronado.
Cassandra Clare, author of the Mortal Instruments series, started building her fan base by writing serious Harry Potter fan fiction. The novel Fifty Shades of Gray started out as Twilight fan fiction. The panel will discuss and debate the pros and cons of writing unauthorized media tie-in fiction. Can a beginning writer gain any worthwhile skills in plotting, dialogue, or narrative exposition by writing in an established franchise?

On Beyond Rey
Sunday May 27, 2018 at 11:30 am
I moderated, with Carrie Sessarego and Denise Tanaka.
Now that women are central to the new Star Wars movies (other than Solo), what are some more female-centered projects that should come to the big screen? Bonus points for older works that should be rediscovered.

Master Class:  Getting Out of the Slush Pile
Sunday May 27, 2018 at 5:30 pm
Emerian Rich and I talked about all we’ve learned about how to pitch, how to submit, and how to behave so you’re invited to submit again.

Fiction Set in or around the Bay Area
Monday May 28, 2018 at 11:30 AM
Moderated by Chad Peterman, with Fred Wiehe, Jennifer McGaffey, Katharine Kerr, and me.
Come talk about your favorite hometown books and maybe get some new ideas for your reading list.

WorldCon:

What Turns People on to Horror?
Thursday, August 16, 2018 at 3 pm
San Jose Convention Center
E.M. Markoff moderated, with Fred Wiehe, Scott Sigler, Richard Kadrey, me, and LS Johnson.
The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown. Roller coasters and skydiving, horror movies and dark fiction, mythology and folklore: what scares us and why are we drawn to it? Members of the Bay Area chapter of the Horror Writers Association share their first experiences with horror and discuss how their fears inspire their work. Audience members are encouraged to share their own experiences.

2017 Convention Panels:

FogCon:

Social Media for Writers and Authors
Friday, March 10 at 3 pm
I moderated a well-attended panel about the variety of social media available to help writers connect with readers.  Joining me were Rebecca Gomez Farrell, Valerie Frankel, Phyllis Holliday, and Heather Rose Jones.

Pitches, Presentations and Proposals: making your point without resorting to kidnapping your boss
Saturday, March 11 at 4:30 pm
I participated in a panel moderated by Karen Brenchley, with Marie Metivier-DeMasters and Alfred Nash. We each brought different skills to the topic, from pitching panel topics to selling books, articles, and columns. The highlight was when we threw open the second half of the panel and let the audience pitch their books to us. Not only was it fascinating, it felt like we were being extremely useful.

BayCon:

Girls Will Be Girls
Saturday, May 27 at 4 pm
Why are so many YA dystopias centered on young women? What about this particular genre is so appealing to (or inclusive of) young women and what does it say about our society? I moderated, with Teresea Edgerton, Margaret McGaffey Fisk, Linden Tarr, and Carrie Sessarego participating as panelists.

Women Of Horror
Sunday, May 28 at 11:30 am
Emerian Rich of HorrorAddicts.net led a discussion between me and Pat MacEwen about the stereotypes, expectations, and discrimination involved with writing in this mostly man-dominated genre.

Dystopian Space Opera from Ancillary Justice to Rogue One
Sunday, May 28 at 1 pm
I moderated again, with Juliette Wade, Douglas Berry, Andrew Clark, and Chuck Serface as panelists. What is it about galactic empires that turns the future into a dystopia? We’ll discussed fiction, television, and film and tried to figure out what form of galactic government would make everyone happy.

Harry Potter and Dystopian Fantasy
Sunday, May 28 at 4 pm
The final panel I moderated, with Jean Batt, Colin Fisk, and Linden Tarr participating, looked at dystopia in fantasy. What’s a main character to do when the government (whether the Ministry of Magic or the Empire of Melnibone, the Head of the White Council or rightful King of Westeros) will use magic and lies to keep the populace in line?

The Dreaded Outline
Monday, May 29 at 10 am
Technique discussion about outlining and other pre-work that helps keep writers motivated to the finish line. Tip-focused rather than memoir, it really highlighted all the different ways writers do the advance work (or in my case, outline once I get stuck in the middle). Moderated by Margaret McGaffey Fisk, with me, Jay Hartlove, Maya Kathryn Bohnhoff, and J. L. Doty.

2016 Convention Panels:

FogCon:

From Caterpillar to Butterfly
Friday, March 11 at 4:30–5:45 pm
With Jamie L. Henderson, Ashley Christina, Theresa Mecklenborg, Colleen T. O’Rourke, and me.

