Monday, March 7, 2022

Where Ideas Come to a Writer


Arthur Kerns



“Where do you come up with ideas for your books?” Writers get that question a lot. My usual response is they pop up while showering, shaving, or working out in the gym. Rarely do they come to me when sitting down and trying to come up with an idea. Most writers will recall attending a creative writing class and have the teacher hand out an assignment, like “Give me a one-page story on a boy falls off his bicycle.” At least then you had a start to a story idea and could go with it. 

The idea for my first published novel, The Riviera Contract, came from the Alfred Hitchcock film, To Catch a Thief. I’ve watched the film numerous times and still become entranced with the gorgeous scenery, the filming, and the dialogue of Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. The film sparked the idea of writing a spy novel based on the French Riviera with a cast of beautiful, interesting, and nasty characters. Almost two years later Diversion Press published the novel.

The inspiration for the manuscript now with my agent, A Suitable Spy, came from coming across an old FBI file. When I was an agent assigned to FBI Headquarters doing analysis of old spy cases I found a non-classified history of FBI espionage activities in Latin America during WWII. The program was ordered by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who feared Nazi incursion in South America. Very few, including fellow agents, were aware such a program had existed. The idea popped in mind; what an interesting background for an old-fashioned espionage novel.

If the story is accepted by a publisher, one of the first things they’ll ask, have you a sequel? I thought about it for a while. The time frame would be in early 1942, the United States is at war, and my spy protagonist is sent from Argentina to Europe. However, where in Europe and under what conditions? Then I saw a photo on Instagram of an actor I know. Autumn Reeser recently was filming in Bulgaria and was relaxing after hours at a sidewalk cafĂ©. The picture was intriguing. A mysterious aura about it.


She wore a man’s tweed jacket, obviously lent to her to ward off the night chill. 

She wore red lipstick, red nail polish, and was drinking red wine.

She wore an enigmatic smile that could be interpreted as, I want to know you better, or I want your secrets. Maybe both. Either way, the young American spy sitting across from her was in trouble. The beginnings of a sequel.

Following his U.S. Navy service, Arthur Kerns joined the FBI with a career in counterintelligence and counterterrorism. On retirement, he became a consultant with the Director of Central Intelligence and the Department of State, which took him to o      ver sixty-five countries. His short stories have appeared in several award-winning anthologies, recently in the Sisters in Crime, So West: Lady Killers. Diversion Books, Inc published his Hayden Stone thriller series, first, The Riviera Contract, and followed by The African Contract and The Yemen Contract. His latest thriller, Days of the Hunters, was published in March 2020. He is working on a WW II spy novel set in Latin America.





Friday, August 28, 2020

On Writers and Actors, 

Sequestered and on the Same Page



Arthur Kerns


This year the annual International Thriller Writers went virtual because of COVOD-19. Instead of holding a live conference in New York City, they broadcast and recorded individual sessions featuring 120 authors, two at a time, discussing tradecraft. I just finished another forty-minute session and found it instructive and enjoyable. This is life today for writers and many others during the time of coronavirus. We’re on our computers, watching, and taking part in virtual meetings.

 Several of the ITW authors remarked that sequestering is normal for writers. "We're always in our caves." However, one author reflected, this time it might be a tad different. The lock-down he found boring and affected his writing process. It's distracting, he said and found it difficult to come up with original ideas. Best, he advised, to edit an existing manuscript. 

 My wife has her painting, and I have my writing. We're luckier than most people who lost their jobs or were sent home. Still, we face the relentless distractions from the TV recounting COVID-19 statistics; the turmoil in the streets; the strident political ads. A natural escape is entertainment. Being a thriller writer, I gravitate toward shoot-'em-up films and TV series. My having binged on the entire Homeland series and Jack Reacher episodes, my wife had had enough. "We are watching Christmas shows on Hallmark."

Yes, Hallmark TV. Guess what, at night I find viewing the channel soothing, especially while sipping a glass of wine. Watching is close to meditation without having to concentrate on your breathing. Wags have dished the shows as cheesy, banal. I disagree. True, while some episodes appear rushed to distribution, others I find well crafted. They mostly follow the familiar romantic tropes, just as mystery novels and thrillers have their own conventions. Hallmark shoots most scenes in Canada on a tight three-week schedule at two million dollars a pop. That’s opposed to an average of ten million dollars in Hollywood. They must have borrowed from Clint Eastwood’s lean production formula.

