Interview with Martin Turnbull, Author of “The Garden of Allah” series

Author Interviews

In the age of Marvel superhero movies, computer-generated dragons, and implausible car chase sequences, it is fantastic to know that a candid interest survives about the early days of film-making…
The Golden Age of Hollywood is truly named. The greatest films from that era have survived, and thrived, in our modern age.
I recently spoke with author Martin Turnbull, creator of the fantastic The Garden of Allah novels, about his thoughts on Hollywood, past and present.
Martin Turnbull, author of the Hollywood's Garden of Allah novels
“Searchlights and Shadows”
The Garden of Allah novels are rich in the history and lore of old Hollywood. What made you interested in this particular niche of history to begin with?
I had written three novels before, each of them better than the previous effort, but none of them good enough or unique enough to publish. So I was looking around for a new idea when I came across an article online about the Garden of Allah Hotel, its history and list of residents. I’ve been watching old movies and reading biographies and autobiographies and memoirs of Hollywood stars, moguls, important players and regular folks since I was a teenager but I’d never come across this hotel before. As I read through the names of people who stayed there – Bogie and Bacall, Harpo Marx, Errol Flynn, David Niven, Ginger Rogers, Rachmaninoff, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Robert Benchley and Dorothy Parker and half the Algonquin Round Table to mention but a few – I marveled at how I’d never heard of this place.
Outside Bullock's department store at 7th St. looking north towards Hill St., downtown Los Angeles, 1937
I went looking for more information and found only one book – a non-fiction memoir of sorts by gossip columnist, Sheilah Graham. By about page 10 I knew I what I wanted to do. The Garden of Allah opened in 1927 a couple of months before “The Jazz Singer” ushered in the talkies, and closed in 1959, the year that “Ben Hur” made pretty much the last hurrah of the golden era of Hollywood. So, I realized, the Garden of Allah was open from 1927 to 1959, the exact same years of the golden era. I saw that I could tell the story of the history of Hollywood – from the invention of sound, then Technicolor, to the propaganda years of WWII, to the post war anti-communist Red Scare, and into the fifties with the decline of radio and the rise of television. And I could tell it through the eyes of the people who lived at the Garden of Allah because not only did they witness the unfolding evolution of Hollywood, but they actively participated in it. These were the people who acted in the movies, who wrote them, directed them, scored them, and costumed them. The idea to write a nine-book series came to me in one great WHOOSH! and I couldn’t wait to start.
Brown Derby, Beverly Hills, 1950s
How has writing the Garden of Allah novels changed your view of this golden age that we perceive as the greatest era of film production?
The thing that comes to mind is how small the movie industry was, and how small Los Angeles was. These days, we think of L.A. is being this huge megalopolis sprawling for hundreds of miles in every direction, home to millions of people, crowding the freeways and parking lots and airports and supermarkets. It’s been that way for a number of decades now so it’s easy to assume that it’s always been that case. However, in the years of Hollywood’s studio system heyday, it really wasn’t like that. L.A. was a much smaller, much less densely populated place. You had a bustling downtown, but outside of that, not so much. Wilshire Boulevard and Beverly Hills were almost semi-rural. Consequently, everybody who worked in the movie industry was far more likely to know each other than they might today. In those days, L.A. was barely big enough to be called a city; it was really just a town — and the movie industry was a village. People regularly moved from studio to studio so they got to know everyone.
Sidney Skolsky Chats With His Daughter, Steffi At Schwab's Pharmacy
I’ve seen online comments about my books questioning how realistic it would have been for various characters to know other (famous) characters, but it really was like that. You didn’t need six degrees of separation—usually two or three at most degrees was usually enough. Especially at a place like the Garden of Allah. The residents there were so varied and so social (in other words, they drank a lot!) that if you lived there for any length of time, sooner or later you’d either know everybody or know someone who knows everybody. It’s hard to imagine in the L.A. of today, but back then, it really was like that.
 The Mocambo at 8588 Sunset Blvd
L. B. Mayer is sometimes perceived as a womanizing, omnipresent tyrant that held dominion over everyone at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer—hungry for money, and power. In “The Trouble with Scarlett,” Mayer didn’t seem like the “Lion” history remembers. Is this closer in your opinion to the real man or were most of the legends true?
I think it’s human nature to want to paint people in broad strokes, especially the prominent ones whose lives unfold in the public arena. But people are more complicated than that: heroes aren’t always good, villains aren’t always bad, clowns aren’t always happy, damsels are always virgins. I never really accepted the perceived view that Louis B. Mayer – and, for that matter, his contemporaries: Harry Cohn from Columbia, Jack Warner from Warner Bros., Daryl F. Zanuck from Twentieth Century-Fox – were all tyrannical, greedy, power-hungry tyrants 100% of the time.
Obviously, you don’t get to be the highest paid executive in America as Mayer was without some degree of manipulative maneuvering, but I doubt he was quite as bad as the default perceptions of him. I read in “City of Nets” how he was quite morally upright until his wife had a hysterectomy and was told by her doctor that she could never have sex again. According to the author, that sent Mayer off the deep end and he did start behaving like the clichéd movie mogul. That got me thinking about how we all evolve through various times in our lives, and how we are different things to different people, and I wanted to paint a version of Louis B. Mayer that would reflect all that.
The Garden of Allah novels are very candid about the homosexual and heterosexual relationships deemed “sinful” at a time when the Hays office and Catholic Legion of Decency was breathing down everyone’s necks—something that not many historical novelists touch on when exploring this era. What made you want to go with this angle?
I’m interested in exploring the machinations and maneuvering that went on behind Hollywood’s golden era, and what it took to bring to the screen those images that reflected idealistic America back to itself. I find it particularly interesting the dichotomy between the life that Hollywoodites were living versus the version of life they were creating for the screen.
In 1934, when the Hays Office was empowered to enforce the Production Code, the people who made the movies had to stick to a very strict set of highly moral codes in order to get their movies made. But in real life, their own lives were filled with excessive drinking and drug taking, adultery, unlawful sexual practices, wild affairs, divorces, gambling, and god knows what else.
The homosexual angle was a case in point. Hundreds and hundreds of gay men and women contributed enormously to golden era Hollywood—as directors, writers, costumers, makeup and hair designers, and in many other capacities. However their lifestyles were not allowed to be even hinted at, let alone portrayed with any honesty. I felt it was an aspect of the history of Hollywood’s golden era that was worth exploring.
Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind
Speaking of candor, you’ve chosen to utilize some of the biggest names of the time as major players in “The Garden on Sunset,” and then in “The Trouble with Scarlett.” This is one of the most appealing things to me as a reader, but many novelists are afraid of mentioning stars in their books, let alone using them as working characters. Why did you not go the “safe” route and change their names to suit the story?
