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Scattered Leaves by Richard Roach

Richard Roach’s Scattered Leaves follows the quest of Ben McCord, an oilman, to find the man who killed his young wife. McCord is a man on a mission, and his negative view of the world permeates the novel. The one light in his life, his wife June, is gone.

Like many of the James Patterson crime fiction novels I’ve read in the past, there is a vast conspiracy behind the death of McCord’s wife. However, some of the police procedure and gun purchasing details were unrealistic and could distract seasoned mystery readers.

On the other hand, the fast-paced plot will carry the reader quickly through the twists and turns. In some cases the reader may wonder how McCord ends up where he does, which is expected given that the novel is told from McCord’s point of view. Some of these plot twists seem outlandish and not well constructed, and the logic McCord uses to deduce his next course of action is shaky at best. However, McCord’s shaky logic is one of his character flaws, and it is this flaw that unwittingly propels him into unlikely situations and that fuels the fire propelling him to find his wife’s killer. The novel takes the reader on a journey from the Oklahoma oil fields to Texas and through Kansas, Colorado, and near the Mexican border.

One of my favorite characters in the novel is an older, hired assassin who gets the drop on McCord as he makes his way home, shooting into his moving car from the woods. This assassin is brash and had me giggling during the exchange he had with McCord in the woods after the attack. Richard Roach has a way with dry humor, which is used to ease the tension in some cases.

According to Richard Roach, Knock ’em down and drag ’em out is more McCord’s style. But, he’s honest, forthright, and oh so tender with the ladies.” Reading this book, you can tell that McCord is rough around the edges, but he’s looking to keep his tender side on the surface more often. About midway through the novel, the action gets more intense and Dr. Pettijohn is thrust into the action in a harsh way and plays an integral role in its ultimate resolution. At times this novel seemed to tell McCord’s emotions rather than show them, and some of the plot points were not necessary to propel the action, both of which could distract readers. However, in spite of these problems with narration and plot, Richard Roach’s first novel is fast-paced and has an imaginative style that will keep you reading.

About the Author:

Born in Galveston, Texas, Richard Roach served four years in USAF as drill sergeant. He attended the University of Texas. Short stories have been published in Man’s Story 2, Happy 2007 volume 20, page 58, Iconoclast 2006 volume 91, page 73, and Bibliophilos 2006 volume 42, page 54. His first novel, Scattered Leaves, hit the book stores n September 2008. His second novel, Scattered Money, will be published by Multi-Media in 2009.

I want to thank Dorothy Thompson at Pump Up Your Book Promotion for sending along Scattered Leaves by Richard Roach.

If you’re interested in Scattered Leaves, feel free to leave a comment.

Randomizer.org will help me choose a winner.

You have until November 21 to enter.

Stop Back tomorrow for my Q&A with Richard Roach!

Also Reviewed By:
Peeking Between the Pages

Winner of The House on Tradd Street

Out of 63 entrants into the Karen White–The House on Tradd Street contest, Randomizer.org selected #20.

And the winner is Confessions of A Real Librarian!

Congrats to the winner. I’ve emailed you for your snail mail address.

Thanks to all who entered the contest.

Check out the other contests:

Win a copy of Off the Menu by Christine Son (Deadline is Nov. 18) or a copy of The Sighing of the Winter Trees by Laura Grossman (Deadline is Nov. 17)

The Sighing of the Winter Trees by Laura Grossman

Laura Grossman’s The Sighing of the Winter Trees is a collection of poems I received from Dorothy Thompson at Pump Up Your Book Promotion. Following my review, you will have a chance to see what the poet had to say in an interview and a chance to win one copy of her book.

Grossman uses familiar images to tackle loss, love, and many of the emotions we feel. Her sparse language and short poems attempt to evoke emotion from the reader without relying upon complex lines, concepts, or too many literary devices.

Many of her poems have a conversational tone, as if she is speaking directly to the reader. This tone can generate a warmth in the reader, like it does in her poem, “Waiting Warmly Beside Orange Flowers,” or it can evoke sadness, like that found in “Wait, Wait I’ll Be Back.”

Some of these poems tell stories, but those stories leave the reader hanging, waiting for a resolution. Others simply confuse the reader, like “Wooden Ship.” Although I was not overly impressed by this volume, it does have a lot to offer the “everyman” and parents may find some poems in this volume to help introduce their children to poetry. Readers looking for poems that are less daunting than those read during high school or college will discover verses in this volume that will tap their hidden love of poetry.

My Interview With Laura Grossman:


When did you realize you wanted to be a poet? Was there a particular event that started you writing poetry?

I realized I wanted to be a poet when I was a child and I loved describing the winter days in a form of a haiku. The particular event that started me in writing poetry was after my father died and the professor at college had me read a stanza that captured the way I felt about the death of my dad. Suddenly there was beauty and meaning in the way I felt about my late dad.

Is The Sighing of the Winter Trees your first published book of poetry? Could you describe your path to publication?

