Fiction Review

Tana French, “By the Book”

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If you missed Tana French’s recent interview in the NY Times‘ “By the Book” you can catch it here. http://nyti.ms/2dcviBX You might be interested to read the list of her favorite crime fiction writers.

And, if French herself is one of your favorite crime fiction writers, you can order her new book, The Trespasser, and other titles, through the Web Store. http://bit.ly/2dnnaPq

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Graham Moore, Authorcuts

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Graham Moore is the author of The Sherlockian and The Last Days of Night.

Here, in Authorcuts, a short video used with permission from Penguin Random House, Moore discusses how he was prompted to write his first novel, The Sherlockian.  http://bit.ly/2d0kZSn

Copies of The Sherlockian, and signed copies of The Last Days of Night are available through the Web Store. http://bit.ly/2d7mlIz

Ann Parker, In the Hot Seat – Part 2

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Welcome back! Ann Parker, author of What Gold Buys, recently sat In the Hot Seat for questions. Today is the second half of that interview.

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What are you working on now?

Right now, I’m working on this Q&A! 😉

Okay, I know that’s not what you mean…

I’m polishing up a couple of short stories to submit for consideration to a couple of anthologies. I’m pulling together what I need to take a deep breath and plunge into Book #6 (titles always come last for me, so it’s simply “Book #6” for now). I see What Gold Buys as closing a cycle that started with Silver Lies, the first book of the series. The series will continue, but this next one will be taking Inez (and me) into some uncharted territory…

Yes, I’m being intentionally vague about this next in the Silver Rush “saga” for now!

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Marcia Martinek, editor of the Leadville Herald Democrat, in the cellar of the newspaper. It used to be an undertaking business. Used in What Gold Buys

So, our other questions will be off topic. It’s that dinner party question first. If you could invite an author and their hero or villain to dinner, who would you invite, and why?

Well, I’m a big fan of the George Smiley novels of John le Carré (aka David John Moore Cornwell). I’d love to invite le Carre and Smiley to dinner. I’m not certain we’d get past the appetizers, though, as I’d want to quiz them endlessly about their time(s) in MI5 and MI6, and what it was like during the Cold War. Being the polite sorts they probably are, they would no doubt suddenly find they have important business elsewhere, offer their regrets, and the dinner party would come to an abrupt end. Oh well. More appetizers for me!

If friends come to visit, where do you like to take them?

Some of my favorite spots to escape for a really good cup of coffee (keep in mind I live the outer suburbs of the San Francisco Bay Area… this isn’t Portland or Seattle!). Our nearby independent bookstore (Towne Center Books). The local “Vine Cinema and Alehouse” shows independent films, has comfy couches, and is a great place to fall into the magic of movies. If there’s more time, then a jaunt to Yosemite is nice… however, I’ll admit it’s been many years since I’ve been there myself. Maybe I need more out-of-town friends to come visit!

How would Inez Stannert describe you?

I think Inez would look a little askance at me, to be honest. At first, she would probably view me suspiciously, perhaps dismissively, rather like how she views most of the “church women” she runs up against in Leadville. After all, let’s face it, I am a meek and mild suburban working mother and wife, leading a pretty staid life compared to her rather complicated and adventurous one gallivanting around on the edge of propriety. If we played a game of poker—or any kind of cards (I’m rather fond of twenty-one, but only if playing for M&Ms or toothpicks)—she’d quickly discover I am a very lousy player, being unable to keep a poker face to save my life (or my M&Ms).

However, should we have the chance to discuss literature—Milton’s Paradise Lost, for instance, or Shakespeare’s plays, W.B. Yeats, T.S. Eliot (well, a bit after her time at this point), who knows? We might find common points of interest. So, after all this let’s-get-to-know-each-other stuff, how would Inez describe me? Perhaps as “cautious, a bit of a mouse, and not a gambler, that is certain. But she examines the world and its inhabitants closely, not just with her eyes, but also with her ears and all her senses. She is kind and cares deeply… she has a heart and an inquiring mind, and uses them both.”

Other than author, what’s the most interesting job you ever had?

