Thursday, October 27, 2011

Trick or Treat Blog Adventure!

Logo courtesty of Tammie Gibbs

Come and join me on the Trick or Treat Blog Adventure. Follow the blog, leave a comment and win one of five ebook versions of my contemporary romance, Hannah's Blessing!

Want a fun fairy-tale read just in time for the holidays? Well look no further!

From October 28th through October 31st five lucky people will win a copy of the ebook via a Smashwords coupon. Just follow the blog and leave a comment with your email address. All entries will be chosen from a random number generator on November 1st.

Hannah's Blessing:
Following her husband’s scandalous death, a devastated Diana Somerset makes a promise at his funeral to never trust so easily again. However, she was not prepared to meet his enigmatic step-brother, Devlan Doyle. He was a man accustomed to getting whatever he wanted, and he wanted Diana. Not only was Diana's child his heiress, but her stubborn pride and disinterest intrigues him.
Following a near-tragic accident that forces them together, Devlan sets out to conquer her distrust. Whisked away on a fairytale of a lifetime, Diana and Hannah discover that they are not immune to his charms. But is his determination alone strong enough to win their trust and love, or will he lose the two people he has grown to care for the most?

For more bloggers participating in the Trick or Treat Blog Adventure, please check out JLB Creatives! There are different prizes and different books as well as services to see. Check it out and enter!

Good Luck and Happy Halloween!!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Meet and Greet with Carolyn Arnold, author of Ties that Bind

I recently completed a fast-paced thriller that kept me on my toes the entire time. From the first page to the last, I had a difficult time putting the book down. Every time I had to close up my Kindle, I was left dangling and thinking about what would happen next. The great thing about my frustration was that it lasted up to the end. I never had a chance to get bored or feel as though I had reached a spot to put the book down. Now that is a sign of a good story!
I am pleased to say that I have Carolyn Arnold with me today, and she is the author of this great tale, Ties that Bind, an introductory novel for her series about Detective Madison Knight. Please join me in learning a bit more about Ties that Bind and the remainder of her series about this savvy female detective.

Collette: Thank you so much for joining me, Carolyn. I’m pleased to have you here. Can we start with the basics? When did you start writing?
Carolyn: I started writing novellas and poetry back in my teen years.  I remember thinking then that it would be amazing to write a full-length novel and requested the submission guidelines from Harlequin.  But life changed and writing was pushed to the background.  It wasn’t until four years ago that I rediscovered my passion for writing.

Collette: Did you have any influences?

Carolyn: Influences as in other authors? Definitely. I love David Baldacci and Sandra Brown.  While both take you into the darker mindset of their characters, they inspire me in different ways.
Baldacci’s character descriptions helped me realize how spending time on building a solid background is not only well worth it but necessary if you want your reader to feel the connection.
Brown dares to write things I would normally hold back. 

A combination of both of their influences challenge me to continually improve.
In my personal life, my husband is my best friend and greatest influence in everything I do.

Collette: Where do you get your ideas?

Carolyn: I’d say a lot of them come while watching TV or movies.  Hubby loves it when this happens (sense the sarcasm).  It means everything must be paused while I run around for a notepad to jot the idea on, or have him pass me his laptop to email it to myself.  LOL
Other times ideas come to me when I hear news stories.  And recently a novel idea struck when I was at work.  It might be the next thriller I write.  Needless to say I have a lot of ideas stored up for future books.

Collette: That’s great news! I hope you write for many years to come! Were you inspired by someone to write the genre you’re writing in?

Carolyn: I suppose I would have to say Baldacci and Brown again.  I also love to watch TV and movies in the crime genre.

Collette: What is your writing process like?

Carolyn: I’ve experimented with outlining, and panster-style and have concluded I’m definitely a panster.  I love the free-flow of the story, following the characters through.  I must add, however, that before starting I have a general idea as to where the story is heading and what I want to accomplish in a chapter, but sometimes the characters take a detour.  When that happens it’s always to the benefit of the novel.

I also find that by conducting character interviews before starting I have a rich foundation upon which to build.  This also avoids the pitfall of backstory filler in the first draft – less to edit out.

Collette: I can’t do an outline and ever stick to it. My characters have minds of their own. Is that how you would describe yours?