The Sighing of the Winter Trees is my first published book of poetry. I took books out on how to achieve my goal of getting published and that helped my path to publication.

Do you have a set routine or do you write when the mood or inspiration hits?

I usually write when the mood or inspiration hits.

What are your favorite poetic forms? And are those forms that you find yourself using the most?

My favorite forms of poetry are haiku and rhythmic and I use those forms quite often.

As a poet can you describe your role in the current literary world and what you see your poetry accomplishing for yourself, readers, and other poets?

I describe my role as a poet to bear meaning and shed light to others about the world in which we live. I also use my writing skills as a way of making lemonade out of lemons until the sun come out again into my life and my readers’ lives as well.

How do you view the current state of poetry in terms of public recognition?

There should be more public recognition of poetry for poetry can heal and sooth us and leave a positive impact on our lives.

Could you describe your favorite writing space?

My favorite writing space is by my fall mums by the window in early morning hours.

Do you have any favorite poets, and if so, why?

Emily Dickinson is my favorite poet. Her words touch my heart with wonder.

What are you currently reading and do you have any particular book recommendations?

I am currently reading The Flowering by Agnes Sligh Turnbull and would greatly recommend this book to others.

****

I want to thank Dorothy Thompson for sending me Laura Grossman’s book and for allowing me to interview her for this post. I also want to thank Laura for taking time out of her schedule to answer my questions.

For the inside scoop on how Laura Grossman got her volume published, check out this article at Book Publishing Secrets of Authors.

About the Author:

Laura Grossman graduated from Lehman College with a degree in English literature and won several awards from poetry contests. She has attended poetry readings and has enjoyed positive feedback on her work.

And now, for the contest; This is open to international entrants as always.

1. Leave a comment on this post with an email or a blogger profile that works for one entry.

2. Put this contest in your sidebar or in a blog post for a second entry and leave me a link to it on this post.

Deadline is Nov. 17. I will draw the winner through Randomizer.org.

Also Reviewed By:
Cafe of Dreams

Contest Reminders:

Want to win a copy of Off the Menu by Christine Son, go here; Deadline is Nov. 18

Win a copy of Karen White’s The House on Tradd Street here; Deadline is Nov.14

Karen White and the Writing and Publishing Process

I want to thank Karen White for joining us today at Savvy Verse & Wit! Her novel The House on Tradd Street debuted on Nov. 4, read my review. Without further ado, Karen will discuss her writing and publishing process.

I’ve done it! I’ve just completed not only my second novel in a single calendar year, but I’ve also worked through the agony of simultaneously promoting two novels published within the same time span. Am I Superwoman or Super-insane? Sitting here still in my pajamas at 11:47 am, I’m not sure I really know the answer.

I’d like to say that my decision to double my output was a calmly calculated one intended to increase sales and bring in more readers. But then I’d be lying. The fact is, I was happily writing a single southern women’s fiction novel for my publisher each year. I was relatively successful with growing sales and a solid reader base who would loyally buy each book I published. My royalty checks were respectable although certainly not big enough for my husband to chuck in his desk job and spend his life out on the golf course (which is what I might have promised him once upon a time when I stopped cooking so that I could devote more time to writing).

What happened was really an accident. I came up with a really cool ghost story/mystery/women’s fiction novel idea. It was different enough from my earlier books that they couldn’t be published by the same imprint, but it was still enough of a Karen White book for me to keep my author’s name on the front cover. But my publisher still wanted one of my straight southern women’s fiction books out once a year. The only way my new story idea could find a home would be if I squeezed those books in between my other books. That would mean two books (averaging over 100,000 words each) a year.

Sure! I said, recalling Steve Martin’s words when offered The Cruel Shoes. How hard could it be? Yes, I’m the mother of two teenagers and a small dog and I have a husband who travels incessantly. But my daughter is driving this year (and saving me 7 hours a week—yes, I calculated it) and I figured that those extra 7 hours per week would be exactly what I needed to squeeze in that extra book per year. Or so I thought.

It turns out that just because I have seven extra hours doesn’t mean that I want to squeeze in more work time. Writing is exhausting stuff. It hurts my brain. It really isn’t physically possible for me to sit in front of my computer for long hours at a time writing creatively. I need time off to ‘fill the well’ so to speak. You know, reading, playing piano, goofing off with my kids and dog. Scrapbooking. That sort of thing. It’s as essential to writing as sitting down at a desk and typing—just harder to calculate its worth since I can’t measure it in word count.

Basically what I’ve ended up doing is not so much increasing the amount of time I spend writing and doing writing-related stuff (such as writing blogs like this), but decreasing the amount of time I have to well, live my life.

The result? I’m exhausted—both mentally and physically. My daughter is starting her college search and my son has started high school which means they’re both requiring more one-on-one attention from me. My husband has been traveling more than ever making me a single parent in charge of everything from grocery shopping, to bill paying, to filling out those incessant forms kids always seem to require for school, sports and camps. When we have ants invading our kitchen or a water spot on the dining room wall, it is up to me to call the appropriate people and be here at the scheduled time. On top of all of this, I need to write two novels AND promote them.

