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Interview with Author John Freeman Gill & Book Give-Away

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

Vostromo‘s Interview with Author John Freeman Gillgill

JOHN FREEMAN GILL is a native New Yorker and the writer behind Avenue magazine’s popular Edifice Complex column. His nonfiction pieces about New York have been featured in The New York Times Magazine, the collections The New York Times Book of New York and More New York Stories: The Best of the City Section of the New York Times, as well as The Atlantic, The New York Observer, The Washington Monthly, The International Herald Tribune, Premiere and, because that’s not enough, “and others.” (For comparison’s sake, mine have not.)

John graduated Yale University summa cum laude and received an MFA in Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. (For comparison’s sake, I did not.) His novel THE GARGOYLE HUNTERS has just been published by Knopf, to wide acclaim from the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers, Omnivoracious: The Amazon Book Review, Booklist, and, because that’s not enough, “and more.”

John is charming and witty and loves Steely Dan and cats and if there is even the slightest degree of autobiographical truth in his novel do not, I say not, let him teach you how to French kiss. If you meet him you can ask about the roast chicken with the Barbie doll head, though I don’t advise it. Everyone in his family has fabulous hair. (For comparison’s sake, I once had a gerbil named Monty.)

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VOSTROMO: Welcome to PaperBackSwap, John, and congratulations on the publication of your novel. You’ve been writing about architectural history and the stories behind cityscapes for a long time. Where does your interest in the subject come from?

JOHN FREEMAN GILL: Initially it was just osmosis. The Upper West Side apartment where I grew up was something of a museum of Lost New York. My mother is an artist and native New Yorker, and for the past 63 years she’s been keeping one step ahead of the wrecking ball by painting portraits of city blocks just before their buildings are torn down. When I was growing up, the demolished landmarks of old New York were very much alive and well on the walls of our apartment: the 57th Street Automat served up cheesecake in the kitchen; the windows of the Fifth Avenue Bonwit Teller (razed for Trump Tower) displayed dresses in my mom’s bedroom; trains hurtled along the Third Avenue el in our front hall. In addition, she collected salvaged scraps of the lost city. There were grotesques carved into limestone keystones, terra-cotta spandrels that had once adorned a tenement, a stained-glass window bearing the word Delicatessen, giant carved stone brackets turned upside down to support a stone slab as a bar. She even had a picture frame made of wood salvaged from the Third Avenue El, or elevated train, when it was demolished in the 1950s. So I lived with the vanished city, which inevitably sensitized me to the living city around me when I headed out into the streets to live my life as a teenager and then adult.

V: One of your columns for Avenue begins If you know where to look, [the city] is full of rabbit holes, portals to worlds of splendid peculiarity hidden from the street. This could easily be the tagline for The Gargoyle Hunters. Setting aside the fact that I was not consulted about this obvious missed cross-promotional opportunity, real events inspired the novel. What made you decide to incorporate them into fiction, instead of reportage?

JFG: In truth, real events inspired only one important strand of the novel; most of the story is my invention. I began with the characters and the circumstance—a 13-year-old boy in the aftermath of a difficult divorce in the vividly crumbling New York of the 1970s. I thought it would be meaningful to tell a small, intimate story of a fracturing family while also telling a big story about the near death of New York City in the year and a half leading up to the famous Daily News headline: FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD. The idea of using a real-life event came later. The event was a bizarre and seemingly impossible architectural heist: the theft of an entire landmark city building, which shocked the city and made the front page of The New York Times in 1974. The mystery was never solved, and I wanted to find out how the story ended. So I sat down and wrote it, placing at the center of the action my reluctant 13-year-old protagonist, Griffin, and his obsessive father.

V: Hunters is a coming-of-age story that mirrors a changing cityscape with a boy’s changing understanding of family dynamics. One of the ways you express this is the twinning of opposites: characters focusing on the importance of the past miss the importance of the present; they move up and down from parapets to basements, inside and outside from bedrooms to scaffolds; they have deeply private moments in very public places; they compare the meaning of the lowliest of buildings (an outhouse) to the most exalted (the landmark first skyscrapers of New York). There are lovely phrasings scattered throughout the book: an architectural detail is “protected from the filthy heavens;” an artwork throws a “spotlight on the invisible;” a first kiss makes one feel “magnificently lost and at home at the same time.” My favorite of these is the moment the narrator imagines the part he played in his complex family history as “the bridge that kept my parents apart.” I mention these to prove that I can read, and that I read your book, and that your publisher shouldn’t feel they wasted their money sending me a copy, and that they haven’t made a huge mistake by agreeing to have you appear here. Truce?

JFG: In theory, a truce would be just fine. But then what am I going to do with this handy sword-cane I brought along to this interview? [Editor’s note: for comparison’s sake, I came to this interview unarmed.]

V: The theme of twinned opposites has a larger resonance, reflected in the first-person narration being easily, straightforwardly casual but unable to cover a deep undercurrent of menace: characters appreciate and cherish their city even as they lie, steal, and manipulate its people, flout its laws with abandon, risk their physical safety in its heights and depths; they reach for meaningful connection to each other even as they keep dangerous secrets. It’s a feeling startlingly encapsulated in the prologue, where a happy family drive to a Sunday picnic reveals the steaming sidelots of a slaughterhouse, glimpsed in passing though the pre-dawn fog. It’s also a very American maturation from boy to man, and marks a striking departure from the themes of your earlier works like My Sister Is A Big Fat Poopyhead and Mom, Make Her Give My Hot Wheels Back, to name two. Was this change of focus a conscious choice, or did your sister, now an adult, threaten you in some way, perhaps physically?

JFG: For the record, you just made up those two sophomoric titles, but I gather your readers are used to that sort of thing by now. On a serious note, though, one of my sisters actually did regularly chase me around and beat the hell out of me when I was little. Then one day, when I was seven and she was eleven, I turned around and socked her in the eyeball. Never one to skimp on drama, she ran around screaming, “I’m blind! I’m blind! I can’t see! Oh, I’m blind!” We’ve been getting along swimmingly ever since.

V: I went to school with your sister Claudia. She was one of the Beautiful People, it’s not much of an overstatement to say a lot of the boys had a bit of a crush on her. Years later, when I did a show that required me to grow a full beard, I had some head shots taken, and still more years later I shared one on Facebook. Her comment was “Very handsome, got better with age!” which is of course a barely-concealed way of saying “my god you were hideous in tenth grade.” Does this kind of passive-aggressive exchange explain why you named her “Quigley” and did all those horrible things to her in the book?

JFG: Ahh, you are jumping to false conclusions based on the one sliver of my life you know about. I actually have two sisters, and Quigley is not based on either of them. (And may I just say how sweet I think it is that after all these decades, a man of your advanced years still feels compelled to say, “a lot of the boys had a bit of a crush on her,” when you’re clearly talking about yourself?)

V: Claudia designs, crafts and sells beautiful decorative home objets d’art. As a writer, have you been able to solve the conundrum of how to be positively supportive of someone’s creative work while drawing as little attention as possible to the fact that you haven’t bought anything from them because as much as you like her stuff it’s hard to afford because money is tight what with having to save for the plastic surgery you want to get because of what she said about you in high school?

JFG: If I tell you you’re a perfectly attractive man, will you take off that rubber Nixon mask? It’s hard to hear what you’re saying in there.

V: Did Claudia read your book? Did she like it?

JFG: Yes, Claudia did read it and was generously supportive. But I guess you never know if she was just being polite; after all, she told you you were handsome.

