Saturday, May 26, 2012

Eileen Granfors, The IAN Interview

IAN. Hi Eileen. Please tell us about your latest book.
EG. Stairs of Sand is a novel about a strict mother, Jolene, and her free-spirited daughter. Suzanne, who now calls herself Zoozle. The daughter is a dancer, and she has gained success as a university professor of dance. But she feels empty inside. She undergoes a late stage of rebelliousness, getting involved with drugs and a friend who is willing to try anything, especially if it’s illegal. Zoozle tries to find her way back to a self that is truly her, not an imitation of her mother or this drugged-out zombie she has become. She is helped by a therapy dog and his owner, Phllip McKillop, her good Grandpa Joe, and a whole team of new friends from Grandpa’s hospice. This is a work of hope and strength and the emotional ties that bind us to family.

IAN. How long did it take to write Stairs of Sand?
EG. This was the first book I tried to write in 2006. I found it difficult to tell the story through a single point of view and put it away while I wrote other things, including a first novel, Some Rivers End on the Day of the Dead, a YA. Once I decided on using two narrators in Stairs, it took another two years to finalize the book.

IAN. What inspired you to write Stairs of Sand?
EG.  The struggles of parents around me as well as my own struggles to be a better parent to a new generation of kids who don’t buy “be seen and not heard” influenced me to try to tell Zoozle and Jolene’s story.

IAN. Talk about the writing process. 
EG.  I write every morning from 8:30 to noon. I walk my dogs first, thinking about what I am going to write.

IAN. Did you use an outline or do you just wing the first draft? 
EG. I have learned to have an idea of where the book is going but to write in a free-flowing manner. If I don’t like something later, I cut it and put it into a file for another use.

IAN. How is your book different from others in your genre?
EG. Unlike a lot of women’s fiction, this book does not center on shopping, baking, or homemaking. It focuses on the careers these women have chosen and the anguish that secrets between them cause. Most families don’t have the communication skills they need in house. They may have them at work or school, but not in their most beloved relationships.

IAN. Is your book published in print, e-book or both?
EG. Both!

IAN. What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?
EG. As my reviews show, most readers come away with the certainty that honesty in family is important and that kids are not a reflection of their parents’ deepest wishes. That child is going to grow up to become somebody the parent may never have expected to meet. Freedom to be yourself and be loved unconditionally for yourself is a huge theme in the book.

IAN. Where can we go to buy Stairs of Sand?
EG. My book is available on Amazon. I also have my own web site,
The Independent Authors Network and the World Lit Café are also helping to get the word out on Stairs of Sand.

IAN. Tell us about your next book or a work in progress. Is it a sequel or a stand alone?
EG. Stairs of Sand is a stand alone title. I have just completed Sydney’s Story, a prequel to A Tale of Two Cities. I am very excited to have finished this book, which has been a niggling idea for thirty years!

IAN. Any other links or info you'd like to share?
EG. I have had a lot of fun making trailers for my books. Here is the link for the trailer to Stairs of Sand. 

I have a review web site for other authors’ books. I call it Word Joy.   Even though I am a writer, I read like a fiend too.

IAN. When did you decide to write?
EG. I found that writing helped me through the grief of my mother’s death. After the summer of 2001, I decided I would write novels once I retired from teaching.

IAN. Who is your favorite character in Stairs of Sand?
EG. This is a really difficult question because I love so many of the characters. Zoozle’s strength astounds me, her friend Chloris gives such loving advice and is a good role model, and Grandpa Joe supports his granddaughter with unconditional love. Grandpa is pretty funny, so my final vote goes to Grandpa Joe.

IAN. This book is about family. Is it a true story?
EG. All stories are based in the author’s perception of truth. But the adventures of Zoozle and her mother are based only on my imagination.

