Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Q&A with Robert K. Lewis

This week we sat down with Robert K. Lewis, author of the Mark Mallen Novels. His latest, Innocent Damage, is out now!

Midnight Ink: How long have you been writing?
Robert K. Lewis: About seventeen years, give or take.

MI: What influence have other authors had on your writing?
RKL: I love a strong voice, so I’ve spent a lot of time with the noir heavy hitters such as Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Ed McBain. A more contemporary example of a strong voice that influenced me would be Kem Nunn. However, beyond the writing, these authors also influenced me by showing me just how hard writing can be, and how much work it takes to get better with every book.

MI: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?
RKL: Playing blues guitar in a power trio or quartet. I love playing the blues, and playing it very loud is a pre-requisite.

MI: If you have a job outside of writing, what is it?
RKL: I’m the office manager of the art department at UC Berkeley.  Best possible job and environment for me to have, given that my other job is writing books.

MI: What is/are your favorite thing/s to do when you’re not writing or working?
RKL: Playing blues and hard rock guitar, learning piano, and drinking.

MI: Who is your favorite mystery sleuth and why?
RKL: Frank Kane’s Johnny Liddell. He’s tough, never gives up no matter how much he’s been beaten and battered, and will always solve the case no matter what the price. He’s the sort of detective that will come after you again and again, even if it means dragging himself along the road on his bloodied elbows.

MI: Do you have a favorite murder case from a book (either yours or another author’s)?
RKL: The Abbey Grange, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This is not only my favorite murder mystery, it’s also one of my favorite Sherlock Holmes stories. The Abbey Grange is actually one of the inspirations for Mark Mallen, because this is where Holmes really becomes judge and jury, and by doing so, gives us a glance into his great heart. This story is Holmes in one of his finest moments.

MI: What was your inspiration for this series?
RKL: Ah, that’s a large question. Mallen is made up of so many things that I’ve watched, read, and witnessed. There are, of course, the classic detectives: Sam Spade, Marlowe, Johnny Liddell, and Mike Hammer. Then there are the New York cop films of the 1970s: The French Connection, Serpico, The Seven Ups, The Warriors, Taxi Driver, and Death Wish. Also on that list would be other gritty films such as Panic in Needle Park and Midnight Cowboy.

MI: How does this book/series compare to your past works?
RKL: The Mark Mallen series bears no resemblance at all to my earlier works. When I began writing long-form fiction (I’d written screenplays before turning to fiction), I wanted to be a literary writer. That died on the vine. After that I wrote an urban fantasy that went nowhere when I queried agents. I would have to say though that if there were any comparison to my earlier work, it would be in how I write my protagonists. I want to write heroes that will not be stopped. They keep going on, no matter what.

MI: Do you have a pet? Tell us about him/her.
RKL: Not anymore. However, I’m haunted by the ghosts of three very cranky cats.
MI: If you don’t have a pet, do you have a favorite animal?
RKL: Cats. I love cats. They’re possessed of so many personality layers. They can be fastidious, but have no problem shooting litter all over the floor. They love you unconditionally, until they don’t. They have a fascination with throwing things off of counters and tables. Endless amusement. The only thing I have to complain about is that I wish they travelled better. Can you image a cat loving a car ride, hanging its head out the window, filled with the joy of being in a car? Man, that would be greatness.

MI:What food could you live off of for the rest of your life?
RKL: Is Scotch a food? If not, then Patty Melts.

MI: Do you have a favorite recipe?
RKL: For destruction, or success? Oh, you mean food? Then that would be my mother’s recipe for baked chicken. She was a scratch cook, and her cooking usually included every spice in the house, using her intuition as her cookbook.

MI: What’s your favorite part about being an Inker?
RKL: The level of input I’ve been able to give, and having that input acknowledged. There are not many publishers out there that would allow the writer to have a large say regarding covers, but my editor and the artists over at Midnight Ink did. Add to that the level of communication I received from my editor and copy editor and I would say unequivocally that this has been a fantastic experience.

