Occupational Hazards

Occupational HazardsGeoff Sturtevant has been driving a truck and voraciously consuming audiobooks for 16 years. He won the 2018 ABR LISTENERS CHOICE AWARD for best humor entry for his audiobook production of Occupational Hazards: The Blue-Collar Omnibus. He writes about the absurd, the macabre, and the general strangeness of the human experience. The book is quite amusing, and different. There’s something for everyone: mystery, suspense, satire, scifi, you name it. He’s the James Patterson of humor: inventive, offbeat, and able to dole out even gallows humor effects in ever rising insight. The opening story is sheer redneck fun, told with a believable accent on audio. He also narrates some of the stories. A brief interview below. 

Geoff Sturtevant

Q) How did you start writing?

A) I started writing mostly to make my mom laugh. I’d spend two or three weeks writing a novelette just to invite her over, hand her a manuscript, and just sit in the other room listening to her laugh. There’s something about making a 70 year-old lady laugh at what she’s probably not supposed to laugh at that’s very gratifying. Craft is more important to me than being funny, but I love getting laughs most of all. 

Q) Why this book, and why multiple narrators on the audio version?

A) I put together Occupational Hazards with the audiobook specifically in mind. I’m a huge audiobook fan, and I reached out to a bunch of my personal favorite narrators to help me produce it. The response has been positive, and the narrators had a lot to do with that.

Q) Views on morality, which arise in your writing. God given or human choice?

A) I think morality is both God-given and based on choices. New cultural values are embraced, and God-given morals are ignored. People are complicated creatures, and no one reason is responsible for anyone’s particular values. Both of my daughters, for example, decided as soon as they understood meat came from animals, that they didn’t want to eat meat. It still surprises me that this seemed to be their default moral choice. Maybe they’ll un-learn this one, maybe not. I do hope to teach them other ones I consider valuable, but society is steadily forgetting. 

Q) Funny you should mention meat. I’ve interviewed authors on both sides of that issue, too. Meatonomics versus The Big Fat Surprise. Been trying to reach Dr. Preston Estep at Harvard, who takes another view in The Mindspan Diet, showing that iron in meat and supplemental iron added to flours in America cause Alzheimers in over age 50 adults. I forget who the other one I interviewed…oh, right! Kelly Preston. Tell us about your story The Relativist. 

A) In that story, which on the surface is a really ridiculous, the underlying moral message/question is: if you’ve committed to ethical relativism, is it possible to hold anything sacred? The story is totally surreal, but it constantly puts cultural values at odds with each other; from quirky culinary differences to all-out good vs. evil. Moral values is a tough subject itself, but it’s good for writing fiction. You don’t necessarily need the answers, only the conflict. 

Great Party! Sorry About the Murder

Great Party
Great Party! Sorry About the Murder. Synopsis:
Former cop (now private detective) Milo Rathkey has been scraping by since his divorce ten years ago. Most of his work involves following cheating spouses and finding missing people. He considers it unexciting. When Milo was eight his cop father was shot and killed, and his mother went to work as a cook for John McKnight on an estate called Lakesong. Milo lived at Lakesong for the next ten years.  When John died he left Milo fifteen million dollars and half of the Lakesong estate to be shared with John’s son Sutherland. Milo is dragged into the world of the wealthy, specifically to a New Year’s Eve party hosted by the beautiful Mary Alice Bonner, whose husband James is a bully and all around nasty character. After the party, in the early hours of New Year’s Day, James in shot in his home office. His friend police Lieutenant Ernie Gramm asks Milo to assist in the investigation. The suspects include the wife, the son, two low life thugs, the brother, and two business associates, one of whom is having an affair with Mary Alice. As Milo attempts to find the murderer, he is introduced to Sutherland’s world, and Sutherland to Milo’s. The victim, James Bonner is in both worlds, as Milo comes to find out. The solution has a twist but if the reader catches the clues, it is right in front of them. On audio, the novel is narrated by Tom Lennon. Interview with D.B. Elrogg below.