V: Do you know if she’s… seeing anyone? I mean, just, you know. Curious! About an old friend, it’s not, I mean, you know, I’m only…

JFG: You’re gibbering. You know that, right?

V: [Loud coughing] Getting back to The Gargoyle Hunters, what stands out for me more than anything is a single line that I can fairly say sums up much of my own outlook on life. It occurs just about halfway through, at a time when the narrator is learning that an individual life, like a single building or an entire metropolis, is a process of construction, use, and wear over time, a million pieces held together by a purpose perhaps appreciated fully only in restrospect; I thought to end our time together by quoting it:

I felt it vibrating through my fingertips — like the time I touched the robot girl’s damaged nipple at Dad’s studio door, only much, much worse.

If that drives one person to read your book, I’ll have done my part.

 

 

Thank you Mr. Gill and of course, Vostromo for this great interview!

Mr. Gill has generously offered a brand-new copy of his book, The Gargoyle Hunters to a PaperBackSwap member who comments here on the Blog. A winner will be chosen at random. We will announce the winner in a week. Good Luck to everyone!

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Author Interview with Nya Gregor Fleron

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

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Author Interview with Nya Gregor Fleron by Vostromo

NYA GREGOR FLERON (it’s pronounced “knew ya”) was born and raised in Copenhagen. As if this wasn’t unfair enough in and of itself, she was also born with the cheekbones of not just a goddess but all possible goddesses because I, for one, don’t see how there’s enough calcium in the universe left to do… anything. I mean yeah she’s talented and friendly and cheerful and bright and wise but the point is, if you can’t find your letter opener, she’s the one to call.

Nya holds a Master’s in Creative Writing from City College NY, which just adds to the unfairness thing. Her novel Kali’s Gift was published in 2013 by Cheekbone Press (I’m kidding! … or am I?)

Nya has dedicated herself to exploring and experiencing the world with a confident curiosity and free self-reliance I wish I had. She has held a carousel of jobs ranging from amusement park ride operator to Program Associate at the Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy but her real purpose on this planet, besides Emergency Scalpel Replacement, is to show everybody else that the pursuit of happiness Out There is the one thing that will make you unhappy — a message sadly lost when daily concerns and shiny stuff misdirect us. I know Nya’s had her sad and difficult times like anyone, but I’m equally sure she’s learned to handle them better than many, because she’s mastered the art of smiling on the inside even when she can’t on the outside. You only have to spend five minutes under her blue-eyed gaze (see fairness, un-) to know that: to become aware that there is, after all, a calm warmth in the world you’ve sensed but couldn’t put a face to until now — and you won’t notice until much, much later that your expensive kitchen knives seem suddenly barely adequate.

Nya’s latest book, Staying Happy: Personal Happiness Through Movement and Love has just been published.

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VOSTROMO: Welcome, Nya. You’ve spent much of your life traveling and experiencing different cultures, and reflecting on the way cultures are both shaped by, and shape, individuals. In Staying Happy you note a conscious decision to smile at people (When I come to new places in the world, I can get a sense of how open people are by seeing how many smile back) and I wonder: is it true that dental care in Malmö is significantly cheaper than in Copenhagen? Asking for a friend.

NYA GREGOR FLERON: Thanks, Greg. First can I say how extremely happy I am to be here. Thank you for your flattering introduction, I especially enjoy your fascination with my cheekbones. Regarding your specific question, I cannot say I know for sure. I try to stay away from dentists for the sake of my own happiness. My bet is, if the Swedish dollar is still lower than the Danish, that your friend could find some better deals in Sweden.

V: You’ve explored the cultural, interpersonal and spiritual connections people share through such disciplines as dance and yoga. Common to both is the notion of “losing one’s self” for a while through a focus on action over thought. I often act without thinking, and without going into detail (let’s just say I followed your advice in Chapter Eight and… hugged a tree like I… meant it…) would you happen to know any affordable defense attorneys in the Chicago area? Asking for a friend.

NGF: I am so glad to hear you are trying out some of my advice and getting out of your comfort zone. I am sorry if it got you, I mean your friend, into trouble, perhaps that is part of the experience you are co-creating? I am not familiar with lawyers in Chicago, but I do know a few here in New York I could hook you, I mean your friend, up with. Another great exercise I suggest is to share your story with a stranger. Sounds like a great opportunity for this. Let me know how it goes.

V: You were born in Copenhagen, Denmark, generally considered one of the world’s most beautiful and culturally interesting cities. Yet you’ve chosen to live in Brooklyn, NY. Our readers want to know: what’s wrong with you?

NGF: Ha ha. I totally understand your question: why would I leave El Dorado? The Danish translation of El Dorado is Smørhul — roughly translated it means “butter hole” which derives from the idea that the melted butter in the middle of the porridge is in the most peaceful and cozy spot. What better place for me to live in than New York to prove to the world that you can be happy anywhere? My happiness is my responsibility and I can make the best out of anywhere. On a more serious note, I actually find that New York brings out much more dynamic parts of myself that have helped me get over shyness and get out of my comfort zone: to become more alive. A life with little challenge and variety can result in sleepiness, and at least here in New York it is hard to fall asleep, so it suits my personality.

V: Laetitia Casta was chosen as the model for an update to “Marianne,” the symbol of the French Republic; rumor had it (incorrectly) that Annette Bening modeled for the revamped Columbia Pictures “Torch Lady” figurehead; am I correct in assuming that you are the model behind the Gillette Mach 3 Turbo Series razors?

NGF: Again I am flattered by your obsession with my cheekbones, ha-ha. I am vaguely familiar with Gillette’s different types of razors, am I correct in saying that Gillette Mach 3 is a razor for men? So… do you use one?

V: I’ll ask the questions, thank you very much. Many websites claim that, with sufficient determination, anyone can achieve Fleron-level sharpness, yet I remain skeptical. Thoughts? Can you describe your own cheekbone regimen?

NGF: Healthy diet, love, smiles, laughter and dance I am sure play into it. I also take a supplement, Chiamaka, which is supposed to hydrate your skin and hair. I also use various different skin products. But more importantly I think your admiration of my cheekbones plays a big part in their well-being.

V: Followup question: Have you ever cut yourself just washing your face?

NGF: No I cannot say I have, but I do have a tendency to be a little clumsy (perhaps due to too much excitement), so at times I accidentally poke my skin with my nails. Cute little crescent moons.

V: Lastly, Staying Happy ends with a quote from Carl Jung: There are as many nights as days, and the one is just as long as the other in the year’s course. Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word ‘happy’ would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. Is this an adequate description of why you agreed to do this interview? Asking for a friend.

NGF: Yes, definitely. All the tears of laughter have been invaluable and the praise received and the brain-wracking to come up with some clever responses. How did I do?

V: I’ll ask the questions!

 

Nya Gregor Fleron has generously offered a brand-new copy of her book Staying Happy Personal Happiness Through Movement and Love to a PaperBackSwap member who comments here on the PaperBackSwap Blog. A winner will be chosen at random.

Thank you Vostromo and Nya Gregor Fleron!

 

 

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Author Interview and Book Give-Away!

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

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Author Interview with Paula W. Millet by Diane G. (icesk8tr)

I would like to thank Paula W. Millet author of her first book Angelique’s Storm for taking the time to be with us today. Congratulations on the publication of your first book!

Thanks for inviting me!  I am excited to connect with the PaperBackSwap community to discuss my book.

In looking at your web site, we see that you were a teacher for many years. What inspired you to become a writer, and does the teaching background make it easy for you to make this transition?

