Q&A With Stephen Leather, Author of New York Night: The 7th Jack Nightingale Supernatural Thriller

9780956620378_p0_v1_s192x300Thanks to the team at BookBear I am happy to share this Q&A with Stephen Leather, author of the long running Jack Nightingale series. In this new addition to the series teenagers are being possessed but priests and psychiatrists can’t help. Jack Nightingale is called in to investigate, and finds his own soul is on the line.

What inspired you to write the Jack Nightingale series?

I always loved the Black Magic books of Dennis Wheatley when I was a kid and I’m a huge fan of the Constantine character in the Hellblazer comics (graphic novels as they prefer to be called these days). And I just love supernatural films, especially haunted houses and things that go bump in the night. With the Nightingale series I wanted to explore the supernatural world but with a hero who is very much grounded in reality. The first three books – Nightfall, Midnight and Nightmare – really explain his backstory, how he became the man he is. The next two – Nightshade and Lastnight – explain why he had to leave the UK and the subsequent books will be set mainly in the United States, hence San Francisco Night and New York Night.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I try not to have a style. Like most journalists-turned-writers I try to tell my stories simply with uncluttered prose. If I find myself over-writing I tend to hit the delete key and start again. I try to write my books as if I was writing for a newspaper, where it’s the information that is being conveyed that’s important, not the style in which it’s written. I do like to write fast-paced books, with lots of dialogue and not too much descriptions. For me, the story is everything.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Read. Read a lot. Read good books and bad books and learn from them both. Write every day if you can. I think though that real writers don’t need advice, not about writing. Real writers will be constantly reading because they love books. And they will be constantly writing because they love to write. You need to find your own voice, you need to write the books that you want to write, or that you feel you have to write, and I don’t believe anyone else should be telling you what sort of books to write or how to write them. I don’t think real writers need advice because real writers are self-motivated to improve their craft. They know what needs to be done! Self-publishing is a different matter, there you do need advice because you have to take care of covers, blurbs, marketing and so on. Google self-publishing guru Joe Konrath and read everything he has to say about self-publishing and you won’t go far wrong!

What books/authors have influenced your writing?

I read pretty much everything by Jack Higgins and Len Deighton before I started
writing, but I think I modeled my writing most on Gerald Seymour, who was also a journalist before becoming a thriller writer.  I loved all John Le Carre’s books back then, but always felt intimidated by his wonderful prose. I would finish a Le Carre book and feel that I could never write anything as good as that!  At least with Gerald Seymour I would think that I had just read a wonderful novel and that one day I might be able to produce something almost as good!  In terms of influencing my self-publishing, I have been inspired by self-publishing guru Jake Konrath.

What genre do you consider your book(s)?

The books published by Hodder and Stoughton are thrillers, pure and simple. The Jack Nightingale series – which Hodder and Stoughton originally published but which I now publish myself – are supernatural thrillers, though they sometimes get labelled as occult thrillers, which is fine.

Do you ever experience writer’s block?

You know, I don’t think there is such a thing, not if you mean a writer who simply cannot write. Like all writers I sometimes have trouble with a storyline or a section I’m writing, but if that happens I simply switch to writing something else, either a different part of the same work or even a separate piece. I always have half a dozen or so short stories in mind so if a book starts to give me problems I might take a few days off and write one of those instead. But as I’m writing a book I usually have several sections already planned out so blocking doesn’t become an issue. My advice to anyone who does feel that they are blocked is to start trying to write something else, anything, just to start the words flowing again!

What was the hardest part of writing this book?  1221_leather-bg
Actually New York Night was an easy book to write, partly because Nightingale is such a great character to work with and partly because I had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen. It took about two months, from start to finish, and at no point did I hit any real problems. The ending didn’t come to me until the last week or so and I think that was probably the hardest part, coming up with a satisfying ending.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

I just love the Jack Nightingale character. When Hodder and Stoughton decided they didn’t want to continue to publish the series, there was no question that the books would stop. Jack just wouldn’t allow it. I love his sarcasm, his slight air of pessimism, and the fact that he just takes whatever life throws at him. He’s smart and thinks on his feet, yet because the supernatural world is so alien to him it’s constantly catching him off-balance. Having the books set in the United States is fun, because he’s always a fish out of water. It gives me the chance to explore different cities, too, which I enjoy enormously. This one was good fun because I know New York well, it’s one of my favourite cities. The next one will be set in Miami which is also a fun city.


Do you write every single day?