To my way of thinking, the whole point of telling the story of the history of Hollywood through the eyes of the residents of the Garden of Allah was the very fact that so many famous people lived there. This is a place where Harpo Marx and Sergei Rachmaninoff were neighbors, where F. Scott Fitzgerald played charades with Dorothy Parker, and where Bogie courted Bacall. I immediately recognized that it was an immensely rich field for storytelling and figured: why bother telling it if I’m going to change the names? We’ve all read books and seen movies with names like Mammoth Pictures, which we know is MGM, and characters like Lowell Mohr, which we know is really Louis B. Mayer. I figured, why not just tell it like it was? So that’s what I’ve set out to do. Tell a fictionalized history of Hollywood sticking to the facts and real life people as much as I can.
Who is the one person you would like to have lunch with at the MGM Commissary, circa 1939?
Well, if you’re going to restrict me to 1939, can I say “The entire cast of The Women”…? Hmmm . . . probably not. In that case I’ll say Rosalind Russell. No, wait, Greer Garson. No, wait, Myrna Loy. Umm . . . I’ll get back to you on that one.
Fred Astaire working with his choreographic partner Hermes Pan, 1936  Fred Astaire and Hermes Pan, 1936.
Is there hope for Hollywood heavyweights Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Judy Garland, or choreographer Hermes Pan becoming supporting characters in any of your future novels? (Those are only a few of my many favorites!)
Ginger Rogers (a Garden of Allah resident—she stayed there when she arrived in Hollywood with her mother) has made a couple of cameos, and Judy has too. I hadn’t considered Hermes Pan but now you’ve got me thinking…! The temptation with this sort of material is to shoehorn all my own personal favorites into the narrative. As I talked about earlier, Hollywood was really just a small company town where everybody knew and/or worked with everybody else sooner or later. So weaving anybody I wanted to into the plot wouldn’t stretch credibility too far, but it needs to come from an organic place. If I’m going to write, say Hermes Pan into the story, it has to be because Hermes would have been around at that time and at that place, and could’ve been involved with whatever plotline I’m writing about. I’m trying to write a history of Hollywood that didn’t actually happen, but could have and to do that, I can’t just insert whichever celebrity I want . . . tempting though as that may be.
Billie Wilder's
Do you think stories set in and about Old Hollywood are becoming more popular because of the accessibility of Turner Classic Movies and their constant spotlight on great films?
Yes, I absolutely do! I grew up watching old movies – generally the midday movie during my school vacations. So I’d watch whatever they chose to show, but TCM has exponentially increased our exposure to the movies of Hollywood’s golden era. I thought I’d seen a lot but then along comes TCM and I realized I’d only just scratched the surface. I think it’s produced a whole new audience for these movies and a flow-on effect, like a greater interest in the time and place from which these movies sprung is an inevitable (and wonderful!) consequence.
Who has been your greatest influence as a writer?
Hmmm, I don’t know that I have a single author who has influenced my work. I read a fairly wide range of novels. A lot of historical fiction (from all eras) but anything whose plot intrigues me. Right now I’m reading “The Seamstress of Hollywood Boulevard” by Eric McGraw, which I am LOVING so I expect she’ll be my greatest influence . . . until I find myself reading my next OMG-I-LOVE-THIS book. If anything, I guess perhaps Armistead Maupin’s “Tales of the City” books have been influential. I didn’t start out trying to write a “TOTC” type series, but I was nearly done with my second book, “The Trouble with Scarlett,” when it occurred to me that that’s kinda sorta what I’d done. I realized that instead about a tightly knitted bunch of friends living in San Francisco in the 70s and 80s, I was writing about a tightly knitted bunch of friends living in Los Angeles in the 30s and 40s. So the parallels are there, albeit unconscious and unintentional.
Classic Style: Old Hollywood Vintage Glamour
You have quite a background! As a private tour guide for Warner Bros. in Burbank, California and a volunteer docent with the Los Angeles Conservancy, were there any stories about our legendary Hollywood idols that surprised even you?
From our modern, 21st century perspective, we (fans of old Hollywood) tend to look on that period as a golden age of glamour and star power. And it certainly was that in a wide range of ways. But what struck me the most about my time at Warner Bros. was realizing that for the people who worked there, both then and now—not just the stars, but the costumers, the writers, the directors, the lighting guys and even the girls in the typing pool—it was simply “where they went to work.” Sure, it was highly creative and all that goes with that process, but I saw that it was a daily thing. There was always another scene to memorize, another dress to make, another set to build, another P.R. campaign to concoct. So when I started writing the Garden of Allah novels, I thought about that a lot. I am writing about people who are living their daily lives during this time, just as we do now. I don’t know that they thought they were working doing a golden time. Perhaps they did, or some of them did, but I suspect it was more a case of what they did when they went to work, and that informs the books that I write. My goal is to write a story that, while it didn’t actually happen, I could have happened, and my time at Warner Bros. helped me to see what daily life was like back then.
Ziegfeld Girl. Hedy Lamarr, 1941 (this film was a favourite of Valentino Garavani's).
Where do you see yourself after completion of the Garden of Allah story arc?
I have a ton of ideas of what to write after the ninth Garden of Allah book. I have a minor character in the series who I like a lot and I’m starting to think she deserves her own book. The other ideas I have are all set during Hollywood’s golden age. I see that period being so rich for storytelling that I could happily stay within the “Hollywood Historical Fiction” genre for the rest of my days.
Casablanca. Another classic I haven't seen... I'm sensing a movie night in my future!
This might be a loaded question for a writer who loves film, but what is one movie that has earned the coveted spot of “Martin’s Favorite”?
That is a TOTALLY loaded question! And impossible to answer if you’re looking for just one movie. I can give you a bunch though: “Gone with the Wind” – “Casablanca” – “Singin in the Rain” – “Now, Voyager” – “On The Town” – “The Adventures of Robin Hood” – “The Maltese Falcon” – “The Women” – “The Wizard of Oz” – “Citizen Kane” – “All About Eve” – stop me any time because we could be here all night . . .
Movie Making at MGM studios
I hear there is some exciting news in your court concerning present-day Hollywood…
Yes! I recently signed an option agreement with a film/TV producer who wants to use my novels as the basis for either a TV series, mini series or movie(s.) As soon as I conceived the idea, I saw it could make a great TV show. I’d been approached a couple of times but negotiations didn’t really go anywhere. Then this producer approached me, having read the first couple of books. Turns out he’s a big fan of golden era Hollywood and of L.A. history and it soon became apparent to me that he wanted to try and bring these novels to the screen for all the right reasons. We were very sympatico that way and we reached an agreement that we’re both quite happy with. So we’ll see!
Harpo, Groucho and Chico Marx outside the gates of the Los Angeles Studios MGM, 1938 (Photo by Virgil Apger)
You can read about the announcement of the deal on the Hollywood Reporter website:
For more about Martin Turnbull and his books, visit:

Guest Post: Behind the Scenes with “Phantom” author Laura DeLuca on her Brand New Short Story “Jessica”

Author Interviews

Laura DeLuca, author of “Phantom”  has stopped by to bring us behind-the-scenes on her brand new short story, “Jessica.” 


Jessica is a little Halloween surprise my publisher arranged for my readers. Today, I thought I’d give you a behind of scenes look at how this short story came to be. I usually prefer to write full length a novel as opposed to shorts, but this one was sort of thrust upon me. I wrote this story almost two decades ago during my freshman year of college. The story was influenced by two very interesting people–Jessica Pirnik Gittle and James T . Kirk.

Jessica & Laura-Wildwood Catholic High School-1993

This is a photo of me with Jessica. She was one of my best and closest friends in high school. We did everything together. We were in the chorus, the yearbook staff, the school newsletter (I was editor, of course), the ecology club, and just about every other club that wasn’t a sport. I don’t do sports. We met when we were freshman in high school because we were seated alphabetically. Her name was Pirnik and my maiden name was Rice. Yes, it was a small school so there wasn’t anyone in between us in our homeroom. So, this is my best friend who I laughed and cried with, who always supported me in my writing and in all my crazy schemes. Yet, she never got a part in one of my books. She doesn’t even remember this, but she used to bug me about it all the time. It wasn’t until after we graduated from high school and I was in college that I finally put her name in a story. That story, of course, was Jessica.

Fall Formal at Stockton-I was 17

So this brings me to James T. Kirk. I bet you thought I meant the one from the spaceship. Well, no offense to the captain, but that’s not the James. T. Kirk I’m talking about here. I’m referring to a professor at my old college, The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. I was in his creative writing class back in 1994, and one of our projects was to write a Halloween themed story that was set on the college campus.

