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Creative Edge Author Interview – Caroline Giammanco

January 20, 2022
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  1. What inspired you to write this collection of paranormal and science fiction stories? (Into the Night)

    My mother was a strong influence on me growing up, and she encouraged us to consider the “what ifs” of the universe. We watched Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, and Kolchak: The Night Stalker and enjoyed talking about the possibilities of aliens, ghosts, and other things that go bump in the night. It’s a genre I’ve been drawn to my entire life. 

    After writing three hard-hitting nonfiction books, I needed a break. I still wanted to be creative, but I didn’t want to go through the emotional meat grinder of another true crime/criminal justice book. I was drained, so I decided to write science fiction and paranormal stories for fun. It has been a nice change of pace to create the monsters instead of writing about the real ones.

   Henry was another strong influence on me as a child. I enjoy stories with a twist, and I incorporate a twist into nearly every fiction piece I write whether it is science fiction, paranormal, or general fiction. I like taking readers by surprise, and I like to make them look at items we take for granted in new ways.

  1. Did you have these stories filed away for a while, or did you write them specifically for the collection?

    Since I hadn’t decided to start writing short stories until I was needing a break from my nonfiction books, these stories are new material I wrote for the collection. I hadn’t written short stories prior to writing my books, so there were none to pull out of storage. 

  1. Do you have a favorite story in the collection, and if so, why?

    Different stories appeal to me for different reasons. I incorporate a piece of myself and my life experiences into each one. Charcoal Drawings haunted me to some degree because, as a teacher, I pictured myself as the main character, Mylah Kennedy. I didn’t finish this story until 1:30 in the morning, and when I ended it and looked out at my pitch-black bedroom, it gave me the “heeby-geebies.”

4. What is your writing schedule like?

    Unlike some writers, I don’t have a set schedule, nor do I believe I have to write every day in order to be a “real” writer. I’m busy with my teaching job, a long commute, my farm, and family obligations. If I don’t feel like writing, I don’t. If a story idea needs more time to develop in my mind, I let it rest until it’s ready to come out. At other times, when I have the writing bug, so to speak, I’ll write two stories in a weekend. I need to be in the right frame of mind. I know some writers feel as though they must write “x” amount of words per day, but that sounds too much like drudgery to me. I write because I enjoy the creative process, and my creative process doesn’t work well under artificial constraints like a required word count. To answer the question: I have no writing schedule

5. How do you research for your books?

    My three nonfiction books deal with the criminal justice system. Bank Notes: The True Story of the Boonie Hat Bandit and Inside the Death Fences: Memoir of a Whistleblower are the real-life experiences of my husband and myself, so research wasn’t necessary. For Guilty Hearts: The World of Prison Romance, I interviewed other women who have incarcerated loved ones and their family members.

6. Where is your favorite place to write?

    I like to be comfortable when I write, so I prefer to write in bed, especially at night. There are few distractions and my ideas flow more easily at night when I’m relaxed. If an idea hits me, and I’m able to jot it down, however, I’ll write anywhere.

7. When did you start writing?

    I’m a high school English teacher, but I never wrote anything other than work-related items until I began my first book, Bank Notes. Over the years, people told me I should write, but I never had a purpose for writing until the story of my husband’s experiences needed to be told.

8. Do you have a blog, website, or social media links you can share?

 My WordPress blog site is carolinegiammanco writes. My Twitter account is @GiammancoBook. I’m on Facebook at Caroline Giammanco Author and at Caroline Giammanco Author Fans

9. Your other books cover some controversial and powerful subjects. Can you let us know how they came about and why you chose to write them

a) Bank Notes: The True Story of the Boonie Hat Bandit

In July 2011, I began teaching the GED program at the South Central Correctional Center in Licking, Missouri. That is a maximum-security men’s prison, and working in a prison was never on my bucket list. The Great Recession caused my school district, and many others, to cut positions, and I found myself needing a job, so I applied.