I try to. When I’m finishing a book I’m usually so inspired 200px-Stephen_Leather_Profile-1that I write ten or twelve hours a day, producing maybe 3,000 or 4,000 words. But generally I try to write at least 1,000 words a day and am happier if I manage 1,500. A thousand words a day is a good target, assuming the odd day off that’s 350,000 words a year!  Obviously there are days when you simply don’t have the time to write but if I’m not at the keyboard for a few days I definitely suffer withdrawal symptoms. Writer’s write, that’s all there is to it. I’ve heard some writers complain that producing their latest book was like pulling teeth, with me it’s never like that. I love to write, it’s what I do.

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Review: The Children of Darkness

the-children-of-darkness-coverThe Children of Darkness, the first book in The Seekers trilogy, is an interesting addition to the YA dystopian movement. Published in May of 2015, with the sequel The Stuff of Stars following quickly in November of 2015, there is a lot of to be impressed with in this first venture. Author David Litwack, who has also published the novels Along the Watchtower and The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky, does a capable job of building a grounded world and introducing three layered main characters.

The first book follows the characters Orah, Nathaniel and Thomas as they begin to realize that not only is there something wrong with the organization that controls their lives (the Temple), but also that they may be the ones who have to do something about it. Like so many books in the genre each character is tested in unique way, must learn about their inner strengths, and follow along a lonely and dangerous quest. The first in the series has a little bit of everything a reader could want in a piece of YA fiction.

What does set the book apart is how the style of the writing really does match the world created within the book. The characters are presented with a limited education from either their parents, or a group of men called the vicars. In both cases thing are formal, often stilted and focused on doing what is necessary. Children learn trades, like weaving and farming, and they talk as such. It cam make reading initially a bit more work, but the pay off is worth it. As the characters grow and develop (and uncover some nasty secrete the vicars want to keep hidden) the world-and the way the characters speak- blossoms. These really are teenagers who want to learn, who grow and change, and who strive to find away to change the world.

9780545596275_p0_v5_s192x300Another point that stands out, at least in the first book, is that the main characters often work to find non-violent ways to rebel. Unlike The Hunger Games, the Divergent Series, or even Harry Potter, Orah, Nathaniel, and Thomas initially work to use language, art, science, and technology to lead their society into a rebellion, not fighting and killing. It was pretty refreshing to find dystopian YA that had such a twist to it. Of course, all stories evolve, so you’ll need to read the sequels to see how things turn out!

All and all there were places that felt a bit choppy in the narrative, at least to an adult reader. Having said that, their characters are admirable, they change over the course of the novel, and world is well developed with plenty of room to grow. Teens or adults who are looking for something familiar, but still unique, will surely enjoy these latest offerings to the YA field.

Personally I am intrigued and am looking forward to reading the next two installments. If you want to know more about David Litwack check out this interview too.

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Interview with David Litwack

Author David Litwack has published Along the Watchtower in June, 2013 and The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky in May, 2014. The Children of Darkness, the first of the Seekers series, a dystopian trilogy, was published in June, 2015. It’s sequel, The Stuff of Stars, came out in November, 2015.

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Tell me a little about your book…
The seed of an idea is a curious thing. I went for a walk along one of my favorite places on Cape Cod. On one side was Vineyard Sound, with Martha’s Vineyard rising from the fog, and on the other a series of inlets of increasing size. The first  is called Little Pond and the next Great Pond. For some reason, I imagined young people growing up in Little Pond and envying those of Great Pond, wanting to find more from life than they had in their small village. From there, the story expanded. What if their limitation was not their small village, but a repressive authority that limited their potential to think and grow?

At the same time as I was developing this plot, the real world was changing. Increasingly, I saw on the news stories of oppression and rigid limits placed on freedom of thought: modifying school curriculum to restrict the sciences; rewriting history; destroying evidence from the past; restrictions on dress and diet; banning music and the arts; and severe punishments like stoning for daring to think differently.

Over time (several years), all these thoughts evolved in the Seekers dystopian trilogy.

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

The urge to write first struck me at age sixteen when working on a newsletter at a youth encampment in the woods of northern Maine. It may have been the wild night when lightning flashed at sunset followed by the northern lights rippling after dark. Or maybe it was the newsletter’s editor, a girl with eyes the color of the ocean. The next day, I had a column published under my byline, and I was hooked.

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Of course, everything I write has some basis in my own life. But fiction is less about recording reality than stitching together bits and pieces of things you’ve experienced and combining them with your craft to make a story—one that will hopefully let the reader add their own life experiences to it and be moved in some way. I’m not one to think a writer must only write about what they know (how else do you get alternate worlds?). But you have to write about things you’ve felt.

Out of all the characters in your book, who is your favorite to write? 

I used to say that my favorite was Kailani from The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky. She’s so mysterious, but at the same time wise, naïve and vulnerable. Now that I’m nearly done with the Seekers series, I think I’d say Orah. She smart and passionate in her beliefs, and a natural leader, yet she always doubts herself and questions her decisions—a trait that would be a good thing in some of our real world leaders.