But is it all bad news? Hardly! Sales of my backlist and pre-orders for my November book (The House on Tradd Street) have increased by leaps and bounds. As a reader, when I discover a new author, I want to buy everything he/she’s written. Apparently, my readers (old and new) think the same way. I’ve really broadened my exposure to a whole new reading audience. The House on Tradd Street is a bit of a departure for me—I add ghosts to my known mix of southern women’s fiction/romance/mystery. I think that my current readers will love this book, and I know that new readers who like it will enjoy my backlist. And, to add to the excitement, The House in Tradd Street is the beginning of a series—the second book, The Girl on Legare Street, will be out in November 2009.

The momentum created by a quick succession of books is evidenced by an increase of sales in my backlist as well pre-orders of my next book. Another reason for this is an increase in paid promotion and a new publicist—made affordable by two advances and two royalties checks in one year.

The best part is that I’ve learned that I can write fast; that the way I was writing before (a couple of hours in the morning and then I was done) was completely self-indulgent. I’m a more efficient writer now, and a better writer. When I don’t linger too long over a book, I don’t find myself getting bored with the characters or the plot, or fiddling with things that don’t need fixing. It’s all new and fresh.

Would I do it again? Absolutely. The plusses so far outweigh the negatives. It’s pushed my career to the next level in a shorter amount of time than my former path of one novel a year would have. Will I continue to do this? Absolutely not. Being exhausted does not make a fun mom/wife/friend to be around. I value my family and my friends too much to do this to them for much longer.

I just signed a new two-book contract and made sure that I had nine months between novels. Not as long as a year, but much longer than six months to write a book. It’s my light at the end of the tunnel when I’ll be able to breathe a little slower. And (hopefully!) watch my sales continue grow in response to my efforts.

Thanks again, Karen, for stopping by today and sharing your thoughts with us.

Want to win a copy of The House on Tradd Street by Karen White?

1. Please leave a comment on my review post for one entry.
2. Leave a comment on this guest post for a second entry.

Deadline: November 14 at Midnight EST. The contest is open to international entrants.

Thanks again to Dorothy at Pump Up Your Book Promotion and Karen White, author of The House on Tradd Street. For a list of other Virtual appearances for Karen, go here.

Don’t forget that Karen will have a sequel, The Girl on Legare Street, out in November 2009.

Christopher Moore Audiobook Winners!

Out of 24 entrants, randomizer.org selected #8 and #21, which means Lenore of Presenting Lenore and Wrighty of Wrighty’s Reads are the winners of one audiobook by Christopher Moore.

Wrighty selected Fluke.

Lenore will have to choose between her top two picks of The Stupidest Angel and You Suck!

Winners of Lydia Bennet’s Story


Out of 74 entrants, the two winners of Lydia Bennet’s Story by Jane Odiwe are Loredana of Italy and Katherine of A Girl Walks Into A Bookstore.

Congrats to both of you. I’ve sent emails to you, but feel free to send your snail mail addresses to me at savvyverseandwit AT gmail DOT com.

I can’t wait to see who wins the audiobook contest.

Black Flies and Life After Genius Winners!

Out of 53 entries, the random number selected was 26! The winner of Black Flies by Shannon Burke is Ann from BookLorn!

I’ve emailed you to get your address.

Of the 34 entrants for the U.S./Canada drawing of Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby, the random number selected by Randomizer.org was 17! The Winner of Life After Genius is Kamewh of Blueberries & Peanut Butter!

Out of the only 3 entrants into the International portion of the contest, the random number selected was 1. The winner of the second copy of Life After Genius is RB of Random Random!

I’ve emailed the winners to get their addresses, feel free to send them to savvyverseandwit AT gmail DOT com.

***Reminder***

If you want to win Lydia Bennet’s Story by Jane Odiwe, the deadline is Nov. 7.

If you want to win an audiobook by Christopher Moore, the deadline is Nov. 8.

Book Giveaway Carnival

As part of BookRoomReviews’ Book Giveaway Carnival and because of the interest generated by my latest Christopher Moore audiobook post on The Stupidest Angel, I am going to give away 2 copies of a Moore audiobook; it will be winners’ choice (if they are available on iTunes, I will send it to you as a gift, electronically). Remember there will be 2 winners! Here’s the list of available titles, I’ve been able to find for the audiobooks:

A Dirty Job
The Stupidest Angel
You Suck
Lamb (I have not listened to or read this)
Fluke (I have not listened to or read this)
Fool (due out Feb. 2009)

DEADLINE to Enter is November 8th, Midnight EST

Additionally, my other giveaways for Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby and Black Flies by Shannon Burke end TODAY Nov. 5, so you will have to hurry to enter before Midnight EST. Winners will be announced TOMORROW, Nov. 6.