Indeed. Teaching high school English and Speech was my professional career, having spent decades in the classroom, so my interest in literature and fascination with words has its roots in that part of my life. When I retired, I had the time to pursue some of the interests I had deferred when the time demands of balancing work and family were too great. Writing a book was always on my bucket list. I like to refer to this as my second chapter.

 

What is a quick synopsis of Angelique’s Storm?

Probably the easiest way to describe the plot is to give you the synopsis from the book cover:

The rain came down in heavy sheets and the wind howled around her as the angry surf churned in response. But she had battled the storms of life before, and she would not be intimidated, not by nature’s fury nor by a man, even one who once had her heart… 

When the beautiful plantation-born socialite Angelique Latour is swept off her feet and quickly wedded to a swarthy scoundrel, her world is turned upside down. Although schooled to be a charming, proper Creole belle, her fine education does not prepare her for the cruel irony that leaves her penniless and alone. Haunted by loss and betrayal, she refuses to be a victim, tapping into her own resourcefulness to save herself in a world where men traditionally hold the power and position. And just as a unique opportunity for reinvention, redemption, and romance presents itself, forces of nature and the universe plot to spoil her happiness, driving her hopes with a hurricane’s fury into the wide expanse of the Gulf of Mexico. Angelique’s Storm weaves a powerful tale of suspense, treachery, and survival against the backdrop of pre-Civil War South Louisiana

 

What gave you the ideas for the story Angelique’s Storm?

I currently work part time as an educator at Tellus Science Museum. We have a program for our school groups called Galactic Weather. And one day, while in the lab, I started thinking about life before modern meteorology, the peril of being unable to warn people of impending storms. Weather forecasting has saved many lives, hasn’t it? That was a pivotal moment for me, giving me the basic premise for Angelique’s Storm. The conflict, and plot were the vehicle from which the story could be told as I began to weave a romantic historical tale of these ill-fated characters caught in one of the most disastrous storms in recorded history, which interestingly enough, has had very little written about it, either in fiction or nonfiction. Of course, I became totally captivated by Angelique in the process.

 

You really brought this story to life with your writing and made me feel like I was right there with Angelique! How much of your childhood and background played into this?

Growing up in South Louisiana, specifically Terrebonne Parish, provided me with a rich cultural heritage.  Weekends were spent at “the camp,” which almost always included a boat ride out to Last Island. And as a child, I thought it was the most magical place on earth, a pristine sandy beach to explore with wild abandon, while the grown-ups fished in the surf. I can’t remember the first time I heard the story of when it was a lively resort more than a century earlier, the holiday destination of choice for the well-heeled bourgeoisie. But those tales always ended with a vivid description of the devastating hurricane that whipped through the island, destroying everything in its path. The tragedy seemed to cast a somber shadow over the beauty of the place, but in my mind, it was all so dreamy and romantic and terrible.

My interest in the last barrier island never seemed to wane as I grew into adulthood and sadly watched it slowly erode into the Gulf, its vulnerable position causing it to grow smaller and smaller with each decade. I happily brought my own children there to collect seashells and catch blue crabs, to build sand castles and swim in the salty water.  And I shared the history with them as well, a legacy passed on to the next generation. When I moved to Georgia, I had to visit one last time, just to say goodbye.

It seemed appropriate, then, that I would chose this mystical place as the setting of my debut novel. And while I certainly felt a kinship with the island, researching the stories of those who lived, played, and died there renewed my enthusiasm for writing a story about what might have happened. My imagination took it from there.

 

How long did you take to write the book?

About ten months, although I did take four months off at the midway point. Life sometimes gets in the way, making it hard to commit to the routine of daily writing. And then, my muse took off to Belize, leaving me to fend for myself. The inspiration returned in February, when the cold winter months motivated me to complete it. Within six weeks, I was ready to edit and revise the draft.

 

Did you stay within your planned outlines, or did you ever write yourself into a situation you could not get out of?

I knew where I wanted the story to end and had already mapped out a powerful climax in my mind, so I worked backwards in the outlining, which was the basic skeleton of the story, with only a couple of pages of key points.  I also had random sticky notes posted everywhere, jotting down ideas whenever one came to mind.  Much to my delight, the details and characterization magically appeared, often surprising me in the process. So I think I am a plotter, but I also like to fly by the seat of my pants when necessary.

 

How do you deal with the times you may encounter writer’s block?

Does opening a bottle of good wine count? Sometimes, you have to just take a break and wait for the creative juices to flow once more. Forced writing often comes across as such, right? And then, there is that fickle muse. She does like wine, though.

 

We see that Angelique is a very strong woman who seems to be able to get through anything. Is Angelique anyone you know, or a combination of people in your life?

The world has always been influenced by fearless, loving women, those survivors, who have had the faith, and fortitude to weather the storms of life without giving up or becoming bitter. There is beauty and power in that determination. And so I think that Angelique is a metaphor, patterned after so many of the female role models I have known in my life, both friends and family. I hope that this book indirectly honors them.

 

Being a person who never liked history, your book actually compelled me to look up the events from that time frame and the story of the Last Island. Were you always a history buff?

 I never pictured myself as a writer of historical fiction. I tend to think of it as the names, dates, and places that we were all forced to memorize in school, which killed any interest in the past for me.  Or so I thought. But I have come to understand that there are remarkable stories of people who lived through amazing moments in time, tales handed down to us through documents and fragments they left behind. This allows us to piece together a fascinating puzzle, envisioning what might have happened, to indirectly view history from a human perspective.

 And yes, Angelique’s Storm combines much of the conflicting accounts of what happened on that fateful day and night of August 10, 1856.  But the story itself is fiction, a romantic tale of the horror of nature’s fury and the triumph of the human spirit had we been there to witness it.

 

Do you enjoy reading books yourself? If so, what types of books do you enjoy?

I have always been an avid reader; I think most writers are, don’t you?  I used to anxiously wait for the bookmobile to make its way through our neighborhood as a kid. (Do they even have those anymore?)  And I had a library card from the moment I was old enough to get one. Books have taught me, comforted me, transported me.  Goodness knows, as both a student and teacher, I read the classics, those timeless works from the masters. Now, I tend to like contemporary fiction, with real settings and believable characters, but a good storyline will entice me to read almost anything, especially if it is well written and unique. Let’s just say, I don’t limit myself to one genre. Most readers don’t, especially with so many exciting choices out there.

 

Will there be another book in your future?

The allure of Angelique’s story has compelled me to delve further into the fictional tale, so yes, there will be a sequel, Angelique’s War, which takes our heroine into the Civil War and its challenges. I am currently halfway through the rough draft, which I do believe is going to take the reader on a wild ride. I plan to release it next spring. The third book in the trilogy will be Angelique’s Peace.

I also have completed a work of contemporary fiction, a novel that now needs to be tweaked. Once I finish the editing, I will release it. I am hopeful that will happen next summer.

And because I like a challenge, I already have an idea for another trilogy, which, ironically, will be cultural, historical fiction as well.

 

Where is your Angelique’s Storm available? How can readers keep up with you?

It is currently available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback. I have an author page linked to the book there. I also have a Facebook page (Paula W. Millet, author) and a website (paulamillet.com), where I blog regularly. And you can find me on Goodreads, too. I enjoy connecting on a more personal level with readers, so I hope that your community of booklovers will feel free to join in the discussion or contact me directly. I’d love to hear from you!

 

Thanks so much for spending time with us today!!