Collette: Do you write full-time?
Carolyn: I feel like I should say yes because any time I do have I’m either writing, editing, networking or marketing, but I know what you’re getting it, and the answer is not yet.

Collette: Not yet, maybe someday if you keep at it! J So what do you do to pay your bills now?

Carolyn: I work in Accounts Receivable.

Blurb of Ties that Bind:

Detective Madison Knight concluded the case of a strangled woman an isolated incident. But when another woman’s body is found in a park killed by the same line of neckties, she realizes they’re dealing with something more serious.

Despite mounting pressure from the Sergeant and Chief to close the case even if it means putting an innocent man behind bars, and a partner who is more interested in saving his marriage than stopping a potential serial killer, Madison may have to go it alone if there's not going to be another victim.

Collette: How did you come up with the idea of Ties that Bind?
Carolyn: Crime drama is my favorite thing to read and watch.  It was natural to want to write in the genre.  For Ties that Bind the basic concept came from a conversation with a family member.

Collette: How long did it take you to complete?

Carolyn: If I remember right, it took six months to write the first draft.  To get it to the point of publication it was two years.

Collette: Tell me a little about your background in your subject and where you completed your research?

Carolyn: My research came from books and the internet.  On any subject, for example concluding TOD or time of death, I cross-compared my research to make sure I had a solid understanding.  Of course this is only one small aspect I needed to research for TIES THAT BIND.  It also involved research into police hierarchy and procedure, physical evidence that indicates strangulation as COD or cause of death, as well as other basic forensics knowledge – DNA and its preservation, fingerprinting – to name a few.

I suggest that any author who does research always cross-compares.  This is not only to ensure accuracy but to obtain a solid understanding of the subject.

Collette: I am all the more impressed now. I thought for sure it was something that you saw on a day to day basis!

Collette: I found your lead, Madison Knight, a very human, very relatable character. Can you tell us a little bit about her?

Carolyn: Major Crimes Detective Madison Knight is a stubborn, tell you how it is type of woman, but she’s also got an empathic side.  Her drive is to find justice for the victims, and she won’t let anyone or anything stop her from making sure that happens.  At times this impulsive nature gets her into trouble with her superiors.

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

Carolyn: Most definitely but as the disclaimer states, “Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.”

I thought I’d say that first.  LOL No, in all seriousness I don’t know how an author couldn’t pull from characteristics of those around them.

Collette: Haha, that’s true. So then, do you ever incorporate yourself into your characters?

Carolyn: Most definitely.  While we immerse ourselves into our character’s worlds, their backgrounds and motivations, I believe it’s our human experiences as evidenced in such things as thought patterns, feelings and emotions that provide added depth to our characters.

Collette: With that being said, let’s move on to the story itself. This was a fast-paced yet methodical story into the depths of a murder investigation. Did you base it on a real-life experience or was it all your imagination?

Carolyn: All imagination.

Collette: Wow, that’s very intriguing considering the depth in the story. Way to go!

Collette: Now what will your future projects with Madison entail?

Carolyn: The reader will see her character develop further – what makes her who she is.  The series will also follow her through a cold case she is determined to solve.

The next in the series, Justified, is coming out this December.  You’ll find out more about what Madison fears as she investigates the murder of a female entrepreneur who was found slashed in her kitchen on Christmas Eve.

Collette: I can’t wait. I did have some questions about Madison and her relationships, especially at the end… a lot of suspense for the next installment  J.  Love it!

Collette: Since you’ve been writing so much, do you ever have time to read?

Carolyn: Unfortunately not as much as I’d like to right now.  I have a lot of catching up to do over the holidays.

Collette: I can completely relate to that! Haha. What is your favorite genre to read?

Carolyn: Mysteries, thrillers and suspense.

Collette: I think we touched on this several times already, but do you have any favorite authors?

Carolyn: David Baldacci and Sandra Brown.

Collette: Where can we find you online?


Carolyn, thank you so much for dropping by and telling us more about your great story, Ties that Bind. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series, especially now that I know what else is coming! Best of luck with the series, and keep at it!