Alyce and Harvey Elrogg
Q) What is your background, and what influenced you to write a novel?

A) My career centered around television, first for local stations (including WCCO in the Twin Cities) and then CBS News and ABC News. I’ve written one or two guest pieces for magazines, but never as a staff member. All my writing was the quick, get to the point, let the visual tell the story of television. Alyce on the other hand, has been a talented and gifted English teacher for almost thirty years. Her writing is much more formal, so every time I write the word “very” I get an electric shock! English teachers have an aversion to the word “very.” I do get to use it in dialog because people say it all the time.

Q) Trump especially. Why not non-fiction, like many journalists?

A) We never did have much interest in writing nonfiction books. I think the process would be mind numbing and I have great respect for those that do it. Writing fiction, especially fiction with a little humor, is far more fun, and we’re retired. Fiction does sell better but we’re not writing to become fabulously wealthy. We wanted to do something together and to have fun. We did, however, blow our first royalty check at Baskin Robbins. We each got double scoops!

Q) Al Roker writes fiction too; and now Bill Clinton. Generally, fiction sells better unless the person is famous or in the news spotlight. Did any of the events in your novel actually happen?

A)  I have a relative who said there is no way the ending of Great Party could occur in real life.  I assured her—not only could it occur, but it did. Of course the story lines are changed and embellished to fit our plots! I tend to write, and Alyce tends to fix, until we come to writing scenes involving women. Then she writes and I keep my mouth shut. There is an occasional “Oh come on, how long can she be mad about this?” To which the response is “More than four pages.” Alyce is also the stickler on not using poetic license. “How did he get out on the lawn? There’s no door there!’ I have to admit ninety nine percent of the time she’s right.

Q) Of corpse. Fav authors or influence? 

A) We are fans of Agatha Christie, especially for how she crafts a mystery. Her readers get a chance to solve the crime, if they avoid the red hearings. We hope our books do the same although rising to Christie’s level would be next to impossible. I also appreciate writers who create interesting characters.  Lynn Florkiewicz, Faith Martin, and P.B. Kolleri are among my favorites, although I wish Kolleri would quit traveling and get back to England.

Q) What news stories influenced your writing? Any anecdotes to share?

A) In my time as a television reporter and producer I covered a multitude of crimes, many of which will appear in our books. The scam being run by James Bonner in Great Party actually happened in Duluth in the seventies. Likewise our second book mirrors a real life murder. Our third book will probably have a fictional account of a double murder which occurred in St. Paul in the eighties. In that case I was allowed to read the police file and realized how conflicting the various witnesses were in their accounts. Even people’s perceptions of the victims were wildly different. 

Q) What’s next for you? Sequel?

A) We have just finished the first draft of book two. We will rewrite it two more times before publishing it. Hopefully it will be out in October. We write for the fun of it, and are pleasantly surprised by the number of great reviews by people who seem to enjoy it as much as we do. 