We talked about strange biologies on earth and how those could inspired aliens. Everyone else was a scientist, so I got to hold down the literary end of the conversation. And I got to talk about how octopi inspired Vezali in the Templar books.

Genre Blending
Friday, May 27 at 9-10:15 pm
Moderator: Rebecca Holden
Panelists: Alex Jennings, Justine Larbalestier, Loren Rhoads, Kristine Smith, Brooke Wonders

Whether it’s a steampunk fairytale or an end of the world love story between science and magic or a Hong Kong-style revenge space opera, stories are spilling over the edges of genre.

Living into Dying
Sunday, May 29, 1-2:15 pm
Moderator: R. Elena Tabachnick
Participants: Kate Carey, Loren Rhoads, and Nadia Hutton
In this panel we will discuss how to live with death: the challenges of dying, the gifts we receive from it, and the stories that get us through.

WorldCon:

img_7306Where’s Rey? Female Characters and Merchandise
Friday, August 19 at 4 – 5 pm
Kansas City Convention Center
With Leo d’Entremont, Jenifer Boles, and Loren Rhoads

Unfortunately, it is all too common for female characters to be left out of promotional material. We discuss the reasons for, the implications of, and possible solutions to this.

Convolution:

When does Fanfic become Pro Work?
Friday, September 30 at 3 – 4:30 pm
With Loren Rhoads (moderator), Shael Hawman, and Valerie Estelle Frankel

Classic Scary Stories: Shelley, Poe, and others
Friday, September 30 at 5 – 6:30 pm
With Chuck Serface (moderator), Tyler Hayes, Loren Rhoads, and Sarah Stegall

Looking back on some of the classics of literary monster-makers and scary storytellers.

sw-monster-panelThe Monsters of Star Wars
Friday, September 30 at 8 – 9:30 pm
With Stacy Meyn (moderator), Loren Rhoads, Drew Morris, JC Arkham, and Jean Batt

Some of them live in pits. Some of them have vast underwater cities. Some of them will keep you warm through a cold Hoth night.

Devilishly Daring: Demonic Monsters
Saturday, October 1 at noon – 1:30 pm
With Laurel Anne Hill (moderator), Chuck Serface, Loren Rhoads, Emerian Rich, and J. L. (Jim) Doty

We’ll discuss the devils, demons, succubi, and lords of the underworld that feature in our genre fiction.

Authors: Going to That Dark Place
Saturday, October 1 at 3 – 4:30 pm
With Fred Wiehe (moderator), Loren Rhoads, Melissa Snark, Deborah J. Ross, Margaret McGaffey Fisk, and Anne Bishop

If you want the monstrous element to be truly horrifying, you sometimes have to dig to a dark place to write it believably.

horror-addictsconvolutionMeet HorrorAddicts.net!
Sunday, October 2 at 10 – 11:30 am
With Emerian Rich (moderator), Loren Rhoads, Laurel Anne Hill, and Sumiko Saulson

Chat with the authors who comprise HorrorAddicts.net and find out their monster favorites!

The Monster is the Hero
Sunday, October 2 at 2 – 3:30 pm
With Ric Bretschneider (moderator), Jay Hartlove, Chad Peterman, and Loren Rhoads

Panel discussion of our favorite bits in which the monstrous element ends up being the hero and Man is the enemy.

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5 Questions for Tyler Hayes

Profile - Black CoatI met Tyler Hayes in March at FogCon, when we were on a panel together. The subject was “Things I Wish I Knew when I was a Debut Author.” After he described his first novel, I was excited to hear more about it.

Tyler Hayes is a science fiction and fantasy writer from Northern California. He writes stories he hopes will show people that not only are they not alone in this terrifying world, but we might just make things better. His fiction has appeared in anthologies from Alliteration Ink, Graveside Tales, and Aetherwatch.

Tyler is a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. He is represented by Lisa Abellera of Kimberley Cameron and Associates.

Tyler would also love to play Sentinels of the Multiverse with you, if you’re interested.

His synopsis of The Imaginary Corpse:

A dinosaur detective in the land of unwanted ideas battles trauma, anxiety, and the first serial killer of imaginary friends.

Most ideas fade away when we’re done with them. Some we love enough to become Real. But what about the ones we love, and walk away from?