My review of Ties that Bind:

From the first page to the very last, you will be on your toes.
For someone not too familiar with the workings of a police homicide investigation, this story will give you a whole new perspective on what goes on in the real world. No easy answers, not always a direct lead, oftentimes our police officials must sift through numerous lies and misleading information in what many of us would not have the patience to tackle. Ties that Bind tells a story in a methodically paced tale that you will find hard to put down, turning page after page as you wait breathlessly for the next twist. It is realistic yet entertaining, an honest look at human nature and individuals from all walks of life. Nothing is as it seems...

Carolyn Arnold has written a nitty gritty story of a murderer’s revenge. Through the various twists and turns, you will never be able to figure out whodunit until the shocking end. I’ve always considered myself fairly good at picking out the villain, but I will tell you I was surprised at the ‘ties’ that led up to an arrest. Way to go, Carolyn!

A well-written piece with all-too-human characters, I was sucked in from the first page when Madison reached for her chocolate-fix. This was a nicely paced story that was not over the top or unrealistic; in fact, I loved every minute of it. It was entertaining without being too dark or depressing, and I can’t wait to read more, Carolyn. Keep them coming!

Monday, October 17, 2011

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is designated Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and this month I would like to give to a cause I feel strongly about. I have blogged about domestic violence on a couple of occasions already, primarily when Forever Sunshine first came out in April. Since then, I have heard from multiple domestic violence survivors, and each and every one of them told me that Forever Sunshine was not only very real to them but also hopeful for those still in a situation to get out. Naturally, that was part of the message I was trying to send, but I also wanted to draw attention to the issue itself. Often domestic violence is a hidden matter, a family matter that no one truly understands or wants to get involved with. For emergency personnel, it is also a cause for concern.
I recently worked with author Marie Harbon, and she was kind enough to feature me in a post on her site to discuss this important time and subject. Here is a peek at part of the interview:
Marie: Did any real life situations either personal or secondhand inspire ‘Forever Sunshine?’ If not, where did you gather your research to enable you to write the book?

Collette: Yes, absolutely some real life situations inspired Forever Sunshine. The story began in a dream I had following my viewing of a highly publicized funeral on the television. With that being said, I have also had firsthand experience with domestic violence, both as an EMS professional responding to ambulance calls and as a witness to a close friend’s situation when I was younger. The opening scene is based on an experience I lived through, although I did tone it down a little bit. The relationship between Joe and Cher is also based on that experience with my friend. Joe’s character acts in much the same manner as this girl’s boyfriend had with me. Further research came from my EMS training and study into statistics on the Internet.

To read more of my interview with Marie, click here.

Please remember that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and in honor of this important milestone I am putting together a donation for every sale of Forever Sunshine to a cause that I believe is worthwhile. I have contacted a national domestic violence organization and am working with them on this plan. Though I would love to give to more than one organization, this time around I have chosen one site to focus on. Depending on the success of my venture, I will certainly branch out because this is a serious endeavor.

The Hotline is a 24/7 non-profit organization that operates nationwide in the United States. They offer crisis intervention, advocacy, and information to victims or possible victims. Their database includes referrals to over 4,000 programs and shelters, so they work hard every day trying to pass on the means and education to help others. In these difficult financial times donations are harder to come by, and this is why I am hopeful that by buying a decent story of hope, healing and survival others can find a way to pass a day and give back to those who need help. My latest blog review has been completed by Book Reviews by Tima. Please take a look to learn more about my story. The eBook Forever Sunshine is only $2.99 on Amazon; the paperback just $14.95. For my UK readers, please click here. Remember, you do not need a Kindle to purchase an eBook. If you would like to read on your computer or smartphone, Amazon offers an e-reading application. Get yours here.
So please join me in my attempts to give back to those in need and help me spread the word.

If you are in need, do not hesitate to call 1-800-799-SAFE or visit for immediate assistance. All it takes is one call to get the ball rolling.

Thank you all, my good readers!