If you want to win Lydia Bennet’s Story by Jane Odiwe, the deadline is Nov. 7.

Jane Odiwe & Lydia Bennet’s Take on Halloween Fun



Hello everyone,

I’d like to thank Serena of Savvy Verse & Wit very much for asking me as a guest on her blog. I’m going to tell you about how I developed Lydia’s character in Lydia Bennet’s Story and…

“La! How dull would that be?”

Excuse me, Lydia…as I was saying…

“No one wants to hear what you have to say, Jane, they’d much rather hear about the night of mischief and fun that Kitty and I had on Hallowe’en.”

I’ve been asked to talk about my book…

“Dearest Jane, I think I hear the doorbell … oh good, that got rid of her, she’s gone! Halloo! It’s Lydia Bennet from Longbourn here with a tale for all you young ladies out there.”

“I’ll bet you’ll see your true love by midnight,” said our maid Mary, and she looked so mysterious and meaningful that we took her at her word and arrived at the kitchen door as late as we dared. It was very quiet and I was all for bursting in at the door but Kitty was already nervous on account of being told to come without candle or lantern. At her timid knock, the door was suddenly thrown back and the vision that greeted us was so terrifying that Kitty let out the most bloodcurdling scream you have ever heard. When we realised it was Mary with a hollowed turnip candle held under her chin we laughed so hard, I thought I might be ill.

The kitchen was very dark but for the glow of turnip candles on every surface illuminating several strings of apples suspended from the ceiling. A large bowl of water with more apples floating atop was set before a looking glass, which strangely resembled the one from my bedchamber.

“We’ll have snap apple and bobbing for apples later but first there is a tradition that all young ladies must perform. You must stand before the glass, quite alone in the dark, and a vision of the man you are to marry will appear within, before the bewitching hour,” said Mary.

“I will not,” cried Kitty, “No fear, I’m not standing here in this horrid, dark place for anything, even if Prince George himself was to appear.”

“Lord!” said I, “There’s nothing to it, Kitty, but I warn you, if I see Prince George, I’ll slit my throat. Ugh, can you think of anything more disagreeable than marrying that oaf!”

I must admit I felt a slight apprehension when they’d extinguished every candle before leaving me, and the hairs on my arms and legs prickled up at the unfamiliar sounds in the cold kitchen. There was a scuffle in the corner and the thought of a mouse nearly had me running for the door.

I stood before the glass and soon became quite engrossed with my own reflection which it has to be said looked most becoming by the soft bars of moonlight creeping through the window.

It was then that I thought I heard breathing. I looked behind me but there was no one there. I turned back to the glass and caught sight of a glimmering light in the background, so I spun round again only to find it had disappeared. I wheeled back to the glass once more determined to catch sight of whatever apparition was about to materialize when I got the fright of my life. A phantom in white, and not at all my impression of a handsome beau was leering at me in the dark, with hideous, grinning teeth. I screamed and fainted into the arms of the horrible ghoul!

The door burst open and there, holding onto their sides, falling upon themselves with laughter, were Kitty and Mary. My assailant had me blindfolded before I could protest further and in a soft voice not in the least unbecoming, begged for a kiss from his future wife. What else could a girl do in the dark, I ask you, other than oblige? In any case, I had guessed from his delicious smell that it was Mr Edwards, who it is well known has something of a passion for me and, indeed, is quite the best-looking young man of my acquaintance!

Of course, I protested loudly through the whole sordid exhibition and it was only when we went to bed that I admitted to Kitty, that although I do not think I found my husband on All Hallows Eve, I certainly enjoyed my adventure!

As an after thought, I must just add that, whatever you may have read about Jane Odiwe’s influence over me and the development of my character in her ‘novel’, Lydia Bennet’s Story, she had nothing whatsoever to do with it – I am entirely my own wonderful person – perfection can never be imitated, improved or further developed!

Lydia Bennet

***Want to win a copy of Lydia Bennet’s Story by Jane Odiwe? I have one copy for one U.S./Canada winner (sorry no P.O. boxes) and one copy for an international winner.

Here’s what you do: (Remember to leave me an email address or blog link so I can contact you!)

1. Leave a comment on this post, telling me what your favorite Jane Austen novel is or what novel you would like to read (if heaven forbid, you haven’t read Jane Austen yet!) for one entry.

2. Leave a comment on my Lydia Bennet’s Story review post, here, for a second entry.

3. For a third entry, spread the word about this contest on your blog and leave me the link here or if you don’t have a blog, email 5 friends and cc savvyverseandwit AT gmail DOT com

Deadline is November 7 at Midnight EST.

Other Contests from Savvy Verse & Wit: (Deadlines are Nov. 5)

1. Win a copy of Black Flies by Shannon Burke

2. Win a copy of Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby

Winner of The Safety of Secrets


After a long list of contestants, 32 to be exact, we have a winner:

MommyJen99 of Simply Me!

Congrats to you!

And don’t forget about the other giveaways on Savvy Verse & Wit:

1 copy of Black Flies by Shannon Burke; Deadline is Nov. 5–check out my review.