 The film industry has fascinated me since childhood. When I was young, my father worked for Warner Brothers and would come home and regal us at the dinner table about meeting movie stars like Betty Grable, Henry Fonda, and Robert Taylor. Dad was about to go into acting but went to war instead. On Saturdays, he'd take me to work, and I'd sit and watch films. I got to visit and explore the old Philadelphia vaudeville theatres turned movie houses; sit there and gaze up at the high ceiling with crystal chandlers framed by three rows of balconies. Films are in my blood, so I know a well made one when I watch it.

 Hallmark features many regular actors, and two of the more polished performers are Bethany Joy Lenz and Autumn Reeser. You can depend on watching an excellent film when they are the lead performer. Both are single moms, now at home trying to maintain their careers. While viewing a recent show with my wife, the thought occurred: how were actors handling this crisis. Actors like writers rely on networking, constant interaction with members of their community to keep current with trends and opportunities. Hollywood has shut down production by sending home directors, actors, sound technicians, and screenwriters. They canceled auditions. Film people rely on "doing lunch" as much as writers rely on meeting in critiques groups, attending conferences, and email. 

 How are we staying connected? Actors are, as Autumn Reeser said, storytellers. They are like us, but whereas our medium is the printed word, she says, "We use our body, voice, and expressions to tell the story." A little Googling reveals that actors are champing at the bit. They use social media, for example, Instagram and Twitter, to communicate with peers and fans. They also use the film industry podcasts and visual shorts. Autumn Reeser uses Instagram to keep in touch with fans and peers. Joy Lenz shows short videos on her Facebook page.

Time for all us writers to burnish our image. Many writers are using social media to stay visible. We use podcasts and social media. Blogs? I'm writing one now. Zoom and Vimeo are connectors of choice I see today. As I pointed out, I attended the International Thriller Writers Conference on my computer. This September I'll attend the Sisters in Crime Desert Sleuths online Phoenix conference. It isn't like being there, schmoozing with your buddies, and meeting new writers and editors at the bars. My writing group is about to reconvene after six months, again via Zoom.

No question about it, when we emerge from our caves it will be a New Age. They’ll be new rules and an unfamiliar landscape, a new marketplace that will take getting used to. One of the ITW authors remarked that he didn’t see a lot of COVID-19 themed stories emerging after they release us from confinement. Readers may not want to recall how dull and stifling our life was then.

 As a writer, I worry about how the forced isolation from our colleagues will affect our creativity. In time, we’ll see.



Following his U.S. Navy service, Arthur Kerns joined the FBI with a career in counterintelligence and counterterrorism. On retirement, he became a consultant with the Director of Central Intelligence and the Department of State, which took him to over sixty-five countries. His short stories have appeared in several award-winning anthologies, recently in the Sisters in Crime, So West: Lady Killers. Diversion Books, Inc published his Hayden Stone thriller series, first, The Riviera Contract, and followed by The African Contract and The Yemen Contract. His latest thriller, Days of the Hunters, was published in March 2020. He is working on a WW II spy novel set in Latin America.






Sunday, December 8, 2019

Lost Excerpts from The Yemen Contract

Arthur Kerns

All writers lament how publishers cut sections and scenes from their manuscript, prose you are positive was just fantastic. Ah, those lost darlings. In The Yemen Contract, a spy thriller featuring CIA operative Hayden Stone and his friend Contessa Lucinda, I wrote a few scenes describing the country of Eritrea, a fascinating country on the Red Sea across from Yemen and Saudi Arabia. It is not on everyone’s vacation bucket list so I wanted to let my reader know I saw and experienced. My editor did not think these scenes moved the story and were cut. So here they are out of the dustbin. 

Contessa Lucinda and Hayden Stone ambled along the tidy streets of the capitol city, Asmara, stopping now and then to look into shops to examine the foods, clothes, jewelry, and curios. Lucinda’s bodyguard, Marcello, maintained a discreet distance. One shop along Liberty Avenue sold crude ivory carvings, which so soured Stone he barged out and stood on the sidewalk, watching the people pass by, most offering polite smiles. A few minutes later, Lucinda came out and leaned against him.
 He fumed. “I get pissed when I see ivory taken from a butchered elephant only to end up a piece of crap in a tourist shop.” 
 “What’s really wrong with you?”
 “The stitches in my leg are bothering me. Maybe we can take a car.”
 Lucinda patted him on the arm and then went over to Marcello. When she returned, she said she told Marcello they were taking a cab. He could follow if he thought it necessary. “Meanwhile, my dear, I will assume the role of architectural guide.”
  Stone arranged with the driver for an hour's ride around the city, which Stone had come to admire. An old Africa hand, this was one country where he needn’t keep his guard up. The people here were neat, looked you in the eye with dignity, and weren’t reluctant to offer a handshake. 
 Lucinda impressed him with her knowledge of the architectural schools of Art Deco, Cubist, and Futurist. “Rationalism was Mussolini’s favorite,” she said. “A group of architects led it in the thirties from Milan called Gruppo Seven. One of my cousins belonged to it.”
 Stone touched her arm. “Let’s see if we can get out of this bird watching trip up country tomorrow. Maybe hang around Asmara until I go back to Yemen.”
 “Patience told me that Ambassador Bunting wants to get you alone and discuss some things.” She smiled. “Besides, it will be fun. We will see something new . . . and learn a few things.”