I love being a science writer. It allows me to ask nosey and “stupid” questions with impunity, I get to find out all about “bleeding edge” science and technology as it is being developed, and I get to meet scientists and researchers who are passionate about their work.

One of the most eye-opening jobs I had was working as a maid in a high-class summer resort. People pretty much acted as if maids were “invisible” people, and wow, the things they did and the conditions of some of those rooms… 

Final question. What’s been on your TBR pile recently?

If we’re talking fiction, Jar City by Arnaldur Indriðason was top of my pile for the Towne Center mystery book club, which I lead (kind of sort of), so I finished that in June. The summer pile for that club also includes Madam Will You Talk? by Mary Stewart and Absolute Power by David Baldacci. Non-book-club summer reading included The Preacher by Ted Thackery, Jr., The Badwater Gospel by R.W. Magill, and The Green Muse by Jessie Prichard Hunter. I’m partway through Maids of Misfortune by M. Louisa Locke and enjoying it immensely. Next up on my “casual reading” piles for perusal are Chorus of the Dead by Tracy L. Ward, The Black Gang by H.C. McNeile, A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn, and Hangtown Creek: A tale of the California Goldrush by John Putnam.

In a separate pile is lots of nonfiction I’m working through for the mysterious Book #6.

And of course, having mentioned le Carré, I now have a hankering to do a re-read of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. I think this is why the TBR piles never seem to diminish, no matter how much I read.

Thank you, Ann! Ann’s website is www.annparker.net. You can purchase an autographed copy of What Gold Buys, the latest Silver Rush mystery, through the Web Store. http://bit.ly/2djWpfe

(Leadville’s House with the Eye Museum was the home of Eugene Robitaille, who plays a small, but significant role in What Gold Buys.)

Ann Parker, In the Hot Seat

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When I asked Ann Parker if she would sit in the hot seat, she not only answered questions, she sent me a wealth of photos as well. Leadville, Colorado is the setting for her mysteries, including her latest, What Gold Buys. Since she had more than a couple photos I wanted to include, I’m splitting the interview in two. Thank you, Ann.

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Ann, would you introduce yourself to our readers?

Certainly!

Hello all… Ann Parker here, scribbler of fiction, physics, and marketing fa-la-la for any who will toss a coin my way. I have always been a “lover of words,” starting from that moment when I was stumbling through the remedial reading class in first grade and somewhere, deep in my brain, some synaptic switch was thrown when I read the word “evening.” In the blink of an eye, I no longer had to haltingly sound out each syllable, thrashing desperately through a mess of alphabet letters, trying to make sense of how the individual ABCs, when strung together, somehow morphed by magic into “words.” After that, there was no stopping me, and I became a voracious lifetime reader.

A close second to my love of reading is my love (and appreciation) of music. Both of my parents played classical piano, and one of my early memories is lying under the grand piano and listening as my mother played Chopin, Beethoven, Liszt, and so on. However, my musical appreciation didn’t extend to my own performance. I halfheartedly played a few different instruments in my childhood/youth—violin, piano, the obligatory acoustic guitar (during the 1960s folk music era). After that, I settled into my role as an avid listener. I listen to music when I write (I have my noise reduction earphones on this very moment as I type while Pandora is serving me up a delectable mix “from Bernini’s Angels Radio.”)

Close to words and music would have to be my lifelong interest in science. My objective on entering University of California, Berkeley, was to become an astronomer. I could imagine no more wonderful employment than exploring the reaches of the Universe, looking back in time, to the very origins of everything. However, as often happens in life, some doors closed while others opened. I graduated with a double major in Physics and English Literature (I couldn’t leave the world of stories and words behind, even as I sweated to wrap my brain around quantum mechanics, fluid dynamics, and so on). From there, I more or less wandered into becoming a technical editor/writer (which at first meant taking inadvertent post-lunch naps over dense engineering specifications), and then branched out into science writing, corporate communications, creating marketing collateral, and so on. I usually tell people that, if a project involves spinning words, I can do it.

My fiction-writing career came late in life. I celebrated the publishing of my first Silver Rush historical mystery, Silver Lies, when I was fifty. Quite a way to start the second half-century of life!