Tippy the triceratops was once a little girl’s imaginary friend, a dinosaur detective who could help her make sense of the world. When her father died, Tippy fell into the Stillreal, the underbelly of the Imagination, where discarded ideas go when they’re too Real to disappear. Now, he passes time doing detective work for other unwanted ideas – until Tippy runs into The Man in the Coat, a nightmare monster who can do the impossible: kill an idea permanently. Now Tippy must overcome his own trauma and solve the case, before there’s nothing left but imaginary corpses.

Imaginary Corpse Cover

Did something in the real world inspire The Imaginary Corpse?

Tippy is actually modeled after one of my childhood stuffed animals. He was a part of a running Let’s Pretend game my father and I played that we called Stuffed Animal Detectives. Tippy wasn’t the main character by any stretch, but by far his role in my life has been the most enduring. I actually still have the original Tippy — you can see pictures of him on my website.

The other major thing informing the book is trauma. I’ve got PTSD and an anxiety disorder, and in therapy, I’ve been confronting what everyday experiences have been, in essence, poisoned by my trauma, no longer fun or enjoyable because my mind links them with pain. I mixed that concept up with the concept of imaginary friends, and I thought, what happens to ideas that we cherish, but become inextricably linked with trauma and tragedy? What if the Velveteen Rabbit were loved until he became Real, just like the famous quote from the book, but then got abandoned because his owner couldn’t stand to look at him anymore?

That brought me to the idea for the Stillreal. I thought, if I’m going to talk about creatures of the imagination, why not talk about Tippy and the Stuffed Animal Detective Agency? The mix of stuffed animals of different types and shapes and aesthetics helped inform the sort of mixed-genre approach to the Stillreal. From there, it was just riding out the brainstorm to the end. 

What is your favorite scene in the book?

Fairly late in the book, there’s a segment where Tippy and his cohort of unwanted ideas have to explain the concept of the Stillreal to a new arrival, someone they’ve narrowly saved from being a victim of the serial killer who’s been hunting ideas. The new denizen of the Stillreal is, of course, having an absolute pedal-to-the-metal freakout about this, and it falls to Tippy and company to try to explain and help her calm down before she hurts herself or someone else.

I love this scene because it cuts to the heart of what the book is about: it’s not high-action, but it’s dynamic; it’s about emotions and trauma, but also about friendship and healing. At root, the solution to the problem is to be kind.

What was your writing process like as you wrote the book?

Would you believe this is the first book I ever outlined?

The skeleton of The Imaginary Corpse started during a business conference. I didn’t feel like I was getting much out of the meeting, so I started idly noodling at writing ideas. After an eight-hour day of noodling and pretending to listen to breakout sessions, I had mapped out what would become the backbone of the novel: Tippy, the Stillreal, the idea of a serial killer plot, Friends warping how Ideas look the longer they’re around each other, etc.

This book was also the first time I used what has become my standard methodology for writing my novels: brainstorm until it feels ready to go, scene map to be sure I don’t have high-level plot holes, rough draft to make it so the book exists, and then tuck in with the editing saws. That, plus how excited I was about the idea, made it possibly the easiest-flowing book I have ever written.

The hardest part was revisions, even more so than on other projects.  As a beta-reader said, this setting is full of darlings — every single character and place is something I was excited to get to write. I don’t subscribe to the theory that you have to kill your darlings as a matter of necessity, but with this book it was inevitable. Any time I had to admit a scene or a character or a setting was superfluous, it was like pulling teeth to admit they had to go.

What was the best thing that happened during your promotion of The Imaginary Corpse?

Seeing how many readers have stated, openly on social media, that The Imaginary Corpse made them cry and also made them feel comforted. That was exactly the feeling I was going for with the book — not that it was never dark or tough or painful, but that it was a safe place to have those kinds of emotions and a place where empathy is rewarded. In this world of all worlds, I feel like that makes the book a success.

What do you have planned next?

I’m currently finishing up revisions on a potential sequel to The Imaginary Corpse. I’ve also got beta-readers looking at a contemporary fantasy about professional wrestling that I wrote while The Imaginary Corpse was going through edits. I’ve started plotting and world-building for a novel that I’m pitching as Six Wakes meets Critical Role, a sort of love letter to Dungeons & Dragons that is, like Corpse and the pro wrestling novel, intended as a standalone with series potential. I haven’t planned past that, but I have a few more ideas brewing. I’m excited to see what happens next.