The road became winding and rough. They passed scatterings of tidy villages with one-story house fronts painted in pale blues, others in aquamarine. Some were painted beige and had doors and shutters a dark shade of blue. Here and there were remnants of the war with Ethiopia, burned-out tanks, and rusting trucks.
 They reached the top of an escarpment and the embassy driver pulled to the side of the road. The fertile landscape below was a marked change from the arid country they had left behind. The deep canyon was terraced along both sides. Farmland lay on the floor of the gorge. 

The driver eased them down the switchbacks onto the valley below. Eventually, they saw their destination. In the distance, on a rise above cultivated fields, a collection of white buildings sat among tall trees. The settlement turned out to be not an active monastery, but a state-owned farm, built in the nineteen-thirties by an Italian settler. 
 The farm had a church with a tall steeple, holding a bronzed-colored bell. “I guess that’s where someone got the idea this was a monastery,” Stone said.
 “I have a feeling it was at one time,” Lucinda said. “The government probably wants to avoid controversy by not admitting they took over a religious building.”
 When the two were shown their rooms, Stone laughed, “Now I believe you. This was definitely a religious building. This room reminds me of a monk’s cell.”
 The accommodations were spotless and very ascetic: pale green walls, two single iron-framed beds with thin grey blankets. The shower in the corner comprised a showerhead and a hole in the floor. No curtain. 
 Stone stared at the two small beds. “How many nights are we staying here, dear?”
 “Hayden, consider this a religious experience.”
 After a dinner of pasta noodles floating in a watery acidic tomato sauce, yougurt, and a leaf salad no one touched, the four walked the grounds. They met few people, only birds singing at dusk. 
 Stone remarked, “I wonder how the facility can be kept in such good condition with so few people. Look, they prune the citrus trees, the bougainvillea trimmed, the grass is cut.”
 “They probably do the work during the week and have weekends off,” Ambassador Bunting said. “Then again, many of the young men are off at the Ethiopian front.”
 “It is so peaceful here,” Patience said. “Hard to imagine war could erupt at any moment.”
 Stone thought about the ruined Russian T-34 tanks, along with other damaged military vehicles they’d seen on the road on their way to the farm. “These interludes of peace are a blessing.” He thought about the day’s birding in the valley. “Good that we had a guide today to steer us away from the minefields.” 
 At Stone’s words the others became quiet. Lucinda gave him a gentle kiss on the cheek.

 The next morning being Sunday, Stone asked at breakfast if mass would be held in the church. The kitchen staff, while offering only fresh bread and an orange drink called Fanta, informed him that they held church services only on Christmas and Easter. 
 Afterward, he and Lucinda found the church door open and entered, going into the bright white painted interior decorated with Coptic images and carvings.
 “My father would have felt at home here,” Lucinda mused. “He was Egyptian and a practicing Copt before he married my Italian mother.”
 Stone went to the votive candle stand and lit two candles. One for his family; the other for his ancestors.
 “Hayden, I never saw you do that before.” She took the burning wick from Stone and with her delicate hand lit two of her own candles. As they walked back to their room to pack for the return to Asmara, she put her arm through his and held on tight. “You continually surprise me. You are a very complicated man.”

Arthur Kerns joined the FBI with a career in counterintelligence and counterterrorism. On retirement, he became a consultant with the Intelligence Community and the Department of State, which took him to over sixty-five countries. His short stories have appeared in a number of award-winning anthologies, recently in the Sisters in Crime, So West: Lady Killers. Diversion Books, Inc published his Hayden Stone thriller series, first, The Riviera Contract, and followed by The African Contract and The Yemen Contract. Early next year his new thriller, Days of the HuntersMurder, Mystery, and Romance in Tuscany will be published.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Pumpkin Belongs in Pie. Period.