Stairs of Sand by Eileen Granfors
272 pages
Women’s fiction

         Chapter 1: Zoozle 

      The Whidbey-Port Townsend ferry carries few passengers this late on a July night. The nearly empty ferry mimics my completely empty me. I lost my job last week, and everything else before that. 
    I’d meditate, but Mel is singing, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” trying too hard to make me laugh. She’s serious about us making some Internet porn for cash, pronounced with a long a. I’ve told her no way a million times, that I’d rather be homeless and starving or dead.
    A crewman walks by, giving us a lecherous leer, calling out, “Hey, you girls. Haven’t you heard of curfew?” We’re both in our late twenties, and we both look twelve. Mel flips him off and slides closer to me. I push her away. 
   “Zooz, girl, I’m freezing,” she says. As one, we look at her feet in terry-cloth flip flops. She moves over and touches the hollow in my throat, right where a lump of misery is clogged. She tries to zip my windbreaker across my tank top. “You feel like ice. Let’s sit in the car. Quit trying to be Wonder Woman.” That’s how I mock my mom’s self-perception of perfection. I shake my head.
    “Take the keys. Get warm. I need the air.”           
   Mel wanders back and huddles in the car. I pass by her as I walk to the ferry boat’s stern, riding low to the water. Mel has wrapped a blanket across her bony shoulders, head tucked into her chest and the blanket is up like a hoodie. She often looks vulnerable, like someone I should protect. It took me a while to learn that was her act. Everybody acts a role. I’m totally tired of mine, and it’s only been 168 hours since I was atop a shining star, dance teacher at Port Townsend University, now placed on leave,  basically code for fired.

    I study the waves, watching the ferry’s wake in the darkness.  That’s like me, one bubble among millions. My heart aches more because it’s a foggy night, and I can’t see that far ahead. I love our rare sunny days in Washington. If I close my eyes on a sunny day, I can make myself believe I’m still a little kid, surfing in California with my Grandpa Joe.
    As the ferry chugs into the channel, a tall, skinny, old man in a tweed sports coat comes to stand near me. His Newfoundland retriever, huge, black and white and unbelievably furry, sits between us, wearing a pink halter. “Guardian Angels” is scripted across the back.
     Lately, I don’t much talk except to Mel. I make an exception since he has a dog. “May I pet your dog?” I ask him.
     “We’d love that, wouldn’t we, Jacques?”  He rubs his dog behind the ears. 
     I sink to my knees to pet the dog, who is tall enough to look me in the eyes when I do. His gaze is direct and soft with affection. Though he’s wet in the misty air, it feels wonderful to put my head on his. My heart uncurls one nanometer.
     “Hi Jacques,” I say.  Jacques smiles. He licks my face, my new short hair, spiky with hair gel. I push my hair with my fingers, then rub the dog’s slobber and my hair gel on my jeans, and I smile back.
   “His full name is Frère Jacques.  But we cut it short.” The old man grins with the pride of a father. “I’m Phillip McKillop.” He takes off his hat and sweeps it across his heart. 
   I scratch the dog some more. “Hello, Phillip. I’m Suzann, Suzann Zimmerman.” I don’t know why I don’t tell him Zoozle. “I used to have a dog, a little guy, part spaniel, part Pomeranian.  My ex has him now.” Javier has Boo, Javier has a house, Javier has a new life.  Me, I’ve got Mel. I’ve got a roof over my head with Big Daddy, Mel’s meth-making friend, which was cool until I stopped doing meth. Now, I wouldn’t want a dog around Big Daddy. I don’t want me around Big Daddy. 
     “Bye Phillip.  Bye, Jacques.” Holding the dog has tightened the knot in my throat. I can’t swallow it down. Despair claws with more powerful digs into my stomach. I look off into the dark night, back towards the car where Mel is tracing patterns on the fogged windows. What escape route should I take from this huge mess I’ve made? I can’t run home again. My mom wouldn’t want me there and she won’t come here, she’s made that clear enough. Life with Mel is all I’ve got, and now I am certain I don’t want that either.
     I am through with do over’s.
   I walk to the other side of the boat, away from the crewman and Mr. McKillop. I unzip my boots, aligning them underneath the life preserver ring. The boots are the right size for Mel. 
    I clamber over the chain guard and dive away from the ferry into the sea.
    The cold water burns my skin, and numbness makes my body feel as heavy as my wet clothes. The current is strong, pulling me south. My ribs hurt from where I hit the water so flat, and it’s hard to lift my arms.  It’s even harder to keep my head up with the chop of the waves. I sink and swallow water. Floundering, I pop back up again. In the distance, there’s the ferry.
     Then, I see Jacques. He has followed my leap and is paddling towards me, maybe ten yards away.  
   I sink again, the waves and tide working together to push me under.  Something in me tries to begin swimming towards him, as if I am suddenly awake. I remember it’s better to lean back to float and conserve my strength against the cold. I’m grabbed by the neck of my windbreaker. It’s Jacques!  I reach for his vest straps, and he pulls me with sure, steady strength against the current. 


