Day 4 of the Give In To The Feeling Blog Tour

Give in to the feeling - Blog Tour

Today is Day 4 of the Give in the Feeling Blog Tour and I’m pleased to have with us today, Sarah Zama, who is the author of Give in to the Feeling.

You can check out the entire schedule on Sarah’s website The Old Shelter.

I first met Sarah, I believe, on either Goodreads or 8 Sentence Sunday on Dieselpunks.org. In either case, I’ve gotten to know her and her wonderful world of Roaring Twenties Chicago. So without further ado, let’s talk with Sarah!

CW: Your story is set in 1926 Chicago. Why pick that year and city?

SZ: Blood’s and Michael’s stories were originally thought to happen in the 1930s, during the Great Depression, but as I researched the time period, I increasingly became fascinated with the 1920s. It was a time of great change in the life of people, but also in their hears and minds. And since the story of my trilogy deals with change and coping with it, I finally decided for a shift in the time period.

As for the city, although every place has an interesting story to tell, as I researched the Prohibition I quickly realized Chicago and New York City were the cities that offered the most in terms of setting. So many things where happening and the two cities (the two biggest in the US) were in the forefront in the changing habits of America.

I finally decided for Chicago because I was fascinated with the ‘city of neighbourhoods’.

CW: You note on your blog you try to make your story as historically accurate as possible but it is also fantasy. What is your definition of fantasy?

SZ:  I said ‘fantasy’, but I could have more accurately said ‘speculation’. Fantasy, for me, is anything that isn’t, but could be. Speculative stories go a bit further than mimic stories may go. They go that extra step that subverts reality in some way or another.

All stories exist to expand on our experience, to let us experience things we are unlikely to ever experience in our life. That’s the whole point of every story. Speculative stories come down harder on us. They subvert reality in a way that exposes what is normally hidden or taken for granted, and with the use of symbols lay meanings in front of us in a way that is more challenging.

Not all readers are comfortable with this kind of manipulation, though. Readers may not understand the symbols, or the subversion, and see only the surface, see a story that has no connection with reality.

In the end, it’s all up to the individual sensibility.

CW: How much of your story is history and how much fantasy?

SZ: With regard to my 1920s stories, most of them are history. Setting, historical events, and societies, I tried to present as close to history as possible. But in these stories, the spirit world exists and mixes with the world we know freely.

CW: As writers of alternative history, we are asking “What if such-and-such did or didn’t happen?” And then we try to answer that question. As readers of alternative history, each of us has a threshold beyond which we can no longer suspend disbelief. Are there any elements in your story where you are pushing the boundaries of fantasy in a historical setting?

Well, my stories can’t be considered alternative history. As I said, I tried to be as faithful to history as possible. But as a reader of alternative history there are lines I have a very hard time crossing.

I think that history always makes sense. We might not like what happened, we might not accept what happened, we might condemned what happened, but there is always a reason why certain things happened. I ask alternative history writers to keep in line with this. Their alternative history has to make sense. There has to be a reason why something, at a certain point, didn’t happen the way it did. And the consequences, the way the alternate history evolves, also have to make sense.

The moment I start questioning the alternate history, I’m out of the story.

CW: What is it about speculative fiction and Dieselpunk in particular that attracts you over say romance or mysteries?

SZ: As I said above, I think this is largely a question of personal liking and affinity. I actually love mysteries… though I would never be able to write them. Romances? Not so much. And there isn’t an intellectual reason for that, I don’t think one genre is better than another, inherently. I do think some genres are better than others for me, because some genres resonate with me while others don’t.

The reason why I love speculative stories is that I think their subversive elements can be used in a very powerful way to question reality as we know it, and so it has huge potentialities for philosophical thinking. Fantasy, SF, Horror stories push elements of our reality to such huge extremes that they naturally cause questioning… if the reader isn’t scared away.

I mean, think of a story like Animal Farm. On the surface, you could say there is nothing realistic about it. But that story was actually depicting a very specific historical moment and contains a universal message of freedom and equality that still speaks to us more than half a century later.

I’ve been a fan of fantasy since I can remember. I’ve been into mythology and legends since I was very little. And I’ve always loved history since I studied it at school. When I was very little, I would watched 1930s and 1940s mystery films on TV with my granny. I suppose all of this fell together when I finally met Dieselpunk. It happen by chance, I just stumbled upon the concept, and I was instantly fascinated. Serendipity, I suppose.