Thank you! I have enjoyed it.  Writers are always hopeful that something they have written will find a way into a reader’s heart, so I appreciate the opportunity to connect with your membership.

 

Ms. Millet has generously offered a brand new copy of Angelique’s Storm to a PaperBackSwap member who comments here on the PaperBackSwap Blog. A winner will be chosen at random.

 

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Last Chance to enter to win the Book Give-Away by Lucinda Brant

Friday, February 12th, 2016

Deadly Peril by Lucinda Brant

 

If you havent yet entered to win one of 5 copies of Lucinda Brant’s brand-new book, Deadly Peril, here is your chance.

Lucinda Brant has offered to give two copies of Deadly Peril, and three audio codes good for an audio book download of Deadly Peril to members of PaperBackSwap who comment on the Author Interview with our Member Jerelyn H. (I-F-Letty). Click on the link to read the interview and enter the contest:
http://blog.paperbackswap.com/author-interview-and-book-give-away-with-lucinda-brant/2016/01/

We will choose 5 winners at random on Sunday, February 15, 2016. Good luck to everyone!

Thank you Ms. Brant and Jerelyn for a great interview and give-away!

 

 

 

Author Interview and Book Give-Away with Lucinda Brant

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

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Author Interview with Lucinda Brant by Jerelyn H. (I-F-Letty)

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Award winning author Lucinda Brant

A great deal has happened to Lucinda Brant since our last conversation 3 years ago. When we first talked, her books were only available in e-book, but now she’s hit the mainstream and for those of you who haven’t read her books you are in for a real treat. I describe her as an author of romantic historical fiction. For several reasons, the first being she really knows her time period, and it shows in her research. She is a self-described Georgian junkie. While the love story is central, the characters are flawed, and the journeys they undertake are often those of self-discovery. As they say—how can you love someone if you can’t love yourself? The next reason is her characters, they are people of the 18th century, so you don’t see glaring political correctness. You are presented with the social classes as one would see in the 18th century. The good, the bad, and the ugliness of classism and racism that never seem to go away. Yet Lucinda seems to deal with this as elegantly and effortlessly as her stories flow.

I want to thank Lucinda Brant for taking the time to be with us today. I would like to talk about all the books since this is Ms. Brant’s first time on PBS. But we will be focusing on her newest release Deadly Peril.

 

But first, what was your career before you became a writer and how, or should I ask why did you become a writer?

I’ve always been compelled to write, since an early age. So I think I’ve always been a writer. But making a living from writing, well that took much longer to achieve! As I always say “It takes 20 years to become an overnight success”. Which is another way of expressing Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 hours rule”—that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field.

Before becoming a full time writer I worked in university administration, and was also a teacher. I taught History and Geography at a girls’ boarding school.

Who are your literary idols?

Three come to mind. I read these authors in my teens, and I just loved their ability to create worlds into which I could escape from the everyday. Leo Tolstoy, Jane Austen, and Anthony Trollope.

When not reading for research, what do you read and do you have any favorite authors?

I rarely have time these days for recreational reading. And I actually prefer reading for research! But when I do take a break, I read far from my genre. My favorite author for pure escapism is Andrea Camilleri who writes the Inspector Montalbano series. Montalbano is a Sicilian detective, and Camilleri’s writing is spare, and he peppers his stories with the social issues facing Italy today. He is also very witty, and I often find myself laughing out loud.

 

What books did you love as a child and would recommend that children read today?

For much of my childhood we didn’t have TV, and we didn’t have the money for holidays or going to the cinema (the closest cinema was a thirty minute train ride away), so we had to amuse ourselves. But we did have a great town library, and my parents always found the money for books. So I read—a lot! J

My favorite early childhood book was The Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs. Gibbs had a terrific imagination, and was also an accomplished artist. She essentially wrote fairy stories that take place in the Australian bush.

Children should read whatever interests them. With the explosion of ebooks and availability of so many books geared to children and young adults, there’s never been a better time for reading. My daughter’s favorites were the Harry Potter, Lemony Snicket, and Deltora Quest books when she was younger, and then later she read Libba Bray, Richelle Mead, Scott Westerfeld, John Green, and classics such as the Brontes, Jane Austen, and Edgar Allan Poe—to name just a few.

 

When did your self-described Georgian Junkie emerge?

Very young! When I was about eleven years old and read Alfred Cobban’s A History of Modern France 1715-1789. Yes, I was a strange child to say the least!

 

What is it about this time period that intrigues you so?

Everything! From the fashions to exploration, and the beginnings of mass production and consumption. It was the Age of Enlightenment and refinement and manners, and yet it was also a time of revolution, poverty, slavery, and health risks such as childbirth being the number one killer of women. People were beginning to question everything about their existence, and many were striving to make the world a better place.

 

I love your vivid descriptions of the houses and clothing, of London and Paris.  If you could choose one of those cities to live in, in the 18th century which would it be and why?

London. As Samuel Johnson said at the time “If you are tired of London, you are tired of life”. London was the center of the world in the 1700s.

I treated myself just after Christmas to Eternally Yours (the Roxton Letters). I loved it. Was this a little gift for your fans?

Yes, I wrote the letters for my dear readers ! (So says the dedication)  I’m so glad you enjoyed them.  I so wanted to give my fans further insight into the lives of my Roxton family. I’ll will be writing the second volume once the sixth book is written.

I love your Pinterest boards for all the books. Did you have physical inspiration boards when you started out?

Isn’t Pinterest fabulous?! I love it! My boards allow me to show my readers behind-the-scenes of each of my books, and to showcase the 18th Century, and what I love about it.

I’d never had any physical inspiration boards before, just what I collected as postcards on my travels, or pictures in my research books. So Pinterest is just perfect, for my research, and as I said above, to give my readers further insight into my stories and my characters (and to show that I do, do my research!)

I love all your books, but Alec Halsey is just hands down my favorite.  What made you want to write a mystery series?

Thank you! I always loved reading mysteries, and from a young age. Who can forget “Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators” series? And then I moved on to the Jemima Shore mysteries by Antonia Fraser, Margery Allingham’s Albert Campion mysteries, and my all time favorites are the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries by Dorothy L. Sayers.

Mysteries are quite complex to plot and write, and I love the idea of the amateur aristocratic sleuth solving the crime. And the Georgian era just lends itself to murder and mayhem in aristocratic places!

You “made up” a country to set Deadly Peril in, why?  (By the way I think it works.)

Yes, I did!   But the geographical area in which the country is located isn’t made up. J It is very real, and I did a great deal of research into the geography, the weather of the area, and the geo-politics of the time. I chose East Frisia as the setting for my fictitious country of Midanich because of the stark terrain, the relentless winter weather, and because it is politically squeezed between the Netherlands and Denmark and bordered by German principalities, one of which is Hanover. The ruling dynasty of English kings are of Hanoverian descent, and in the 1760s still ruled Hanover from afar. Thus George the Third had a vested interested in that little corner of Europe and anything that might affect his Hanoverian Kingdom.

The Margravate of Midanich shares a border with Hanover. It has just been through the Seven Years’ War, and was occupied first by the French and the English, and now it is at civil war. Such a state of affairs would be of concern to the King and to his government. War could spill over into Hanover. Not only that, but the English government relies on troops from Midanich to bolster its forces overseas. So any disruption to the country means disruption to the supply of troops, which are required to help defend English territorial possessions in the American Colonies and of course, in Hanover.

I needed a country that fit the above criteria, and to be ruled by an unstable Margrave who is at war with his brother. Thus I borrowed the politics from several German principalities and made them my own in Midanich.