The Genius of Harlan Ellison

The Genius of Harlan Ellison remembered…

Harlan Ellison

Harlan Ellison died in June 27 at age 84. He wrote or edited more than 120 books, and more than 1,700 stories, essays, and articles, as well as dozens of screenplays and teleplays. He won numerous awards, including the Edgar Award, a Hugo Award, an Audie Award for Best Solo Narration (including other authors work), and five Nebula Awards, breaking scifi genre records. A Grand Master chosen by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, he is responsible for inspiring The Terminator, keeping Star Trek alive during the very first season (when it faced cancellation), and writing some of the most legendary and imaginative stories ever, like “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream.” (An AI has trapped a final group of humans in an eternal hell for revenge until one sees a way to trick it by murder/suicide in a moment of inattention…only he fails to kill himself before he’s stopped, and now the AI vows never to drop its attention again, and turns him into a slug-like being in a torture chamber without end. William Gibson, author of Neuromancer, creator of Cyberpunk, credits Harlan for being there first.) “A Boy and His Dog” was made into a Don Johnson movie, about a super intelligent dog who can speak, and protects his master from the dangers of a ravaged post-apocalyptic tic Earth. There is an underground city with suburban-like streets, from which a girl has snuck out topside, dressed like a bum, and the dog alerts the boy to follow her down. Dying of hunger, the dog waits for him. She tries to convince him to stay, forget the dog, insults him, and asks him “what is love?” She follows him out, and the scene moves forward to him remembering her question. The dog is no longer hungry. Last sentences: “What is love? A boy loves his dog.” The movie version was a cynical twist, with the dog saying, “She didn’t have good taste, but she sure did taste good.” (Laughter.) Ellison was angry, and filed many lawsuits against those who misused his work, or didn’t credit him. For a complete rendering of his run-ins with Star Trek and William Shatner, and his feud with Roddenberry, listen to THE CITY ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER, which references his award-winning Star Trek teleplay. (Roddenberry lied? Yes, some lies are indisputable and documented.) Ellison enjoyed rubbing the lies in, too, and mostly won his lawsuits and awards. He even sued James Cameron, an honorable man, who settled out of court. “Writers always get the shaft,” he said. “Every thug and studio putz and semi-literate merchandizer has grown fat as a maggot off what I created.” OMG. Yes, he was derisive. But most local press is more interested in viral cat videos than local writers. Movie and sports stars? They are American Gods. Author of American Gods, Neil Gaiman, credits Ellison in becoming a writer. Ellison was friends with Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451. Stephen King tweeted, “There was no one quite like him in American letters, and never will be. Angry, funny, eloquent, hugely talented. If there’s an afterlife, Harlan is already kicking ass and taking down names.”    

scifi

Print review version. My ebook dedicated to him HERE.

Robin Williams and Leonard Nimoy on Harlan Ellison below:

Simon Vance Interview about The Audie Awards

Simon Vance

Simon Vance is an audiobook narrator and actor, one of the most listenable voices in the industry. He is an Audible Hall of Fame member, and a winner of 14 Audie Awards and 67 Audiofile Magazine Earphones Awards. As an Audiofile “Golden Voice” and Booklist Magazine “Voice of Choice,” he has recorded titles in all genres for many publishers, reading authors from Alan Moore to Sherlock Holmes. From Lily King’s “Euphoria” to “Bring Up the Bodies” by Hilary Mantel. Stieg Larsson to Frank Herbert. He has done horror, too. Clive Barker, Brian Lumley, and Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.“ Add “Paul is Dead” by Alan Goldsher to the list (the Beatles as zombies.) The “Master and Commander” series by Patrick O’Brien. The Biography of Rod Stewart. An astonishing list of over 750 titles includes “Cloud Atlas” by David Mitchell, one of my personal favorites (as a writer,) made into the remarkable movie starring Tom Hanks and Halle Berry. The only thing we can’t say about Simon, in fact, is that he has never narrated (nor is he related to) Hugo winning Scifi author Jack Vance, whose novel “To Live Forever” (I am proud to say) was acquired by Blackstone Audio’s Grover Gardner due to my suggestion, narrated by Kevin Kenerly. Simon has also had parts in movies and TV series, has done commercials for major corporations, and lives in Brighton, UK. —Jonathan Lowe

Jonathan Lowe) It’s an honor to host the Audie Awards. What surprised you most about that?

Simon Vance) What surprised me most was being asked in the first place. I knew they were having difficulties finding a high profile host this year but Michele seemed to have everything in hand and was quite confident, as she told me at Katy Kellgren’s memorial just the week before she called me, that she’d be able to find someone from amongst the many ‘performers’ there already were amongst the narrators, should it come to that. Little did I know it would be me. Many years ago Bob Deyan had told me that he’d put me forward as a potential host, which shocked me at the time. But when Michele did call I just felt ready.