Pumpkin belongs in Pie. Period. (And maybe bisque, especially if it's finished with sherry.) But there should be no Pumpkin flavoring in bagels, coffee, vodka (really?), tortilla chips and beer. Pumpkin flavored Pringles (no, I do not jest) are an abomination against natural law. Allow me to illustrate what happens when the epidemic of flavoring everything with pumpkin gets out of control:

I was in a hurry, trying to get a cup of coffee at the airport before my flight boarded. The line seemed pretty short at Starbucks, so I decided to brave it. And things started well--although I should have known that the lady in front of me carrying her dog was going to be a problem.

"How are you today?" the dog lady asked.

No answer from the barista, just a harried smirk.

"You got any specials today?"

The barista indicated the chalkboard, where a Pumpkin Spice Latte was featured. 

"Pumpkin Spice, eh? What does it taste like?"

(Editors Note: In the background of the security camera footage, I can be seen stuffing my neck pillow in my mouth.)

"Would you like to try a sample?"

"What do you think, Mary Alice?" This to her traveling companion, who is also carrying a dog in a small crate. "Should we try it?"

"I don't know, Mabel, do you think it's real pumpkin? You know how those imitation flavors don't agree with me?"

"Is it real pumpkin, miss? My sister gets really gassy if she eats anything artificial."

I glanced at my watch: boarding had started (and I am really hoping Mary Alice is going to foul the air on someone else's flight.) I try to sneak a peak at her boarding pass, but the large package of organic dog treats obscures the view.

"No, it's not real pumpkin ma'am. Is there something else you would like to try?"

"Ah, shucks, I kinda had my heart set on Pumpkin Spice."

"Maybe we should try it, Mabel. I brought some air freshener just in case my intestines started acting up."

Mabel turns to face her sister, and the boarding pass swings into my view. To my horror, they are on #369--my flight.

"Ok, what the heck. You only live once. One small pumpkin spice latte."

"Is that hot or iced?"

"Iced? Who in tarnation wants to have iced coffee?"

"Not so fast, Mabel! Maybe iced coffee is easier on the intestines?"

Mary Alice relays this question to the barista, who shrugs. A TSA agent gets into the back of the line, and I am hopeful the twins will be confused for a pair of terrorists. (It's even possible they really are terrorists--how do I know the matching toy poodles aren't filled with Semtex?) 

"Well, Mary Alice? Whadaya think? We can't take all day. I've got to take Peaches to the ladies room before we board."

"Is there a cost difference?"

"They are both 4.25$."

"4.25? For a cup of coffee? Are you out of your mind?"

The barista shook her head; no, she was not out of her mind. (Editor's note: I am now out of my mind, and am doubly glad that TSA regulations prevent the carrying of sharp objects.)

"You got anything cheaper than that?"

"A small cup of coffee is two dollars."

"But there's no pumpkin in it? Right?"

"That's correct. No pumpkin in the regular coffee."

Sadly, I couldn't stay for the ensuing discussion, because Peaches wasn't the only one who needed to go to the bathroom before boarding. There was a line to use the bathroom and I just barely made my flight, ducking inside the gate right behind--you guessed it--Mabel and Mary Alice and Peaches just before the gate was closed.

Out of sheer morbid curiosity, I considered asking them if they had gone with the pumpkin spiced coffee, but I didn't have to bother. Mary Alice had been dead on about the effect of artificial flavors on her intestines, and she evidently didn't have the air freshener handy.

If this true story (Ok, it's embellished, but still true) doesn't make my point, nothing will. I am calling for a ban on all pumpkin spice before Pumpkin Spice toothpaste appears. Ooooppppsss, it's too late:

Rant over. 
Cheers, p 

Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician, public speaker and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include The Intern, coming in 2019 from TouchPoint Press; ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series, which was a finalist for the 2019 Killer Nashville Claymore award; and THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of The Book Stops Herethe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets. Peter is the creator, producer and host of Your Health Matters, a health information program, which airs on cable television, streams on YouTube and sounds off on podcast. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at

Thursday, June 13, 2019



Arthur Kerns

A long time ago, in a world far, far away, Memorial Day used to be called Decoration Day, the day when one would decorate monuments and gravesites with flags and flowers. It was customary that on that day my family would pile into the old 1938 Ford convertible, top down on a sunny day, and head for Holy Cross Cemetery. The expansive burial ground located in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania was only twenty minutes from our home in Darby. It was an important family ritual. We would dress in our Sunday best—even if it wasn’t Sunday—and drive off in the morning to visit the family plots. Donuts, a thermos of coffee, and a soda or two would be brought along in an old wicker basket.

