The Seeds of an Idea

Writers are often asked, “where do you get your ideas?” I think for most writers, this is a perplexing question; for us, the answer most often seems to be “everywhere!” There are story ideas in nearly every interaction we have, such as while sitting at the coffee shop, driving down the road, traveling through an airport, listening to unhappy colleagues at work. There are ideas that arrive when we are sitting at the food court in the mall, people-watching (it’s not really spying, right?). We watch and read the news, we listen to our friends and loved ones, and so on. In fact, I would argue that it’s hard not to have ideas. Instead, it’s hard to find the time to write all the stories!

Recently, I traveled to Mexico for a family wedding. Several events occurred that had my creative juices flowing:

  • I became violently ill, to the point where we requested a physician visit my hotel room. As she arrived, I sent my family off to the wedding; there was no sense in everyone missing it. The physician determined that I needed to be taken to a local emergency room for tests. She put me in a taxi with a letter, and off I went. I should mention, our cell phones did not work while we were there (no international plan) and the hotel had no wi-fi. So, my family had no idea where I was going or when I would be back; they didn’t even know I was gone! And I don’t speak Spanish. What if. . .I disappeared? The taxi driver took me somewhere other than the ER? What if I returned to the hotel to find my room assigned to someone else, and no one remembered me?
  • Another wedding attendee was the only rider on the hotel shuttle to/from the airport. During the trip, the shuttle driver pulled into a parking lot, opened the door, accepted a wad of cash from someone outside the shuttle, and then continued driving. What if. . .this was some sinister deal going down, and the wedding attendee was the only witness? What if the shuttle driver had left the shuttle at that point, leaving his passenger on his own? What if another person hijacked the shuttle?
  • Upon returning to our home airport, we had a long wait for luggage. Of course, everyone wants to get theirs as quickly as possible, so soon people waiting were piled three deep–to the point no one could possibly pull their luggage off the baggage carousel! I was tired, and frustrated, and found myself getting angry. What if. . .someone waiting for their luggage got really angry? What if a few waiting patrons suddenly became ill (perhaps a surreptitious administration of meds via syringe)?

Sometimes, we have a great idea, and we begin writing, and. . .it just doesn’t work. The characters are quiet–or worse, arguing with us!–the setting is bland, and well, you’re ready to give up. But then, you start asking that magic question again. What if?

I recently finished a short thriller and submitted it to an anthology contest. I won’t share too much here because I’m waiting to hear if it was accepted, but I started with an idea based on a true, local story. It would be a revenge piece, a full-length novel with lots of sneaking and surprising. I had some great scenes, a few pieces of dialogue I loved, but the story just. wouldn’t. move. forward. Argh! But then, I decided to make it a short story. That meant some serious changes to the pacing. I threw in a paranormal element that felt sharp to me. The change to a short story also gave me some room to leave a few bits less developed. Suddenly, the story–the whole thing–was in my head, ready to go. (I love it when that happens!) So, the original idea is only barely recognizable, but the kernel of it is still part of the finished piece. However, the final story is completely different than the one I had planned!

So, it’s Spring and thus the time for new beginnings. I’m watching for new ideas, new stories, and I can’t wait to see what I write next!

 

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Interview: Sarah Lotz

Please welcome Sarah Lotz, author of The Three and other works.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?Lotz_The Three
Ideally, it would be one in which nothing horrible happens to anyone, but as this is impossible, I guess it would be one where I’ve just got my hands on a new Stephen King novel, I don’t have to get out of my PJs and the coffee is plentiful, hot and strong.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
I stole RuPaul’s catch-phrase, ‘Don’t f**k it up’ years ago as it’s just as pertinent to writers as it is to drag queens. It’s scrawled on the wall of my attic writing room. Sadly I haven’t always been able to follow this advice.

Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
Writing-wise, it would be Roald Dahl, Philip K Dick and Stephen King. I grew up reading their novels and short stories. They’re all masterful story-tellers, and I’m a believer in story being pretty much everything.

