Monday, April 20, 2015

SOKY/Southern Kentucky Book Fest 2015 Report



The Southern Kentucky Book Fest was held this past Saturday, and it was spectacular!  The grouping of the authors for the different panels provided great fun and lots of behind-the-scenes information.  Diana Gabaldon had her own panel of one, and it was standing room only, as one might expect, and she was as fabulous as the press promised.  For me this year, I fell into a different pattern than usual, as I spent most of my time in the author and book selling room, talking to different authors at their signing tables.  I missed some panels that I would have liked to attend, but I was richly rewarded with one-on-one conversations with favorite authors.  I was fortunate to do both with my rock star favorite author Jamie Ford, listening to a fascinating panel that included Jamie, Michael Morris, and Paulette Livers, and then I had a personal chat with the amazing Jamie Ford that will go down in the records of all-time favorite author encounters.  I didn't get to talk with Diana Gabaldon or have her sign books for me this time, but I had seen her in Lexington, KY a few years back.  With the line to her table circling out the doors and around the entry hall in loops, I decided to spend my time with some other authors I wanted to meet.  I did pick up Diana's revised Outlandish Companion.  I also didn't get to Terry Brooks, mainly because I'm not a big science fiction fan, but partially because my time to see him and his line didn't gel.  So, the author meeting highlights of SOKY 2015 for me were Jamie Ford, Katherine Howe, Kimberly Willis Holt, Anna Lee Huber, Doreen Cronin, and Michael Morris.  A new author duo,  Carey Corp and Lorie Landgon, with a new fantasy series also caught my attention.  The book room where the authors have their signing tables can be a chaotic place, so it's best to have authors that you really are interested in meeting already chosen and their placement in the room marked on the site map, which I did.

Let me say that meeting Jamie Ford was a huge check on my author meeting wishlist.  His Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet and Songs of Willow Frost were such exhilarating reads.  Jamie takes what we think we know about Japanese Americans and Chinese Americans in the history of our country and shows us just how much more we have to learn.  His books are journeys that we readers are lucky enough to travel with him and his characters. Also, he is just so darn nice, and let me be just as fan crazed as I wanted to be.  He also liked that I had many sticky note tabs throughout his book Willow Frost.  Also, he just sent his latest book to his editor, so I was excited to learn that more Jamie Ford was well into the works.  

Katherine Howe was a complete delight, too.  I had just finished reading Conversion before the book fest, and it was so interesting talking to her about this novel set in modern times with its ties to the past of Salem Village.  Katherine is so knowledgeable about the Salem Witch trials, one of my favorite subjects, and yet, she is not by any means stuck on one subject.  Her House of  Velvet and Glass deals with the Titanic, and her new book coming out in September, The Appearance of Annie van Sinderen, deals with ghosts and mediums.  Katherine is a lovely person, and I was so happy to meet and talk with her.    

Kimberly Willis Holt, well-known children's/YA author and I bonded immediately over children's and YA books, and she made me feel that I was the special one.  I've long been interested in Katherine's When Zachary Beaver Came to Town and The Water Seeker (already had it), and now her latest, Dear Hank Williams, looks warm and wonderful.  Dear Hank Williams, set in 1948, deals with a letter writing assignment from a teacher, in which a girl chooses Hank Williams as her pen pal.   

Author Ann Lee Huber was as effusive as I, which is saying something with my level of excitement and enthusiasm at book events.  Her Lady Darby mystery series is one I just recently read and was seduced by, too.  Of course, the setting for these books in Scotland is one of my favorite places to visit in my reading.  Lady Kiera Darby is ahead of her time, which is the 1830s, and is quite a top notch investigator.  Her next in the series, A Study in Death, comes out in July.

Doreen Cronin was a children's author that I've wanted to meet for some time.  I missed her at the National Book Festival in D.C. some years back when she first came out with Click, Clack Moo: Cows That Type.  Well, on this last Saturday, I finally got my wish, and Doreen was wonderful, so sweet and so enthusiastic.  She now has many more books out, and I gobbled many of them up, including Giggle, Giggle, Quack and Click, Clack, Peep.  Her books may be categorized as children's, but most adults I know would love the quirky, witty appeal of  Doreen's books.  I also bought an early chapter book in her Chicken Squad series.