Perhaps the best way to introduce your series is to start with Leadville, Colorado. Would you tell us about it?

Well, the other passion of my life is Colorado, and Leadville in particular. I have deep family roots in Colorado: both of my parents came from Denver, and I had many relatives in the area. My paternal grandmother was raised in Leadville, which is what led me to investigate the area and ultimately “stake my claim” writing a mystery series focused on that area.

The city of Leadville is in the heart of the Rocky Mountains at 10,152 feet. Winter lasts a loooong time up there. In the 1860s, gold lured the first prospectors to its rarified setting. By the late 1870s, silver was king. When the silver rush kicked into high gear in 1878, people started pouring into Leadville from all around the globe, making it one of the largest silver camps in the world.

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Late 19th century/early 20th century postcard of Leadville and Mt. Massive, from The New York Public Library

Folks often ask me, why Leadville? In addition to my family history, which initially led me there, I have found the history of Leadville to have many points of resonance with the present. (Giving proof to the old saying “History repeats itself.”) Whether it’s the mania to “get rich quick;” the prevalence of dirty politics and casual abuse of power; the heartbreak of those ill with incurable diseases as they and their families search desperately for anything, anyone that holds out a shred of hope of a cure … it’s all there, in the history.

Would you introduce Inez Stannert?

Hmmm. She can be a bit reticent about her background, but I’ll do my best. I like to describe Inez as a woman with a mysterious past, a complicated present, and an uncertain future. Stubborn, wily, strong-minded, opinionated, and possessing an astute eye for human character and failings, she’s prone to making snap judgments based on her intuition and powers of observation. She’s also not above pulling a trick or two to get her way and is fiercely loyal to those she cares about.

A little background (without going too deep into her “mysterious past”): The daughter of a wealthy family back East, Inez kicked over the traces to marry the too-charming-for-his-own-good gambler and occasional-con-man Mark Stannert (who is wily enough to be a match for her… or nearly so. I’ll let readers decide on that one!). Of course, she was disinherited instantly, and she and Mark spent the next ten years in the company of Abe Jackson, a free man of color that Mark befriended after the Civil War. The three wandered south and ever-westward through Reconstruction-torn territory and into the Plains, living by their wits and charm, sometimes one step ahead of the law. By the time they hit Leadville, the Silver Rush was on the rise and the three of them were tired of the constant travelling. When Mark wins the Silver Queen in a poker game… not an unreasonable happenstance in rough-and-tumble 1878 Leadville… he proposes that they share ownership equally three ways: himself, Abe, and Inez (I did say he was a charmer, right?)

As part owner of the Silver Queen Saloon in Leadville, Inez is a 30-year-old woman in a man’s world. Of the 300 or so saloons in Leadville in 1880, only 3 were run by women. She is constantly having to prove that she is NOT a disreputable woman even though the saloon’s location on the corner of Leadville’s red-light and business districts might indicate that she sells more than just liquor. When Mark mysteriously disappears in mid-1879, Inez sends her young son William back East to live with her younger sister. She misses him fiercely, but is determined to do what is best for him. She stays in Leadville and continues to manage the Leadville business in tandem with Abe.

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Ann’s maternal grandmother, Elsie, and her oldest son, Jack. The models for Inez and William

In addition to serving up drinks, Inez plays piano like an angel, plays cards like a pro, manages the business accounts, breaks up fights, and faces down the bad guys and gals. Oh yes, and being an independent-thinking woman who flaunts convention as it suits her, she has taken a lover in Mark’s absence: the Reverend Justice B. Sands. That’s not to say she is immune to what others think… in fact, we see her bristling at the cold shoulder that many of the church women give her. But that doesn’t stop Inez from doing what she wants. She just takes more devious steps to keep the affair discreet. However, when Mark reappears, as suddenly as he left, all her carefully constructed plans to divorce him on grounds of desertion are thrown into disarray.

In many ways, Inez is very human, very flawed. She walks a fine line between what is morally “right” and wrong, and steps over the line when needed. Not a white hat or black hat … she comes in complex shades of grey.

I think we have enough background for the next question. Without spoilers, would you tell us about What Gold Buys?