Do you listen to music when you write?
Sadly no. I wish I could, but if I do, I tend to drift off and start daydreaming that I’m Beyoncé.

 If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
This is such a great (and wacky) question! I’ve had to phone a friend on this one, and we’ve decided it’s probably one of those chocolate bars with popping candy inside it. Not to everyone’s taste, sure, but (hopefully) fun to eat.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
I’m flight phobic, and tend to write about what scares me, so I decided to tackle the issue head on. As I chose to open the book with a series of unthinkable events – four commercial airline disasters which occur on the same day – I had to do a huge amount of in-depth research into plane crashes, NTSB investigations and the effects such tragedies have on the family members left behind. It was quite emotionally scarring.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing? 
My admittedly ridiculous fear of shopping malls and mannequins features quite a lot (!), but the latest novel looks at how the fallout of a major tragedy can impact on society and potentially change the course of global events. I’m fascinated with the concept of the unreliable narrator and how the media and conspiricists spin tragedy (as seen recently in the aftermath of the Malaysian Airlines disaster). I also wanted to touch on how the individuals who either survive trauma or who have lost loved ones cope under the relentless glare of media scrutiny.

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today? 
Elspeth Martins is a journalist who makes a living writing sensationalist click-bait articles and non-fiction books about hot-button topics. She has no clue that the latest book she’s compiled (which forms the book-within-a-book concept in The Three) will have far-reaching and potentially devastating consequences. She’s driven by ambition, but despite not thinking through her actions, she’s not entirely selfish. Like most of us, she only learns from her mistakes when it’s too late.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
I picture her looking a little bit like Naomi Watts, with the ambition of Lady Gaga and – at the outset of the novel at least – the conscience of Donald Trump.

If you could host an author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
I’m a terrible cook, but if the following writers don’t mind pizza, then we’re good to go: Stephen King, Jane Austen, Elmore Leonard, Iain Banks, Beryl Bainbridge and Philip K Dick would be top of my dream dinner party list. I’d like to thank them all for writing novels that made my childhood weird and/or wonderful, and as they’re all (or were all) incredibly witty, it would mean I could sit back, drink wine and listen to them talk without having to say a word. I’d love to eavesdrop on a Jane Austen and PKD conversation. That would be weird.

What’s next for you?
As I’m writing this at 3 am, probably a nap. Lame attempts at humour aside, I’m currently finishing up the rewrites on my next solo novel Day 4. It’s going to be a crazy year. I’ll be writing the next S.L Grey book with my collaborator Louis Greenberg, and the third book in the YA zombie series, Deadlands, that I co-write with my daughter, Savannah, is about to be released in the U.K.

***

Sarah Lotz is a screenwriter and novelist with a fondness for the macabre and fake names. Among other things, she writes urban horror novels under the name S.L. Grey with author Louis Greenberg; a YA pulp-fiction zombie series, Deadlands, with her daughter, Savannah, under the pseudonym Lily Herne; and quirky erotica novels with authors Helen Moffett and Paige Nick under the name Helena S. Paige.

Her latest solo novel, The Three, will be published in the U.K by Hodder in May 2014 and by Little, Brown in the U.S. She lives in Cape Town with her family and other animals.

Website: http://sarahlotz.com

Twitter: @SarahLotz1

Interview: Amy Carol Reeves

Please welcome Amy Carol Reeves, author of the Ripper series.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?Resurrection (1)

I’m an introvert so a perfect day is always a quiet day; seeing or learning about something new. I love traveling with my husband sans children—whether it’s overseas or just a few hours away to Charleston.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?

I really love quotes. I have several memorized. On really bad days—like those chilly, rainy Mondays when I have thirty papers to grade, fifty e-mails to answers, and proof edits on my desk—my catch-phrase is Dorothy Parker’s bitter quip, “What fresh hell is this?” On good days, when everything is going my way, and I have fun and challenging tasks ahead of me—teaching Jane Eyre in a Brit lit course, diving into writing the draft of a novel I’m really excited about—I keep an Amelia Earhart or Eleanor Roosevelt quote in my head. One of my favorite Roosevelt quotes is: “A woman is like a teabag—you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.”

Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.

Hands down Charlotte Brontё. I think I never would have discovered my love of reading and writing if she hadn’t sucked me into her windswept moor world and made me fall in love with that darkly handsome and tortured Mr. Rochester. As a teenager I fell hard for him and have never recovered. Also, my creative writing professor in college, Dr. Del Doughty inspired me. After reading my portfolio for his class, he encouraged me to be a writer. Finally, Dr. Dinah Johnson, a picture book author, children’s literature professor, and friend of mine, inspired me during graduate school to focus on young adult literature. As one of my dissertation committee members, she gave me lists and lists of young adult books to read and provided helpful feedback for some of my earliest stories.

Do you listen to music when you write?

Not when I write. Usually, I need near-silence to focus on writing. However, when writers block hits or I have a snag in my storyline, I go on a long jog to the Rolling Stones or Abba. (Don’t judge me.)

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?

My latest book, Resurrection, would be bittersweet. It’s the final book in the Ripper series, following Ripper, and Renegade. As a writer, it was a satisfying finish to the series—Abbie has her final showdown with the Ripper, she decides for good which man she loves, and she comes to grip with many of the mysteries of her past, particular her mother’s secrets and her mother’s perplexing relationship with the Ripper. However, some scenes were almost too emotionally difficult for me to write—a main character dies. I was particularly attached to this character and literally cried on my first drafting of the scene. Also, I know how deeply Abbie cares about this character, and although my last scene is relatively happy (and yes, it does involve kissing in the rain), as an author, I know that Abbie will be forever changed by losing this person. It’s a scar that she will always carry.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?

I have a PhD in nineteenth-century British literature, and I was always fascinated with the Jack the Ripper story. After a trip to London in graduate school, where I went on the Jack the Ripper tour, I began researching the case. It wasn’t until later, that I decided to write a young adult mystery based on the murders.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?

Many of my works have gothic elements. I like gothic inspired settings—the Conclave’s sprawling London house, the lamia’s lair, subterranean ruins, and cemeteries. I like these elements because they agitate primitive or subconscious fears in my main characters. Apart from the surface mystery, I’m always intrigued by what “haunts” at an interior level my main characters. For instance, Abbie is trying to solve the Jack the Ripper murders and to stop the Conclave’s freakish experiments. But this plotline intertwines with her own frustrations about not really knowing her mother’s character and never knowing her biological father. All of this complicates her relationship with the Ripper as he, she suspects, knew her artistic bohemian mother in ways that neither she nor her Grandmother ever did. These frustrations propel her both in rage toward the Ripper, as well as odd, occasional moments where she feels connected to him.

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?

Abbie had a very unusual childhood, moving around frequently while her mother worked as a governess. Her longest stay occurred in Dublin where she was allowed to play with local working class children. One of her best friends taught her fighting and knife-throwing, which obviously came in handy later. Because of this hardscrabble background, Abbie doesn’t fit in so well when after her mother’s death she moves to Kensington with her Grandmother. I think never quite fitting in, always being a little on the outskirts, serves Abbie well as she doesn’t care much about social proprieties; I feel like this leads to the “risk taking” in her nature.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.

  1. Abbie Sharp definitely has a lot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in her. She’s fearless, stupidly fearless at times. She likes weapons, particularly bowie knives. Oh, and Simon is her Giles, giving her background information and advice, and Abbie’s always like, “Enough already! When can we fight?”
  2. Abbie has a lot of Winston Churchill in her, particularly that “never, never give up” mentality. When the odds seemed completely stacked against her, she’s always fighting for a way out.
  3. A fighting suffragist like Susan B. Anthony, Amelia Bloomer, or Emmeline Pankhurst. She’s willing to buck against authority to stand for what she believes to be right. Also she’s likes to wear pants before any big fight—whether it’s with a lamia, drooling revenants, or the Ripper.

If you could host an author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?