2 copies (one for a U.S./Canada and one for an international winner) of Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby; Deadline is Nov. 5, check out the review and interview in the contest link.

2 copies (one for U.S./Canada and one for an international winner) of Lydia Bennet’s Story by Jane Odiwe, check out the post for the contest and a guest post from Jane Odiwe tomorrow, Oct. 31; Happy Halloween. Deadline for that contest is Nov. 7.

Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby & Giveaway

Welcome to Hachette Group’s Early Birds Blog Tour for Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby, a book that examines one young genius’ struggle to find himself and his place in his own family and society; Thanks to Miriam Parker at Hachette for sending the book along for the tour.

Theodore Mead Fegley’s father runs a furniture store and funeral home with his brother Martin, while his mother’s main goal in life is to push her son to achieve as much as possible and not squander his intelligence. The pressure mounts for Mead as he speeds through his elementary and high school years, reaching the University of Chicago at age 15.

Mead is an awkward “geek” who tries to keep his head down and make it through what he believes is the roughest period of his life, high school. Despite attempts by his cousin, Percy, to pry Mead out of his shell, Mead stuffs his nose in his studies to graduate high school and head off to college away from his overbearing mother and the small town that despises and ridicules him.

The narrative easily shifts from the present to the past, and the chapter breaks make it easier to keep the timeline in perspective with details about what period in Mead’s life is witnessed and what location he is in.

Mead is a young teen thrust into academic life with peers who are much older and experienced. Even though he looks forward to college life and mingling with his peers, he finds the experience to be as difficult and confusing as his high school years. Mead’s life takes a stark turn when he meets Herman Weinstein, a fellow mathematics student at the university.

Mead meets Dr. Krustrup, who agrees to mentor him and Weinstein at least until Weinstein’s family fortune and connections convince him otherwise. Mead is easily pushed aside when Dr. Krustrup becomes chair of the mathematics department. While he is initially angry, he learns that his new mentor, Dr. Alexander, is much more inspiring. Under the tutelage of Dr. Alexander, Mead throws himself into the Riemann Hypothesis, and he hopes to either prove or disprove the hypothesis, which has been debated for more than 100 years.

Jacoby carefully intermingles events from Mead’s past into his present as a way to show how Mead’s character has developed and explain the reasons behind some of Mead’s reactions and behaviors at the university. As Mead grows closer to a solution, Herman insinuates himself further into Mead’s life. Tensions between the two friends–and I use this term loosely–continue to intensify, until a family tragedy and university pressure mount, forcing Mead to run home to rural Illinois several days before graduation, his major mathematical presentation, and his valedictorian speech.

While math problems make me cringe, this story brought me back to high school with the discussions of matrices–math I actually understood at one point–but Jacoby does a great job of including this information without burdening or boring the reader. As Mead’s life unfolds and the mystery grows more intense, the pages flow quickly, making the reader more anxious to learn the reason why Mead flees his sanctuary at the university when he is on the verge of success. Although this novel is dubbed an academic thriller that portion of the story fell flat. The descriptions, perceptions, and events in Mead’s life point the narrative more in the direction of a coming of age story. Jacoby’s academic thriller plotline did not have the foundation or twists and turns necessary to a successful thriller narrative. However, at the conclusion of the narrative, the reader will be pleased to see Mead find himself, what’s important to him, and how to cope with his reality.

About the Author:

M. Ann Jacoby has been an art director at Penguin USA for more than two decades. Life After Genius is her debut novel.

Without further ado, here is M. Ann Jacoby about her writing process.

Do you have a set writing routine? Do you get up early and start writing or do you write when the mood hits?

I do have a routine. After getting my errands out of the way Saturday morning, I sit down around noon and write for about six hours. The first hour or two involves a lot of staring out the window and getting back into the world of my novel. By Sunday I’m into it. I get started around 8 or 9am and can go all day. I have to remind myself to stop and eat. Then, reluctantly, I have to put it all away and go back to my Mon-Fri job. I commute to work on the train and usually wait till midweek to read and edit what I wrote over the weekend. I don’t write during the week. I need large blocks of time without interruption to get lost in the world of my characters. I usually get 12-15 pages written over a weekend. It’s a long, slow process but I find the breaks in between give me a chance to step back from my work and rethink before plunging in again.

Was the research and writing process for Life After Genius different from your normal writing process?

Research takes time away from writing. And I find that I write too much of my research into the story at first. I want to put all that new information to good use! But eventually I edit most of it back out so that the research feels more like a natural backdrop.

Do you have any advice for writers just starting out?

It’s very hard to sort out criticism in the beginning. What to listen to, what not to. For me, there was a lot of trial and error. A lot of crying. Try not to let the negative remarks destroy you. Look at them as an opportunity to learn and grow.

What are your favorite rewards for reaching your writing goals and why?

