Sunday, June 21, 2020

Kenneth Thomas - The IAN Interview

British author from Windsor, home of Windsor Castle. Currently live in the Netherlands, working on the third book in my dystopian, science fiction series, VanWest The Future. The second book, VanWest The Present, is coming out on the 30th of July, 2020.

IAN: Please tell us about your latest book.

Kenneth Thomas: The Past is the first book in the VanWest series, about an Enforcer who lives in a dystopian Earth of the year 3000 and works for an authoritarian ruler called the Universal Council. Tasked with travelling through time to stop a renegade sect, that seeks to change Earth’s past, he comes to learn about his dark origins and his unique ability.

Falling in love with the daughter of its leader, Mad Newton, he returns to the present to face a
difficult choice, whether or not to save her. And be part of the New Beginning.

IAN: Is VanWest The Past published in print, e-book or both?

Kenneth Thomas: Available in both.

IAN: Where can we go to buy VanWest The Past?

IAN: What inspired you to write VanWest The Past?

Kenneth Thomas: The concept for the first book originated in 2012 when green issues such as climate change were slowly becoming more talked about (pre-Greta Thunberg). VanWest, set in the year 3000, is a reflection of a world where we have not protect our home, planet Earth; and looks at the consequences, the effect on society, such as forced migration, food shortages, loss of flora and fauna, authoritative regimes and wealthy individuals (oligarchs) who take advantage.

Beyond that, I wanted to write a book with broad appeal; most importantly, one that was entertaining. Working in the movie industry on blockbuster releases for a couple of years, including 20th Century Fox and MGM Studios, I yearned to create something too that thrilled and got everyone excited. Without a movie studio’s budget, I thought a great way to achieve this was through writing; from a screenplay, it developed into a book.

IAN: How long did it take to write VanWest The Past?

Kenneth Thomas: I wrote the outline of my story in my mid-20s, nearly 8 years ago. With work commitments and trying to get onto (and stay on) the career ladder, I left it until recent year, only returning sporadically in-between, mainly to edit. The first book in the series has a lot of historical fiction, and I wanted to get the details right, whilst having an engaging, fast-flowing books, with a focus on conveying the emotions of the characters and settings.

IAN: Do you have a specific writing style?

Kenneth Thomas: In VanWest, the style is fast-flowing, with quite a bit of dialogue from the characters. I decided to write the first edition in British English (there are a few different grammar and spelling rules to American English). Being British, I felt it was more authentic to write in this style, for the first edition at least.

IAN: How much of the book is realistic?

Kenneth Thomas: I think this 5-star rating from Readers’ Favorite, K.C. Finn, sums it up best:
Excerpt: Author Kenneth Thomas presents a stylish and solidly built science fiction work with plenty for fans of hard sci-fi and dystopia to get their teeth into. There is also a great deal of drama and emotional involvement throughout the plot, which makes for a well-rounded read and helps to place the characters realistically in their fantastical setting. One of the things which I particularly enjoyed about the tale was a blending of new futuristic science fiction with classic sci-fi ideas from the past, which were meshed really well by the 1950s setting. As we visit many familiar places and times in Earth’s recent past, so realism and surrealism blend to perfection: we are in safe hands with a capable narrator who holds the story together well.

IAN: How is your book different from others in your genre?

Kenneth Thomas: Great writer’s voice is one feedback I have received, that my characters are multi-dimensional and that there are multiple leads. This book is an emotional journey as much as anything else, you feel the chapters and the settings, a full range including excitement, suspense, fright, intrigue, happiness. This is not a typical science fiction book.

IAN: Who designed the covers?

Kenneth Thomas: Elementi Studio designed my covers from The Past and The Present. I did an outline sketch and she brought it to life. I dare to say that The Past is the best cover design of 2020. Note the elements, the eye looking at our future dystopian Earth, eye numerals for time-travel to return to the past, hidden secret hint – the eye also relates to a character in the book. Elementi did an amazing job.

IAN: Did you learn anything from writing VanWest The Past and what was it?

Kenneth Thomas: There is a lot of Historical fiction in first book, the Utopians seek to change the past, targeting the creation of CERN, ISS launch, there is also details on British territories and history, as well as technologies, such as power generators.

IAN: Do you have any advice for other writers?

Kenneth Thomas: I’m still learning… If self-publishing, spend the time researching items such as your book cover and look at a few providers. The synopsis and book cover will be amongst the first items your potential reader will look at, so do not rush this.