Lowe)  But you were ready, having attended so many events over the years?

Vance) Over the past decade or so I’ve only missed one. So I knew how things worked, and was ready!

Lowe) Anecdotes to share? Favorite moments?

Vance) Favorite moments? Well, certainly the moment when the whole thing was over and I’d made it through relatively unscathed! Otherwise there are moments of satisfaction, in that I could say to myself “I handled that.” Back in 2006, I think, when Grover Gardner was the host I went up to accept my first Audie and while giving my acceptance speech. Every winner did back then. The event lasted hours. But I messed up the position of his notes and it took him some moments while he sorted them out and found his place again! I’ve always felt so guilty about that. Fast forward to this year and something similar happened to me…someone told me afterwards that they thought they’d moved my script and it was their fault that I started in on the wrong introduction. But I think I had confused the order of the pages myself…I’d call that karma. But I “handled it,” as I think I did in the moment things got awkward, when the audio/visuals didn’t behave and I filled the embarrassing silence with a little soft-shoe shuffle across the stage…which linked back nicely to my referencing the desire to do a song and dance number for the opening.

Lowe) Do you have any friends who prefer print books, which may go the way of cassettes and even CDs, as in Fahrenheit 451?

Vance) It’s not something I go around asking my friends! But I don’t see print books as being in the same category as cassettes and CDs by any stretch. Despite some people’s doom-laden prognostications, I believe there will always be print. Clearly it’s more expensive to create a hard cover book than it is to distribute data, but just look at the market for vinyl, which is also a relatively modern invention and again not really comparable to print. I think there will always be a desire to read words on paper and to collect libraries…I mean, the money isn’t there, so it’s never going to be as big as it was but this is not an art form that will vanish any time soon.

Lowe) What’s next for you?

Vance) More of the same! I’m back in the studio already booked solidly for the next 6 weeks with an exciting roster of books from new and returning authors to look forward to in the fall.

Lowe) Thanks, look forward to hearing more!

(And now, a sample of Vance reading David Copperfield, which is included in the original movie Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury as a book that must be learned and spoken aloud to be saved from the fire.)

 

Audio Drama: Dead or Alive?

 

Goodreads

Has audio/radio drama died? No way. With more people listening to iPods and iPhones than ever while on the move, there is a demand for audio content beyond Top 40 and political talk radio.  L.A. Theatre Works has Hollywood actors from George Clooney and Brad Pitt and Annette Benning to talented amateurs reading both original and Pulitzer Prize winning dramas for download and on CD format. I once met the producer and actress Marsha Mason at the Audie Awards in L.A.. Neil Patrick Harris, Paul Giamatti, and Hilary Swank are also in their fold, with a BBC4 partnership as well. And many audiobook producers are now stepping up to the microphone with multi-cast productions. The association with audiobook narrators like Barbara Rosenblat and Scott Brick is strong, and they contribute their efforts in spreading the word and offering master classes in the areas of creating characters and accents. I asked creative arts icon and technology expert Andrew Glassner recently if he listens to audiobooks, and what he personally enjoys—and is up to—and he responded: “I usually listen while walking my dog, and tend to prefer plot-driven fiction. Then each day I can back up a minute or two and pick up the thread, so I’m re-synchronized with the story.  I had the chance to write and direct a short animated film using computer graphics. That led to writing scripts and directing actors for a live-action internet game, which led to writing novels. Reading fiction is how I discover worlds that I don’t or can’t inhabit. I’ll never see the world personally through the eyes of a rock star, or a 16-year-old blind girl in rural Georgia, or a sailor lost at sea, or a star-eating creature from another planet. But books let me see the world as they do, or might. That’s both inherently rewarding, and a vital step towards deeper empathy.”  (In my own case, I knew radio drama icon Yuri Rasovsky, and Frank Muller, who were involved in two of my early novels, which is how I became interested in audiobooks: which listening on the job or traveling. Yuri and Frank are both gone now, but Yuri was a Grammy winner and  columnist for Audiofile magazine, while Frank was Stephen King’s favorite reader of his own books, and a friend of his.)