At the cemetery, the grass and trees, which now had lost their dull winter brown, shimmered green. Dad would park the car in the vicinity of the family plots and we all would disembark and start reading the tombstones to get our bearings. Pretty soon, after a few disagreements about where we were, we’d find the headstones for his family, my mother’s family, and other assorted relatives, whom I knew only through family stories. Warm springtime air prompted us to wander from one family grave to another scattered throughout the cemetery.

At last, after the placing of flowers and flags on the many burial sites, we’d sit under a tree and have those donuts that I’d been thinking about since we had left home. Being the only child in the group, and living in an age when children were, “to be seen and not heard,” I remained silent and listened to family stories, some of which I had heard before with slight variations, and then some new tales. Soon, the cemetery bustled with the voices of other visitors, arriving, parking their cars, and walking along the narrow macadam lanes. The family then murmured about it being time to leave.

I have one great memory and it is a very early one. I remember the day being brilliant, the air fresh and smelling good, the tombstones bright white, and me running along the pavement, calling up to my father. He looked down and gave me a warm smile and said something that made me feel good. I took his left hand and as we walked along together for a few minutes, I felt overcome with a river of joy and love. It felt like flying. That memory has lasted to this day.

Some years later, my mother showed me a black and white photograph of my father and me walking in Holy Cross Cemetery. My father, looking dapper, wore a fedora slightly tilted and was dressed smartly in coat and tie. I wore white shorts and a white collared shirt. We both looked happy. The date on the photo indicated I was one month shy of my third birthday.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Why I Write: Writing and Self-Discovery

I had just settled into my seat when she sat down, the same lady who had next to me on the same flight exactly 1 year ago. It had to be her; the pince nez glasses, the narrow, pinched face, the slightly blue tint to her tight perm. I grabbed desperately at the in-flight magazine to shield my face, but it was too late. She recognized me.

"You, eh..."

Her tone implied I had stolen her recipe for homemade ginger snaps, tromped on her parent's grave or kidnapped her favorite cat.

"Yes, it's me."

She slid into the open seat next to me, despositing the world's largest purse on the floor in front of me.

"You don't mind, do you?"

I minded, but my head shook of it's volition and she patted me on the shoulder.

"I just don't like anything near my feet... in case we have to make an emergency landing." (But it was okay with her if get tangled up and burned in the wreckage.) "You're the writer, aren't you."

With no other recourse, I nodded, confirming it. Her lips curdled into a sneer. "The unpublished one."

This was it, my moment of triumph. After years of going unpublished (and generally unnoticed) I had received several offers for publication, and my most recent novel (The Intern, TouchPoint Press) was soon to be in print (Summer/Fall 2019.) But she didn't even give me a chance.

"I thought I told you to do something else."

She had, of course; I refer you to my blog of last year documenting the conversation.  Why I Write; Part 1. I shrugged.

"You're just gonna have to face facts... It's not happening."

I suppose I could have interjected here, but I could see she was revving herself up for a diatribe.

"Evvvvery one think they're a writer. Evvvveryone has a story to tell."

She twirled her alabaster index fingers around and mouthed, WhhhhuuuupppppyyyyttttyyyyDooooo.

"For heaven's sake, even my friend Mabel is writing a book."

She turned to fix me in her stare, using her index finger to push her glasses back up her nose.
"Mabel, of all people."

Now, sometimes having a memory for details is a good thing, and sometimes it isn't, because she had told me last year that her friend Mable liked to read erotica, and I had spent the better part of the year trying--unsuccessfully--to purge the image of Mable reading 50 Shades of Grey from my cerebral files.


She nodded emphatically; the glasses slid very close to the end of her long, angular nose, where they came to rest on a small mole with three white hairs sticking out of it.

"Of course, and do you know what?"

I did not know what. I did not want to know what.

"She asked me to read it over."

"Did you?"

"What was I going to do? Mabel and I go way back."

This was a conundrum. My first instinct was to change the subject, to something more pleasant, like ogres eating puppies or 12-year-old bourbon being poured down the drain, but I was possessed of a morbid curiousity I coundn't exorcise.


"It was alright, but I think she went a bit too far with that scene with the foursome in the elevator."

I was taking the stairs from now on. My hand lunged for the roll of TUMS in my pocket.

"Anyway, I wish Mabel would go back to Canasta... I haven't used that many Nitro pills since my husband died."