Just a quick mention, although I'm sure I'll have more to say in the future, of three other authors I met and talked with.  Michael Morris, whose latest novel is Man in the Blue Moon, was such an engaging person, and a friend of Jamie Ford's to boot.  Michael's signing spot was right next to Jamie's, and the two of them together were a load of fun.  I came across the writing team of Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon, authors of a new young adult/teen series entitled Doon.  Well, with it being set in Scotland, I was sold, and they were both dressed in appropriate Scottish attire.   

While my cell phone camera wasn't being the most cooperative on Saturday, I did manage to get a few decent pictures that I will share with readers here. Some that I had someone else take were just too blurry to use.  I will do some work on that for my next book festival. 


  





 




Friday, April 17, 2015

Author Spotlight: Interview with Jen J. Danna





As promised in my last post, I am following up the series focus on Jen J. Danna's Abbott and Lowell series with an interview in which Jen gives readers some fascinating background about the series' inception and progression, as well as a glimpse into a news series she and Ann are working on.  Reading this interview will convince readers of what I've long suspected, that Jen Danna is a Superwoman!



Me:  Jen, you’re a research scientist living in Canada, and Ann is a scientist living in Texas.  How did you arrive at the location of Massachusetts for your main characters and setting?

Jen:  Ann was pretty flexible about where we set the series. We were looking for a place that wasn’t overdone and limiting like New York City and where the State cops had jurisdiction that included homicide cases. I’ve loved New England since I was a teenager, and have visited Boston and Salem on multiple occasions, so I suggested Massachusetts.  




  
Me:  At the beginning of each chapter, you give a definition/explanation for a term relating to the field of expertise with which the book is dealing.  I quite like it, as it gives focus to the chapter for me and explains unfamiliar jargon.  Did you plan on doing this feature from the beginning, or did you find it necessary with all of the jargon being thrown around?

Jen:  We planned on it from the beginning. Ann is the theme/chapter title wizard, and spends quite a lot of time finding just the right title and definition to go with the theme for each chapter. More often than not, she also finds our novel titles, which tend to be complex and meaningful to the storyline.






Me:  How do you and Ann divide up the research and writing of these remarkably detailed stories?  How did the two of you meet?

Jen:   We split the research at the beginning although I often tend to do a lot of it on the fly as I’m writing. But she’s always willing to jump in if I send out a research request. She’ll do the legwork and get the answer back to me so I don’t have to stop writing. As far as the writing goes, I do 100% of the drafting, but she has a much heavier hand when it comes to the editing.
We met years ago on the internet. It’s kind of a funny story as I’m a gun control loving Canadian and Ann’s from Texas, where they love their guns. I was posting some writing for fun on-line and I made an idiotic mistake with a gun. She corrected me and that started our discussion about writing.

 


Me:   As with most authors, especially newer ones, there is the business side of writing your novels that includes book tours, conventions, signings.  Do you enjoy this side of being an author, too?  What are some of your favorite events?

Jen:  Author events are definitely the joy of the business (heavens knows it’s not trying to yank the first draft out of my head!). It’s a thrill to meet readers that love what you do and discuss the characters that have lived inside your head for so long. Bouchercon stands as one of my favorite events because you not only get to meet authors within the genre, but because it’s a fan conference and so many hard-core readers come out. I met many amazing readers (including you!) there.



Me:  How did you become interested in forensic anthropology?  Is it related in any way to your work as a research scientist?

Jen:   It’s completely unrelated, which is why I find it so interesting. I love my job in infectious diseases, but if I wrote about that, it would be like I never left the lab and I’m sure my interest would wane. Writing about forensic anthropology and forensics lets me stretch my scientific brain into a new and fascinating field. I’ve always loved forensics in storytelling, right from the time the original CSI started, but errors and shortcuts in the science of these stories eventually drove me crazy to the extent that I finally had to try my own hand at it.



Me:  When do you find time to research and to write, with having a full-time job?

Jen:  I pretty much work all the time. Before work, during my lunch break, after work, after dinner. People who say they don’t have time to write simply aren’t making it a priority and aren’t making the time for it. I have a husband and two daughters and a full time job to support the family, but I make the time to write around all that. Although, I admit, sleep is pretty far down the list as far as priorities go. There are only so many hours in the day!




Me: I know your daughters traveled with you to Salem, MA on research there.  Did they get involved with the research? 