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Frederick Lee Brooke: The IAN Interview

Born and raised in the Chicago area, Frederick Lee Brooke graduated from Amherst College and studied writing at the University of Montana. He has worked as an English teacher, language school manager and small business owner. Having lived in Germany, France and Switzerland, he has also travelled extensively in Italy, where much of the action of the second book in the Annie Ogden Mystery series, Zombie Candy, takes place. The first book in the Annie Ogden series, Doing Max Vinyl, appeared in 2011 to wide acclaim. Currently Frederick Lee Brooke is working on the last book in the series of Annie Ogden Mysteries, due at the end of 2012 or early 2013. 

IAN. Please tell us about your latest book.

FLB. Zombie Candy (Annie Ogden Mystery #2)

You know early on, from the color of the inappropriate bra in the opening scene, that Zombie Candy is going to be a black comedy. Most people could sympathize with the male obsession for sex and zombie movies, but who would put up with a husband who doused every dish with cilantro? 

Frederick Lee Brooke serves up another literary treat with this bizarre and comical tale of love and betrayal. Candace Roach enlists her best friend Annie Ogden (our favorite sleuth from Doing Max Vinyl) to find out what her husband is really up to on his weekly business trips – but their home-cooked aversion therapy gets out of hand and hurtles along an astonishing highway of the undead.

Weaving elements of mystery, horror and romance in a story that starts in Chicago and ends in a quaint medieval town in sun-drenched Tuscany, Zombie Candy transcends any single genre. 

Home for good from Iraq but unsure about her future, Annie Ogden isn't your typical woman sleuth. Her best friend, Candace Roach – gourmet cooking instructor, owner of a house in Tuscany – isn't your typical wronged woman either. Candace teaches gourmet cooking, and loves nothing more than orchestrating a four-course meal full of flavorful surprises and artistic touches. A selection of her recipes is found in an appendix to the book.

But with each shocking discovery in the investigation of her husband, the friendship between Candace and Annie is further put to the test. Candace ultimately takes matters into her own hands and, in an elaborate ruse, stages a nightmarish zombie drama in which her husband plays the starring role. 

In the words of Emma Calin, author of Knockout, A Passionate Police Romance: "This book has all the ingredients of a perfect noir comedy – well formed characters, international locations,  a fast moving plot with no brakes, and of course zombies. Revenge is a dish best served cold – and as a betrayed wife, master chef and cookery instructor, Candace cooks up the perfect recipe for the ultimate gazpacho."

IAN. How long did it take to write Zombie Candy?
FLB. This book took almost a year to write. But only because I had to try all the recipes myself and make sure they worked.

IAN. What inspired you to write Zombie Candy?
FLB. A famous golfer was chased out of the house by his golf club wielding wife in the middle of the night. She smashed in a couple of windows in his car with the sex-iron, and he smashed into a fire hydrant near their house. This made the news. I got to thinking, how many men have been chased out of the house by an irate wife? How many of them nearly get killed in the process? 

But the part that interested me the most was imagining what must go through the mind of the wronged woman. After all, the news comes as a total shock, and she's still in love with him. Yet she wants to kill him. I thought it would be interesting to explore the evolution of the thought processes of an intelligent woman in that situation. I thought this also had comic potential.