She lapsed into silence and I almost told her about my book, almost... In the end, I decided to keep quiet, surprising even myself. You'd think that after spending fifteen years writing and trying to get published, I'd want to celebrate finally getting to the finish line. But that's not why I write.

I've said this before, but I'll say it again, because--now that I have a book coming out--it's no longer a rhetorical question. I write because I am convinced there is great value in writing (which isn't to stay I am not going to enjoy being published.) I already am, and I look forward to getting a box of galleys in the mail and reading reviews on line and watching my sales figures on Amazon. But those things are bonuses.

I believe there is value in writing, in the struggle to express oneself. I am always amazed at how much I learn about myself when I write. In the process of revising The Intern, I realized what I had been trying to write about when I started the book a few years earlier. The Intern is the story of a young doctor struggling to make it through her first year of residency at an inner-city hospital in Spanish Harlem, and the relationship she develops with a twelve-year-old boy dying of cancer, but that isn't the driving force behind the book. The Intern is really about the transformational power of love and it's ability to bring about meaning and happiness in life.

I have to say I was a little surprised when the theme of the book dawned on me; I guess I had never thought about it that much, but there it was, literally in black and white. And then I thought about many of the books that have made the biggest impression on me and I realized they were thematically similar. But only in the writing and revising of The Intern was I able to see that, to realize the importance of this theme in my life. That's what I mean when I say that writing leads to self-discovery, to understanding your true self. And that's why I think everyone should write. What could be more important than learning who you really are, what actually makes you tick? And it's free, all you need is a keyboard, or a pencil and paper (which is how I started, only switching after a hundred pages of script ended up in my sister-in-law's pool.)

That's enough from me, because there is something else I've learned from writing; No one wants to hear me keep droning on and on, on paper or in speaking. Besides, my friend next to me has fallen asleep and I want to use the time to do some editing, BECAUSE I HAVE A BOOK COMING OUT!

Cheers, peter

Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician, public speaker and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include The Intern, coming in 2019 from TouchPoint Press; ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; and THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of The Book Stops Herethe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of three tribes on Triberr, The Big ThrillFiction Writers and The Book Shelf. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and fouchildren--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Interview with Author Ash Krafton


Ash Krafton has been hard at work on being her alter ego, AJ Krafton. She released her New Adult debut THE HEARTBEAT THIEF on Kindle in June and is thrilled to have made the Amazon Bestseller lists in four countries so far. Follow #AshKraftonEuroTour2015 as she takes the THIEF on a tour of Germany, Switzerland, and Venice (or follow @ash_Krafton on Instagram).

The Interview

First of all I want to say how much I love your name: Ash Krafton. It may be the best name I’ve ever heard. I know you also write under AJ Krafton. What made you decide on a pen name and how did you settle on AJ?
That's so funny that you say that. I remember getting a rejection from a magazine editor who said she loved my name (but I guess not the story, considering the rejection.) But her email went, "Ash Krafton, Ash Krafton, Ash Krafton. I love saying that out loud!" Writers are a wacky lot : )
I decided to use a pen name for this book because up until that point, my writing has been for adults. The Heartbeat Thief is more of an all-ages (or at least mature teen and up) book so I wanted the different name to make that distinction. The J in AJ represents my family, which is a little heavy on the J names.

Both you and I write NA, a genre that makes a lot of people frown and say: “New…Adult?” How do you usually explain the genre to those who don’t know?

New Adult differs from Young Adult in that the themes are heavier, more mature. It represents the 18-30 year old group, that place in between YA and mainstream adult reading. Often, NA books feature sexual relationships, career/life choices, leaving home, or emotional situations that would be difficult for a younger teen to fully digest.

I chose a NA approach to this story because it's a dark fantasy that explores the phenomenon of death. It contains violence and a sexual relationship (along with its consequences). Now, as the story is also a historical told in the style of Jane Austen, a reader shouldn't expect steamy sex scenes. However, I didn't feel that it was a book aimed at young readers in middle school. A YA tag would mistakenly present it as such.
That being said, there have been several readers who say it's recommended for readers of all ages. I've been reading Stephen King since I was twelve and look at me: I turned out juuuuussssstttt fine. *winks*
How old were you when you started putting stories together, and who got to read them?

I've been writing since I was a kid. Most of the time, my mom would read it and send it into the newspaper. I'd just shrug and think, that's cool. I wasn't really writing for an audience other than my mom.
I started writing professionally when my youngest started Preschool. (He's fourteen now.) My husband is the first reader of everything I write. Then, it goes out to the world.