IAN: What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?

Kenneth Thomas: Two items I spent the most time on, emotion and historic settings. With each chapter, I try to capture the emotion and where applicable build the suspense. You can really read and feel VanWest’s journey, and that of other characters in the book. It seems everyone’s favourite chapters are those set in 1950s Paris, where VanWest moves from the futuristic setting of the year 3000 to travel back in time to stop a renegade sect. I spent a lot of time to get the details and feelings right. I did this also for 1998 Florida.

IAN: Tell us about your next book or a work in progress. Is it a sequel or a stand-alone?

Kenneth Thomas: The Present is the second book in the VanWest series. To defeat the Universal Council, VanWest is made to confront his dark past. Uncovering Mars’s many secrets and the coming together of Earth’s main opposition groups could prove pivotal in defeating the Council’s mighty Space Army. However, success is not what it appears, for there’s a twist that he could not foresee. Out end of July 2020.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Michelle Halliwell - The IAN Interview

Nice to meet you. I am Michelle Halliwell, a Catholic native of South Carolina. When I’m not writing, you can find me spending time with daughter, cooking, or reading. My favorite color is sky blue and I love the beach. If you read my book, the Butterfly Miracle, I hope you enjoy it.

IAN: Please tell us about your latest book.

Michelle Halliwell: The Butterfly Miracle is a coming of age tale about abortion. A Catholic who has won a scholarship to Harvard University gets drugged and raped. Unfairly impregnated, she must choose between her faith and her dreams.
It’s a short novel but it’s very impactful. Two thirds of the 17 reviews on Amazon gave it 5 stars so most people really like it. Two of my readers loved it so much
that they each purchased twenty copies and distributed them to all their friends. That’s the greatest compliment I’ve ever received.

IAN: Is The Butterfly Miracle published in print, e-book or both?

Michelle Halliwell: Both : )

IAN: Where can we go to buy The Butterfly Miracle?

IAN: What inspired you to write The Butterfly Miracle?

Michelle Halliwell: God inspires me. I rarely feel that my words come from me. It is more like they flow through me. To be inspired means to have the spirit in me. Only God can empower me in that way. In the Gospel of John, Jesus says, “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.” Likewise I am inspired when I surrender myself to a greater power, and I become capable of much more than little old me should be capable of.

IAN: Did you use an outline or do you just wing the first draft?

Michelle Halliwell: Not only do I outline my books, I outline every scene. Some writers improvise. They’re proud of that and they should be. For me, however, I am a total and complete planner.

I outline stories on stacks of notecards: one scene per card. It’s great because I can move my notecards around, playing with the order of the scenes before I write them. This helps to avoid time consuming rewrites and it also empowers me to concentrate on every scene with a special emphasis on what the scene means from the perspective of the entire story. Finally, outlining goes a long way in helping me cope with writing despite having a crazy schedule, because the outline helps me keep my place in the story.

IAN: What was the hardest part of writing The Butterfly Miracle?

Michelle Halliwell: The hardest part of writing the Butterfly Miracle was that I’d just had a newborn baby. I took care of her while writing this book. My detailed outlines helped me to pick up or put down the writing as the moments allowed. She falls asleep. I write. She wakes up. I put it down and change her diaper. I feed her and write. I put it down and burp her. Without an outline to guide me, I would have never been able to finish because the distractions would’ve been too great.

IAN: How long did it take to write The Butterfly Miracle?

Michelle Halliwell: 18 months

IAN: Do you have a specific writing style?

Michelle Halliwell: My reviewers have described my style as: fast-paced, elegant, intelligent, funny, and beautiful. The description I think makes the most sense is elegant. I evoke the scene and turn it in as few words as possible. No backstory or over-describing: I will usually just give you a present tense scene. Every scene is an emotional experience in real time. The consequence of that is I get readers telling me “I’d never read Christian Chick Lit but I started your book and couldn’t put it down”.

Also, I’m a great dramatist. I write excellent dialogue and my stories are impactful. My favorite experience is having tough guys who have led soldiers in wars break down weeping while reading my little butterfly book.

IAN: How much of The Butterfly Miracle is realistic?

Michelle Halliwell: This is the question I most often get from readers. I never answer it.

IAN: How is your book different from others in your genre?