This is me at Lake Fred-1994

At first, I wasn’t into this project at all. I like inspiration to flow naturally. I don’t like trying to force it. I remember sitting in my dorm, chewing he edge of my pen, coming up with nothing, and the deadline was the hours away. Then, feeling a homesick moment, I started to flip through an old photo album I had brought with me. I saw that picture of Jessica and me together. It reminded me that she had asked for her name to be a story. I thought it would be even better if her name was the title of that story. From that point, the idea flowed pretty flawlessly.

Nature Trail at Stockton

Bringing the campus into the story was even less challenging. It’s truly stunning, especially in the fall, and with its circling trails and lily covered ponds, it’s the perfect setting for all kinds of spooky happenings. I changed the name of the college for the story, but the scenery remains pretty much the same. Stockton is surrounded by acres of woods and there really is a beautiful lake there named Lake Fred. There isn’t really a White Lady haunting the lake, at least not that I know of. Still, I if I were a guy, I wouldn’t want to be wondering around Lake Fred all alone on Halloween night…

So that’s the story behind the story.

If you want to grab a copy of this short paranormal thriller for yourself, it’s available exclusively on Amazon in e-book format for only $0.99.

Want to know more about Laura DeLuca?

Interview with Jus Accardo, Author of “TOUCH”

Author Interviews

Can you tell us a little bit about your debut novel, TOUCH and what
compelled you to write this particular story?

TOUCH is about a seventeen year old girl who lives to piss off her cold
and distant dad. She brings home a guy she meets after a party one night
in hopes of getting her dad’s attention–and it does. Just not the way she

As for what compelled me…nothing particular, really. My brain just spits
random ideas out. I was sitting on line, waiting for coffee, and got this
image of a girl being chased through the woods. She’s barefoot and the
ground dies as she runs.

What first drew you to writing paranormal romance?

I’ll read anything with a good story and compelling characters, but my
first love is paranormal. It seemed like a natural fit.

If you could cast your characters for the movie version of TOUCH who
would you pick to play Kale and Dez?

Dez would totally be Avril Lavigne and Kale… When i was writing TOUCH I
pictured him as a young Ben Barnes, but after seeing the cover, I want
that guy. Whoever he is, he’s perfection!

What is a typical day of writing like for you?

I usually sit down to work between 6 and 7 a.m. I’ll write most days until
12 and then take a break to run errands. I’m usually back in front of my
machine by 3 and I stay there till midnight at the least. On a normal day,
I average between 4 and 10 k a day give or take.

What are some of the other projects you have written?

Well, I have some early things that aren’t fit for my dogs to read, and I
have some later books–the trilogy that Denazen and Marshal Cross were
actually born from–that I’d love to revisit and rewrite. I’m also working
on the first book in a new paranormal series, but it’s too early to talk
about that yet 🙂

Are there any scenes in  that were inspired by true events?

There’s a bear scene that was inspired by real events. Other than that,
there’s none I can think of. There were a few scenes inspired by music,

How do you feel about the yearly tradition of NaNoWriMo? Have you ever
participated in it and do you have any advice for those currently in the
early stages of it?

I usually do it. I’m going to try this year, but things are a little
crazy. My advice would be set yourself a schedule and stick to it. Every
word counts (There are NO small word counts!). Each one brings you closer
to your goal. So you only got 200 words today? So? Who cares? That’s 200
closer you are to 50k. Keep moving forward! And good luck!

Were there any books you read as a child that affected you directly as a
writer today?

All of S.E. Hinton’s books and Mary Stanton’s The Heavenly Horse From the
Outermost West were the big ones.

Do you have plans for a sequel to TOUCH?

Oh, hell yes 🙂 TOXIC, the second book in the series is with my editor
now. I’m planning to start book three in a few weeks.

What would you say to any potential readers out there that are interested
in reading TOUCH?

If you love a strong heroine who doesn’t need to a white knight to swoop
in and save her, and a hero that’s both sweet and innocent while being
utterly badass at the same time, TOUCH is for you 🙂


Author Bio:

Jus Accardo is the author of YA paranormal romance and urban fantasy
fiction. A native New Yorker, she lives in the middle of nowhere with her
husband, three dogs, and sometimes guard bear, Oswald. Her first book,
Touch, is due out in November 2011 from Entangled Publishing. She is
represented by Kevan Lyon of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.

Touch Blurb:

“When a strange boy tumbles down a river embankment and lands at her feet,
seventeen-year-old adrenaline junkie Deznee Cross snatches the opportunity
to piss off her father by bringing the mysterious hottie with ice blue
eyes home.

Except there’s something off with Kale. He wears her shoes in the shower,
is overly fascinated with things like DVDs and vases, and acts like she’ll
turn to dust if he touches her. It’s not until Dez’s father shows up,
wielding a gun and knowing more about Kale than he should, that Dez
realizes there’s more to this boy – and her father’s “law firm” – than she

Kale has been a prisoner of Denazen Corporation – an organization devoted
to collecting “special” kids known as Sixes and using them as weapons –
his entire life. And, oh yeah, his touch? It kills. Dez and Kale team up
with a group of rogue Sixes hellbent on taking down Denazen before they’re
caught and her father discovers the biggest secret of all. A secret Dez
has spent her life keeping safe.

A secret Kale will kill to protect.”