In late March 2012, I hired Donald Keith Giammanco to work as a tutor in my classroom.  Each of the ten classrooms had two tutors who assisted the teachers. I didn’t realize that Keith was The Boonie Hat Bandit for a few weeks after I’d hired him, but he had been upfront at the interview and told me he had robbed banks in the St. Louis area using notes. Keith and my other tutor were enrolled in a college business class at the time, and I would proofread their papers. Keith is intelligent, but spelling isn’t his strong suit, so I told him one day that if he ever wrote a book or screenplay, he might want to have me edit it first. We laughed, but it was an idea we stuck with. Over time, it went from me editing his story to helping him write it. Together we collaborated to let the world know what the criminal justice system looks like as experienced by a middle-class adult who went down the wrong path. It’s a world most citizens don’t see, and the corruption we witnessed each day needed to be brought to light.   

b) Guilty Hearts: The World of Prison Romance

    After I wrote Bank Notes, I took part in dozens of Barnes and Noble book signings around the country. Each time, I was met with people who were incredulous that I was involved with an inmate. “You don’t look like someone who would marry an inmate” was a common thread. After talking with me for a while, or after they read my book, they would change their mind and say something along the lines of, “Well, you and Keith are okay, but those other women…”

    By this time, I knew several families with incarcerated loved ones, and they weren’t the stereotype at all. They were hard-working, middle-class, upstanding people who happened to love someone who made mistakes. I felt it was important to share their stories in hopes some of the stigma could be taken away. I chose Guilty Hearts for the name of the book because too often anyone who is related to or loves an inmate is painted with the same guilt as the incarcerated person. We are not second-class citizens

c) Inside the Death Fences: Memoir of a Whistleblower:

    Now that I had told my husband’s story, and the stories of a dozen other families, I decided the time was right to tell my own experiences working inside the Missouri prison system, including what I saw, the death threats, and my activism to change a terribly flawed system that leaves none of us any safer.

10. As a teacher, do you encourage your students to write their stories?

    I believe it is important to help students find their voices. Every class I teach has a writing component, and I teach a course called Creative Writing.

11. Do you prefer fiction or nonfiction when you read and why?

    Ever since I was a young child, I prefer nonfiction. Real people and real places have always fascinated me. I enjoy good fiction works, but nonfiction is a mainstay for me.

12. Does your location inspire you to write and how?

    I grew up on an eighty-acre farm in the Missouri Ozark Mountains, and the love of the country has never left me. After I graduated high school, I moved to Tucson, Arizona to attend the University of Arizona. I ended up living in Arizona and New Mexico for over twenty years before returning to rural southern Missouri in 2006. 

    Each place I have lived has left an imprint on me, and I draw from those places whenever I write. In addition to science fiction, paranormal, and general fiction, I also write westerns that are heavily influenced by my time out West.

Bio:

Caroline Giammanco is an author and high school English teacher. She grew up in Douglas County, Missouri and moved to Arizona to attend the University of Arizona where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science with an English minor. She lives on her sixty-acre farm in southern Missouri. Caroline is married to the love of her life, Keith Giammanco. 

Caroline’s previous published works are nonfiction and deal with the criminal justice system: Bank Notes: The True Story of the Boonie Hat Bandit; Guilty Hearts: The World of Prison Romances; and Inside the Death Fences: Memoir of a Whistleblower. 

Creative Edge Author Interview – Robert P. French

December 9, 2021
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1.       How did you start as a writer?

When I was about 23, I wrote a book of horror stories which I typed on an old Underwood typewriter. At the time I didn’t have the faintest idea about publishing, so I put them in a file folder which, by the way, I still have.

Many years later, I was Chief Technology Officer at a company into which I had poured my heart and soul. The company didn’t make it through the high-tech meltdown of 2003, so I did what all techies do in such a situation: I started looking for consulting projects. After a long day of phone calls, I opened a WORD document and started writing a post-apocalyptic novel that had been sitting in the back of my mind for a while. I wrote non-stop until something like three in the morning. For me it was my heroin; I was hooked.

I kept writing most days but at about 40,000 words, I ran out of steam. I put the book to one side and tried writing another novel about a man, so totally bored with his life, that he seeks excitement by becoming an assassin. This too petered out. Finally, I completed a 115,000-word business thriller about a high-tech entrepreneur who gets scammed by a venture capitalist and then gets his revenge by scamming the scammers. I gave it the awful title, Vengeance Dot Com. This was before the days when agents and publishers would accept emailed submissions, so I mailed out over a hundred copies of the book… and watched as the seventy-plus rejection letters trickled in.