To create something that speaks to another person is a reward in itself. Immeasureable. Plus, it means I can go back and create more characters and more imaginary worlds. To get to do what I most love and get paid for it is like winning the lottery.

Are you working on any other projects, and if so would you care to tantalize my readers with a few hints?

The novel I’m working on now is loosely based on my mother’s parents who were bookies in West Palm Beach, Florida. The main character is Libby Freybaker who shared the pants in the family with her husband, my grandfather. She’s funny and smart and unconventional. It opens with them being handcuffed and arrested, then flashes back to tell the story of what led up to that point.

***Want to win a copy of Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby from Savvy Verse & Wit and Hachette Group?

I will pass along my copy to one International winner, please let me know in the comments if you are international! Hatchette Group will pass along a copy to a winner with a U.S. or Canada address.

***Make sure you leave me a way to contact you either an email address or through your blog. Those not leaving emails or blog links, will not be entered. Deadline is November 5, 2008.

1. Leave a comment on this post for one entry telling me what you find most interesting about the book or Jacoby’s writing process.

2. Post this contest on your blog or sidebar and return here to leave me a link to where you posted it for a second entry.

3. For those of you that do not have blogs, email five friends and cc savvyverseandwit AT gmail DOT com for your second entry.

Check out the other stops on the Life After Genius tour!

Marjolein Reviews
The Book Nest
Seaside Book Worm Blogger
Books by TJBaff

Linus’s Blanket

The Optimistic Bookfool
The Printed Page
My Friend Amy
Shooting Stars Mag
Books, Pungs, and More
A Novel Menagerie
The Tome Traveller’s Weblog
medieval bookworm
Book Critiques
B&b ex libris
Sharon Loves Books and Cats
At Home With Books
A Circle of Books
Book Line and Sinker

***More contests from Savvy Verse & Wit:

A copy of Black Flies by Shannon Burke

A copy of The Safety of Secrets by Delaune Michel! Deadline is Tonight at Midnight EST. Go here, follow the rules, and enter.

Interview with Author Shannon Burke & Contest

I want to welcome Shannon Burke, author of Black Flies and Safelight, to Savvy Verse & Wit today. In case you missed my glowing review of Black Flies, check it out! Anna at Diary of an Eccentric also reviewed Black Flies, here, and interviewed Shannon Burke, here.

Stay tuned for your chance to win a copy of Black Flies.

Welcome, Shannon and thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with me and my readers.

1. How long did it take you to write Black Flies?

Black Flies took me an absurd amount of time for such a short book. I think it was over ten years from the first sentence to the final copy edit, though for a lot of that time it was lying dormant. When I first started working as a paramedic I came home every night and wrote about the things I heard and about the things that happened to me. Slowly, these impressions formed themselves into scenes and characters and events. That is, they turned into a novel. I had a draft by the end of my first year on the ambulance. But it was hardly the finished copy. It was unfocused, jagged, and angry. It had passion and energy, but overall, I didn’t know what it meant. I ended up trying to rewrite it three times, and finally, I put it away and started working on an ambulance love story that wound up being Safelight, which became my first published novel.

So, after Safelight came out, I was working on another novel called Stragglers, but my mother and my older brother kept saying, “What about that book Black Flies.” “It doesn’t work,” I said. “No, we like it,” they said. They kept bugging me about it. So finally I went out to the shed where the book had been sitting for four or five years. I didn’t even have a computer copy of it. The hard copy in the shed had mushrooms growing out of it. I brushed the mushrooms off and started reading. The first thing that struck me was how bad a writer I’d been. Also, I thought two things right away: one, that I’d made the book worse every time I’d edited it, adding wordy, florid revisions that edited the rawness out of it, and secondly, I felt like I’d been flailing around, trying to say something, but had never really gotten around to saying it. After five years as a medic, and five more years of writing, I had a lot more perspective and experience and I thought I knew exactly how to do it. So, I went back to the book. I stripped the style down to give it that initial blunt, raw feeling that I’d always liked about it, but kept some of the philosophical parts as the chief sections. Basically, it was a total rewrite, but with some good material to work with, and with the basic story staying the same, though with many small changes. I finished that draft in about eight months, and with the normal editing and copy editing afterwards, that ended up being the final version of Black Flies.

So, from the first attempt at a draft to the final version might have been ten or eleven years, though for probably six of those years I didn’t look at it at all.

2. What character in Black Flies do you most identify with and why?

Well, I guess I must identify with Ollie most, but there were moments where I identified with all the characters, including LaFontaine. I mean, I think one of the points of the book is that anyone is capable of really bad behavior given the proper circumstance, and my guess is that anyone who’s been in the circumstances I’ve been in can look at all the characters and see parts of themselves in those characters, while also recognizing the characters as “types” that you find in an EMS station. But, like I said, Ollie’s character is definitely the closest to my own.