For a deeper look at those producers, and the state of radio and audio drama production today, I interviewed Sue Zizza once, and more recently asked about her for a statement, and she said, “I think the state of the audio drama community is very strong. Podcasting and technology are leading to an increased number of high quality productions which more audiences are finding thanks in part to their awareness of audio stories brought about by the growth of audiobooks. The community is so strong we now host an annual Festival celebrating the works of hundreds of artists is called HEAR Now. For example, you can get good listening with an event June 7-10, and come hear the newest audio drama.” She is Executive Director of what has become the National Audio Theatre Festival. It’s of interest to writers, too. Zizza also teaches a course on the subject of audio drama at New York University, and credits success to directors like Charlie Potter, Yuri Rasovsky and Tom Lopez, along with audio artists like Marjorie Van Haltern, David Ossman and others. Here’s my flashback interview with her:

“Back in 1979,” Zizza recalled, “when I was on staff at a community radio station in Missouri, we put feelers out across the country to other dramatists in the field. The intent was to see who was still doing what, and to form a new group of professionals, utilizing funds provided at the time by public radio, the NEA and CPB. Then when the suggestion was made to form a training event, the Midwest Radio Drama Workshop was born. Now, our week long workshops in Missouri introduce people at all skill levels to audio drama production.” As Zizza further explains it, “We believe that if you learn how to produce an audio play, where you’re blending voice and music and sound effects and silence, then you can take those skills and become a better documentary, film or music producer, because what you learn through telling your story as audio drama really hones your storytelling craft.”

In addition to week long workshops, the NATF also sponsors weekend events around the country, focused on one particular skill, and at the end an actual performance is staged so that these learned skills can be practiced. “Take Lindsay Ellison, for example,” Zizza points out, “who added audio production and direction to her stage direction and acting skills. Now she’s working with Tom Lopez on the post production of her play. Others take classes in voice acting, writing, producing, directing and technology. After learning the fundamentals, they mount a live show as an effects artist or technical assistant, and also network with others at meals and social events.”

In describing the unique challenges of audio drama, Zizza cites knowing how to make voices unique “because obviously there are no body types or hair colors as in stage acting,” and also knowing when and how often to utilize sound effects “because too much sound design only confuses the listener, and should only be used to support the action, identify locales, or move characters around a space.” In short, the listener must be clear at all moments about what is going on. And that rule has never changed.

But hasn’t the equipment changed since radio’s Golden Age? “Not really,” claims Zizza. “Many of the props I use today were inherited from my mentor Al Shaffer, who did sound effects for Bob & Ray, among others. He taught me how to do horses, walk down stairs, etc. The only thing that’s really changed is that the microphones are more sensitive now, so you can’t get away with using an old-time prop like cellophane to make fire. Although corn starch is still used for walking through snow.” Indeed, she is adamant that sound effects taken from CDs don’t work for the most part, even in our modern, high-tech era. “The acoustic space is not the same as the space where the actors record, and you can tell. With animals in a zoo, for example, there’s a reverb which can’t be corrected. So getting a sound effects artist to listen and add effects in real time actually saves time. Where the science has advanced is really in post production, with digital recording and editing. But if you don’t understand how the elements of writing and acting and sound design combine in the final product, it won’t matter if you’re producing it digitally, and Pro Tools won’t save you.”