Is your book part of a series, and if so, how many will there be?

The Children of Darkness is Book one of the Seekers dystopian trilogy. The second book, The Stuff of Stars, has just published.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on the finale of the Seekers series, to be titled The Light of Reason. If all goes as planned, it will come out in November 2016.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Writing a novel may be one of the hardest things you can do, so it’s all challenging. But nothing is harder than writing the first draft. I don’t yet know the characters that well and, while I have a general sense of where the story is heading, I can take a wrong turn at any point and have to redo months of work. When I hit that point where I’m terrified the story has gone off the rails, I take a break for a few days. Almost always, it’s not as bad as I feared, and I can fix the problem with a modest bit of work.

Once I’m beyond the first draft, the rest becomes just hard work. I do lots of revisions, but I find it easier to fix the story than to write it from scratch.

There’s a reason why Hemingway once said: “Write drunk, edit sober!”

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

To each and every reader, we’re partners in the story. I use my craft, and you use your imagination to flesh out your own unique version of the story. If I’ve caused you to re-experience some of the most intense moments of your life, then I’ve succeeded as an author.

To quote Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Do you plot your books completely before hand or do you let your imagination flow whilst in the writing process?

I usually conceive of a new book as a series of images and scenes, daydreaming about them while I finish work on the prior novel. I maintain a notes file for the new novel and do a rough draft of these scenes—a  very rough draft, what some people call “scaffolding” or “riff writing” like improvisation in jazz. The file can get pretty chaotic. Every now and then I make a feeble attempt to organize it (when I’m finishing up a novel, I try to avoid distractions and stay focused on getting it out to the publisher). By the time I’m ready to start the new novel, I usually have about 20,000 words of loosely connected prose—20-25% of the eventual novel but probably 80% of its essence. I take a couple of months to read, edit and organize that file into a dense plot outline. Then I start a new file from scratch, cutting and pasting prose as appropriate.

It’s a messy process in the early going, but unlike those who start with a more organized outline, I need that amount of writing to get to know the characters and live in the story.

How long did it take to get from the ideas stage of the Seekers series, to the publication of all three books?

The Seeker series started out as a standalone novel called There Comes a Prophet. The initial idea came to me about eight years ago, and it was published in 2011. After producing two other novels, I decided at the urging of readers to go back and turn this standalone dystopian story into a trilogy. Prophet became The Children of Darkness(with a changed title, cover and publisher) and I’ve just published the second book, The Stuff of Stars. I’m hard at work on the third and final offering, to be called The Light of Reason.

Did you suffer from writer’s block at any stage? How did you overcome it?

I sometimes think writer’s block is just another way of saying that writing a novel is really hard. I try to keep writing, even if I think it’s going poorly. Then I see how it looks the next day. I remind myself that I can always revise or just throw it away. Nothing’s worse than staring at a blank page.

Long walks are another good way to get the creative juices going. Whatever the case, I try to avoid just sitting there and staring at the screen. Write, read or go for a walk.

How did you come up with the name(s) for your lead character(s)?

Names matter, especially for a SciFi/Fantasy writer building new worlds. The names need to be consistent and reflect that culture. For the Seekers trilogy, where the people have been forcibly returned to something like our 15th century, I found the passenger manifest for the Mayflower, and borrowed names, mixing up first and last names to get ones like Nathaniel Rush or Thomas Bradford. All except for Orah. I wanted her to be different, a rebellious throwback to an earlier time. So rather than picking from the Anglo-Saxon, I chose a name with Hebrew roots. As an added subtlety, the name Orah means light.

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The Fixer: The Naked Man Review

Front Cover THE FIXER-THE NAKED MAN-1The Fixer: The Naked Man, the first in a new series of novellas by author Jill Amy Rosenblatt, follows main character Katerina Mills as she embarks on a new career as a fixer. The book, which feels like part crime drama part Scandal, quickly introduces readers to a fairly large cast of characters, all with shadowy motivations.

For readers who want answers, and want them now, this book may seem frustrating given the amount of information that is withheld. But for those of us who like a bit of suspense, and are willing to hold on for a long ride, this series has all the ingredients to be a fun one.

In addition to Katerina, readers meet an old love, a
potential new love, her parents and their extremely dysfunctional relationship, and the elusive employees are MJM, the firm that has taken Katerina on. During The Naked Man, Katerina has to learn to use her contacts from previous jobs in new and inventive ways to help stalk a wife and retrieve a piece of incriminating evidence. Murder, theft, sex, and lies all follow, and not in ways expected. With such a large array of characters to follow, and so much groundwork in a series that promises to be 10 to 12 books long, in addition to the twists that MJM will provide, there is a lot of territory that can be covered in equally engaging ways.