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Autumn 1880 in the Rocky Mountains brings frost, snow, and the return of Silver Queen Saloon owner Inez Stannert to Leadville, Colorado, after an extended stay in Manitou Springs.

In this silver rush boomtown, those who are hungry for material riches seek their fortunes in precious metals. Others, hungry for spiritual relief, seek to pierce the veil between life and death with the help of fortunetellers, mediums, and occultists. Deep in the twisted byways of Leadville’s Stillborn Alley, soothsayer Drina Gizzi awaits the promised arrival of her benefactor, the mysterious Mr. Brown. When she is found murdered, strangled with a set of silver and gold corset laces, no one seems to care except the three who find her body—Inez, Reverend Sands, and Drina’s young daughter, Antonia. The mystery surrounding Drina’s death deepens when her body vanishes without a trace.

As Inez and Antonia band together to seek out Drina’s killer, they unearth disturbing evidence of underground resurrectionists, long-held grievances, and white-hot revenge. Meanwhile, Mark Stannert, true to his word that he only “plays to win,” contrives to drive Inez and Reverend Sands apart, gambling that he can convince her to abandon her plans for divorce. But what can gold buy, after all? A new life? Freedom from the past? Truth and justice for those murdered and unmourned? Or a final passage for Inez and Antonia into an unmarked grave and the world of the dead?

And what of Mr. Brown, whose missing presence hovers over all, like a spirit from beyond?

And, what more? Come back tomorrow for the second half of Ann Parker’s Q&A.

Robert Tanenbaum & Infamy

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Robert Tanembaum was recently at The Poisoned Pen to talk about his latest Bruce Karp/Marlene Ciampi thriller, Infamy.

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Here’s the description of Infamy, from the Web Store.

The “rock-solid” (Kirkus Reviews) prosecutor Butch Karp and his wife, Marlene Ciampi, return to solve the suspicious murder of a US Army colonel and battle corruption at the highest levels of the United States government in this novel byNew York Times bestselling author Robert K. Tanenbaum.

Intrigue, murder, corruption, and dramatic courtroom battles combine to makeInfamy another must-read in Robert K. Tanenbaum’s “tightly-written” (Booklist) legal thrillers. When a former Army veteran suddenly murders a colonel in New York, he claims that he had to do it because he was being used in mind control experiments. Surprisingly, a top Wall Street criminal defense lawyer, one with ties to the White House, decides to defend the killer, arguing that his client suffered from post-traumatic stress from his tours in Afghanistan and that it’s his patriotic duty to assist him.

As New York District Attorney Roger “Butch” Karp prepares a murder case against the veteran, he meets with investigative reporter Ariadne Stupenagel, who suspects that one of her sources for a story on high-level government corruption was a victim in the shooting. This points not to a random act of violence, but a hired killing that goes to the top levels of our nation.

In this fast-paced thriller, Karp goes up against corruption so powerful that he, his family, and his friends are in danger if he intends to prosecute those responsible for the murder of an FBI whistle-blower. Filled with edge-of-your-seat action, stunning plot twists, and, “solid courtroom scenes” (Kirkus Reviews), Infamy will keep you guessing until the very end.

We have a few photos from the event in which Robert Tanenbaum was interviewed by Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen.

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You can pick up signed copies of Infamy through the Web Store.  http://bit.ly/2dsw7Ul

Alex Kava at The Poisoned Pen

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Alex Kava was recently at The Poisoned Pen on her book tour for Reckless Creed.

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Here’s the description of her latest book, from the Web Store.

In the new edge-of-your-seat thriller from New York Times–bestselling author Alex Kava, Ryder Creed, his K-9 search-and-rescue dogs, and FBI agent Maggie O’Dell find themselves at the center of a dire and mysterious case.
 
In Chicago, a young man jumps from his thirtieth-story hotel room; along the Missouri river, a hunter and his son stumble upon a lake whose surface is littered with snow geese, all of them dead; and in southern Alabama, Ryder Creed and his search-and-rescue dog Grace find the body of a young woman who went missing in the Conecuh National Forest…and it appears she filled her pockets with rocks and walked into the river. Before long Ryder Creed and FBI profiler Maggie O’Dell will discover the ominous connection among these mysterious deaths. What they find may be the most prolific killer the United States has ever known.