***If you have not read Black Flies yet, please SKIP this question and go to Question 4 because the answer to Question 3 contains spoilers.***

3. What was the hardest section in Black Flies to write or what was the hardest part about writing Black Flies?

The part before and after Rutkovsky’s death was the hardest part, and also the very beginning. I had trouble with the beginning because it was hard to know what to tell and what not to and what events would represent the whole. The pre- and post-Rutkovsky death sections were really hard to write because I kept making them too long. I wanted to dramatize the emotion and make it serious and the way I saw to make it serious was to make it long. The problem was that that section was not particularly dramatic, and it took me a while to realize it, and I only did with the help of friends and family.

Basically, at a certain point in a book’s progression I hand the book to anyone who’ll read it and let everyone have a say. One of the questions I always ask is, “What is the worst part and what is the best?” My sister and my friends and my parents all pointed to that section after Rutkovsky’s death as the dullest and the hardest to read. So I rewrote and reworked it about fifty times. Even in the very last edit I was still reordering it. I think it’s a little rough there still, but it’s much better than it would have been.

Also, it occurs to me that when you ask what was the hardest part to write you might really be asking if it was hard emotionally to write parts of the book. I have to say it wasn’t hard at all in that way. If anything, it was cathartic. In general, emotion makes it easier for me to write because I have some really strong feelings inside to compare to the writing and to judge what is truthful and what is not and to drive me forward. So, at least for me, I’ve always found the most traumatic things are the easiest to write about.

4. Are you still a paramedic, and if not, why did you decide to leave that career to become a writer?

I still have my license, but I haven’t worked since the very beginning of 2001.

In January of 2001 I got hired to work on a movie script and since then I’ve more or less had regular movie work that has kept me from having to work a real job. At the time I was really glad to quite being a medic. For about twelve years I’d been spending forty hours a week writing, and then forty or fifty hours a week at a job. I was always busy, always in a rush, never had time to do anything. So, when I had a chance to cut my frenzied schedule in half I was really relieved. Afterwards, though, I missed being a medic, and I still think of going back into medicine at some point. I’m going to follow the writing as far and as long as I can, but you never know what is going to happen in the future, and I could see going back and working as a medic. I definitely miss the contact with patients, and the feeling that what you’re doing serves an absolute, immediate good.

5. Often writing experts and authors suggest to amateur writers that they write what they know, and it seems in your case this was true. Do you plan to branch out into other genres/topics?

For five or six years before I wrote about the EMS stuff I was writing ordinary literary fiction. The stuff I wrote was terrible: timid, dull, and didactic. But over that time, if nothing else, I was definitely becoming a better stylist and getting comfortable with my own abilities. I think T.S. Eliot said that he sat down to write everyday and threw out eighty percent of what he wrote, but he still always sat down to do it because when inspiration hit, he was ready. I’d like to think that those years of struggle were some sort of preparation rather than a complete waste. Anyway, the EMS subject really interested me, and I’m really glad I had that experience and I wrote those EMS books, but my heart is in straight literary fiction, and there is a slight feeling of compromise when I think of Safelight and Black Flies, like I leaned on this naturally dramatic subject more than I want to admit to myself, and that to really prove myself as a writer I need to be able to write outside that arena and see what I can do. And I’ve done it. Or at least I’ve tried to. I have three other novels in various states of disrepair. They will be coming to market eventually and I hope they don’t disappoint.

6. Do you reward yourself when you reach a particular writing goal? If so, what are some of your favorite rewards?

Not really. I’m very boring this way. I may have gone out to dinner a few times and maybe gotten some drinks or something like that, but I’m always so cautious of reversals, and also, I’m always so aware of the next step, that there never seems to be a definitive endpoint. I mean, you finish a draft of a novel, but it’s just a draft, and then you give it to friends and they read it and there’s always suggestions, so you write again and send it to your agent. And then you write again and it goes to editors and you sell it but there’s still the rewrites. And then the copy editing. And then you have a final version and it’s a book but you’re waiting for reviews, and there can always be an unpleasant review, and so it all slides by and there never seems to be a definitive point to celebrate. That is not to say that at times I haven’t felt accomplishment inside. I guess the best moments have been a feeling that someone else, a reviewer or reader, has been affected and swept up in the exact way I wanted them to be. But the question was about special rewards I’ve given myself. No. Not really. I probably should.

7. Could you share your publishing experience with my readers, such as did you get an agent before seeking a publisher, etc.? And how did that process unfold for you?

Yeah, I did get an agent, and it seems to me that having an agent is essential, as, for better or for worse, the literary people in New York all know each other, and the agents get to know the tastes of the various editors in a way you could never do unless you lived in that world. The agent funnels the book to the editor who would most likely want to read it, which is hugely important. Having said that, getting an agent isn’t even close to the first step, and at least for me, it came after years of solitary struggle.