1)    Definitely, Charlotte Brontё. Particularly, because I feel as if we would get along. She lived a (mostly) normal and proper life as I have, and yet through her writing she lets her mind explore her emotional landscapes, darker thoughts, skepticism, and questions. Like what if one falls in love with a brooding gorgeous man who (damn it!) has an insane wife locked in his attic. Hmmm….

2)    Jane Austen would be a MUST as a party guest. After a couple spruce beers, her snark would be at its best.

3)    The Marquis de Sade—because every party needs a bit of perversity.

4)    My friend, werewolf/mystery writer, Jamie Ridenhour, because he’s just such a great friend, and I know he really doesn’t like Charlotte Brontё so it would be funny to see him verbally spar with her.

5)    Agatha Christie. It’s a silly thought, but I feel as if her presence would summon a murder mystery.

6)    Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, because I’d like to see him try to solve a murder mystery as brilliantly as Sherlock. For some reason, I think it would be very funny and bumbling.

What’s next for you?

I’m working on a couple different projects right now. I always keep going back to historical fiction, so I’ll probably start diving into another one at some point soon. Right now I’m doing a lot of reading, particularly nonfiction books about the eras in which I’m interested in writing.

***

Amy Carol Reeves is a Hoosier by birth, a South Carolinian by marriage, and a Victorian governess in her imagination. She has a PhD in nineteenth-century British literature and published academic articles before deciding that it would be much more fun to write novels about Jack the Ripper. When she is not writing or teaching college classes at Columbia College, she enjoys running around her neighborhood with her giant Labrador retriever and serial reading Jane Austen novels. She lives in Columbia, South Carolina with her husband and two children.

Website: amycarolreeves.com

Twitter: @AmyCarolReeves

Interview: Warren Bull

Please welcome Warren Bull, author of Heartland and other works.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
A perfect day would be a crisp October day so clear that the colors of the leafs look freshly painted. I would spend the day with family and friends eating, drinking, singing and celebrating each otherHeartland.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
Yes. I like to dress in period clothing when I do readings. My favorite story to read is a Runyonesque tale named The Wrong Man. I wear a pinstriped suit, a navy shirt with a white tie and a fedora. I look like I’m about to sing “Luck Be a Lady.”

Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
Mark Twain, Abraham Lincoln and Ray Bradbury.

Do you listen to music when you write?
Only in my head.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Killer Eulogy and Other Stories would be dark chocolate, 90% cocoa, because it is a noir fiction anthology.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
After I write several funny or uplifting stories I find that writing noir “cleanses my palate” as a writer. Then I can be optimistic again in my work.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
I regularly write about making choices and the consequences that result. I like to write about subcultures that relatively few writers depict such as inner city residents.

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he
is today?
My anthology has a different main character in each story. In my most recent novel, Heartland, the main character is an adolescent who has to learn to deal with his father’s abandonment, his grandmother’s recent stroke and the issues of forming a stepfamily.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Huck Finn, Oliver and Kim.

If you could host an author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d
include?
Abrahan Lincoln (for his wonderful mastery of American English), Mark Twain, Anton Chekhov, Carolyn Hart, Agatha Christie and the author of the biblical book of Luke.

What’s next for you?
I really don’t know. I have a novel into a publisher who I’ve worked with before. I’m currently working on a novel involving more fantasy than my other works. Part of the writing life is not knowing for certain what is coming next.

****

Warren Bull has won a number of awards including Best Short Story of 2006 from the Missouri Writers’ Guild, The Mysterious Photo Contest in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. His mystery short story collection MURDER MANHATTAN STYLE and his noir short story compilation KILLER EULOGY AND OTHER STORIES are available on Untreed Reads. His novels ABRAHAN LINCOLN FOR THE DEFENSE, ABRAHAM LINCOLN: DEATH IN THE MOONLIGHT and HOMELAND are available on Amazon. Warren is a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime and an active member of Mystery Writers of America. He blogs every Friday at http://writerswhokill.blogspot.com/.  For more information, please visit his website at http://www.WarrenBull.com.