IAN. Talk about the writing process. 
FLB. I write best in the morning, but with the full schedule I have I can't be choosy. There are days when I write all day and then some more in the evening. 

For me, the first draft takes up maximum 10% of the writing time, including the planning. The other 90% is revision. I find that with planning and first draft, I need total quiet. This is a critical stage. Once the first draft is done and I go into the long, repetitive revision stage, it doesn't bother me to have to get up and cook dinner for the family, or help someone with his homework, or just have some noise in the background.

IAN. Did you use an outline or do you just wing the first draft? 
FLB. I don't like outlines, but I make a plan with all the main characters and some notions about plot. I revise the plan quite a few times before I actually start writing the first draft. I want to have a fairly robust plan before I commit to actually writing dialogue and letting the characters interact with each other. That being said, once I get to that point, strange things can happen. And then I find it's really important not to stick to the plan slavishly.

Then again, what do I know?  Zombie Candy is only my second book!

IAN. How is your book different from others in your genre?
FLB. Annie Ogden isn't a real sleuth, and my books only fit loosely in the Mystery genre. I like reading traditional mysteries; I'm just not sure I'll ever write one. So Zombie Candy, just like Doing Max Vinyl before it, transcends different genres. There are elements of mystery in it, but also of course horror, and romance as well. I think fans of all three of those genres will love Zombie Candy.

IAN. Is your Zombie Candy published in print, e-book or both?
FLB. It's coming out as an e-book now, in early May, and by early June will also be available in print.

IAN. What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?
FLB. A good laugh. A strong attraction to Annie Ogden and Candace Roach as well as several other characters. Ideas about how friends can best show their love and support when someone has a desperate need.

IAN. Where can we go to buy Zombie Candy?
FLB. Only Amazon in the early stages.

IAN. Tell us about your next book or a work in progress. Is it a sequel or a stand alone?
FLB. My next book will be the third Annie Ogden Mystery, and will wrap up the series. I can tell you right now, I will truly miss Annie.

IAN. Do you think Zombie Candy will appeal to true zombie fans? 
FLB. What's a true zombie fan? I don't want to give anything away, but any active zombie fan who participates in zombie walks, goes to festivals, etc. will love Zombie Candy. That being said, this is a book that has elements of mystery, horror and romance all in one. It had quite a few early readers, fans of all different genres, and the consensus is that it really works.

IAN. The book contains some of Candace's favorite recipes. Why? 
FLB. I confess, I love to cook, and it's such an important part of my life, it just felt natural to have Candace want to share her recipes. We are all vulnerable to being attacked through our taste buds. I like reading about cooking, and I love watching cooking shows on TV. I feel like I'm learning something and tasting it at the same time. It felt right for this to be really important for Candace. At the same time, her husband Larry is so incredibly lacking in appreciation of her talents, not just the cooking itself, but organizing complex meals and directing the preparation of them by her class of twelve people. These are amazing skills, and Larry is blind to them. I thought marriages are sometimes like that, where people get to a point where they are totally ignorant of what their partner is great at.

IAN. Zombie Candy is about cheating husbands, but it's also about something else, isn't it? 
FLB. Yes, it's really about friendship. Candace's best friend going back to college days is Annie Ogden, and Annie now has her PI license, so Candace asks her best friend to look into Larry's activities. This unexpectedly causes a big strain in their friendship, for different reasons. It awakens old demons and both Annie and Candace have to deal with these. Will their friendship survive the test? What is friendship really about? Annie and Candace are the perfect pair to explore those questions.

IAN. After starting out in Chicago, why did you decide to set the story in Tuscany? 
FLB. I've been fortunate enough to travel to Italy forty or fifty times in my life, sometimes for a two-week vacation, sometimes just for a very short trip. I absolutely love it there, from the food to the language to the beauty of the countryside and the architecture. In Zombie Candy, Candace realizes at a certain point that she has to get Larry out of his comfort zone. This is a guy who travelled all over the country every week for his work, and cheated on Candace with waitresses, flight attendants, whoever. He can adapt just about anywhere. But in Tuscany Larry discovers two things: 1) it's not so easy to find a willing waitress or flight attendant to spend the night with him; and 2) there are zombies here. 