Many of your characters have come forward to tell their own stories, do they tell when they are ready or do you pick them?

They tell when they are ready. 🙂

I brought this up before because of your travels to Williamsburg, Virginia.  Will you be setting any of your books in the American Colonies? Charles and Sarah-Jane’s story maybe?  Please!

I’ve now visited Colonial Williamsburg three times, and just love the place! It is living history, and I learned so much just by observing and talking to the re-enactors, walking the streets, taking carriage rides, attending musical recitals and dancing lessons, and staying in 18th Century accommodations.

I may yet write Charles and Sarah-Jane’s story—or at the very least visit them. However, I first need to tell Mary’s story, and for the American Revolutionary War to end so that Charles and his family can finally make their home in the new country that is the United States of America.

 

I am very excited for Proud Mary. Can you share anything about this next novel?

I’ve felt compelled to give Mary a voice since Midnight Marriage when she was married to the pompous Sir Gerald Cavendish. Mary and her two brothers had an unhappy childhood, and this has shaped who they are. We met her brother Charles in Autumn Duchess, and know him for a supporter of the Patriot cause in the American Revolutionary War. Considered a traitor by the English, but a hero to those fighting for independence. And we discover a great deal about Mary’s elder brother Alisdair “Dair” in Dair Devil. But what about Mary, who is now a penniless widow? Is she merely a mouse with no opinions of her own? How does she feel about being the object of pity—the poor relation—of her wealthy cousins the Roxtons? As with Dair, there are hidden depths to Mary, and in her story we learn the answers to these questions, and much more.

And of course there are the continuing story threads: Antonia’s pregnancy; Jonathon’s return from Scotland; newlyweds Dair and Rory; and the hunt for the traitorous spy walking amongst them. And there are a few surprises along the way, too! J

I can’t talk to Ms. Brant without bringing up the audio versions.  She has had two very talented actors performing her books. Marian Hussey who performs Salt Bride and Salt Redux is wonderful.  Also the immensely talented Alex Wyndham who has taken on not only the Deadly series but the Roxton series as well. Many of your readers who also listen to audio books have fallen in love with Alex Wyndham’s talents.

 

Can you talk a bit about how you found these fine actors?

I found Marian when I was looking for the voice of Jane Despard. Marian has a wonderful talent for characters, particularly Jane!

I then went in search of the voice of Alec Halsey for my historical mystery series. I listened to I don’t know how many voice actors—maybe close to 50? Anyway, as soon as I heard Alex, I knew immediately he was THE ONE to be the voice, not only of Alec Halsey, but of the many characters in the series. He is a gifted actor and voice talent. I then asked him if he’d be interested in performing my historical romance series the Roxton Family Saga. He’d not done historical romance before, so I thought it a big ask. But he was more than up to the challenge, and in fact he has done a brilliant job with both series. I couldn’t be happier.

 

What is the process of taking a book from the page to audio?

It’s quite a process, because as well as the author and the narrator, there is the producer who brings everything together. BeeAudio have been wonderful in coordinating the various projects, and their sound engineers and editors have done a superb job in ensuring the sound quality and continuity are perfect.

I send the script (manuscript of the story) to the producer, along with production notes on the characters, and the narrator then reads through both, and if necessary gets in touch with any questions that require answering. The first 15 minutes are then recorded and I listen to that, and if all is well I approve this segment, the narrator then records the rest of the book. This will take several weeks, because the recording then goes to the producer, who makes certain there are no sound irregularities and that the script has been adhered to by the narrator. I’ve been told that for every hour of narration, it takes three hours of post production to ensure the quality of the recording.

When the producer is happy with the final product, it is sent to me to listen to and approve. I listen to the entire recording through my earphones, and while reading the script. Sometimes the narrator might deviate from the script, and often this is fine with me because Alex has managed to say a sentence, or put different emphasis on a particular word which can make the story that little bit better. In such cases, I will then change the script to suit. Which, though a process, is, in the age of ebooks, easy to do. I then republish the updated version of the book. In this way the reader and listener get the best possible version of my story.

 

Do the actors ever discuss the characters with you?

Yes. Alex and I have a collaborative partnership with each book, and I value Alex’s input in developing my characters for audio. This is particularly important for a series where the books span decades, such as the Roxton Family Saga, and characters grow from children into adults and then age. Taking a character on such a life journey requires skill and careful consideration on the part of the narrator.

As a professional actor Alex puts a great deal of time and effort into each character, getting the nuisances of their personality, motivation, and voice just right. He not only performs the book, Alex inhabits each character, so that they stand as individuals, and this is very clear in his audio performances.

Alex Wyndham is a very talented actor. A graduate of Oxford University (History honors) and of RADA (the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) he stuck in my mind when I first saw him in HBO’s Rome where he played Augustus Ceasar’s good friend and advisor Gaius Maecenas.  Most recently he played Captain Miles Hesketh-Thorne in PBS/BBC1’sWWI drama The Crimson Field.  I had listened to most of the audio books before I realized that I knew his film work.

He does such an amazing job in these audio books! He inhabits these characters, and as an avid audio book listener I realized his voice acting is as magical as the writing. I’ve often wondered how one person can bring so many characters flawlessly to life. So with that in mind I asked the social network group of Lucinda Brant fans (of which I am a member) Lucinda’s Gorgeous Georgian Gals if they had any questions they would like to ask Alex. Lucinda then sent Alex our questions, which he graciously agreed to answer.

So I would like to express my thanks to Alex for taking the time to indulge us, and thank the participation of Lucinda’s Gorgeous Georgian Gals.alex

Alex seems to have great fun voicing all your characters I’d be interested to know if he has favorites.

Definitely! Antonia Duchess of Roxton became a favorite—she has a lovely frank lightness to her. And sometimes performing with some accents makes things easier and more fun, as you have a musicality which you don’t have so much in English. I also loved Vallentine. Reading a whole series and going through so many experiences with the characters makes them feel very real.

1.     I’d like to ask Alex how he builds the characters and makes them so three-dimensional. For me Lucinda’s characters are as real as going to the movies, that if they walked into the room I’d know their every nuance. PS: If Lucinda’s books are made into movies, I can’t go see them unless Alex is in them!

How kind of you to say. I guess a lot of it is relying on your instincts. Everyone can read a book out loud and do the voices—and I think one’s imagination and subconscious can produce a lot of wonderful things if you learn to get out of its way (which is the tricky bit). Also you do have to put a fair bit of graft speaking in their voices to get them bedded in.

2.     Does Alex find a sense of freedom performing a book more so than when he acts in front of a camera or on stage?

Without a doubt. You are bound by so many other factors when on camera. With stage there is more freedom, but ultimately if it’s just you and the microphone and twenty plus characters you can really let loose. And you also end up playing characters you would never elsewhere—women, children, old men.

3.     How often does Alex need to take a break while recording, and does his throat suffer from changing voices so often?

Well vocal tension is important to manage—and is one if the areas you need to learn to manage if you’re going to play a wide range of voices for a sustained period of time. I usually break every hour unless I’m really in the zone.

4.     Does Alex perform and record each character separately and then digital processing puts everything in its place? How is it all done?

Wow I wish. But nope—it’s old fashioned stand in front of the mic and read the darn thing out loud cover to cover. Talking to yourself as several different people is definitely odd—but it’s actually not as hard as you think (give it a whirl!).