MI:Were the Mark Mallen Novels based off of/inspired by your own life in any way?
RKL: I’ve lived, from time to time, in some very hard environments. When I was sixteen years old, I rented a studio apartment located next to a very old and very large Victorian building, every flat filled with someone eking out a living any way they could, by any means possible. I also lived in the Tenderloin of San Francisco for many years, and if anything, Mallen’s books were influenced by what I witnessed in both of those places, along with the people I saw there and interacted with.

MI: Why did you create Mark Mallen as a former junkie?
RKL: Mallen is a former junkie because I wanted to show that it is possible to overcome our demons. Our world is filled with addictions. Drugs. Alcohol. The Internet. Porn. Our iPhone. You name it, and we seem to have an addiction for it. It takes a strong will, focus, and determination to overcome those addictions, along with the belief that those addictions can in fact be overcome. I wrote Mallen the way he is because I live in hope that we can regain the inner strength and moral compass that I feel our society has lost.

Innocent Damage is available online and in bookstores now!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

April 2015 Books Available Now!

Don't miss Midnight Ink's latest releases!

"Not for the faint of heart, this chilling tale of sexual depravity is 
perfect for conspiracy aficionados."
Book Verdict (Library Journal) on Critical Damage

"Crackerjack entertainment: taut, gritty and full of devilish twists."
Kirkus Reviews on Snake Pass

“A fun tale where the reader will love following Cleo on her quest to find the killer.”
Suspense Magazine on Saving Cecil

Now available from Midnight InkBarnes & NobleAmazonIndiebound, and your local bookseller!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Celebrating Women's History Month #5: Serie-ous and Stand-Alone Women

Here at Midnight Ink Headquarters, we find that the best way to celebrate Women's History Month is to talk to our authors whose books feature strong female protagonists. Every day this week, return to this blog to find out more about the ladies portrayed in our various series and stand-alone releases this year!

Don't miss our previous posts in this series!
Day 1Day 2Day 3, and Day 4.

Maegan Beaumont

Maegan Beaumont's longtime love of action movies inspired her to begin writing stories of her own. Carved in Darkness, the first Sabrina Vaughn Novel, was a Suspense Magazine Best Debut of 2013 and a Library Journal Debut of the Month. Beaumont is a member of Sisters in Crime. Visit her online at www.maeganbeaumont.com.

To her very core, Sabrina is a fighter. Her strength and resiliency never ceases to amaze me. No matter what I throw at her, she keeps coming back. For her family, for the people she loves, there isn’t much she won’t do. Even when she’s battling her own demons, she’s there for the people who need her. She’s constantly surprising me and I think that’s what keeps me interested in her as a character.

In Promises to Keep (August 8, 2015), Sabrina must help Michael find and rescue the grandson of a U.S. senator from a ruthless drug lord who is hell bent on revenge and targeting them both.

Mark Stevens 

Mark Stevens worked as a reporter for The Christian Science Monitor, The Rocky Mountain News, The MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour and The Denver Post. He now owns his own public relations firm. Stevens is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and the Colorado Authors League. Visit him online at www.writermarkstevens.com.

Allison Coil was inspired by a real-life female hunting guide with a ferocious tenacity for outdoor life and sincere enthusiasm for every rugged aspect of it. Allison’s strength comes from her protective of the Flat Tops Wilderness—it’s where she recovered following a commercial airplane crash. In Lake of Fire (September 8, 2015), a massive wildfire is wiping out precious hunting grounds and threatens the ranch owned by her boyfriend’s family. The murder of an offbeat environmentalist—the body is found near where the fire started—sends Allison burrowing into a world of anti-government haters who harbor grim messages and evil plans. 