Forever Sunshine:

Young and naïve Cherisse Bridwell had focused solely on completing her college degree and beginning her career until one hot summer evening when her frightened older sister, Shelly, arrives looking for help. Cher's carefully ordered life quickly comes to an end. Trapped in an abusive marriage, Shelly is terrified and has nowhere else to go but to her overworked and oblivious sister. Though Cher is not prepared to handle the effects of a controlling and violent husband, fate delivers help via police sergeant Brandon Nicholson. With his strength and guidance, he shows Cherisse and Shelly how to survive and how to live life to the fullest. As both women find their inner strength, Cher and Brandon fall in love and build a future together. However, life is full of ups and downs, and through it all Cher and her family must continue to face every day with a feeling of hope and optimism, even when it seems as though all hope is gone. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Meet Dr. Niamh Clune, author of Orange Petals in a Storm

In a time where our youth are bombarded with stories on the news of violence and heartbreak, oftentimes we turn to Disney to go back to the fairytales of old. I have had the great pleasure of speaking with Dr. Niamh Clune, author of Orange Petals in a Storm, a story of hope and triumph and what could easily become a modern-day fairytale for all ages for many years to come.

Collette: Thank you so much for joining me today, Niamh. I’m excited to learn more about Orange Petals in a Storm. May we start with the basics? When did you start writing?

Niamh: I began writing at the age of twelve...the age when you are crossing the threshold of childhood into the scary, wonderful world of being a teen. Somehow, at that age, you become acutely aware of your emerging identity. You are leaving something precious behind, but looking forward to all that is yet to come. I wrote a series of very dark poems expressing the intensity of how I felt then. I was a very serious little girl, traumatised by my childhood. I found solace in writing and creating an alternative, beautiful reality in which to live. It was a way of escaping my family and finding my own voice.

Collette: Oh yes. It is a rough time, isn’t it? Now did you have any influences behind your writing?
Niamh: By the time I was fourteen, I had read many of the classics. I loved Jean Paul Sartre and philosophical literature and of course fantasy of the quality of Lord of the Rings. And I have always loved Jane Austin. I love her slow-moving, understated style. I think I am largely influenced by her, and by the way she tells a story through the dead weight of the unspoken word, by what is not said, but imagined, expressed through the pause, silence, space between words. I was also hugely influenced by Anglo-Irish literature, and metaphysical poets such as W.B Yeats and T.S. Eliot. I loved the musicality of the way they wrote and the spiritual subject matter. Writing is meant to be read aloud. A story should sing itself into existence.

Collette: Lyrical is so appropriate! Where do you get your ideas?
Niamh: All my ideas are drawn from life experiences. I have led a rich, full life filled with wonderful adventures both inner and outer. Most of my working life has been concerned with the Psyche and how it works, so my inner world stories are based on visionary experiences both my own and people I have worked with. In my capacity as a Doctor of Transpersonal Psychology, I have even been blessed to participate in the inner world of other cultures during my time working in Africa.

Collette: A wonderful experience, I’m sure J. What is your writing process?
Niamh: I edit as I go along. A sentence must do exactly what it is supposed to before I move on. Otherwise it disturbs me. I love aphorism: simple, pithy sentences that express complex ideas. I am a lover of minimalism in the written word and labour over my task. It is a labour of love to knead a sentence, working it into shape until it forms the image I am trying to convey. 

Collette: Do you write full-time?
Niamh: I do now... I still see clients and run workshops but keep it to a minimum.

Collette: How did you come up with the idea of Orange Petals in a Storm?
Niamh: I needed a metaphor that would convey something delicate and beautiful being blown about by the harshness of Skyla's mundane reality. She represents the soul, the beauty and light that is within us. The story speaks on many levels at once. As in the traditions of metaphysical literature, I used the colour Orange as an extended metaphor to convey paradox and juxtaposition... It represents the mystical being ever present amidst the despair of mundane conveys a world rich in paradox...where suffering is coexistent with the triumph of the human spirit against all the odds. Hopefully, a few people will 'get that!' The image emerged as the story unfolded.

Collette: How long did it take you to complete?
Niamh: To write Parts One and Two has taken two years...

Collette: This is a story with a strong message: a girl who finds her inner strength to remove herself from a bad situation by using her brain. Can you tell us a little bit about your research behind her dream world?
Niamh: As I said, I have been a practising transpersonal psychologist for more than 30 years. By that I mean Jungian based psychology that recognises the meaning and importance of the dream. It is the only psychology to recognise the existence of the soul. I have also been a scholar of the Ancient Wisdom Teachings all my life. My Ph.D was on Acquiring Wisdom Through the Imagination in which I completed a unique piece of research and 'showed' how inborn, innate wisdom hidden in the soul breaks through into people's lives and stories! When it does, we find ourselves living an archetype.