You can follow Tyler’s work and upcoming appearances at tyler-hayes.com

Pick up your own copy of The Imaginary Corpse on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2HmBBkJ

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5 Questions for Ellie Sharrow

IMG_0180

My relationship with Ellie Sharrow goes a long way back.  She taught the only Creative Writing classes in my high school.  I took her class, did independent study with her, and was lucky enough to “student teach” one of her writing classes under her supervision.  She was the first adult who told me that I could become not just a writer, but an actual author.

So I was thrilled to hear that her first novel was published last year. One of the central characters is a creative writing teacher in a small town high school. I’ll let her describe it to you:

A loner misses his deceased father; an urban transplant experiences the racism of low expectations; a middle sister burns with an unlikely crush; a daughter survives years of sexual abuse; a bullied and neglected boy just wants to do something. All have access to weapons as well as the concern of adults who step up in unusual ways.

IMG_0307

Ellie’s bio is subversive, too:

Retired from the best job in the world, I am a grandmother and a sustainer of my NPR station.  I am a liberal who acquired a CPL (Concealed Pistol License) in the process of researching my book. It’s never too late to learn something new.                                  

Here’s our interview:

Did something in the real world inspire Subversives?

My own long teaching career was a peaceful one. The rise of school shootings, beginning with Columbine, occurred as I retired. I was horrified, of course, and then appalled as schools, including those in my small city, needed to prepare for carnage that, hopefully, would never occur. But no one could ever be sure of that, so the places where young people had felt the most safe were “hardened” with increased security and limited access and security cameras, metal detectors and active shooter drills. These measures make children feel very unsafe, ironically. My own experience told me that while these precautions might assure parents that something was being done, old-fashioned low-tech measures are more effective at identifying students most likely to bring their rage to the classroom along with their backpack.  

I have always known that good teaching is a subversive activity, developing non-cognitive life skills of empathy, critical thinking, confidence, and responsibility, which are far more valuable than memorization of facts and acquisition of employment skills.  Relationships nurturing this growth occur in the classroom and the hallways and also out in a community, where caring adults interact with youngsters. 

What is your favorite scene in the book?

Once a week John and Joey go to the gun range after school to learn how to shoot. This would appear to be inappropriate for the prevention of gun violence, but look at it from a different angle. John really misses his dead father, who had been a regular at the gun range and whose collection of handguns is a part of his legacy. The range is where John feels close to his dad and Chuck, the range owner, steps up to fill the void in the teen’s life. Joey is younger than John. Gloria, his negligent mom, signed her permission for Joey to be taught to shoot when she learns that the instructor would be her own sixth grade teacher, whom she thought would be a good influence on her bullied boy to “man up.” 

Joey’s mom had run off. Gloria was gone for weeks, abandoning her son to look after himself. My favorite scene is her return, showing up at the gun range to claim her child and take him home. When he resists, she grabs him to pull him into the car. Mr. Knott, firearm in hand, confronts her. 

“Stop right there.”

John witnesses the moment of high drama thinking, wow, this would be a cool scene to read for Author’s Day. 

What was your writing process like as you wrote the book?

I used a lot of post-it notes.

Deciding the time span for the story was important to its structure. A semester-long creative writing class was the hub, a device that allows the five students and their teacher to interact. The final semester of senior year, with a framework of school events culminating with Commencement, was my decision. Fitting the characters and events into the framework was my challenge. 

What was the best thing that happened during your promotion of the book?

Reconnecting with old friends has been the best part. I have also been amused by the number of readers who are certain that they appear in the book. It is true that I described real settings. The bakery, for example, and the gun shop are very familiar from the real world. And a few distinctive characters (and real subversives) are easily recognized. But, of course, this story is fiction.

What do you have planned next?

“Death in the Dog Park” is the working title of my current project. Of course, I am using another familiar setting. Taking my own two dogs to the dog park twice a day, which is only doable when one is retired, has taught me that we learn the names and backstories of the dogs long before we know the same about their owners, if ever. Comedy happens there, and drama, between the dogs and also between their owners. The dog owners share info about themselves, like seat mates on a long airplane ride, in the intimacy of strangers. Chuck, the gun guy, returns in my research. A retired detective and police chief, he brainstormed the crime for me, and then suggested I take his ideas and “turn them into poetry.” 

I reviewed Subversives on Goodreads.

You can pick up a copy in paperback or ebook from Amazon: https://amzn.to/2KYCsZN

 

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