5.     Does Alex find it strange acting out a love scene where he plays both parts?

Ha! Only if it’s badly written (no problems there with Lucinda). If it’s well done you can just really get into the flow of it and its pretty fun. The biggest challenge is trying to ensure it doesn’t sound creepy or overblown. But I think investing in it 100% is crucial for that—if you don’t that’s where things come off the rails.

6.     Would Alex like to have lived as a Georgian gentleman?

I’d say yes, because the idea of ‘gentle’ behavior is a rather fine one I think, not to mention having a country estate to retreat to—but then if it actually happened I think I’d go mad from a life of endless leisure. Maybe I’d have to be a gentleman explorer or soldier…

7.     If this book [Deadly Peril] was made into a movie and he was offered the role of Alec, would Alex accept?

Absolutely!

8.     Besides the audio books for Lucinda—which I love Alex’s performances—is he going to do another movie or perform on stage anytime in the near future? His talent should not be limited to doing audio books—but he must continue recording Lucinda’s!

Well thank you very much. I have literally just finished a tiny cameo in BBC films’ ‘Mindhorn’ (Julian Barratt, Steve Coogan) which was a lot of fun. See if you can spot it. And I think this year should bring more stage and screen. But as an actor a lot of what happens to you is in the lap of the gods and you just have to roll with whatever comes up. Exhilarating and terrifying.

9.     Does Alex read the story first and make his decision on how to bring the characters to life through his voice, before actually recording of the book?

Always. Lots of wandering around muttering to myself trying to figure out a voice and get it settled. Also the cast needs to work well together and sound appreciably different, and characters are unpicked and revealed gradually through a book. So you need to have a comprehensive grasp of it all before you jump in. Otherwise you could end up in tricky situations where characters sound too similar or a crucial lisp is revealed after you’ve recorded half a book. Thank-you again Lucinda and Alex.

 

You can read much more about Alex Wyndham on these web sites:

Alex’s Imdb link. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2171441/

Alex’s audio book performances.
http://www.audible.com/search/ref=a_hp_tseft?advsearchKeywords=alex+wyndham&filterby=field-keywords&x=0&y=0

You can find much more about Lucinda Brant on these web sites:

Pinterest boards https://www.pinterest.com/lucindabrant/

Author site http://lucindabrant.com/

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/LucindaBrantBooks/?fref=ts

Twitter https://twitter.com/LucindaBrant?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor

Amazon
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0987243071?SubscriptionId=0QCHRJVSKG6F3BRGBNG2&tag=pbs_00016-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=2025&creative=165953&creativeASIN=0987243071

 

Ms. Brant is offering two copies of Deadly Peril, and three audio codes good for an audio book download of Deadly Peril,  please leave a comment in order to be eligible for the drawing. A winner will be chosen at random from PaperBackSwap Members who leave a comment here on the Blog.  Good Luck to everyone!

 

 

 

Author Interview with Jennifer Ashley

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

Author Interview with Jennifer Ashley

 

By Mirah Welday (mwelday)

 

I recently discovered the Captain Lacey Regency Mystery Series by Ashley Gardner and was hooked with the first book! So far I have read the first five novels and one novella from the series.  A fine mix of gallantry, romance and mystery, the series is fun and intriguing.  After doing some research, I discovered the author was Jennifer Ashley, writing as Ashley Gardner.  I found Jennifer on twitter and made a comment that I loved Captain Lacey and would love to have an opportunity to interview Jennifer for the PBS blog…and I got a response from her!

I hope you enjoy my interview with Jennifer and that you’re inspired to pick up one of her novels, she writes a variety of genres so there’s bound to be something you’ll enjoy and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed! So without further delay…..

MW: You are prolific writer, writing a variety of genres as Jennifer Ashley and Allyson James.  What made you decide to create the Captain Lacey Regency Mystery Series, writing as Ashley Gardner? Is there something particular about that time period that interests you?

JA: The Regency does fascinate me, because it was such a complex time. Jane Austen’s world is only a small part of it, and even she hinted at darkness–the dangers to a woman unprotected by family, for example.  I wish I could remember *exactly* what prompted me to set the mysteries in this time period, but I think it was simply that I loved reading about it and researching it. Then when I “met” Captain Lacey, I wanted to write about him.

I love that you say you “met” Captain Lacey; I think it’s fascinating how the mind of a writer works.  What is your process when developing new ideas and writing for the series?  Approximately how long does it take you to write a book?

It takes me about 2-3 months to write a full Captain Lacey novel. I write 5-7 novels a year, total, so I can’t spend all my time on Lacey, darn it. But while I’m writing other things, I think about the book a lot, make notes, and do research on the aspects I want to bring up. I have quite a lot of material once I finally get to sit down and write.

Captain Gabriel Lacey is a dynamic character.  He has a strict sense of honor and integrity and, while a proud man, he is also humble. I think Lacey is wonderful but I am probably a bit biased since I’m married to someone in the military!  What was your inspiration for Captain Lacey?

Thank you! Actually, when I thought about doing a Regency series, I toyed with the idea of having a Regency dandy as the sleuth. Then I realized that had been done (several times–Beau Brummell has been the star of a few series), and I wanted a character the exact opposite of a wealthy Regency dandy.  I didn’t deliberately create such a character; I just let the idea swim around in my head. Captain Lacey took form and kept on growing, while I stood back and watched him. He’s a very organic character, and very real to me, in many ways.

My husband also was in the military–in the cavalry, in fact! He is a great source for information about weapons–and will quickly tell you all the gun errors made in TV shows and movies–quite a few!

Lacey isn’t the only great character in the series. I just love Grenville.  He and Lacey are an odd pair of friends in some ways but it really works!  I enjoyed The Sudbury School Murders because I think it took their friendship to a different level. What is it about the two of them that you think makes them a great pair?

Grenville is like the famous George Brummell in that his taste set fashion daily, but different because Grenville is from an old and titled family (though Grenville himself is only a distant heir to the title). Grenville has inherited a lot of money, and his wise investments have only made him richer.  At the same time, the proper English existence is not enough for him–Grenville has an adventurous streak he constantly feeds. This makes him a good friend for Lacey–Grenville envies Lacey his forays into danger, but also values Lacey’s resourcefulness and wisdom. They play off each other, though deep down inside, they are much the same: both are honorable, compassionate men who are willing to put themselves in danger for others.

If you had to cast the two of them in a movie, what actors do you think you would want to play Lacey and Grenville?

That’s a good question! I’m very bad at keeping track of who’s who in the acting world. Colin Firth certainly could play Captain Lacey. I’d be interested to hear what readers think about who should play whom.

No doubt, Colin Firth would make an incredible Captain Lacey…and I think I’d love to see Jonny Lee Miller or JJ Field as Grenville!  That’s a movie I would love to watch!  And then there’s James Denis (I’m thinking Jason Statham could play him in the movie)…he’s involved in shady dealings and is known to be a dangerous man but I can’t help but feel hopeful that deep down he’s good.  I don’t want to like him but I do! Why do you do this to me, Jennifer? Are we going to learn more about Denis in future novels?

Of course, you will learn more about Denis. He is a fascinating character to me, a villain definitely, but he has an honor, and understands that honor in Lacey. I know readers who are more or less in love with him, and that’s fine! I like him, because I’m never quite sure what he’s going to do.

Well, if you’re not sure what he’s going to do, I think we’re all going to be in for some Denis surprises!  In each novel of the series, relationships are tested.  I think A Body in Berkeley Square was all about secrets being revealed from various characters.  I can’t wait to see what happens with these relationships in future novels now that these secrets have been revealed.  Do you already know where you want these characters to end up or do you take it one book at a time?