Collette: Can you tell us a little about the Threads of Prophecy?
Niamh: The Threads of Prophecy are a mixture of things based on the ancient esoteric belief in an underlying etheric web that connects all life, and through which, we are all part of a collective unconscious. In the world of the unconscious, time is an illusion, therefore; having prophetic experience becomes possible. We can meet the future, based on the seeds of the past.

Collette: Can you describe young Skyla McFee in a few sentences? What is she like? What does she want? Goals, strengths, weaknesses, etc.
Niamh: She represents the soul in us, the purity, beauty and innate wisdom; the potential to see the world in a transformational way; the desire to triumph over despair. In my experience both personally and as a therapist, the child is so often thwarted, mishandled by the adult world. Then the immediacy, intensity, curiosity, and marvel at the world about us becomes sublimated and submerged. I am of that age when I wanted to touch in with her again.

Collette: Are any of your characters based on real-life friends or acquaintances?
Niamh: All my characters are based on aspects of people I have known. I think it dangerous to write a character too literally, as you are in danger of losing the objectivity necessary to allow your characters to develop minds and wills of their own. I always isolate and accentuate a characteristic in order to bring a new, unique character to life.

Collette: I agree completely! Some people incorporate themselves into their characters. Is that something you do?
Niamh: I am in several of the characters, Skyla, Rocks and Ariana. I think most writers appear in elements of some of their characters. I call them sub-personalities.

Collette: Are you still writing the series? If so, what will your future projects entail?
Niamh: I am editing Part two and beginning a new project.

Collette: Excellent. Can’t wait for it to come out! With all that writing, do you have time to read?
Niamh: I don't have time to read these days. And when I am writing, I find it difficult to read. I don't like being swayed. I stay focussed on what I am doing.

Collette: Understood J. When you do have time, what is your favorite genre to read?
Niamh: Goes in phases. I always enjoy well-written prose, no matter what the genre.

Where can we find you online?




What format is your book available in?
Available as a kindle and to be released on November 4th in paperback in USA

Excellent! Congratulations! Niamh, thank you so much for joining me today. I had so much fun learning more about your series and the thought process behind it. Skyla is a remarkable young lady, bound to grow into a strong and confident woman. I can’t wait to see her progress.

My review of Orange Petals in a Storm:  
When you open this book, you find a child in dire straits. She is running in the rain, back to her beloved former home, only to succumb to the cold before reaching freedom. Young Skyla McFee is trapped in a situation that no child should ever endure, that of a cold family who cares little for her following the death of her mother. However Skyla is a survivor, and she soon learns that she has a gift. What the horrible Roche family views as her escaping reality and turning to her imagination is actually Skyla learning that she is a powerful and gifted girl with the ability to ease the pain in others, including the child who once bullied her.

This is not an action-packed, fast-paced story, where every scene follows one after another like a bullet from a gun. Rather it is a soft story, full of mysticism and guidance - a modern-day fairytale for our youth. I almost had the feeling that the characters in her dream world were whispering the entire time. This story would be perfect for reading aloud, with just enough fantasy in it to hold a child captive. It is a touching and poetically written story with a strong and hopeful message. Evil will never triumph over good. Skyla does not succumb to despair, and her optimism is rewarded. It ends on a glimmer of hope, and I’m sure in book two we will see her become even stronger and more powerful!

I have a daughter, and I could very easily see myself passing it on to her to read. Not only for the lovely fantasy weaved into it, but also for the message of never giving in or giving up and standing tall for what you believe in. I think we may read this together soon!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Meet Stephen England, author of Pandora's Grave

I recently had the opportunity to read a fantastic book by Stephen England. From the moment I opened it up, I was caught up in the action and intricacies of political pandering, religious differences and military actions that were so well portrayed that I felt as though I was living in the midst of it all. I am pleased to have Stephen England with me today, and I hope you enjoy learning more about his great book.
Collette: Thank you for agreeing to answer my questions. I hope we have plenty of fun!
Stephen: I’m sure we will—I appreciate you takin’ the time.

Collette: When did you start writing?