Laura DiSilverio

Laura DiSilverio's novel Swift Run (Minotaur) was nominated as a finalist in the 2013 Colorado Book Awards. She has received starred reviews from Booklist, and Suspense Magazine named Die Buying (Berkley Prime Crime) as one of the top mysteries of 2011. Laura is a former president of Sisters in Crime. She lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and can be found online at www.lauradisilverio.com

In The Reckoning Stones (September 8, 2015) Iris Dashwood suffered sexual abuse during her childhood and had the wound immeasurably enlarged by her parents' refusal to believe her. She ran away at fifteen and lived by her wits for three years before meeting Jane who took her in and shared her passion for art. Twenty years later, Iris uses her jewelry-making to work through her emotions, but when her creativity fails her, she returns to her previous home and confronts the Community that shunned her. She had put her faith in her physical strength and fighting ability, but discovers that true strength lies in forgiveness.

Catriona McPherson

Catriona McPherson was born in Edinburgh, Scotland and is the author of critically-acclaimed stand-alones for Midnight Ink, including: Anthony Award-winning and Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2013, As She Left It; Edgar-nominated The Day She Died; and Come to Harm. She also writes the Dandy Gilver historical mystery series (Minotaur/Thomas Dunne Books). McPherson is the president of Sisters in Crime and a member of Mystery Writers of America. Visit her online at www.catrionancpherson.com.

Like Etsuko, Mariko and Yuko, my office-mates at Edinburgh University in the nineties, and like me in America now, Keiko Nishisato in Come to Harm (May 8, 2015) is thousands of miles from home in an alien culture.  It’s hard  to know how much of what seems suspicious is just unknown. Maybe she’ll settle down in this little Scottish town and get used to the people she has met there, or maybe those people really are harbouring dark secrets and she really is in deep trouble. Crucially, Keiko knows—her mother has taught her—how to be a “good girl”. It’s the perfect disguise.

In The Child Garden (September 8, 2015), Gloria Harkness is the single parent of a profoundly disabled teenaged son. She lives alone in an isolated farmhouse near his care home. Many people would look at Gloria and see tragedy, but she feels lucky. She is lonely though and her life is a quiet one. So, when a childhood friend reappears, she doesn’t question why. And then, when adventures offer themselves, she plunges in. What I love about Gloria is her sense of life’s possibilities and her dawning belief in herself. She’s bookish, imaginative and very kind. If I knew her in real life I’d want her as my friend.  

Thanks for celebrating Women's History Month with us!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Celebrating Women's History Month #4: Serie-ous Women

Here at Midnight Ink Headquarters, we find that the best way to celebrate Women's History Month is to talk to our authors whose books feature strong female protagonists. Every day this week, return to this blog to find out more about the ladies portrayed in our various series and stand-alone releases this year!

Don't miss our previous posts in this series!
Day 1Day 2, and Day 3.

Linda Joffe Hull

Linda Joffe Hull is on the national board of Mystery Writers of America and is a member of Sisters in Crime and the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Awarded the 2013 Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Writer of the Year Award, Hull is the author of the Mrs. Frugalicious Shopping Mystery series for Midnight Ink and has also published The Big Bang with Tyrus Books. A native of St. Louis, Hull now lives in Denver with her husband and three children. Visit her online at www.lindajoffehull.com or at mrsfrugalicious.tumblr.com.

Maddie Michaels is the wife of TV financial guru Frank Finance Michaels. When he loses all their money in a Ponzi scheme, she reinvents herself as bargain shopper/coupon clipper Mrs. Frugalicious to save the family from financial ruin. Luckily, Maddie is able to look at the dire situations she faces with humor and optimism.  In her latest adventure, Sweetheart Deal (November 8, 2015)Maddie is in Mexico finding deals on destination weddings and timeshares. When faced with both murder and the maddening issue of playing happily married for her new reality show, The Family Frugalicious, she does so with her trademark pluck.