Title: Touch by Jus Accardo
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
ePub ISBN: 978-1-937044-44-2
Print ISBN: 978-1-937044-45-9
Release Date: November 1, 2011

Buy Links:


Barnes & Noble:



Interview: Pamela Keyes, Author of “The Jumbee”

Author Interviews, Book Reviews

After reading and then reviewing “The Jumbee” by Pamela Keyes, I knew that there were quite an extraordinary author behind this exceptional book and am excited to present an interview with Pamela Keyes! You can read the review for The Jumbee here.

Can you tell us a little about The

I loved your review, which said
everything I might hope to say here. But maybe I can add a review
from Booklist, which summarizes The Jumbee on the site.

A teenage actress falls for a
mysterious stranger in this haunting romance, reminiscent of The
Phantom of the Opera. High-school senior Esti Legard and her mother
have moved to the Caribbean after the death of Esti’s father, a
famous Shakespearean actor. While playing Juliet at her prestigious
performing-arts high school, Esti starts receiving acting instruction
from a disembodied voice in the theater. Frightened that she is being
courted by a jumbee, or ghost, Esti tries to switch her attention to
charming flesh-and-blood Rafe, but she continues to be seduced by the
velvety-voiced persona, which seems to read her mind. When Esti’s
real and imagined worlds collide in the climax of a tropical
hurricane, her secrets are revealed, along with those of her
conflicted island community, where descendants of slaves and slave
owners alike live in an uneasy peace. The lushly described exotic
setting breathes new life into the classic star-crossed story line.
Romance fans will enjoy the fascinating locale along with the
slow-building suspense and incidental acting lessons.

Some writers have daily routines
they stick to when working on a project. What is a day in your
writing life like?

I have two young children (ages 5 and
7) so my writing time is limited to when they are in school or with a
babysitter. Generally I’ll get them off to school, then race to my
computer and write until they come home. My muse is that ticking

What was the most difficult part of
the writing process for The Jumbee?

The revisions. For one thing, my
original manuscript had Alan — like The Phantom — considerably
older than Esti. But that dynamic didn’t feel right for a young adult
novel — I wanted it creepy, but that was much too creepy — so I
reworked the entire manuscript to make him younger, which instantly
worked so much better. I had a few other far-reaching changes like
that, and it seemed to drag on forever.

Since The Jumbee is based off of the
Phantom of the Opera, did one of the interpretations of the story in
film, book, or the Broadway show influence you to write this book?

I fell in love with the plot and the
character of The Phantom when I saw the Broadway show. As I walked
out of the theater, I knew I had to somehow turn it into a YA story.
When I was writing it, however, Leroux’s novel influenced most of the
twists and turns in The Jumbee.

If The Jumbee were made into a
feature film, who would you cast as your leading characters and why?

What a fun question! I’ve always adored
the voice of Patrick Stewart, but he’s too old now for Alan. Robert
Pattinson has a great, sexy voice, and I think he would be awesome as
Alan. Darryl Stephens would make a very cute Rafe, and so would Shad
Moss. I think Drew Barrymore would be perfect as Esti’s mom. As for
Esti, If only Chloe Moretz were a couple years older…

What subjects would you like to see
more of in today’s Young Adult fiction market?

I’m fairly liberal, so I love books
that push the envelope of what is traditionally acceptable. I would
love to see more interracial relationships, more questioning of the
absolute “good vs bad” (because good and bad are always
more complex than that). The best books, imho, are the ones that open
the minds of teenagers and make them question the reality of right
and wrong.

Can you tell us about some of your
favorite books and authors?

Wintergirls (Laurie Halse Anderson);
Trial of Tompa Lee (Ed Hoornaert); Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes
(Chris Crutcher); Harry Potter (hmm, guess who?); Wrinkle in Time
(Madeleine L’Engle); Girl With the Dragon Tattoo; J.R.R.Tolkien; Anne
McCaffrey. I have so many favorites…. 🙂 And I haven’t even begun
with the classics. The Great Gatsby; Being There….

Do you have any interesting stories
about the writing of this book that you would like to share?

Mostly I treasure the time I spent
living in the Virgin Islands, which gave me such a wonderful insight
into life in the West Indies.

Did you listen to music a lot while
working on this project, and if so, what kind of soundtrack would The
Jumbee have?

I listened to the Phantom soundtrack,
of course. I also listened to a lot of Caribbean music – calypso,
soca, steel drum bands. There are a lot of great USVI bands. And then
I have my favorite old standbys, eclectic singers like Tori Amos;
Fisher; Bangguru; Bjork. What kind of soundtrack would The Jumbee
have? The Avatar soundtrack gives me goosebumps, with its blended
emotional & tribal nuances. When The Jumbee reaches that level,
I’ll have a talk with James Horner.

Why did you choose to veer away from
the musical theme in the original story to a more dramatic and
Shakespearean approach in The Jumbee?

I’ve always loved theater, and it
seemed like such a logical move – particularly for a high school
setting. I mean, how many high school kids can really relate to

Alan, like The Phantom, is an
intriguing, bittersweet and complex character, and not much is ever
said about what happens to him after the story ends. What kind of
journey do you see Alan taking when your story ends?