CW: Give in to the Feeling deals with the spirit world. What is it about ghosts that interests you?

SZ: I’m not sure I can answer this. I’ve always been fascinated with the fact that the world we see and touch isn’t all there is. That if we can – and are willing – to go that extra step, we can touch and see a different world.

Maybe this is just a way of symbolizing our connection with our deepest self. I don’t know. What I know is that in my stories, when the spirit world and the real world come together, good things normally happen… although not always in an easy way.

CW: Is your book a “classic” ghost story? Or are ghosts just lurking on the fringe?

SZ: Give in to the Feeling isn’t a ghost story at all. There are spirits in it, but no ghost.

Ghost Trilogy is of course a ghost story. There is only one ghost, but it’s a very important character, central to the story. It is also the catalyst of all the changes, especially inside the characters. Dealing with this ghost forces nearly all characters to look inside themselves and deal with what they find there.

CW: Why did you choose the cover you did for your book? As I recall, you had an Art Deco look as a possibility.

SZ: I commissioned a graphic artist to do the cover. We talked about what I was looking for and what she could actually do for me. The result is a compromise between the two.

CW: What makes the main characters in Give it to the Feeling tick?

SZ: I think it’s the aspiration for something more and better. They are all willing to go that extra step, because they know it will bring good things to them. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always cooperate.

CW: Blood is a rather unusual name for a character. How did he get it?

SZ: A lot of people seem to like Blood’s name, it is very popular among those who have read parts of the story.

It is part of his Lakota name, which is Wewacipi, meaning Blood Dance. There is a story of how Blood received his name, but since this is part of Ghost Trilogy, I’d prefer not to reveal it now.

CW: What is your next writing project?

SZ: I’m still working at Ghost Trilogy. It is completely drafted and the first novel is nearly ready to go. I’ve actually already submitted to agents, which is why I know it is not ready yet… Books Two and Three are still at the second draft stage.

I’m also playing with the idea of a series of stories again set in the 1920s but in Europe. The main character is Ombretta Vivaldi, an Italian folklorist. I created her for a challenge and I became fascinated with her, but her story is still an embryo. So much to plan still.

CW: I remember Ombretta from several snippets you shared on 8 Sentence Sunday. She impressed me as a fascinating character. I hope we get to see her soon. 

What does the future hold for you?

SZ: Success for my stories, of course!

CW: And here’s wishing you lots and lots of success!

You may connect with Sarah at the following:

Contact Info and Links

Email: oldshelter@yahoo.com

Blog: www.theoldshelter.com

Website: https://sarahzama.wordpress.com/

Social Media:

Twitter: www.twitter.com/JazzFeathers

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/jazzfeathers
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jazzfeathers/
Google+: https://plus.google.com/+Theoldshelterdieselpunk
Pinterest: https://it.pinterest.com/jazzfeathers/

Biographical Note

A bookseller in Verona (Italy), Sarah Zama has always lived surrounded by books. Always a fantasy reader and writer, she’s recently found her home in the dieselpunk community. Her first book, Give in to the Feeling, comes out in 2016.

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Interview with J. Evan Stuart!

One of the best books I read last year was Entangled, the debut novel of J. Evan Stuart. I enjoy character-driven mysteries and Entangled fits the bill to a T. And today, I’m excited to bring to you this interview with a very talented up and coming writer. Without further ado, meet J. Evan Stuart!

cover copy web

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’ve always been a reader. From the time I was young I always had a love for books and would look forward to escaping into make believe worlds. I can’t say I’ve always wanted to write and just kind of started on a whim. For awhile I was tutoring students and a boy I was working with had an assignment to write a story beginning and the focus was on conflict. We came up with an initial scene taking place in a restroom where two boys confront each other and an iPod ends up being dropped in a toilet. For whatever reason the scene stayed with me and a year later I took pen to paper and wrote it out. Once I got started that was it. I have been writing for about six years now.

What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?

My debut novel is Entangled. About three years ago I found a small news article in the newspaper. It was no more than a couple hundred words about a thirteen year old boy in a small Kansas ranching and farming town who was accused of murdering his parents and shooting his siblings. The article struck a chord with me, so I cut it out and saved it. Months later I wrote what would be the first chapter. It was a year after that I began to write the story.

How would you categorize your book?

It is a police procedural mystery with strong thriller and suspense elements. Because one of the dual protagonists is an eighteen year old accused of killing his parents and is on the run, it could easily crossover into YA. I think it would also appeal to those who like to read romantic suspense, as long as they want a story that is heavy on suspense and want a romance that is subtle. Minus bulging muscles and various other body parts.