Interview: Sharon Arthur Moore

Please welcome Sharon Arthur Moore, author of Mission Impastable.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
A perfect day begins with meeting my writing target early so I can spend the rest of the day reading, cooking, and planning the next story! Not that that happens ever. If I do meet the target early, that means I am in the zone and I keep going!FC - Mission Impastable

I do love the planning/conceptualization stage of writing more than the necessary edits. Beginnings attract me. Bright and shiny new objects draw me in! I’m sort of distractable like my protag Alli in Mission Impastable. A perfect day would include starting a new project.

In my perfect day, I would learn several new things because I value knowledge over most things.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
I love to wear lemon fragrances (My fave is Ecco’s “Lemon Verbena”) and various shades of turquoise. I also am known for saying, “Life is too short to wear boring earrings.” I’m also known for saying, “So many reds, so little time,” in relation to my hair color.

Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
James Congrove (RIP) was my favorite high school teacher who introduced me to a love of history and research I pursue to this day. John Kennedy challenged me to make the world a better place because I walked here. Diane Mott Davidson wrote the first culinary mystery I read (though she didn’t write the very first one ever), and I had a light bulb go off that I could combine my love of mysteries with cooking!

Do you listen to music when you write?
I don’t usually listen to music while I write, but sometimes I’ll play something ominous or fast-paced to set the mood for a scene. Occasionally I play something classical (maybe Simone Dinnerstein’s Bach’s Goldberg Variations). Music is, frankly, wasted on me. When I am writing, I am in the zone and hear nothing but my characters. If I am hearing the music, I’m likely not deep enough in the story.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Mission Impastable would be the darkest bittersweet chocolate available. There are incidents in the story and that pre-date the story that explain much of Alli’s insecurity and that unearth painful times. Her search for what makes a family (both the bitter and the sweet) threads throughout the book and subsequent ones.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
Well, Diane Mott Davidson and so many other culinary mystery writers that I read inspired me to try this sub-genre of cozy mysteries. But in particular, Alli is a character who tugged at me. In early drafts, she and Gina were co-protagonists. That arrangement was not only awkward (imagine the POV problems), but All was clearly who I favored so she got the good scenes! It became obvious that she was the more interesting character with lots of back story issues to be revealed over the course of the series. Any time I can bring cooking into a story, I’m happy. I wanted Mission Impastable to have lots of good and easy pasta recipes for Alli to share.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
Betrayal of trust is a huge issue in several of my books. Trust is a fundamental requirement for a healthy relationship. When the trust is breached the implications for communication and communion are huge. What does it take to re-build trust? My protag Alli is still struggling with one such betrayal into the sequel, Prime Rib and Punishment. Will she finally cut someone loose or will she forgive and try to forget?

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
We learn early on in Mission Impastable that Alli’s family disappeared one day while she was in high school leaving her to fend on her own. She was unofficially adopted into Gina’s family, her best friend since 2nd grade. Maria, Gina’s mother, views Alli as a daughter, and she provides the security Alli is always seeking. Her lack of trust of permanence causes her to have trouble maintaining a lasting romantic relationship. Alli is a somewhat undisciplined cooking talent. She barely finished high school, even though exceptionally bright, and feels inferior to many around her which manifests itself as bravado and derring-do.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Alli has been described by some as the madcap, impulsive Lucille Ball. I’d throw in some Julia Child, with her passion for cooking and slapdash kitchen ways, and the curiosity and native intelligence of Miss Marple.

If you could host an author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Of course, Diane Mott Davidson would be there! I would balance the rest of the dinner with authors from a variety of genres. Geraldine Brooks must be fascinating dinner conversationalist with all that research she’s done. Since I love medical thrillers and science fiction, I would include Michael Crichton’s ghost and Kim Stanley Robinson. And wouldn’t it be fun to chat the evening away with Toni Morrison and Jodi Picoult? That range of genres should make for a fascinating bunch of topics!

What’s next for you?
I am finishing up Prime Rib and Punishment for a planned late fall release from Oak Tree Press. Alli and Gina supplement their personal chef pay with jobs as part-time instructors at a culinary school where the head chef hates them. Unfortunately, he ends up dead, and the police look to Alli as a prime suspect. I have the next three books after that outlined, so in the next year and a half I plan on completing Potluck, Cooks in the Can and Ancient Grease.