Michelle Halliwell: Writing on the topic of abortion is difficult because many of us feel strongly one way or another. My book takes a definite pro-life position. Many pro-life books, ‘Unplanned’ for example, emphasize the terror of the actual procedure of killing the fetus. The Butterfly Miracle says ‘Life is beautiful and should be respected’. It’s not demonizing or shocking.

Also, the story shows what women face when dealing with an unplanned pregnancy. It shows how the attacks from overly judgmental people can harm women. It is special because it is both pro-life and pro women.

IAN: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

Michelle Halliwell: I have always written things. When I was seven, I wrote a homily and gave it to my priest. One summer of college, I locked myself in an apartment and wrote a 400,000 word novel which I have never even read. I don’t know what is in it but I do know the first two chapters are unreadable. I suppose my interest in writing originated at my conception.

IAN: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

Michelle Halliwell: My favorite writer is GRRM. He created Westeros but he had masterpieces long before that. Sandkings and the Monkey Treatment are two of the best short stories ever written. His capacity for creation is probably unmatched, great characters and an expansive world you don’t ever want to leave. I also love his capacity for procrastination. I hope he never finishes his Song of Ice and Fire novels. If you’re reading this, George; understand: if you don’t finish the novels, your life’s work will be remembered by its final season on HBO.

IAN: Who designed the cover?

Michelle Halliwell: I did! Do you like it? Much of the abortion debate centers around whether a fetus is different from a baby. A poetic question (Einstein would call it a thought experiment) to ask is do you think killing a caterpillar is different from killing a butterfly? As you can see, the lovely lady in the red dress is releasing all the butterflies. That’s a good artistic representation of what my book is about.

IAN: Do you have any advice for other writers?

Michelle Halliwell: Learn how to write dramatic scenes. Every scene must create an emotionally meaningful experience by turning a value through conflict. Here is an example.

A woman who never lies compromises her honesty by telling her father that he will be okay, right before he closes his eyes for the last time. The value is her honesty. The conflict is that in order to keep it, she must cause her father pain in the last moment of his life. The value turns from honest to lie when she comforts him with a lie. Her lie represents an internal sacrifice on which adds drama to the scene. Not every scene needs a death but every scene does need a value that it turns on through conflict.

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

Michelle Halliwell: Pro-life is most often argued in negative terms. “Abortion is evil and must be stopped.” There is a positive way to explain it. Being pro-life is to celebrate God’s wonderful power of creation, which is a force of nature existing within us. Now you are alone. Then you give birth. Now you have a little person whom you love unconditionally, and he or she will return your love with no questions asked. Where did this little person come from? God wanted him or her to be here. Being pro-life means not interfering with that.

IAN: Tell us about your next book or a work in progress. Is it a sequel or a stand-alone?

Michelle Halliwell: My next book is not only unrelated to the Butterfly Miracle, it’s probably the exact opposite. It’s about zombies!

A zombie (who is way tougher, stronger, and sexier than the protagonist) kidnaps his wife and infects her with the zombie hunger as a way to seduce her. The protagonist must break into the police station (the zombie is using the jail as his pantry) to save her before she becomes an adulterous cannibal.

Roxanne Von Andrian - The IAN Interview

Although writing fiction is her first love, Roxanne has a Ph.D. in engineering, and an MBA from the State University of New York. She received awards for her work from companies such as GE. In addition, she is an inventor with three patents. She served as an executive and senior manager for high-level operations and quality design in the aerospace, defense, industrial, and energy sectors.

Roxanne and her family live in New York State. She wakes up every day with a sense of gratitude for the country that welcomed her, and pride for her two adult sons and their accomplishments.

IAN: Please tell us about your latest book.

Roxanne Von Andrian: My book DECEPTION is about a team of four European
operatives and INGRID, a CIA agent, who plot to steal enriched plutonium to poison an ex-KGB officer in London.

These four men, OSCAR, FERENCZ, ADI and CORNEL, under the Ceausescu’s Romania, had powerful roles in the political apparatchik. During the 1989 revolution, they turned against the communist regime. They meet again, as members of the Miklos Fund Board, in Bucharest Romania.

MIKLOS, an American multi-millionaire with Eastern European roots, opens the Miklos Fund to help the emergence of a civil society.

The team diverts money from the Miklos Fund to finance their plan of stealing enriched plutonium from the Russia-owned military base of Ukraine’s Sebastopol.