Introduce us to your lead protagonists.  What is it about these character(s) that appeal to you as a writer?

The story starts with the reader being introduced to Connor Evans. He’s a high school kid who hates ranching and small town life in Ashlin, Nebraska. While his father expects him to follow in his footsteps of carrying on the family ranch, Connor has no interest in ranching which often puts him at odds with his father. The only escape he has from the boredom and his strained relationship with his dad is sneaking out to drink with his friends which often leads to them getting in trouble with the local authorities. When his parents are murdered all the evidence points to him and he finds himself on the run trying to deal with his grief and avoid being caught.

Sonya Reisler is a newly promoted detective with the Nebraska State Patrol. She wants to credit her ambition and dedication as the reasons for her promotion but, when she finds her new partner is her former mentor and lover, she has her doubts whether she truly earned her promotion. Sonya is sent to Ashlin to look over a murder investigation case before it is sent to the DA. She begins to notice small things that make her question whether Connor Evans committed the crime and gets the okay to conduct her own investigation. The nature of the crime hits close to home for Sonya and has her facing memories and demons she’s spent a lifetime burying. When her path crosses with Connor’s, professional lines become blurred. What starts out as an opportunity for her to prove to herself she earned her promotion, quickly escalates into something that could end her career altogether.

I think readers will find Connor the easier of the two to understand. Through flashbacks and his actions in the present, we see a teenager trying deal with his world being turned upside down and the aloneness he feels. Sonya is more of a mystery. She has a past that readers only see glimpses of, but we really only see her in the present. Something is fueling her desire to solve the case but we don’t know what it is until the very end. I think Sonya and Connor play off of each other well throughout the entire novel.

How did the book come to be titled?  Or, how does the title relate to the story?

Entangled is a good description of what happens to Sonya when she lets this case become personal and gets so deeply involved it becomes impossible to free herself from it.

Tell us more about the cover design.  How involved were you with creating the cover?

I was very involved in the cover design and sketched out how I wanted the characters positioned and what elements needed to be present. I sent my sketches to Ronnell Porter who expanded on my ideas and created the final product. I think his addition of the yellow police tape across Connor was a great idea. Connor, in many ways, is a danger to Sonya, causing her to cross many lines when it comes to this case. I think the cover really conveys what readers will find in the story.

Describe your writing process.

In a word? Chaotic. I work in scenes, usually starting with the dialogue that occurs between characters then slowly fleshing it out. I often don’t know the exact setting or even where in the story that particular scene will take place. I just picture it and know it will happen somewhere in the story. As more scenes form and are fleshed out, I continue to build on them, rearranging them until the story starts to come together. Then it’s a matter of stitching everything together. This method tends to give me more flexibility than if I were to work in a linear fashion.

How much research did you put into your book/series?

I ended up doing quite a bit of research for this story starting with the setting. I looked at many states where cattle ranching is done and Nebraska seemed to fit the bill for the other story elements I needed. While Ashlin is a fictional town along with some other features, many other places mentioned are real. I also had to do some research on the Nebraska State Patrol and some legal elements. My main goal was to make the story plausible and believable as possible.

What is the best advice received as an author?

I’ve been very fortunate in that I have had good support in my writing journey and have gotten a lot of good advice along the way. One of the best pieces of advice I received was to trust your readers. As a novice I was guilty of overwriting and over explaining because I was unsure of myself as a writer and wanted to make sure my readers understood what I was saying. Once I trusted that the readers would get what I was saying without my spoon feeding them, my writing greatly improved.

What specific authors or books influence how you write today?

This is a tough question. I think everything I read, good or bad, becomes part of the collective. I can tell if I really like a book because I will want to reread it again immediately. With the subsequent read I will really try and figure out what it is the author is doing that makes me love the story. One author that does come to mind that I found particularly interesting when it comes to writing style is Lisa McMann. In her book Wake, I was really taken with the brevity of her writing and how she used very short sentences that packed a lot of punch. I think that tends to stick with me when I write.

What types of genres do you read now for pleasure and do they influence what you write today?

I’m still a huge fan of YA and MG (middle grade) literature and I also love fantasy. For the most part I will read anything that sounds interesting.  I’m partial to character driven stories, so as long as I like the characters it really doesn’t matter the genre. As for what I write, I started with writing fantasy and paranormal because that was what I read most. Writing a police procedural mystery came as kind of a surprise for me since that is the genre I read the least.