Stephen: A long time ago—I was working seriously on a novel by the time I was 12. I spent my teenage years writing and rewriting, honing my craft toward the point where I could finally publish. With two novels under my belt now at 21, I think it was worth it. Writers aren’t always popular among their peers, but popularity is fleeting anyway. You do what you were born to do.

Collette: I agree completely! So where do you get your ideas?
Stephen: From the world around me, unfortunately. There’s moments when I wish I could just hang it up and write about Templars and secret societies, thousand-year-old fantasies that don’t have a prayer of coming true. But, no, I’m writing about terrorists, real-life terrorists in slightly fictional scenarios. And in the real world, every secular Arab government in the Middle East is on the verge of collapse, Hezbollah is on the U.S.-Mexico border, and in South Asia, the nuclear-armed nation states of Pakistan and India seem as close as ever to a flashpoint. We live in a world of increasing danger.

Collette: That's very true, unfortunately. Were you inspired by someone to write the genre you’re writing in?

Stephen: Oh, yes, I think everyone is to more or less an extent. In my case, it was Tom Clancy, whom I still consider a bit of a “virtual” mentor. His early novels are a case study in how to write a military/espionage thriller. I learned so much from his style of writing, and there has been no greater honor over these last few months than to hear Pandora’s Grave compared to a Clancy novel. I should also acknowledge the debt that I owe to the writers of 24. I often joke that I learned everything I know about pacing from 24, but to more or less an extent, it’s true. For all the writing I had done, I never quite got on top of pacing until I watched my first season of Bauer—I think it was Day 6—the season L.A. got nuked. It was there that I realized the critical importance of hooking a reader in every scene, and things took off.

Collette: What is your writing process?
Stephen: Anything but methodical. Going into a book I have no outline, no character profiles, nothing except a general concept of the plot in my head. I don’t write every day—yes, I break that rule, too—but I continually mull over the plot points I’ve established and figure out how to get from A to B. Once I’m to the point where I’m thinking about the book obsessively, things are going well. When I’m there, nothing offends me worse than someone saying “so what if your characters were real”. What’s this if business?

Collette: Haha, I can agree with that, too! My characters are all real. So do you write full-time?
Stephen: By no means—sales of Pandora’s Grave are going well, but not that well. I’m not sure if that’s something I would want, regardless—I do some of my best “plotting” when I’m otherwise occupied.

Collette: If not, what do you do to pay your bills?
Stephen: I’m a cleaner—no, not the hit man type, but an honest-to-goodness mop-and-bucket cleaner. Why? It keeps my hands occupied and my mind free. I know a lot of writers who have chosen a career that requires their writing talents—and I think it’s a mistake. You can’t focus on your novel if your creativity is being drained dry by the day job.

Collette: How did you come up with the idea of Pandora’s Grave?
Stephen: Pandora’s Grave is based on the premise of an Iranian-sponsored act of biological terrorism against the state of Israel. If you want to know how real that premise is, you just need to look at the news— Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in New York just a couple weeks ago. The Iranian threat is real, and more terrifying that most people know. There’s politicians who believe you could negotiate with a nuclear Iran—as though this eventuality would simply be the second coming of the Cold War. You can’t negotiate with leaders who are hell-bent on apocalypse. It’s just not happening. And biological weapons are cheaper and simpler to manufacture than nukes.

Part of the premise of Pandora’s Grave was to write a different type of thriller. To see if it was possible to strip out the profanity and graphic sex that has long characterized the genre and still write a gritty, hardcore thriller. Let’s just say, I’ve not heard any complaints—in fact I think the Christian faith of my protagonist adds a great deal of depth to the series, as you see him try to balance the conflicting demands of his faith and his job.

Collette: How long did it take you to complete?

Stephen: Well, that’s a question that takes me back to the early days of my writing. I’ve been writing about the Shadow Warriors for years now—but most of those completed manuscripts have wound up in the virtual dustbin. It wasn’t until I was 17 that I completed a manuscript that I was happy with, and then I had to go back and rewrite the beginning of the series. Pandora’s Grave is the result, and I think it lays a solid foundation for the series.