I started writing seriously in the fall of 1989. I was really diligent. I didn’t know anything. I hadn’t taken writing classes in college or anything like that. I read all the time, but I had no idea how to do it. So, I just started writing. And for about three or four years I wandered around the country, worked menial jobs, lived in the worst places you can imagine, and wrote stories. Maybe I wrote fifty of them. They were terrible. No one wanted to read them. The last few, maybe, were a little better, but then I switched over and started to write novels before I really got the hang of the stories. It was an odd decision, but probably fortuitous, as I think most people are, at heart, either short story writers or novelists, and the chances of a novelist having an audience are perhaps slightly greater than that of a short story writer. Anyway, for some reason I thought I was a novelist, so I started writing novels. I wrote three of them in the early nineties. The first wasn’t terrible for a first novel. The second was not as good. The third was so awful I didn’t even type it up. At this point it was around 1995. I’d been writing everyday for six years with absolutely nothing to show for it except hundreds of worthless pages.

This was around the time I started to work as a medic and I started writing about my experiences on the ambulance. My fourth novel was that early version of Black Flies that I mentioned before and the fifth was Safelight, which I finished a draft of in 1998. I decided to concentrate on Safelight which I had to rewrite four times. The story stayed the same. But the way I told it, and the style, became more and more spare with each draft, which was probably appropriate for that story. Anyway, I think I finished that last draft in the spring of 2002, and I finally thought I’d been at least somewhat successful in entertaining, and that the novel said what I wanted it to say. I got an agent that summer and the book was sent out in the fall. I think it went out to about twenty publishing houses. Three editors showed real interest. Two were young editors and were both shot down by the marketing departments, who said (correctly) that the book wouldn’t sell.

The third editor was Dan Menaker, the head of Harper Collins. He made an offer. Then he also got into it with the head of marketing and after a battle was very reluctantly forced to withdraw his offer. I thought the hopes for the book were dead. But then a few months later Dan became editor in chief of Random House and one of the first things he did was renew the offer and buy my book. So, if Dan hadn’t gotten the job at Random House shortly after that brawl with his marketing department, who knows, Safelight might never have been published. It was lucky. It was a break for me. I feel really fortunate.

Basically, it’s a tough business, and everyone who’s succeeded does so with a combination of luck, resilience, and talent. But of those three, it seems the thing that’s most in one’s own control is resilience. Regardless of what happens, the only thing to do is to keep writing.


8. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers about their writing process or the publishing world?

I think my advice for aspiring writers is, like I said above, to keep writing. Do it everyday. Get comfortable with descriptions and dialogue and summary and the various pieces that make up a novel. Get comfortable with your style. And just start trying to do it. As for the publishing world, I think my number one rule would be you get one first shot, so use it wisely. But if it doesn’t work out, keep trying. It’s a tough racket. There’s no easy way into it. Everyone I know faces rejection more than acceptance, but you write and do what you can and sometimes there are little victories.

9. Are you currently working on other projects? Would you care to tantalize my readers with a few hints?

I have drafts of three other novels. In general, I don’t like to talk that much about what I’m working on. It takes me a long time. The books evolve along the way. But I can say that one is a “high school book,” one is historical and takes place in the west, and one is a small drama about my time in New Orleans. I would say a general theme in most of my books is good versus evil, though manifested in different ways.

10. Finally, What are you currently reading? And do you prefer fiction, non-fiction, or poetry and why?

I just finished reading Henderson the Rain King. It’s a book I’ve read before and went back to. Bellow’s voice is so engaging that the reader would follow Henderson anywhere. A great book. I don’t know what I’ll read next. Maybe American Wife. Or maybe The White Tiger. Or maybe a long Russian novel called Life and Fate. In general, I definitely prefer fiction, though I like everything, particularly biographies and travel writing. I tend to read a lot on the subject I’m writing about, so I end up reading histories, scientific texts, whatever. Also, my wife writes poetry, so I read some of that, though I hardly have a wide knowledge of contemporary poetry. Basically, I like to read, and so I read a little bit of everything. I usually have seven or eight books along my bed.

About the Author:

Shannon Burke was born in Wilmette, Illinois and went to college at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. He has published two novels, Safelight and Black Flies, and has been involved in various films, including work on the screenplay for the film Syriana. From the mid to late nineties he worked as a paramedic in Harlem for the New York City Fire Department. He now lives in Knoxville, Tennessee with his wife Amy Billone and their two sons.

Check out his website, here.

Thank you, Shannon for taking the time to share with us these helpful insights. Good luck to you in your writing career. We look forward to your engaging novels yet to come.

***Want to win a copy of Black Flies by Shannon Burke? I’ll send one lucky winner a copy of Black Flies. Here’s how to enter: (Remember, you must leave an email address in your comment or make sure there is another way for me to contact you to make your entries count!)

1. Leave a comment on this post about what you liked most about the interview for one entry.

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3. Either blog about this contest on your own site and return here to leave me the link or email the contest details to five friends and cc savvyverseandwit AT gmail DOT com for a third entry.

Deadline is November 5, 2008 at Midnight EST and is open internationally.

***Another giveaway from Savvy Verse & Wit. Win a copy of The Safety of Secrets by Delaune Michel! Go here, follow the rules, and enter.