***
After 39 years as an educator, Sharon Arthur Moore “transitioned” to the life of full-time fiction writer. She’s an intrepid cook, game-player, and miniatures lover. She writes culinary mysteries, women’s fiction, historical fiction, short stories, plays, and erotic romance (Under the pen name Angelica French). Sharon has lived in every region of the country except the Pacific Northwest and loved every single one of them. Her current favorite region is the desert Southwest. She is married to the most extraordinary man and claims four children, one daughter-in-law, a grandson, and lab rescue dog Maudie.

You can purchase a Kindle or paperback copy of Mission Impastable at http://amzn.to/1sIlIqz

You can follow Sharon Arthur Moore on:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sharon-Arthur-Moore-Fan-Page/178609722159624?ref=hl

Twitter: @good2tweat

Blog:“Parsley, Sage, and Rosemary Time” http://www.sharonarthurmoore.blogspot.com

Blog: “Write Away” www:samwriteaway.blogspot.com

Interview: Mary Reed and Eric Mayer

Please welcome Mary Reed and Eric Mayer, co-authors of the Lord Chamberlain Byzantine mysteries; Ten for Dying is the latest.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?

MR: A day Ten for Dyingwithout chores but featuring a fresh pot of coffee and something interesting to read. And let it be a late autumn day, please!

EM: I agree with Mary, but make it a day in early spring.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?

MR: For me? “This is Liberty Hall”, “Lurching from crisis to crisis” (a hat tip to JAB, from whom I pinched the phrase years ago), and “Is it time to catch the bus to Panic City yet?” immediately spring to mind.

EM: That’s a tough one. Signature accessory? I don’t even carry a purse. Hopefully my characters are more colorful than I am.

Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.

MR: M. R. James (pause for obligatory declaration that MRJ roolz), Ray Bradbury, and Charles Dickens. Quite a varied bunch, but then so is my
reading!

EM: Only two stand out: Mike Ashley who purchased our first joint story and Barbara Peters who bought our first novel. There’s nothing more inspirational than knowing someone likes your work enough to publish it.

Do you listen to music when you write?

MR: No, but I sing a lot around the house.

EM: No. I prefer the sounds of silence.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?

MR: Dark chocolate. Because our latest novel is very dark and a little bitter in a subtle sort of way.

EM: Some kind of chocolate with nuts in it, because we always have a few wacky eccentrics in our casts of characters. In Ten for Dying there’s a fellow everyone can hear coming because he jingles. You’ll have to read it….

What made you interested in writing this particular story?

MR: It’s a continuation of the story arc developing in the previous book, and picks up where it concluded — although I hasten to add all the novels in the series contain a stand-alone investigation.

EM: The first seven books take place early in Emperor Justinian’s reign, starting in 525. According to most accounts Empress Theodora was a powerful figure who exerted considerable influence on her husband during this period. In our series she is John’s most powerful antagonist. She died in 548, seventeen years before Justinian. We wanted to explore how John fared in the very different environment left by her passing.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?

MR: That’s a difficult question. Perhaps one of the most pervasive is that justice is not always possible but it also sometimes comes in strange and unexpected disguises.

EM: As with most detective fiction our books are concerned with the search for justice, and the fact that society and the powers-that-be can make it difficult to come by. Ironically since John is a high ranking official, Lord Chamberlain to Emperor Justinian, his ability to mete out justice is seldom aided by his official position.

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?

EM: I’m a bit uncomfortable trying to answer that. It’s a question no one would have asked John or any of his acquaintances because the sixth century was long before the days of psychology, psychiatry, and the literary vogue for probing character. Is it fair to psychoanalyze a man who lived a millennium and a half before Sigmund Freud was born? John, I am sure, would never have imagined a kalamos to be anything other than a reed pen.