If you’d like to see the program, you can watch Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen, interview Alex Kava on Livestream. http://livestream.com/poisonedpen/events/6376470

You can buy a signed copy of Reckless Creed at the Web Store. http://bit.ly/2dwK4kP

Donis Casey, In the Hot Seat

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Donis Casey will be appearing with Carolyn Hart and Hannah Dennison at The Poisoned Pen Tuesday, October 4 at 7 PM. I asked the author of All Men Fear Me and the other Alafair Tucker mysteries to sit in the hot seat for an interview. Thank you, Donis.

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Donis, would you introduce yourself to readers?

I was born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I graduated from the University of Tulsa with a degree in English, and earned a Master’s degree in Library Science from Oklahoma University. After teaching school for a short time, I enjoyed a career as an academic librarian, working for many years at the University of Oklahoma and at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. I left academia in 1988 to start my own business and after more than a decade as an entrepreneur, I decided to devote myself full-time to writing. I am the author of the Alafair Tucker Mysteries, set in Oklahoma during the booming 1910s and featuring the sleuthing mother of ten children. I have twice won the Arizona Book Award, been a finalist for the Willa Award and am a seven-time finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award. My first novel, The Old Buzzard Had It Coming, was named an Oklahoma Centennial Book.The ninth Alafair Tucker Mystery, The Return of the Raven Mocker, will be available in January 2017 from Poisoned Pen Press. For the past thirty years I have lived in Tempe, AZ, with my husband.

Alafair Tucker is one of my favorite mystery characters. Tell us about Alafair.

Alafair Tucker is a woman in her early forties who lives with her husband Shaw and their ten children on a prosperous farm in Muskogee County, Oklahoma, during the booming 1910s.  She never sets out to solve murders, but all those pesky kids keep getting involved in unsavory situations, and need their mother to help get them out of trouble.  Fortunately, Alafair is the kind of woman who will do anything, legal or not so legal, for her kids.

I started writing about Alafair a dozen years ago almost as an act of defiance—well, maybe as atonement, too. I spent much of my youth trying not to be a “traditional housewife”, and it seems to me that many women, especially young women, have the mind-set that in order to be a person worthy of respect you have to compete in the business world. (cough-Lean In-cough). It’s almost like we believe in that Groucho Marx adage, “I wouldn’t want to belong to a club that would have me as a member.” When you really see what kind of life our foremothers lived, how smart and innovative and accomplished they had to be, you can’t help but be awed.

So I write about it, even knowing how people still think of traditional women. Women included.

Would you tell us about All Men Fear Me, without spoilers?

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My first Alafair book The Old Buzzard Had It Coming, took place in 1912. In the eighth story, All Men Fear Me, occurs in 1917 at entry of the United States into World War I. Not all Americans are happy to go to war. After the country schedules the first draft lottery in April of ’17,  a violent clash occurs between rabid pro-war, anti-immigrant “patriots” and anti-conscription socialists who are threatening an uprising rather than submit to the draft.

Alafair is caught in the middle when her brother, a union organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World, pays her a visit. Rob Gunn is fresh out of an internment camp for participants in an Arizona miners’ strike. He assures Alafair that he’s only come to visit family, but she’s not so sure. On top of everything, Alafair’s eldest son enlists, and a group calling themselves the “Knights of Liberty” vandalizes the farm of Alafair’s German-born son-in-law.

Alfafair’s younger son, 16-year-old Charlie, is wildly patriotic and horrified by his socialist uncle. With his father’s permission Charlie takes a part-time war job at the Francis Vitric Brick Company. Soon several suspicious machine breakdowns delay production, and a couple of shift supervisors are murdered. Everyone in town suspects sabotage, some blaming German spies, some blaming the unionists and socialists. But Charlie Tucker is sure he knows who the culprit is and comes up with a plan to catch him red-handed.

And then there is old Nick, the mysterious guy in a bowler hat who’s been hanging around town.

Most of the books in this series are set in Oklahoma. Tell us about your Oklahoma connection.