I have a lot of ideas, so I’ll be
thrilled if it goes in the direction of a sequel, so that I can find
out what does happen to him. Things would have to get a lot worse for
Alan before they got better, of course. That’s what the best writers
must do to their beloved characters, unfortunately.

Can you tell us a little about your
other writing projects and what you are working on right now?

I have two previous middle-grade novels
(The Rune of Zachary Zimbalist and its sequel) about a connecting
dimension linking the past to the future, and what happens if history
is altered by changing the past. I’m also three weeks from finishing
my next manuscript (yay!), which is a paranormal historical YA
fiction. In that one, my main teen characters (from three different
centuries) each struggle with the meaning of “being good.”
I also have a novel further down the line that addresses the question
of gender identity. Like I said, I love books that make teens think
and open their minds.

Do you ever see yourself writing a
sequel to The Jumbee?

I would love to write a sequel. The
Jumbee has gotten a lot of great reviews, so I think it’s a good
possibility. Danielle’s sister, Marielle, would likely develop into a
major character. As soon as I’m done with my next two projects….

What advice would you give to
potential writers that you wish you had been told?

First of all, write the story that you
are passionate about. If you try and fit into a trend, chances are
the trend will be over before you ever get published. On the other
hand, if your novel is outstanding, it may create its own trend.
Secondly, find a way to condense your story into an amazing
single-sentence summary. After you’ve done that, expand it into a
single-paragraph summary, and then into a one-page summary. The most
powerful marketing tool is a fabulous synopsis, and all three of the
above synopses are essential. It can be hard to do, but here’s a
great trick I got from a recent SCBWI writers’ retreat: 1) After
(inciting incident) a (character description) must (primary action)
in order to (goal), or risk (stakes) before (ticking clock).

Translating this to The Jumbee, we
have: Moving to a tropical island after the death of her famous
father, a high school theater student must come face-to-face with
local superstitions in order to escape from the shadow of her famous
father, or risk losing everyone she loves.

Is there anything you would like to
say to your fans and potential readers?

I love knowing that I’ve touched people
with my work. If my writing makes a true difference in the life of a
single person, then I can’t ask for much more. Although I wouldn’t
turn down a stint on the NYT bestsellers’ list. 🙂

About Pamela Keyes:

I spent most of my life trying to decide what to be when I grew up. I’ve
always been an avid reader and traveler, and I actually wrote my first book when
I was nine. My family and friends teased me through middle school and high
school about the endless stories I wrote, but somehow it never occurred to me
that writing could be a career.

So I studied science and English in high school, German and math and
psychology in college, and I traveled whenever I could. I settled into
architecture in graduate school, and eventually became a registered architect. I
drew building plans for years, but finally found myself writing stories again in
my spare time. And so, it came full-circle.

As a writer, I can be anything I want, anywhere in the universe I want to be.
I’ve lived in the lush tropical islands of the Caribbean, the remote
Texas-Mexican Border, the Bavarian Alps, and the thriving cities of Denver and
Seattle. Through all my adventures, my heart has always belonged to the Arizona
Sonoran desert. I now live in Tucson with my husband and two children.

Bio Courtesy of Author’s website.

Interview with S.C. Ransom, author of “Small Blue Thing”

Author Interviews

Interview with S.C. Ransom, author of

“Small Blue Thing” 



A little while ago I reviewed S.C. Ransom’s debut novel, “Small Blue Thing” and she was kind enough to answer a few questions I had about her writing process, what inspired “Small Blue Thing” and what she is working on next. Read on, and if you have any questions for S.C. Ransom, write them in the comments!



Can you tell us a little about Small Blue Thing?

Small Blue Thing is a romance for teenagers. The story involves Alex, an ordinary girl, a strange bracelet which she finds in the mud at the edge of the River Thames in London, and Callum, a soul caught in a terrible half-life who she can speak to when she’s wearing the bracelet. She soon realises that she loves Callum, but she’s not sure if he truly loves her or wants to use her to escape from his life of misery. Very soon she’s fighting for her life.


Some writers have daily routines they stick to when working on a project. What is a day in your writing life like?

I have another full time job as a headhunter, so my writing is done every day on the train into London and back, and then catching up at weekends.


What was the most difficult part of the writing process for Small Blue Thing? What about the easiest?

Finding the time is always a challenge! What was also difficult at first was accepting the suggested changes to my manuscripts, but I’ve got used to that now. The ideas come quite easily to me, and I find it quite straightforward to weave new threads into the stories and tie them up later. My husband is great at coming up with new twists for me too.


Since this book was written as a birthday present for your daughter, Ellie, did you ever fear that she could either be your harshest critic (as most teenagers are) or greatest supporter when she read Small Blue Thing for the first time?

I knew she would like it, as the original version was so personal to her, but I was nervous when she started lending it to her friends. They have all been brilliant though, and their support helped persuade me to see if I could get it published.


Has your son ever asked you to write a book for his birthday? And if so, what kind of story would you write to appeal to his literary tastes?

No! I think I’ve missed the opportunity to write one for him now. He’s nearly sixteen, and enjoys a lot of crime thrillers, and I’m not sure that’s my thing. I think that the next one I do will be directed at both boys and girls though, so I’m sure he’ll read it.