The team is acting under the guidance of a French op team who, with help from Italian assassins, plot to kill an ex-KGB officer in London by poisoning him. They make the assassination appear to be executed by the KGB. 

While working at MIKLOS Fund, Ingrid has several brushes with death.

The theft is orchestrated by a Ukrainian officer, LISA, who wanted to escape from Ukraine to start a new life in Romania’s Transylvania. The plutonium is hidden in three decoy tombstones made of cement.

IAN: Is Deception published in print, e-book or both?

Roxanne Von Andrian: DECEPTION is published in print, hardcover and paperback, and e-book. I recommend all versions; the quality of the print is very good, thanks to my well organized and perfectionist publisher Angela Hoy, and the cover illustration is wonderfully creative and representative of the content. I was lucky to have an amazing artist like Todd Engel to illustrate the cover!

IAN: Where can we go to buy Deception?

Roxanne Von Andrian: DECEPTION is available for purchase at:

IAN: What inspired you to write Deception?

Roxanne Von Andrian: My inner knowledge of life under the communists and later on, in France, before arriving to the United States, inspired me to write this spy thriller.

I am descending from a well-connected European family. While my family at large was victimized by the communist party and the KGB, part of my close family had the privileged life of those serving the communist regime, in the pattern of the victims embracing its tormentors. Such that, through family and friends, I was privy to deep state secrets that were occasionally spilled in my parents’ house.

I joined the Revolution of December 1989, which ended with the ousting of the dictator, Ceausescu, the collapse of communism, and the rebirth of democracy. My change of allegiance wasn’t left unnoticed. In 1992, I was working for the Soros Foundation for an Open Society when I asked for political asylum in Paris, France, because my life was in danger. My family and I moved from France to United States shortly after that.

I was an ocean away when European events made the news, like the assassination of Ipsinenko in London, Russia’s grab of Crimea, enriched plutonium popping up on the European black market, and the emancipation of the Eastern European countries out of Moscow’s communist control. I immediately connected these and other events to people I personally knew, the organizations they were part of, and to their years-long strife and hate of the Soviet Union and the KGB, the ideology enforcer. I realized that the public would never unlock the deepest secrets and the tenebrous characters that were behind these events. Why? – because the people I knew in my youth were so secretive and masters of deception and conspiracy, nothing in the world, neither riches or fame, would drag them out in the open.

IAN: How long did it take to write Deception?

Roxanne Von Andrian: I started writing the manuscript in 2017 and had it published in 2020. I wrote it during evenings, after a full-day work, and on weekends.

IAN: How did you come up with the title?

Roxanne Von Andrian: Its original title was “The Last Take”. I changed the title in 2018, after I had several discussions with Rhonda Roaring, an amazing personality and editor who peppered my manuscript with critiques of style and content, and ended up giving me a lot of titbits on writing and publishing advice. She told me the title sounded like a financial transaction, and I should consider a different one.

IAN: What do you hope your readers come away with after reading Deception?

Roxanne Von Andrian: My hope is that the readers will connect the dots between the real events the book is based on, and they will see the hidden truths behind each history lesson.  What is more fascinating than having a glimpse of the secrets under a history shakedown? – it’s like trying to see the entire iceberg when they show you the tip of it only. 

My literary agent, Mary Ellen Gavin, who I trust and love, says that my book gives the readers insight into what it would be like to work at CIA Headquarters and what it was like at the end of the COLD WAR.

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

Roxanne Von Andrian: My book Deception is based on characters I knew and on events in my own life. Most of the dialogues are documenting conversations I witnessed, while I was in the company of strongly minded, driven men and women, in my youth and childhood, who remained memorable over time, in my head.

While writing the manuscript, I cried many times, because of remembering the emotions, the suffering, or the risks taken by people who were so close to me. When the manuscript was complete, it felt therapeutic. Reliving the vivid memories, which I associated with the fictional deflections of the story, healed me somehow of the fears and terrors of my life in a dictatorship. 

IAN: Tell us about your next book or a work in progress. Is it a sequel or a stand-alone?

Roxanne Von Andrian: My next book is in a different genre than spy thrillers, and yes it is a stand-alone. I am planning to write a story of the paranormal. About the personal dilemma and tribulations of a woman who believes in God and develops supernatural powers, which give her gratification when accomplishing good deeds or “miracles” for unknowing people, but sometimes put her at odds with herself when people want to harm her.