And my mom still reads my books, too. <3
With a name like Ash Krafton, have you ever considered starting a Detective Agency? And if so, would you hire me if I promised to dump my boring name and change it to something equally cool?

Only if you want to run it. I'm clueless when it comes to mysteries. I never fail to be surprised at The Reveal. Worst part is, I watch a lot: Sherlock, Castle, Miss Fisher, Poirot, Miss Marple, Jessica what'shername from the 80s. And I have NEVER guessed who did it. NOT ONCE. So, I'll go in on the business if you make us look good because I'm fairly certain I'd suck at it.

Some writers read in the same genre they write, some don’t. Do you read NA and Speculative Fiction, or do prefer different genres?

I do read NA and loads of Spec Fic. I love sword and sorcery and epic fantasy. But I also like historical fiction and period writing, as well as poetry.
What is your favorite thing about the NA and Spec Fiction readers?

It's hard to know where their limits are and so pushing boundaries is a fun challenge. No matter how far-out an idea I have, there is always at least one reader saying, "Yeah, and then THIS happens…" and I'm left agape.

Click HERE to Check out The Heartbeat Thief

That's awesome.

Your novel, The Heartbeat Thief comes out in paperback today—Yay! What is next for you?

Um, um, um. A couple things.
Audiobook is in production for the first book in my urban fantasy series, The Books of the Demimonde. BLEEDING HEARTS is being narrated by the sassy and wonderful voice of Kelly Pruner and I can't wait to hear what my Sophie sounds like!
Currently I'm writing a serial about a magician/exorcist who is caught in the battle of Light versus Dark. I hope to make it very difficult for a reader to root for a particular side because I don't think big choices are easy to make.
I've also started work on my next NA title and write in that file when I need to switch gears.

Next week, I'll be blog touring The Heartbeat Thief. Stop by my blog for more details.

A big, big thanks to Ash for letting me interview her!

Mia Thompson is a Swedish-born author living in California with her husband, daughter, and dog, Oreo. She is known for her internationally bestselling series, featuring heiress and vigilante: Sapphire Dubois. Prior to her life as a novelist, Mia studied Filmmaking in Europe, and Screenwriting in Los Angeles.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Interview with Author Dr. Suzana Flores

I was lucky enough to get to interview author and psychologist Dr. Suzana Flores. And I must say, I feel a notch wiser for it.


As a social-media expert and commentator, Dr. Flores has appeared on national and international newscasts, podcasts, radio and talk shows including "Leiberman Live" on The Howard Stern Show, PBS, WCIU Channel - "The U," National Public Radio (NPR), "Just Jenny" Sirius XM Channel, WGN Radio Chicago, The ManCow Show, Univision Television News, Mundo FOX, Charlotte News WSOC-TV, The Ron Kelly Show, and radio broadcasts out of Germany, U.K. and Canada.
Dr. Flores has been quoted in The Chicago Tribune, The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post,,,, Men's Health Magazine, Everyday Health Magazine,, Dame Magazine, The Nation Magazine,, New Parent Magazine, Hispanic Health & Beauty Magazine, La Raza Newspaper,,, Mujeres Sin Censura, and

She can be reached at or through her literary agent, Liz Kracht at

The Interview

Suzana, you’re a psychologist and the author of Facehooked, a book that presents the dangers of social media addiction. Those two things would trigger people to imagine you as a very serious woman but you’re, in fact, an extremely funny person. Do your clients ever see this side of you, and if so, how do they respond to your humor?
I use humor in sessions all the time. I honestly think that it's healthy to find the ridiculousness of certain situations in order to cope with them. I am brutally honest and blunt in my feedback, and truthfully, I'm can even be crass at times too depending on client comfort level and if appropriate to the situation. My clients understand that this is my style and respond well to it. They appreciate the ability to be "real" in sessions and hear someone "break it down" for them in ways they may not have previously considered. Additionally, my clients are encouraged to curse if they wish, laugh 'til the cry, and be as honest about their thoughts and emotions as they want to be, without judgment. Sometimes the best way for us to work through adversity is to either laugh ourselves, laugh at others, or allow ourselves to say what we're afraid to say. True psychological freedom occurs when we lose the self-critic and forget about censorship. What we feel is what we feel - period. We have to allow ourselves to feel raw emotion. Sometimes this isn't pretty and sometimes it's hysterical. 