The Dirges are interesting characters, ones that steal happy memories from mortal humans in order to function “normally.” Was there a particular inspiration that sparked the concept of the Dirges?

I wanted a group which was sinister and dangerous, but I was bored with vampires and werewolves and the like. I couldn’t think of anything I knew which fitted the criteria I needed, so I made them up! That way I didn’t have to follow any expected rules or behaviour, either. I could make them do whatever I wanted, which is great fun.


Why did you choose a silver and blue bracelet as the “conduit” between Alex and Callum?

Ellie loves blue, so it would appeal to her. I have a silver bracelet with a small blue opal, so I had that in my mind but made it much, much bigger and ornate, the sort of thing you would just love to find in the mud.


If Small Blue Thing were made into a feature film, who would you choose to play Callum and Alex? Why?

Lots of people have asked this! Ellie would like to play Alex herself, and her top choice for Callum would be Alex Pettyfer, as she thinks he’s one of the most gorgeous men on the planet. I rather like the idea of Ben Barnes.


What subjects would you like to see more of in today’s Young Adult fiction market?

That’s a very good question, and I’m not sure I can answer! I read very little YA fiction before I started writing Small Blue Thing, and I’ve been working so hard on writing the rest of the trilogy that I haven’t had a lot of time to read. I have a huge pile of books that I’m really looking forward to diving into later this year.


Can you tell us about some of your favorite books and authors?

Before I started writing I used to read a lot on my daily commute, and I read a huge selection of things; thrillers, crime, romance, classics, science fiction – you name it, I read it. One of my recent favourites was The Time Traveller’s Wife, and I read every Harry Potter book as it came out. I do like the Twilight series too.


Do you have any interesting stories about the writing of this book that you would like to share?

When I decided to write Ellie a book, I knew I needed to find a decent amount of time to get it done properly. So instead of reading on the train every day I started to write. Small Blue Thing was mostly written on my BlackBerry, and at the end of every journey I emailed it to myself. At the weekend I took the patchwork of files and tied them all together into a story. So when people tell me that they would love to do something like this but they are too busy, I tell them to look at their day. I found an hour – just 30 minutes each way – and now I have a book on the shelves of lots of the bookshops in the UK.


Did you listen to music a lot while working on this project, and if so, what kind of soundtrack would Small Blue Thing have?

The title of the book is from the Suzanne Vega song of the same name, which is one of my favourites, so that would have to be the title music. Unfortunately I find I can’t concentrate on writing if I have music playing, so I write in silence. I can even get distracted if people on the train are talking, but luckily most British commuter trains are very quiet places.


Do you have plans to write in a genre other than paranormal fantasy/romance in the future?

I’d like to try writing something which was appealing to both boys and girls, but I’m not sure how good I would be at it. I guess I’ll just have to try!


Can you tell us a little about your other writing projects and what you are working on right now?

Right now I’m writing the final book in the Small Blue Thing trilogy, Scattering Like Light. I’m really looking forward to tying up all those loose ends.


Is there anything you would like to say to your fans and potential readers?

Thank you so much for reading my book! I feel immensely privileged that you want to explore the world which I’ve created, and I look forward sharing more secrets with you as the story unfolds.


 Special thanks goes to Sue Ransom and the entire team at Nosy Crow!

“Small Blue Thing” can be purchased via as it is not currently available in the U.S.


Photos Courtesy of Nosy Crow

Interview with April Lindner, Author of “Jane”

Author Interviews

 Interview with April Lindner, author of  “Jane”


My special guest today is April Lindner, author of the 2010 debut novel, Jane.  If you missed my original review of Jane, you can view it here.

Can you tell us a little about Jane?

Jane is a modernization of Jane Eyre. My Jane is a 19 year old art major forced to drop out of college by the sudden death of her parents. She takes a job as a nanny for Nico Rathburn, a rock legend on the verge of a comeback. Despite her best intentions, she falls in love with her employer, and finds herself drawn into a mystery at his estate.

In your author’s note, you mentioned that this book was partially inspired by all of the Jane Austen/Zombie books that were just coming out on the market at the time. Recently, books such as “Little Vampire Women” and “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” are overflowing in the Young Adult sections at libraries and bookstores. Why did you decide to not go that route with Jane?

I love a good retelling, and have often lamented that there there haven’t been all that many retellings of my favorite novel, Jane Eyre. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and the various other paranormal rewritings fired up my desire to do a retelling of my own, but as much fun as zombies, vampires and sea monsters can be, they just aren’t me. I’m intrigued by human nature, and the ordinary day to day world can be pretty wild, strange and fascinating even without vampires.

Your love for the original Jane Eyre truly comes across on the page. Nico Rathburn, Jane Moore, and their journey to each other has a “timeless” feel to it, even though it is set in the twenty-first century. Did you struggle to stay true to the classic but give it a modern appeal for young readers— even with the constraints of the original Bronte work?

There are so many “greatest hits” moments in Jane Eyre, moments I couldn’t bear to leave out, and the trick was doing them justice. Working through the puzzle of how to translate certain key elements of the plot into the twenty-first century was the trickiest part of the fun of writing Jane. Every now and then I’d hit a roadblock and panic thinking there was no way I could make, say, the fate of Mr. Rochester’s wife work in our age of medical miracles, but then I’d sleep on it or talk it over with a trusted friend, and before long a solution would present itself.