Zizza says that part of her funding today comes from the National Endowment for the Arts, and part from the local arts councils where the festivals are held, and from individual contributors. The audio drama community as it exists today consists of “about two hundred independent companies or individuals producing mostly new material, although maybe half will produce both old time and new scripts.” For her own part, she produced The Radio Works, a sampler series which is heard on 70 public radio stations, and features a different producer each time, with all new work. Other audio drama companies currently active include the Full Cast Audio company, founded by Bruce Coville, a producer/publisher of teen and young adult titles primarily in the fantasy genre; the Atlanta Radio Theater, Great Northern Audio Theatre, ZBS Foundation, Firesign Theatre, Shoestring Radio Theater (an amateur San Francisco company), and the Radio Repertory Company of America. Seeing Ear Theatre, associated with the Scifi channel, produces original plays for publishers like Harper Audio, like the excellent “Two Plays for Voices,” featuring actors Bebe Neuwirth and Brian Dennehy performing Neil Gaiman’s “Snow Glass Apples” and “Murder Mysteries.”

What does the future hold by way of opportunities for actors, writers, directors and technicians in the full cast segment of the audiobook industry? Zizza is cautious, but optimistic. “Full cast audio is costly to produce, as you know, and so there are not as many titles available. This is also true for public radio stations, who find it more economical to produce news or talk shows. But I think the situation is improving over what it was just three years ago. Listeners are becoming more astute, and they enjoy hearing a story, and so after seeing something like Spider Man, which has an incredible sound track, you can’t expect them to listen to a dry audiobook with nothing but a voice. With all the webcasting and iPod downloading going on, and with the variety of Mp3 players that are starting to come standard in new cars, I think people will seek out audio drama, and already a new crop of directors and producers are studying the craft the same way as those who study stage acting. Our challenge is to produce better quality material, and take those interested to the next level of skills so that audio theater looks forward instead of backward.” 

Lorna Raver

Lorna Raver was married to Yuri Rasovsky until his death in 2012. She had a lead role in DRAG ME TO HELL, which also starred Alison Lohman, and Dileep Rao (who was in Avatar.) Lorna has performed on stage in New York, and has narrated many audiobooks, including CUJO. In real life, she’s a sweet lady! (It’s all about makeup…and great acting.) She was also in the films The Caller, and Sinbad: The Fifth Voyage. Interview at this blog HERE. –Jonathan Lowe

A Fairy Tale Wedding

MeghanWhen Meghan Markle and Prince Harry were set up by a mutual friend on a blind date in July 2016, little did they know that the resulting whirlwind romance would lead to their engagement in November 2017 and marriage in May 2018.

Morton goes back to Meghan’s roots to uncover the story of her childhood growing up in The Valley in Los Angeles, her studies at an all-girls Catholic school, and her fraught family life-a painful experience mirrored by Harry’s own background. Morton also delves into her previous marriage and divorce in 2013, her struggles in Hollywood as her mixed heritage was used against her, her big break in the hit TV show Suits, and her work for a humanitarian ambassador-the latter so reminiscent of Princess Diana’s passions. Finally, we see how the royal romance played out across two continents but was kept fiercely secret, before the news finally broke and Meghan was thrust into the global media’s spotlight.

Drawing on exclusive interviews with her family members and closest friends, and including never-before-seen photographs, Morton introduces us to the real Meghan as he reflects on the impact that she has already had on the rigid traditions of the House of Windsor, as well as what the future might hold.

HarryFrom his earliest public appearances as a mischievous redheaded toddler, Prince Harry has captured the hearts of royal enthusiasts around the world. In Harry, Britain’s leading expert on the young royals offers an in-depth look at the wayward prince turned national treasure. Nicholl sheds new light on growing up royal, Harry’s relationship with his mother, his troubled youth and early adulthood, and how his military service in Afghanistan inspired him to create his legacy, the Invictus Games. 

Harry: Life, Loss, and Love features interviews with friends, those who have worked with the prince, and former palace aides. Nicholl explores Harry’s relationship with his family, in particular the Queen, his father, his stepmother, and his brother and reveals his secret “second family” in Botswana. She uncovers new information about his former girlfriends and chronicles his romance and engagement to American actress Meghan Markle. Harry is a compelling portrait of one of the most popular members of the royal family and reveals the inside story of the most intriguing royal romance in a decade.