What is next for you?

Currently I am working on the second book in the series entitled Enmeshed. I am hoping to complete it sometime in 2016.

Where you can buy Entangled and get in touch with J. Evan Stuart!

Entangled on Amazon!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jevanstuart

Website: http://jevanstuartauthor.blogspot.com/

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Interview with Justinia Wright, PI

Today it is my privilege to interview the famous Minneapolis private investigator, Justinia Wright. I’m sitting in the equally famous oxblood oversize wingback in her office, where many have sat before me in much less happy circumstances.

cwh: Miss Wright, thank you for agreeing to this interview.

JW: You are very welcome.

cwh: To begin, how long have you been a private investigator?

JW: Eight years.

cwh: And before that you worked for the CIA, is that correct?

JW: Yes. I worked seven years for The Company.

cwh: What made you leave and decide to become a PI?

JW: I can’t give you specifics. Let’s just say I didn’t see eye to eye with my boss and what he was asking me to do. As for becoming a PI, I didn’t do that right away. I opened an art gallery and sold art with a partner for two years.

cwh: Where was that?

JW: In San Francisco. When that didn’t work out, I moved to Minneapolis and got my private investigator’s license.

cwh: Why Minneapolis?

JW: The Twin Cities aren’t an overly large metro area, yet are large enough. There is a wonderful mix of cultures and the area offers many opportunities for musical and artistic expression.

cwh: So why become a PI?

JW: From my time in the CIA, I knew how to get information and perform surveillance. In a sense, it was going back to what I knew without all the bureaucracy.

cwh: How is being a spy similar to being a private investigator?

JW: As I mentioned, gathering intelligence and conducting surveillance. Where it differs, is that I have to do my own analysis.

cwh: To date, what has been your most difficult case?

JW: [She rests her chin on steepled fingers for a few moments before answering.] I’d be inclined to say the case Harry has called Festival of Death.

cwh: Harry’s your brother and assistant, right?

JW: Yes, that is correct. He and Bea, his wife, keep the office and household running efficiently. [She pauses.] Although the case he is currently writing up, about the poor murdered minister, was quite puzzling. So either of those.

cwh: Do you investigate yourself or do you have a support team?

JW: A team. The best team. I don’t know where I’d be without David Nagasawa, Gwen Poisson, and Ed Hafner. Or Harry. I do a little field work. Mostly, though, I work as a handler, so to speak, and analyze the information I receive.

cwh: Do you find being a woman to help or hinder you?

JW: I don’t find being a woman to help or hinder. There are many more women in the business now than ever before. What matters is if you get results. And I get results.

cwh: Do you work often with law enforcement?

JW: Yes, I do.

cwh: How would you describe your experience?

JW: Overall, I’d say positive. I’m frequently called in to assist on difficult homicide cases, something I like very much. They especially like getting results and I, of course, get results.

cwh: Do you have a liaison?

JW: Yes, Lieutenant Cal Swenson of Homicide.

cwh: Now, Harry has given us a certain picture of your relationship with Cal. Is that picture accurate?

JW: Cal and I are friends and I think I’ll leave it at that.

cwh: What motivates you as an investigator?

JW: My sense of justice and fairness.

cwh: I understand you can be difficult to work with sometimes. Do you care to comment on that?

JW: [A big smile appears on her face.] Depends on how you define “difficult”. Do I expect competency? Yes. If that is being difficult… [She shrugs.]

cwh: Competency, yes. But what about your interactions with your clients and Lieutenant Swenson? As your brother portrays those interactions, well, it just seems—

JW: That I’m difficult? Well, that’s Harry. He does tend to get a bit melodramatic in my opinion. Sometimes, clients don’t know what they know or what they think they know can impede an investigation. My job is to cut through the crap, so to speak, so I can help them.

cwh: And Cal?

JW: The police are a bureaucracy. Sometimes Cal is a bureaucrat against my better judgement. All in all, I don’t think I’m any more difficult to work with than anyone else.

cwh: You’re an amateur painter and pianist. Any thoughts about going professional?

JW: No. Not really. But I do like painting and performing, so who knows?

cwh: I see our time is up. Thank you very much, Miss Wright for giving us this opportunity to give your fans a bit more information about you.

JW: My pleasure.

You can see Justinia Wright in action in Festival of Death and Trio in Death-Sharp Minor, available on Amazon and soon in other fine online retail establishments.

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