Thornfield Park is at the center of the events unfolding in the plot, and had a hidden sadness to it that really added to the book’s tone, without revealing the true identity of the unknown house guest in the attic. Did you use a real location as the inspiration for Thornfield Park?

Nico’s estate is mostly imaginary. I did browse the internet for pictures of mansions and chose one to keep in mind as I described the house and the grounds. I have no sense of direction, so I had to draw blueprints for the house and grounds to make sure the various rooms weren’t shifting around from chapter to chapter.

Your author’s note also mentioned your love for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. How much did Bruce Springsteen influence the way that Nico Rathburn was written?

It’s true; I’m a rabid Springsteen fan.  I love music and live shows in general, but I’ve seen Bruce 21 times and counting, and I’ve been known to go on a ten hour road trip to get to a show.  So it’s true: in a very real way Bruce inspired Nico, but Nico’s an imaginary character.  He’s younger and more of a reformed bad boy, and though he’s a softy on the inside he can come off as gruff and sardonic.  Also, he’s a bit neglectful as a father—all characteristics that don’t fit with the public persona of Bruce Springsteen, who by all accounts seems to be a family man and a pretty good guy.

That said, there are glimmers of Bruce in Nico. The voice that’s a little rough around the edges, the years Nico spends reading to make up for the college education he was too busy touring to get—those are Bruce-inspired. And the night of Nico’s big comeback concert is written straight out of my concertgoing memories. I’ve certainly been one of the crowd of passionate fans Jane watches with fascination and alarm.

 If Jane were made into a feature film, who would you choose to play Nico and Jane? Why?

I love this question. I’d be thrilled to see Toby Stephens as Nico, though I suppose he’s a bit older than the character. Of all the thirtyish actors I can think of, Milo Ventimiglia looks the closest to the Nico in my imagination. I can imagine James Franco in the role too. He’d have to play against type, but he’s so versatile I can see him pulling it off beautifully.

As for Jane, I really like Carey Mulligan’s quiet intelligence, though it’s tough to imagine Carey Mulligan looking drab (the way Jane sees herself), even on a bad day. And Felicia Day (also very pretty) has a vulnerability that makes me think of Jane.

Some writers have daily routines they stick to when working on a project. What is a day in your writing life like?

When I’m not teaching or grading a stack of essays, I’ll wake up at 7, brew a pot of coffee, and settle down to work at 8:30 or 9. On nice days, I’ll go out to the front porch with my laptop. It’s my favorite place in the house to write, but I have two very exciteable dogs, and they scratch on the door to get out there with me, and then they have to bark at every human and animal that passes…so my porch time never lasts very long. I might write in a comfy chair in the living room, or maybe treat myself to a long session at a coffee shop—my other favorite writing spot. I’ll eat lunch while I work and keep going until one of my sons gets home from school or work.

What was the most difficult part of the writing process for Jane? What about the easiest?

Writing Jane was ridiculously fun. I loved entering into her world, and the excitement I felt for the project made it feel like playing. The most difficult part was when I had to stop writing and step back into my own life. Ordinarily, writer’s block is a very real part of my life, but Jane felt like the book I was born to write.


Do you have any interesting stories about the writing of this book that you would like to share?

I don’t know if this counts as a story, but while I was writing Jane I had a handy excuse for attending lots of rock shows: research!


Did you listen to music a lot while working on this project, and if so, what kind of soundtrack would Jane have?

 I’m too easily distracted to listen to music while I write, but Jane absolutely has a soundtrack, one that’s still growing. Here it is in its current form, taken straight from my ipod:

It Happens Every Day (Dar Williams)

Bad Reputation (Freedy Johnston)

American Slang (The Gaslight Anthem)

Parachute (Train)

The Lucky One (Alison Krauss & Union Station)

My Love Will Not Let You Down (Bruce Springsteen)

Romeo’s Tune (Steve Forbert)

Hey, Soul Sister (Train)

Don’t Dream It’s Over (Crowded House)

Your Mind’s Playing Tricks on You (John Wesley Harding)

Rumors (Josh Ritter)

Janey Don’t You Lose Heart (Bruce Springsteen)

Troubled Times (Dar Williams)

Intro/Sweet Jane (Lou Reed)


Can you tell us a little about your other writing projects and what you are working on right now?

I’ve got a poetry manuscript out in the world looking for a publisher. (It’s my second; my first, Skin, came out in 2002). Right now, though, my main focus is revising a young adult novel I finished drafting last summer.

Do you have any plans to retell another Bronte work?

In fact, the novel I’m working on is a modernization of Wuthering Heights, my other favorite novel. It’s set in a night club on the lower east side of New York, and the Heathcliff character is a punk rocker.


Is there anything you would like to say to your fans and potential readers?

I hope my readers have as much fun reading Jane as I did writing it, because I had a blast. And if they haven’t read Jane Eyre, I hope Jane moves them to check it out.




A special thanks to April Lindner for her fantastic interview, and if you would like to learn more about April and her upcoming projects please visit her website:

Interview Copyright 2010 Shylock Books

Photos courtesy of