IAN. Any other links or info you'd like to share?
FLB. I am very happy to connect with readers wherever they like:


Twitter: @frederickbrooke

Zombie Candy (Annie Ogden Mystery #2) by Frederick Lee Brooke
250 pages
Mystery / Horror / Romance

    They leave the crowd and head into the vineyard, walking under an arbor as if down an aisle. The ground is dry and her heels don’t even sink into the hard grass. She has her little black party purse with its long strap over the opposite shoulder. Giancarlo's hand warms a spot on the small of her back. 
     “I know that you are from Chicago, and you are studying the history of art at the University in Siena for one semester, and you are spending the weekends in Monte Chianti in your uncle’s house.”
     “Right on three counts.”
    “I am sorry he died,” Giancarlo says. “I did not know him. But my Uncle Massimo says he was a wonderful person. Very cultured and kind.”
     “Is that so unusual for an American?”
    “It is unusual for any person to be cultured and kind, regardless of their nationality. I am sure my uncle would say so. Besides, I have not known many Americans. And I have never met one who could speak Italian like you.”
      “I spent a few summers here when I was a young girl.”
     “How come we never met before this?”
He sounds like he’s just thinking aloud. In any case, she has no answer for a question like that. Anyone can see where this conversation is headed. Does Giancarlo have a girlfriend? Is he going to ask about her status? 
They come out from under the arbor and the night sky opens above them like a canvas, filled with stars and the Milky Way, and the bright moon. With the moon and all those millions of stars reflecting off Giancarlo’s white shirt, the vineyard is light as day.
     “I always knew I wanted to study here. It’s like a second home, even if my parents don’t like it.”
     “Why don’t they like it?”
    “Well, my mom likes it. My uncle and my dad didn’t get along. So it’s like my uncle lives here in exile. But whatever happened between them means nothing to me.”
    “It's a pity when things like that happen in families. So when the semester is over you’re probably going to go straight home again, and we’ll never see you again, right?”
He obviously means to say, “I’ll never see you again.” She’s getting all these signals. How Giancarlo can be interested in her she cannot imagine, but it’s unmistakable. It feels wonderful.
    “I’m not sure,” she says. You don’t want to lead a man on, tell him lies, get his hopes up. On the other hand, anything can happen. She doesn’t want to kill his hopes either.
    As long as he doesn’t ask, she decides to say nothing. Why should she? Larry is far away. Although they’re committed to each other, they aren’t married. She’s only nineteen. She’s a junior in college, and she still has time to live a little, thank you.
    As if he can read her mind, Giancarlo doesn’t ask. Maybe he assumes the worst and doesn’t want to know. Maybe he just wants to take a chance.
   They walk to the end of the vineyard, where there’s a low stone wall, beyond which she can see rows of fruit trees on the next property. The music has started again but it’s so far away she can barely hear it. A dog barks. Giancarlo holds her hand. When she looks up, he’s looking into her eyes. He has beautiful gray-blue eyes like none she’s ever seen before. His broad shoulders fill the navy jacket as his other hand comes up to her shoulder, then slips to the back of her neck, pulling her in ever so gently. His lips come closer as she reaches up. 
    Their lips meet, and her insides flood with a warm gushing feeling, like golden waterfalls. Like waterfalls of golden sunshine, the Tuscan sunshine over the fields, with the mice hiding in the grass and the lines of cypress trees in the distance, and shadows lengthening beside the farmhouses. This young Italian man is kissing her. In his uncle’s vineyard, at his cousin’s wedding. They’ve just met. Out of all his dancing partners, she is the one. Then their tongues touch, and a jolt of electricity shoots through her, sending a warm, steady current straight to her womanly center. She feels his breathing. She presses one hand to his heart, just to feel the pounding, to make sure this isn’t a dream. He’s real, all right. 
    She hasn’t kissed another boy besides Larry in almost two years. She never wants it to stop.