At the time, I had heard about the Surrey International Writers’ Conference, which is in a suburb of Vancouver and is, I believe, one of the largest writers’ conferences in North America. I went there with the idea that I would just learn all about how to write a winning synopsis of the book and about how to submit it to agents. Then they would see what a wonderful book it was… right?

The first session I attended was on the craft of writing and I was horrified to learn that there were  some things I was doing wrong, disastrously wrong, in fact. Who’d have thought it? I immediately changed my focus from sessions on marketing to sessions on the craft of writing. In one of these sessions, I met Lisa Rector-Maass, an editor from New York. I engaged her to do a review of the book. I got back a superb thirty-seven-page critique and realized that it was a non-starter. No amount of editing was ever going to save that book.

At the time, I had a project where I was managing software development for a company whose offices were in the downtown east side of Vancouver, which is a poorer part of the city where lots of drug deals happen. Every day, on my way to my client’s office, I would carefully avoid stepping on discarded needles. I used to pass the entrance to an alley that was filled with addicts who were sleeping, shouting out, shooting up, drinking coffee, eating fast food, and buying and selling drugs. To be honest, it kind of freaked me out. I remember thinking how awful it be to wake up and find yourself in that alley. I started to obsess over the idea and mentioned it to Lisa. She asked me some questions that just got everything flowing in my mind and the first Cal Rogan book was born. Lisa mentored me through Junkie and the second book Oboe and she was my editor for both books. I credit her for most of what I have learned about the craft of writing.

2.       Did you have a clear idea of the genre you wanted to write or did the story dictate that?

No. I love science fiction and thought that maybe I could write a sci-fi novel. But once Cal Rogan came into my life, I had found my genre.

3.       Why did you choose thriller crime fiction?

It was where Cal took me.

4.       Where did the character of Cal Rogan come from?

I was answering Lisa’s question of who it might be waking up in that terrifying alley. I thought about a lawyer, a doctor or a cop. I liked the irony of a cop, who had probably arrested his fair share of addicts, waking up there. Her follow-up question of ‘why was he there?’ was immediately answered, ‘Because he’s now an addict himself.’ Thus was Cal born.

5.       Do you feel your character has grown in each book?

Oh yes. He still fights with his demons but he works so hard to stay drug-free. Book by book, he rebuilds his life, often in the face of people or events that could send him back into the downward spiral of addiction.

6.       Is writing a series easier or harder than a standalone?

Much easier, I think. I have a cast of characters who have grown over the writing of the books and I love them all. Their words and actions just leap onto the page. I work on the plot and the characters write the rest. 🙂

7.       You cover tough social issues within your narratives. Was this a conscious decision?

I didn’t set out to make social commentary. As I was researching drug addiction, I was faced with the question of whether legalizing drugs (all drugs, not just marijuana) would be a good or bad idea. I don’t want to write preachy books so I allow my characters a few moments to argue the issue here and there. They are coming around to my way of thinking. I am a firm believer that legalization with control, just like with alcohol and tobacco, is a far better way to go for everyone in society and I feel that I can defend that position pretty well. I also like my characters to explore moral or philosophical questions like when is it morally correct to kill someone? Do we have free will? Is incest ever OK?

8.       Is there a subject you will not cover?

No. The only thing I don’t do is write explicit sex scenes. My readers’ imaginations are much better at filling in the blanks than I could ever be. In the same vein, I don’t give long descriptions of a character’s physical appearance. For example, I don’t think I have ever mentioned the colour of Cal’s eyes. I think it’s way more fun for readers to see the characters the way they want.

9.       How do you structure your writing schedule?

Prior to covid, every day I would drop my son at school and go to the Vancouver Public Library to write. For the last year and a half, I have been homeschooling him and writing on the weekends and, for an hour or two, here and there, during the week. Covid has not helped my productivity.

10.   Can you tell us about the latest book in the series?

The seventh, and latest book in the series is called Jailed. After some harrowing experiences in the previous book, Captive, Cal quit the PI business and went to teach Shakespeare at Simon Fraser University. A student approaches him and begs him to help exonerate her brother who has been falsely convicted of murder. After reluctantly visiting the brother in the Kent Institution, one of Canada’s grimmest jails, Cal is convinced of his innocence and sets out to find the real killer with unexpected results and some disastrous consequences.