If you want to follow as an average college student turns into a potential life long fixer, then jump on the bandwagon for The Fixer series now.

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Thanks to BookBear for bringing this tour our way! Check out their website or twitter feed to find more books, authors, interviews, and awesome content.

Meet Jill Amy Rosenblatt, Author of “The Fixer: The Naked Man”

Jill Amy Rosenblatt, the author to two previous novels, Project Jennifer and For Better or Worseis back with a new novella series, The Fixer: The Naked Man. You can pick up any of her books now!

Can you share the inspiration for The Fixer Series? What was the research process like for getting into the woJill webrld of theft and deceit?

The Fixer came at the e
nd of a very bad bout of writer’s block that had been a problem for quite a while. After a sleepless night, I had an idea of a young woman in a cat and mouse game with a very powerful man. She needed something from him (I didn’t quite know what) and was trying to negotiate to get it. I thought about who this young woman wa
s and what she might do for a living that this was happening. I had heard of the term “fixer” and I investigated a little more. Since there are already TV shows that deal with this profession, I decided to go with an origin series, to show how Katerina wound up in this line of work.

I love research! I enjoy digging in and looking up everything down to the last detail. The funny thing about research is the more you look up, the more ideas and questions it raises. So I wind up having a lot of material to pick and choose from. I use books, magazines, and the internet but I also have been so lucky to have found some wonderful individuals who are willing to talk to me and answer my questions.

What’s the deal with MJM, Katerina’s mysterious new employer?Front Cover THE FIXER-THE NAKED MAN-1

I would love to tell you but I don’t want to spoil the surprise!! There will be a lot more revealed about MJM in future books so please be patient and all will be revealed.

Right now is there a plan for how long the series will be?

I am planning for roughly 10-12 books in the series but I’m working pretty loosely to allow flexibility for that to change.

Maybe it’s just me, but I felt sparks between Katerina and Alexander Winter. Potential love triangle? Friends with benefits? Am I completely off track?

You are exactly on track! There will be much more to come with Katerina and Alexander Winter. Stay tuned for more developments.

What can readers expect for the second book?

More of everything! The Killing Kind will have more assignments, more danger, and more mysterious men. The plotlines left open in The Naked Man will continue. Katerina’s situation will become more desperate and that will require her to take more risks.

I saw on your website that your mom is your editor. What is that process like, working with your mother professionally?

It works really well. My mom is amazing. She is incredibly smart and talented. Writers are always too close to their work. It’s not always possible to be 100% objective. When Judith edits, she sees the work objectively, makes suggestions, and will always ask the tough questions and tell me the truth.

I know we’re talking about The Fixer, but give new fans the basics of your other books, For Better or Worse and Project Jennifer.

Project Jennifer was my first book. It’s a chick lit romantic comedy that asks the question, “If you had a different name, would you have a different life?” Joan Benjamin loses her job, fiancé, and apartment, all in one week, all because of women named Jennifer. Convinced that Jennifers have all the style, charm, and grace, when Joan finds out she was almost named Jennifer, she decides the Universe made a mistake. Even if she can’t change her name, she’s going to change her life.

For Better of Worse was my second book. It’s women’s fiction, set in New York City. It’s the story of three friends, Elizabeth, Karen, and Emily and their relationships. I wanted to explore power structures. In every relationship, does one partner always have the upper hand? Over a one year period, I explore how the lives and relationships of these women change, with their men and with each other. I mixed humor, drama, and of course, romance.

For all the unpublished authors out there who are sitting on ideas for books, what tips would you give them? You earned your Masters in Literature and Creative Writing from Burlington College in Vermont, is this a path you would recommend for others?

My first tip would be to read as much as possible. Reading makes you a better writer. Then, write as much as you can. It’s tough to write every day because of commitments and schedules but do the best you can. Some days I would only write a paragraph because it was all I had time for, but I did it. Most important, don’t give up. If you love writing, pursue, practice, and persist!

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the path of a Masters degree. The Burlington College Masters program was great for me because it was an Individualized Program, so I had flexibility to help design and choose what I studied. I improved my grammar and spent time working on my essay skills. The Masters degree isn’t the only path and it’s not a fit for everyone.

What would be Katerina Mills Starbucks order? Her Netflix binge show?

Katerina is addicted to hot vanilla lattes with whole milk. That’s one thing she shares in common with the author. 🙂

I think her Netflix binge show would be a mix. A little West Wing for the quick dialogue, mixed with some classic romance like Moonlighting. Great question. I had to think about that!

bookbear badge-1Thanks to BookBear for bringing this tour our way! Check out their website or twitter feed to find more books, authors, interviews, and awesome content.