I have a vague idea how relationships will develop over time, but I do like to take things one book at a time. I might develop something unexpected in a book, and I want to leave room for it to grow naturally, instead of forcing my characters into certain paths. So the answer is yes, I know where they’re going, and no, I don’t.  🙂  I do want to explore more of the Brandon / Lacey relationship, as well as those with other characters as the series progresses (don’t want to spoil…)

I think (so far) The Sudbury School Murders is my favorite in the series. I liked seeing the reactions of Marianne, Bartholomew, Matthias, and Lacey to the incident with Grenville.   Do you have favorite moments from the series or a favorite book?

I have a fondness for A Covent Garden Mystery, where Lacey’s past runs into his present. I liked that book. I also like A Death in Norfolk, because Lacey goes to his boyhood home and deals with more of his past. And we learn a lot about James Denis. 🙂  I also enjoy Murder in Grosvenor Square, my most recent book, which takes Lacey into the next phase of his life and makes him look hard at his friendships.

I look forward to getting to those books in the series! The friendships are one of the things I enjoy most about the series.  But I also enjoy the characters, secrets, intrigue, love, scandal.  When you read for enjoyment, what types of books or authors do you like?

When I have a chance to read for enjoyment, I like mystery novels (currently very fond of Kerry Greenwood). I also like biographies and social histories, sci-fi / fantasy that has a lot of action / adventure, and have decided I really like steampunk too! It’s a fun genre where almost anything goes. I have the hankering to write some. 🙂

Steampunk is very fun! I’d enjoy to read your take on it. According to your website, you’ll be releasing book 10 in the series, The Thames River Murders, soon.  Can you share any insight into this installment and what might be in store for Gabriel Lacey in the future? Do you have any other upcoming projects you’d like to share with the readers at PaperBackSwap?

Yes, I plan to have The Thames River Murders out this summer. (check my website http://www.gardnermysteries.com  periodically for pre-order info). This one will be a cold case brought to Lacey by Thompson of the Thames River Police, but it will have ties to Lacey’s current life.

I also have many other series going! The Shifters Unbound series (paranormal romance) continues in April with Mate Bond, with more installments in June and July. The Mackenzies series then picks up in August, September, and October. I’m writing a new era of Mackenzies, going back to the 1745 uprising.

I’ve also begun a new contemporary romance series called Riding Hard, which is lighter and sweeter than most of my series–it’s a small-town family saga rather than heavy romance.

I’m also continuing my Stormwalker (urban fantasy series) this year. Would like to put out a book and perhaps a novella, but I’m still in planning stages.

That’s a lot of writing! You are one busy woman, Jennifer, so I won’t keep much longer! I’d like to end with some fun rapid fire questions….

Chocolate of Vanilla?

CHOCOLATE!

Ok, I love that you used all caps and an exclamation!  You’re my kind of woman!

Cake or Pie?

Cake (and tortes). Though I just made a kick-butt coconut cream pie that really turned out well!

Yum, I’d love that recipe!

Winter or Summer?

Summer–love the heat!

Cats or Dogs?

I love them both equally. Though I have cats. Devil cats.

Morning or Night?

Night. I live in the desert. I like darkness.

Coffee or Tea?

Tea!!! Unlike Captain Lacey, who loves his coffee, I can’t stand it! 🙂 Tea, I drink by the gallon.

I agree, tea is delicious!

And on that note, I’d like to thank Jennifer for being so generous with her time. It’s been a joy to get to know her better and learn about her writing process and upcoming works.  For more information on the Captain Lacey Regency Mystery Series, check out Jennifer’s website:  http://www.gardnermysteries.com and for more on Jennifer’s other series and genres, check http://www.jenniferashley.com.

 

 

 

 

Author Interview and Book Give-Away with Dr. Harold Shinitzky

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

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Dr. Shinitzky is one of the very first authors to be interviewed on our PaperBackSwap Blog. He has a new book out and has agreed to another interview! Thank you Dr. Shinitzky, and welcome back!

 

Your new book, Take Control of Your Anxiety: A Drug Free Approach to Living a Happy, Healthy Life, published last month, addresses an issue many people seem to suffer with, anxiety. Why this topic? Are anxiety disorders on the rise today?

You ask a great question, why did we (Drs. Shinitzky, Cortman and O’Connor) choose to write this book covering specifically this one topic, anxiety?  If you think you are alone and the only one suffering from anxiety, it might be helpful to realize that anxiety has become the “Common Cold of Mental Health”.  18% of the adult US population satisfies the criteria for any one of the anxiety disorders.  That’s approximately 40 million people.  So, when someone says you are One-in-a-Million, you really are One-in-a-Group-of-40.  Anxiety disorders are more commonly discussed today than ever before.  The topic of anxiety has been on the front cover of major magazines, discussed on all television networks and due to the proliferation of social media anxiety has become a buzz word throughout society.  The reality is that anxiety does not appear to be on the rise but we as a society have become more aware and willing to discuss, assess and seek treatment for a condition that previously went untreated and oftentimes disabled individuals.  What is unique about our book, Take Control of Your Anxiety: A Drug-Free Approach to Living a Happy, Healthy Life we are not anti-medication, we have chosen to empower individuals by teaching a range of behavioral steps that they can use to help manage or resolve their stress or anxiety.

 

Is there a level of anxiety in everyone? Isnt some anxiety a normal reaction to everyday life?

When discussing the topic of anxiety it is vitally important to start by sharing the reality that everyone experiences “anxiety”.   In actuality, the more accurate term would be “arousal”.  As a species, we are built to handle arousal to our system.  You wake and realize that you have a classroom presentation to give in one week.  You question if you are prepared for a job interview.  You have a competitive sporting event this weekend.  You want to ask that person out.  Whenever you perceive some stressor you tend to react.  This natural reaction or arousal is actually healthy.  It alerts you.  It drives you to become active.  As a matter of fact there is a simple yet elegant equation that explains anxiety, Investment + Perceived Threat (real or imagined) = Anxiety.  If you don’t have a horse in this race, you won’t be too concern as to the outcome.  Likewise, if you don’t perceive a threat to this invested situation, you don’t experience any arousal.  There is a great way to describe the normal process of anxiety or arousal.  Imagine a capital letter “U”.  Now imagine the “U” upside-down.  shin

Several years ago, a concept was postulated by Yerkes-Dodson called the “Inverted-U” law.  As your system perceives stress or arousal or anxiety, you become alerted and your performance actually rises.  The left side of the inverted-U curve is healthy stress, also known as Eustress.  As you awaken your system to address your life circumstance you ascend to your optimal performance levels.  This is when you are attentive, applying yourself, committed, and as the athletes that I treat would say, they are in the “zone”.  The problem exists when someone becomes too aroused at which point the curve reflects the Law of Diminishing Returns.  The right side of the inverted-U curve is unhealthy, also known as Distress.  In Take Control of Your Anxiety: A Drug-Free Approach to Living a Happy, Healthy Life we start by helping individuals realize that we all experience anxiety, that it is normal and that if managed properly can be very helpful towards achieving your goals.

 

How can someone tell if anxiety is controlling their life?