I am a fourth generation Oklahoman, born and raised there. Since Oklahoma is certainly considered a “fly-over” state by those East- and West-Coasters, I was never too keen to admit my origins when I was traveling (though when I talk, English-speakers certainly can tell something is up with my accent.) But when I moved away from Oklahoma permanently, I was amazed at how little most people know about the fascinating history of the state. Years before it was admitted to the Union in 1907, Oklahoma was actually a foreign country, the Indian Territory. It slowly came to be taken over by white Americans, mostly cattlemen, then opened up practically overnight with a series of land runs in the western half of the state. It’s an amazing ethnic mix, wildly rich, full of outlaws, rife with stories to be told.

What authors influenced you?

I’ve always had eclectic taste. I especially love historical and sci-fi—and mysteries of course. But my writing was really affected by Ellis Peters, Ursula LeGuin, Mary Renault, Josephine Tey. As for people who are currently writing, I find myself studying Timothy Hallinan, Margaret Atwood, Louise Penny. I’m leaving out plenty of other authors I admire and stealthily steal from.

Donis, I know how much I miss Arizona. Where do you take visitors?

I like to show visitors my home town of Tempe, with its beautiful treelined downtown, the ASU campus, the lake park. I like to take people to Old Town Scottsdale, too. We always drop in at Poisoned Pen, of course. I live close to the town of Guadalupe, which was featured in one of my books (The Wrong Hill to Die On) and has a beautiful and historic Pascua Yaqui church. If my visitors are here for a while, a trip to Sedona can’t be beat. We took my brother and his wife up there last year and they’re still talking about it. Oh, then there is Tucson and the Sonoran Desert Museum. It’s hard to believe how beautiful a lot of Arizona scenery is until you’ve seen it with your own eyes. (p.s. we miss you, too.)

Other than author, what is the most interesting job you ever had?

I very much enjoyed being a Government Documents librarian at University of Oklahoma and at Arizona State. Not the part where I was an academic middle manager. I loved the documents that the Government Printing Office sent to the universities over the decades. All the Congressional hearings, like HUAC and Watergate, the Pentagon Papers, documents from the War of the Rebellion, now known as the Civil War, travel and living guides for diplomats posted to every country in the world, biographies of all the First Ladies, World War II propaganda posters, how to raise rabbits, regulations and instructions on how to build a shedyou name it, the government is in on it!

Running a Celtic import shop for ten years was kind of cool, too.

Heres my favorite recent quote. Neil Gaiman said, Trust your obsession.Did you ever have an obsession that you had to turn into a story? What was it?

Yes, actually, I have written such a thing though I haven’t tried to have it published yet. I wrote a novel one might call “magical realism”, because I’m obsessed with the nature of reality and I believe that what we think of as “magic” is really “realism”.

I deal a little bit in magical realism in the Alafair books.

I just finished Ann Hoods novel, The Book That Matters Most. A character admits that the book can change throughout our lives. Is there a book that mattered most to you? Why?

So many books. When I was little, I got into Lucy Fitch Perkins’ Twins series, which made me a voracious reader and also made me wildly curious about other cultures—a curiosity which has lasted to this day. Speaking of children’s books, I must have read The Angry Planet a dozen times when I was a young teen. That book gave me a lifelong love of science fiction. Beau Geste made me a romantic. But the book that really changed my conception of the world was Autobiography of a Yogi, by Yogananda. I saw it on the bookshelf of the guy I was dating and he lent it to me. I was amazed. Whether I believed it all or not, the book made me realize that there are so many entirely different ways to look at reality than I had ever imagined. (p.s. I married the guy.)

The last book that knocked my socks off and made me proud to be a writer was The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.

What is on your TBR pile?

At the moment—The Graveyard of the Hesperides by Lindsey Davis, Jeffrey Siger’s Santorini Caesars, Long Upon the Land by Margaret Maron, The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. I’m currently re-reading Walter Mosely’s This Year You Write Your Novel.

Thank you, Donis. It’s always fun to get to know authors a little more. You can find out more about Donis on her website, www.doniscasey.com.  And, you can order Donis’ books through the Web Store. http://bit.ly/2cWSRiI