11.   Do you have a current manuscript you are working on?

Always. I haven’t finalized a title and I’m not sure where it’s going yet, but the starting point is that a woman is found wandering in the downtown east side of Vancouver. She is obviously wealthy and she claims to have lost her memory. As Cal investigates, he discovers that she bears a remarkable resemblance to someone who has been accused of orchestrating a multi-billion dollar fraud. As an aside, the fraud is based on a real case.

12.   Would you consider writing another genre? Why or why not?

I have often thought of writing science fiction but I just don’t think I’d be that good at it. However, Cal Rogan has a daughter, Ellie, who is now twelve. I have started working on a series set in 2040, where she is a detective. It definitely won’t be science fiction but will describe a world that I see as a logical extension of where we are today.

13.   Which genre do you enjoy reading?

I love crime fiction, psychological thrillers, espionage, and science fiction. For non-fiction, I tend towards science and philosophy.

14.   How can readers find you and your books?

The best place is at my website

Robert French is a software developer, turned actor, turned author. He is the writer of the seven (so far)
Cal Rogan Mysteries crime-thrillers about a drug-addicted ex-cop who fights his way from living rough
on the streets to being a much-sought-after PI. The series, set in Vancouver, Canada, reflects the best
and worst of the city. He is passionate about having the right words on the page and with every new
book, his goal is to make it better than the previous one.
His loves are his family, science, language, certain elements of philosophy and craft beer.

Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – The Dreaded Editing Process

December 2, 2021
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Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Editing encompasses several elements in order to achieve a well-polished manuscript for submission. Editing includes among other things, continuity, grammar, spelling, character development, revisions to scenes etc. the list is long and sometimes overwhelming.

Where should you start?

Instead of plunging directly back into a first draft, let it sit for a while. Start another project, take a rest, whatever you need to tear yourself away from the world and the characters you created. Ideally, leave it for three to six months, depending on any deadlines you have, of course. This will allow you to ‘see; it with fresh eyes.

When you go back to re-read there will be new insights. Rather than overwhelming yourself with trying to ‘correct’ all the editing elements mentioned above, concentrate on one item at a time.

Limit each read through to a specific task.

When you have completed these tasks let either trusted friends, or members of your local writing group read it. Take note of their suggestions and correct any errors they may find. Remember, no matter how many times you or your beta readers go through a manuscript, there will always be a word missed, mis-spelt or a continuity slip up. Once this is done it is time to consider handing over the manuscript to a professional. A professional editor is a good investment, if you can afford one. A badly edited book reflects on you the author and no-one else.

Here are a couple of tricks that can help you edit more effectively:

  1. Read the book from back to front page by page. This stops your brain putting in words that are not there.
  2. Read it out aloud to yourself or an understanding friend. A missed word is very obvious with this technique.

When editing there may be sentences or even whole paragraphs that you know need to be revised or even omitted from the manuscript to help with the flow of the story line or scene.  Deleting these can be hard. There are different opinions on what to do with these revisions but I think they should be saved in a separate document until you are absolutely sure you do want to delete them and even then you may keep them as a record of how the scene developed. A writer’s jetsam so to speak. These ejected words from our narratives may dwell in our hard drives or document folders for months, sometimes years. They may even be useful if at some point in the future you decide to use them in a sequel!  

Without correcting and improving, our creations will not be polished and worthy of reading and that is the one thing we all want – our work to be read and enjoyed.

What is your editing process like?

Bibliophile’s Collective Tuesday – A Special TV Interview with BLive Media

November 30, 2021
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I was delighted to be interviewed on Writers Corner Live TV Show on Sunday. It was an early start 7 am so if you missed it (you were probably sleeping!) here it is. https://www.facebook.com/WritersCornerLive/videos/445917263722961

I talked about Life in Slake Patch and it’s long history from initial draft through multiple revisions to it’s final publishing date and the redesign of the front cover. We discussed my writing journey and how I create my stories.

If you have any questions please feel free to ask in the comment section here. I’m always happy to connect and chat.

Bibliophile’s Collective Tuesday – The Creation of Life in Slake Patch (Speculative fiction)

November 16, 2021
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I was excited to be the Author of the Day on Many Books talking about Life in Slake Patch, my speculative fiction novel. You can read about how the story was created, a glimpse at the characters and the extended time it took to write the story. Here:

If I did not answer a question you would like to ask, please put it in the comments and I will happily reply.

Happy reading and take care.

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