Collette: Pandora’s Grave was so intricate and intense. Can you describe your research into your subject?
Stephen: For me, the research of a story is almost as fun as the writing itself. For Pandora’s Grave, I did a lot of research into the culture and religion of the Middle East, which included reading the Qur’an and many of the hadiths. And that was only one facet of the story—I spent months researching the CIA, special operations, and the intelligence community. Above all, I trust the story has conveyed my immense respect for the real-life counterparts of my characters—they truly are the only ones standing between this country and another terrorist attack.

Collette: Can you describe your protagonist Harry Nichols in a few sentences? What is he like? What does he want? Goals, strengths, weaknesses, etc.

Stephen: Harry differs from your traditional thriller character in a lot of ways. One of the most profound is probably the fact that he is a team leader, not the classic “lone wolf”. Which means he brings to the table a completely different skill set of leadership abilities—one reviewer compared him to Alistair Maclean’s Keith Mallory from the Guns of Navarone, and I’d say it’s an apt comparison.

He’s profoundly good at what he does, particularly in judging people and knowing the amount of force to use in a given situation. He’s a minimalist—never do more than you have to in order to achieve the desired result. Weaknesses? I think I’ll let the series play out and reveal those—he does have them. One of the core things about Harry is that taking a human life is not something he does lightly, even if he has learned to do it effectively. As he says during the early pages of Day of Reckoning, the sequel to Pandora’s Grave, he walks with the ghosts of every man he’s ever killed. What affect that burden has on him is yet to be seen.

Collette: I did find him very human in the story. So did you have a favorite character to develop? If so, who?

Stephen: Oh, my, that’s a hard one. I love all my characters—and prove it by blowing them up, shooting them, throwing them off buildings, etc. I think one of my favorites—and I know one of yours—would be the character of Harry’s boss, Bernard Kranemeyer. Kranemeyer is such an interesting character in that he’s a former Delta Force sergeant, and he brings a lot of that attitude to his current job as Director of the Clandestine Service. He views it as his responsibility to keep the bureaucrats and politicos of D.C. off the backs of his men in the field, and has few scruples as to how he goes about it. In some ways, Kranemeyer is the reluctant bureaucrat—someone who, despite losing a leg to an IED attack, has never lost those instincts that go with being in the field. I think fans of Kranemeyer in Pandora’s Grave will be delighted to see him return in an even larger role in the sequel.

Collette: Definitely. He was one that I admired tremendously. Are any of your characters based on real-life friends or acquaintances?

Stephen: How about enemies? There’s a few of them in the novel—I always tell people to tread carefully, or they might wind up an Iranian terrorist, a corrupt bureaucrat, or some such villain. None of my characters are taken directly from life, but I certainly draw character traits, personality quirks, dialogue, etc. from just about everyone I’ve ever known. It’s one of the side effects of being a pastor’s son—you become a pretty keen observer of human nature.

Collette: Ha, that's great! Well, do you ever incorporate yourself into your characters?
Stephen: Definitely. I’m particularly invested in Harry—I can probably say that there’s no emotion he feels that I haven’t felt, albeit on a considerably less dramatic scale. I don’t think I could write about it convincingly otherwise.

Collette: Tell me a little about how you were able to balance the different countries, ideologies, characters and military presence throughout the story.

Stephen: Well, despite my emotional attachment to the characters, particularly Harry—I consider my role in the story as that of reporter, in the sense that I don’t so much create the events as simply tell what happens. I work very hard not to editorialize, to keep my own voice and ideology out of the story—which I achieve by honoring the point of view. In other words, when I write a scene—I write it through the eyes and belief system of the central character in that scene. And it doesn’t really matter if that character believes in pink elephants—I write it as if it were true and count on the readers to figure out that the guy’s nuts.

Collette: Your descriptions of the inner workings of the CIA really threw me for a loop. It all seemed like a firsthand account of what really goes on behind the scenes. Can you tell me how you were able to express that so well?

Stephen: Yes, but then I’d have to kill you. . .Seriously, I’ve had people ask if my background was in the intelligence community, if I had to file Freedom of Information Act papers to do my research, etc., but everything I wrote about is public knowledge, supplemented by a few educated guesses on my part, based on the research I’ve done through the years. And yet, since the book has come out, I’ve been told that my portrayal of Langley was spot-on. It’s a good feeling.