How did the idea of writing Facehooked come about?
I first thought about writing about social media when I started noticing a new dimension in my clients presentations: Facebook. Day after day my colleagues and I started noticing that for many people, social media started being the platform for which people either started overtly hurting each other or it was the cause of misunderstandings and miscommunications. 
I spent a lot of time in doubt as to whether or not I could ever write a book about this subject. "I'm a shrink Jim, not a writer!" However, my intrigue about the psychological impact of social media got so strong that I'd talk about it to anyone who would listen to me go on and on about it, until finally one of my friends told me to stop talking about it and start writing. I began by interviewing people on their positive and negative experiences with social media, but the point at which I decided to take the book writing thing seriously happened on the day that I had to escort a client to the emergency room due to a toxic Facebook interaction. That's when I realized, fear or no fear, I had to write this book. 

How do you imagine Mark Zuckerberg, being a psychology major himself, reacting if he read Facehooked?
Ha! Well as fate would have it, I recently have been contacted by a few members of Mark Zuckerberg's staff about my book. I can't disclose more information than that for now but I can say, with a fair amount of certainty, that he likely knows about my book. 
If he read my book, I think that he would understand what I'm conveying through the case examples and the guidelines provided throughout the manuscript. I emphasize that there are many positive aspects to Facebook, but certain interactions and social media related behaviors can be harmful too. In Facehooked I point out that Facebook is not the problem because Facebook alone can't hurt people; people hurt people. Now that we have this newly found power to connect with each other and instantly interact with each other, we have a responsibility to treat ourselves and others with respect - both offline and within our digital expressions. 

One of my favorite parts of your book is a section titled Facebook: Helping Stalkers Since 2004. Have you ever been stalked on, or outside of, social media by a client?

Great question.  Truthfully, I've been waiting and wondered if anyone would ever ask me this question because it would cause me to self-disclose my own reactions to certain encounters on social media. Yes, I've been stalked on Facebook, but not by a client. When I first meet clients I inform them that one of the rules of therapy is that I will not interact with them on Facebook under any circumstances. The stalking experience I encountered was awful and required a lot of work to completely disconnect from this individual. I will not deny that the experience was one of the factors that inspired the book. I figured that if I went through a tough time trying to get rid of a stalker on Facebook, I wondered how many other people suffered through the same experience. 
Between writing and sorting other people’s brains out, you’re juggling two careers at once. How do you divide your time between the two?

Maintaining a balance between the two is still a work in progress. Writing Facehooked while working a full-time job, and caring for my father who's health was failing at the time (he's doing much better now) was one of the most challenging experiences of my life - even more difficult than writing my dissertation or studying for my licensing exam. Luckily I had an amazingly patient and supportive agent, Elizabeth Kracht. I couldn't have done it without her encouraging words. She has become a very dear friend. 
I've been wrapping my head around the idea of jumping into the writing process once more. Most people don't realize the immense pain, frustration, exhaustion, self-doubt and fear a writer experiences several times throughout the process, and this doesn't even include editing!  One minute I'm jotting down book ideas while enjoying the euphoria of feeling brilliant and clever, and the next minute I feel like slamming the keyboard on my forehead out of frustration. I envisioned myself flinging my computer out the window and accidentally killing a poor bird that was minding his own business, but was flying by at the wrong place and the wrong time.  #DeathByFlyingLaptop. No, the writing process is no picnic…but then I remember the times when I felt "in the writing zone" and it was during those times that I was deeply inspired to write. No matter how tired I was (it could've been three o'clock in the morning) once an idea hit me I wanted to get up and write, and it felt amazing. These moments make the process all worth it. 

Click HERE to Check out Facehooked

Lastly, I’ve heard that the book you’re currently working on is about sex. As a psychologist, do you still get shocked by people’s sexual impulses and endeavors, or have you heard it all?
The next book is partially about sex and partially about romantic relationships.  It is rather difficult to shock a psychologist, but every time I say I've heard it all, I soon regret it because sure enough, someone will share a story that's stranger than fiction. I've heard some incredibly detailed sexual fetish fantasies that were played out in reality, and they've forever influenced the way I look at the power of fantasy. These stories intrigue me, which is why I became a psychologist. I like to examine all parts of the human psyche…both the light and the dark. These elements, embraced together, make us...perfectly imperfect. 

A BIG thanks to Suzana for letting me interview her!
If you're curious to find out more about Facehooked...

Mia Thompson is a Swedish-born author living in California with her husband, daughter, and dog, Oreo. She is known for her internationally bestselling series, featuring heiress and vigilante: Sapphire Dubois. Prior to her life as a novelist, Mia studied Filmmaking in Europe, and Screenwriting in Los Angeles.