Jen:  They traveled with me to both Salem and Springfield when I was doing research for A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH and LAMENT THE COMMON BONES, respectively. My eldest, a photographer, was a huge help taking all the photos I needed. My youngest, who is a science geek like me, was fascinated with the tour of the forensic anthropology lab at Boston University and the Massachusetts State Police crime lab in Springfield. And together we climbed all 1100 feet of Mount Norwottuck so I could convincingly write the climactic scene of LAMENT THE COMMON BONES. They are awesome travel companions and great sports. If I’m lucky enough to get to Washington D.C. sometime this summer for research for our FBI K-9 mystery, LONE WOLF, they’re definitely coming with me.



Me:  And, speaking of your research, I found the Prohibition era and the existence of speakeasies fascinating in Two Parts Bloody Murder.  What specific research did you do for this book?

Jen:   I did a lot of reading on the time period, both general history and history specific to Prohibition. And while the Boston and New England mobs were not as well-known as Capone’s Chicago mob, I did quite a lot of research around that as well. I’m lucky to work at a university so I have access to a number of excellent libraries. That’s where a lot of my information came from.




Me:  As a member of your “street team” that has the privilege of  reading your novels before they are published for the public, in what ways are you finding this component of your publicity helpful?

Jen:  Absolutely. Street team members are essential for helping get positive buzz going for a book ahead of time, either through leaving reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, using their own social media channels, or by talking to libraries and indie bookstores in their areas. In this day and age where word of mouth is the most important component of book publicity, dedicated readers who love what you do and are willing to talk you up are essential to an author’s success. There are a lot of us out there, so street teams are a huge boon in increasing discoverability.



Me:  You seem to be quite productive in your writing with the fourth Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mystery having just come out the end of February.  How much ahead are you in your conception of subsequent novels ?  One novel, two, three more?

Jen:   The next novel in the series, book five, LAMENT THE COMMON BONES, is now complete and submitted to Five Star Publishing. We’re looking at a 2016 release date there. We have books six and seven roughly planned out already, and some strong potential ideas for book eight. And even that is not the end of the series. At this point it’s open ended, as long as we can continue to concoct interesting cases and have places to advance our characters personally.






Me:   With your exciting announcement recently of another series with Ann, where does the Abbott and Lowell series figure into your focus? 

Jen:   It’s still an important part of our writing career. Yes, we know have commitments to a second series and have to stick to those yearly deadlines for the completion of those novels, but we’ll be writing the next Abbott and Lowell during this time period as well. There may be a bit of a gap between books five and six, as we will need to write the first two K-9 books before we can take the time to write our next Abbott and Lowell, but I’m hoping the gap won’t be too long. I’m very conscious of losing momentum in the series so I’m going to do my best to juggle both series at the same time.




Me:   Can you tell us a bit more about your new series?
  
Jen:  The FBI K-9 Mysteries star Meg Jennings and her black lab. They are search and rescue experts, looking for the lost and injured, but unfortunately are sometimes called in to use their skills to find the dead. In LONE WOLF, they are dispatched when a bomber starts targeting public buildings along the eastern seaboard, starting in Washington D.C., and search and rescue is required to find both the survivors and the dead. As the death toll mounts, Meg and the team join the task force involved in tracking the killer, and will have to move fast if they hope to stop him before more innocent lives are lost.



Me:   Is there anything not in your bio that you’d like to share?  A little something about a passion outside of writing and your “day” job? 

Jen:  I come from a very musical family. In fact, both my brothers are professional musicians who write scores for both film and TV. I used to play piano (still dabble when I have time… which is rarely) and oboe, but I still keep my hand in musically by singing in a choir.



Me:   Do you get any time for pleasure reading?  What is the current book you’re reading, or the last one you read?

Jen:   I’m between books right now, but I do ‘read’ as long as you consider audiobooks to be reading (and I do). I rarely have time to sit down and read a book (unless I’m proofing one of my own), but I love to listen to audiobooks while I’m driving to work, doing dishes, or cooking dinner. I just recently finished Robert Crais’ SUSPECT, the story of an L.A. police officer, who suffers from PTSD following a shootout that resulted in the death of his partner. He is paired with a K-9 German Shepherd who also suffers from PTSD following an IED attack in Afghanistan. I enjoyed the book and it also helped get me into the K-9 headspace as I’m switching from one series to the other.
Thanks so much for hosting me on the blog today!  


Thanks to Jen for a great interview with such complete and interesting answers!