It seems almost an anachronism to explain a character’s actions in a way they would never have understood them. What motivates John for the most part is his sense of duty as a Mithran. Mithraism was a soldier’s religion and placed great emphasis on duty. So John acts in accordance with what he feels is his duty towards his friends and in furtherance of justice. He would find any speculation about obscure motivations derived from his past to be of no importance.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.

EM: Sherlock Homes and Batman/Bruce Wayne.

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six
writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?

MR: As guests I would pick the three writers I mentioned above plus Agatha Christie, Herodotus, and Stephen King. An eclectic mix to be sure, but certain to provide lively discussions and anecdotes!

EM: John D. MacDonald, Graham Greene, Mickey Spillane, Agatha Christie, Georges Simenon, Mary Reed.

What’s next for you?

MR: That’s a good question. We’ll have to let you know when we do! Some ideas are being tossed back and forth but as yet we’ve not had a “basket”.

***

Mary and Eric co-write the Lord Chamberlain Byzantine mysteries, set in and around sixth century Constantinople. Ten For Dying, their protagonist’s latest adventure, was published by Poisoned Pen Press in March 2014.

Website:         http://home.earthlink.net/~maywrite/
Eric’s blog:     http://www.journalscape.com/ericmayer
Mary’s blog:     On 18th of each month on the Poisoned Pen Press blog at
http://www.poisonedpenpress.com/category/news-and-blog/
Twitter:         Mary @marymaywrite and Eric @groggytales

The Blacklist: Why I Love Reddington

Raymond Reddington is my new favorite spy. On the first episode of NBC’s new show The Blacklist, Reddington surrenders himself to the FBI by going into the lobby, taking off his jacket, getting down on his knees (on the seal no less), putting his hands up, and announcing who he is: a criminal on the ten most wanted list, a former government spy turned bad, now turned good. Maybe.

It’s obvious from the first that Reddington has his own agenda. He’s not going to be put in jail. He has his own most wanted list. He will help the FBI catch them, but will work only with newly minted agent Elizabeth Keen.

Who is probably his daughter. Who is married to undercover agent, Tom Keen. Who married her to get to Reddington, we think. Who tells Elizabeth when he’s caught, “You were my job.”

Reddington is quirky. He runs an effective, diverse team of experts and spies. He’s connected to every underworld and terrorist figure worth knowing, it seems. He kills people who betrayed him without blinking an eye. He doesn’t flinch at the most horrendous torture or abuse of people. Yet he has remained human. Loveably, amusingly human.

Reddington delights in life. In the middle of torturing the man who’s pretended to be Tom Keen’s brother, Reddington takes a break to watch his favorite Marx’s brothers stunt on television while he enjoys room service. In the latest episode while his associate copies a book with a secret inscription, Reddington reminisces about a time a man in Pagosa Springs (a hot springs town in Colorado I love) fixed his water pump when it blew out on the mountain. His joy seems real, not a ploy to unnerve his victim.

When one of the FBI agent loses the love of his life, Reddington warns him not to take the path he himself took—revenge. It will not bring you the satisfaction you think it will, he says, and it leads down unexpected waysides that are impossible to turn back from. At the end of the episode, he sends the agent a note that beautifully describes how grief works. He tells him that every day when he wakes up it will be the first thing he thinks about, that one day in the far future, it will be the second thing. Then he goes on to explain how he will heal enough to live again, but he will never be the same.

I love Reddington because he has seen the worst. He became corrupt. Reddington burned out. He got beyond disillusioned. He was more than inconsolable. But he didn’t stay in any of these places. He came out the other side.

Reddington has accepted the world as it is. Corrupt, violent, cruel, unfair, mean. He has accepted the world as it is. Beautiful, wonderful, surprising, miraculous, extraordinary. He goes about his business with a Buddha-like detachment, but a deadly efficiency. He has no causes left—except perhaps to return and be the father he could not be before, to guide Elizabeth through the horrific, marvelous world he helped bring her into. As he ruthlessly hunts down killer after criminal after terrorist, he always stops to smell the roses, enjoy a sandwich, and tell a very quirky story.