One of the things that is so realistic about Pandora’s Grave is that it is a team-based thriller. The “lone wolf” stories truly are a product of fiction—I was told by one former member of the intelligence community that there’s a support team of twenty for every man out in the field. Now, I don’t convey things to that extent—as I told Suspense Magazine, I had to strip away a lot of layers of bureaucracy just to tell my story—but I do convey the essence of reality.
Collette: You did a great job with what you had, Stephen!  

Collette: The tenuous balance between friend and foe was a strong component in Pandora’s Grave. We see it in personal interactions as well as political ones. How close to reality do you think your story is?

Stephen: Closer than I’d like to think, probably. One thing about Pandora’s Grave—while the good guys do win in the end, it’s not always clear who they are. I enjoy painting characters in shades of grey—not in the sense of moral equivalency, but in the sense that every man has his own morality, no matter how twisted. And that creates interesting scenarios when people like Harry find themselves working alongside very unsavory characters toward a “common” goal. Or at least what seemed like one at the time.

Collette: Are you still writing? If so, what will your future projects entail?

Stephen: Well, the Shadow Warriors haven’t seen their last curtain call—not by a long shot. The team from Pandora’s Grave returns for an encore in Day of Reckoning, the second book in the series. A Pakistani terrorist is on U.S. soil with a chemical weapon, and the only man who can stop him is on the run, suspected of involvement in the bombing of the CIA Headquarters Building and the assassination of CIA Director David Lay. With twenty days till Christmas, Harry Nichols finds himself out in the cold. . .and the clock is ticking down toward the most horrific attack ever launched against this country.

Collette: How often do you read?

Stephen: All the time—I don’t read as much fiction now, unfortunately, due to the amount of research I have to sift through for my own writing. But I’ll never stop reading, it’s been a lifelong passion.

Collette: What is your favorite genre to read?
Stephen: Thrillers—surprise, surprise. I read extensively in the genre to keep myself fresh—although I do branch out. I love historical fiction, a genre I dabbled in with my first book Sword of Neamha, a Celtic adventure novel set in pre-Roman Britain—and I do a lot of other reading. My most recent read was the 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged by the Objectivist philosopher Ayn Rand. A truly prophetic foretelling of the world we live in today.

Collette: Do you prefer eBooks, paperbacks or hardcovers?

Stephen: Well, I read in part to get away from the screens in my life, so I definitely prefer my books to be in print. That said, the low cost of e-books has enabled me to familiarize myself with a lot of great authors over the last year, thriller writers like Gary Ponzo, Lili Tufel, and R.E. McDermott. A paperless future? I don’t think so, but the e-book tide is building.

Where can we find you online?
Barnes & Noble:

Collette: Where is Pandora’s Grave available for purchase?

Stephen: It is available at the above links for electronic readers of all varieties, as well as in paperback at

Collette: Do you have a release date for your next book?

Stephen: My hope is to have Day of Reckoning out by late next year, but we’ll see how it goes. No hard and fast release dates, editing can really mess those up.

Collette: Thank you so much, Stephen! What an intense story you have. A great read!!

Stephen: Thanks so much for having me, Collette. It was great talking with you.

Here is my review of Pandora’s Grave:

When I first opened this book, I grew very excited. A thriller lover at heart, I began a ride that kept me belted in my rollercoaster car from the very first page. All the while I kept thinking, oh my goodness, this story is great! Stephen England has written an intense, powerful and exciting thriller that seems so realistic that you feel as though he has seen it with his own eyes and survived it to sit down and tell the tale.

Meet Harry Nichols, a CIA operative, sent all over the world with his team to prevent a terrible attack that could kill millions. His job is not easy. His life is not perfect. Yet his loyalty to his country sees him willing to kill and be killed to save it. While Harry is completing his job, governments, military agencies and other operatives are all working either with him or against him.

England has written a thoroughly researched story that is so vivid and realistic that you will truly believe you are reading a first-hand account. His characters are human, his governments are shallow and tricky webs of lies and personal ambition woven among the brave and stouthearted, and his agencies are a tenuous balance of trust and mistrust. On top of that, Mr. England has also integrated the different ideologies and religious beliefs of the Middle East in such a knowledgeable way that I could not believe how well thought out and brilliantly written this book was. Move over Steve Berry, James Rollins and Lee Child!