Tyra Banks

Tyra Banks narrates.

The President is Missing

The President is Missing

UPDATED: The name of James Patterson is ubiquitous. Go to any hotel or cruise ship pool in summer, and you’ll see someone reading a Patterson thriller, written by himself and co-authors. A former ad man, he is now the reigning king of pop fiction superstars, and lives in Palm Beach, Florida, where Mar-a-Lago is. (Bill Clinton and Trump were photographed golfing together years ago.) Patterson’s latest book, written with Bill Clinton, is THE PRESIDENT IS MISSING. Narrators are actors Dennis Quaid, January LaVoy, Mozhan Marno, and Jeremy Davidson. The book was published June 4. This interview was several years ago. 

JONATHAN LOWE: What led you to writing? Were you a voracious reader?

JAMES PATTERSON: I was a good student in high school, but I didn’t like to read at all. I’m still not a big fan of Silas Marner. Just after I graduated from high school, I got a job working at a famous mental hospital. I had a lot of free time, and I started reading everything I could get my hands on. At this point, I was reading serious fiction, poetry, essays, plays. I still didn’t read any commercial fiction. When I was in my twenties I read two commercial novels that turned it all around for me–Day of the Jackal and The Exorcist. At that point, I decided that I wanted to write a novel that readers would find almost impossible to put down.

Q: What was your reaction to the success of “Along Came a Spider?”

A: Long before I had a success with “Along Came A Spider,” I had learned to stop and smell the roses. Consequently, I savored every moment when Along Came A Spider hit the bestseller lists. That included every bookstore I visited on tour, every interview, every kind review.

Q: Was the Alex Cross character your first choice as protagonist? How and why did you develop him to be who he is?

A: Actually, when I began “Along Came A Spider,” Alex Cross was a woman. I wrote about fifty pages, and decided to go in another direction. I’ve told the story about where the Cross family came from, but I’m happy to tell it again. When I was a kid growing up in Newburgh, New York, my grandparents owned a small restaurant. The cook was a black woman named Laura. When I was three or four, she was having trouble with her husband and my parents urged her to move in with us. Over the next four years, I spent incredible amounts of time with Laura and her family. I got an incredible feeling for the warmth and good humor that they shared. That certainly influenced my creating the Cross family.

Q: Did you begin by thinking of Alex as a series character? Coming up with nursery rhymes as titles is obviously good for name recognition, but how much did they influence the actual plotting?

A: When I wrote “Along Came A Spider” I wasn’t thinking about creating a series. The publisher wanted to make a two-book deal, and the more I thought about writing about Alex again, the more I liked it. I don’t think the nursery rhymes have much to do with the plotting at all.

Q: Nor do I. One thing which strikes me about your books is your creative use of short chapters for dramatic effect. Knowing when and where to end a chapter which leaves the reader guessing or biting their nails or just staring at the page in shock. Two of your chapters in ROSES ARE RED, for example, are mere one liners, which explains a total of 125 chapters in a relatively short book. When your wife asks how much you’ve written today and you say “two chapters” doesn’t she just stare at you?

A: The short chapters were kind of an accident. I had written about thirty chapters of The Midnight Club and I expected to flesh them out later. When I read them, however, I liked the pacing a lot. I eventually fleshed the chapters out, but not as much as I planned to. My wife and I never talk about the quantity of work I’ve done on any given day, just the quality.

Q: Please describe your new book.

A: You get on a roller coaster, it goes on and on, you can’t believe how many twists and turns you’ve experienced, and when the ride finally stops you get off exhausted, shaken, but strangely satisfied.

Q: Do you listen to audiobooks on the road? 

A: Ever since I moved out of New York City, I’ve been addicted to audiobooks. I listen to one or two a week while I’m driving around town. Generally, I listen to the books that I used to buy, but never get around to reading.

 

The President is Missing book