We encourage people to look at their anxiety based on three factors, Frequency, Duration and Intensity.  As we mentioned earlier that anxiety is normal, we therefore have to consider these three factors as important towards discovering the extent and impact of anxiety in your life.  The three factors can be posed as questions that you ask yourself. First, How often (frequency) do I experience this emotion?  When I get anxious, how long does it last (duration)?  Finally, when it happens, how extreme (intensity) is my anxiety?  I had treated a young man who told me that he was a very health conscious individual which is why he chose to use the stairs rather than take the elevator.  The problem was that my office is on the 24th Floor.  By the time he got to my floor our scheduled appointment was over.  Clearly, his fear of the elevator cable snapping and plummeting to his untimely death led him to avoid the elevator and create a logical explanation.  Another gentleman that I treated would leave his house each morning, lock his front door, and walk to his car and then question if he had truly locked the front door.  His intrusive thoughts and fears that someone would now have free access to his home and belongings led him to return to the front door and relock it.  Again, upon entering his vehicle, he second guessed himself wondering if he had just unlocked a locked door, leaving all of his worldly possessions ripe for the picking.  This pattern would occur between 20 and 25 times each morning.  Can you imagine what the neighbors thought when they observed this repetitive behavior each and every morning.  If your anxiety is interfering in your school responsibilities, social/interpersonal life, or vocation you may need to work with a respected professional. 

 

Who should read this book?

Who is our book for? Humans.  What, you want more than that as my answer?  We have written this as a self-help book for the general public.  We hope that we have penned a book that is both educational and entertaining, or as we like to say, “Edutainment”. Our goal is for anyone struggling with an issue of anxiety or if you know someone that is adversely affected by anxiety to read, Take Control of Your Anxiety: A Drug-Free Approach to Living a Happy, Healthy Life and learn steps towards addressing and resolving the angst in their life.  We have divided the book into discussing the normalcy of anxiety, causes of anxiety, creative as well as comprehensive tools to address anxiety, and finally we covered the five most common anxiety disorders that we see in our clinical practices (e.g.; Phobias, Panic Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). 

 

Chapter 3 begins: Bright lights, loud noises, the taste of rocky mountain oysters—there are but a few stimuli that are deemed to be universal stressor and consistently cause anxiety in humans. The rest are in your head. Is it all really just a matter of changing one’s view of things?

As Wayne Dwyer is oftentimes quoted, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Yes, it truly comes down to perception.  Remember the equation, Investment + Perceived Threat (real or imagined) = Anxiety.  I ask your readers to consider this concept.  What makes me nervous may not make you worry and what makes you anxious may not make me stressed.  Your feelings are statements of You.  Not everyone reacts the same way to a situation.  Some people love public speaking while others would rather have their non-dominant arm torn off.  Your feelings are statements about your Perception of Reality, not about reality.  A child who becomes fearful that someone is breaking into the house even though they know the branches from the tree rub against their window, still wants her mommy to stay with her until she falls asleep.  (I’m wondering why the parents just don’t cut the branches back).  Your emotions are reflecting upon your Investment.  Three people watched the Super Bowl together.  One jumped for joy as their team won.  The second person cried with their head and their hands in defeat.  The third person stared at the other two with a perplexed look wondering why two grown adults would be reacting so mightily to a game played by other people who could never hear their cheers as if their own lives depended on the outcome.  It is a pleasure to help individuals realize that if they develop healthier, more adaptive coping skills that challenge their previous methods they can overcome their greatest fears and worries.  The most common reaction that people display to an anxiety producing situation is avoidance. Once they avoid the stress inducing situation, their anxiety and worry decreases but only in the short-term.  Avoidance never provides long-term resolution.  A young lady that I treated was afraid of dogs.  All dogs, even a baby Cocker Spaniel. She would avoid the beast by darting across the street.  The short-lived relief by avoidance quickly vanished when out from a different store came a woman carrying a purse with a Tea Cup Chihuhua.  Again, the holy terror of this vicious creature would elicit fear and avoidance.  The only remaining option was to avoid the sidewalks and head to the middle of the street.  When working with individuals who possess anxiety it is important to empower the person by understanding that your emotions are statements of You, Your Perception of Reality and Reflect your Investment. 

After this awareness becomes solidified we then turn our focus on how this person is experiencing “anxiety”.  Anxiety can occur in one of three forms; Physiological, Thoughts and Feelings.  Some people only experience physical stress, tightness or changes in their heart rate and breathing.  Some individuals have intrusive thoughts and negative self-talk.  Lastly, other individuals might experience fears, worries and dread about the future events.  You might have one or a combination of the three.  Once we identify how someone is experiencing anxiety, an appropriate treatment plan can be created to address any of these three forms of distress.

This is your second book coauthored with Dr. Chris Cortman. What is next for you? Will you collaborate on another book together?

This has been a magnificent experience collaborating with Dr. Cortman again.  In our current Anxiety book we also co-authored with Dr. Laurie-Ann O’Connor who offered exceptional insights into the realm of Mindfulness, Yoga and other forms of helpful coping skills for anxiety.  Dr. Cortman and I have now converted our first book, Your Mind: An Owner’s Manual for a Better Life (Career Press, 2009) into an evidence-based youth prevention curriculum titled, The Social Black Belt (SBB).  We wanted to share the 10 Truths from our first book to a young audience.  We have now conducted two separate research studies to assess the impact of the SBB on the students’ Knowledge, Attitude and Behavior.  Just like in the martial arts, when you attained your highest level of skill, you receive a black belt.  When you possess a black belt you don’t go looking for trouble but when trouble presents itself, you can handle the situation.  Through the Social Black Belt, we proactively provide a range of skills through this onsite, interactive, fun-filled prevention program to today’s students.  Once they have attained their Social Black Belt, they don’t go looking for trouble but when trouble presents itself they can handle the situation.  Students are more self-confident, possess greater assertiveness, set healthy personal boundaries and are able to set long-term and short-term goals.  The SBB helps address bullying behaviors and fosters the development of pro-social behaviors.  The SBB is now being replicated across the country.  For more information on the Social Black Belt go to www.thesocialblackbelt.com
 
 
Who is your favorite author? What book was your favorite when you were a child?

My favorite book when I was a child was, Harold and the Purple Crayon.  Guess what? My favorite color is purple and I still like to draw images and then entering into them for an exciting adventure.

 

 

Do you read self-help books?

Yes, I like reading self-help books.  I believe that we all have room for improvement.  A recent book that I read was, How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life by the Dalai Lama.

 

Was there someone who influenced you when you were young to pursue psychology as a career?

When I was 15 years old a family member commented about my interpersonal style and how people turned to me with questions that I helped them to discover their answers.  They informed me that there was a profession called, Psychology.  I was introduced to 5 different Psychologists with different sub-specialties which I found extremely interesting.  So, I declared my major at 15 years old.  My high school Psychology teacher, Mr. Albiani was an incredible individual and mentor for better understanding the field of Psychology.

If you weren’t a psychologist, what would you be?

An artist or a tennis player.

Golf or hockey?

Golf

Skittles or M&Ms?

M&Ms.  The more chocolate the better.

Beach or mountains?

Beach

Lady Gaga or Tony Bennett?

I’d pay to see Lady Bennett or Tony Gaga.  I could see both.

 

To read more about Dr. Shinitzky you can visit his website: www.drshinitzky.com.

To read the first Author Interview Dr. Shinitzky did with us for the PaperBackSwap Blog click here:

Dr. Harold Shinitzky of Your Mind: An Owner’s Manual for a Better Life

 

Dr. Shinitzky has generously offered 3 brand new copies of his book, Take Control of Your Anxiety: A Drug-Free Approach to Living a Happy, Healthy Life,

to 3 PaperBackSwap members who comment on this blog. The Winners will be chosen at random from the entries we receive.