Sallie Bissell

Sallie Bissell is the author of the award-winning Mary Crow mystery series. A native of Nashville, Tennessee, she graduated from Peabody College (now part of Vanderbilt University) and now resides in Asheville, North Carolina. Bissell is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. Visit her online at www.salliebissell.com.

Mary Crow was born because I find people who bridge different cultures fascinating. Mary’s half-Cherokee, half-white. She works in an urban, male-dominated American legal system; yet she was raised in the mountains, in the more matrilineal traditions of the Cherokees. The murder of her mother devastated her, but ultimately led her to become a take-no-prisoners criminal prosecutor. Over the years, though, she’s realized that guilt is not often black or white, but gray. In Judgment of Whispers (September 8, 2015), new evidence reopens an old murder case and reawakens rumors that have never died. Mary must find the truth amid some horrific innuendo.

D. A. Keeley

D.A. Keeley has published widely in the crime-fiction genre and is the author of six other novels, as well as short stories and essays. In addition to being a teacher and department chair at the Northfield Mount Hermon School, and a member of the Mystery Writers of America, Keeley writes a bi-weekly post for the blog Type M for Murder. Keeley divides his time between Massachusetts and Maine. You can learn more about the author and series at: www.dakeeley.blogspot.com or on Twitter @DAKeeleyAuthor.

Peyton Cote is a single mother and a top-flight US Customs and Border Protection agent. I love writing her for many reasons—she’s dedicated, tough, and smart -- but she also struggles, like any single parent, to balance her work and home lives. Her strength is founded upon her childhood: she was raised in the farming community where she now works, and she knows what it feels like to lose it all—her family did; they lost the farm, literally. This offers both internal struggle and great empathy when dealing with the people a border patrol agent typically deals with, those individuals desperate to better their lives and the lives of their loved ones. These conflicts are never more apparent than in Fallen Sparrow (June 8, 2015), where Peyton’s past (in the form of a long-lost friend) collides with her duties as a CPB agent, and the teacher of her son, who has just been diagnosed with dyslexia, is smack dab in the middle of it all. 

Nina Milton

Nina Milton has been publishing short stories and children’s books for thirty years. She has won many literary competitions, including the Crossroads Competition, Kent Festival Prize and the Wells Literary Short Story Competition. Milton holds her Masters in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University. Milton, a Druid, drew from her background to create the realistic depiction of shamanism presented in the Shaman Mystery series. Visit Milton online at www.kitchentablewriters.blogspot.com.

As a hard-knock kid, Sabbie Dare knew she was different—she saw through the veil that hides other planes of existence. 

Now she has a shamanic therapy business, she’s still facing trouble because clients bring danger with them. 

In Beneath the Tor (December 8, 2015), a friend dies after a night of dancing, and Sabbie investigates the abusive emails the bereaved husband receives. Sabbie can’t resist untangling this mystery, using confused help from the spirit world, but to get closer to the truth, she must penetrate the deranged mind of a killer, whose madness is taking down innocent victims, one by one.

Return to this blog tomorrow for our final round-up, including: Maegan Beaumont, Mark Stevens, Laura DiSilverio, and Catriona McPherson!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Celebrating Women's History Month #3: Longest-Running Ladies

Here at Midnight Ink Headquarters, we find that the best way to celebrate Women's History Month is to talk to our authors whose books feature strong female protagonists. Every day this week, return to this blog to find out more about the ladies portrayed in our various series and stand-alone releases this year!

Don't miss our previous posts in this series!
Day 1 and Day 2.

Sue Ann Jaffarian

Sue Ann Jaffarian is the author of the Madison Rose, Ghost of Granny Apples, and award-winning Odelia Grey mystery series. Her books have been lauded in The New York Times and optioned for television. In addition to writing, Jaffarian works full time as a paralegal in Los Angeles and is widely sought after as a humorous motivational speaker. Visit www.sueannjaffarian.com to learn more about the author. 

I decided to create the character of Odelia Grey for many reasons:
  1. Since I’m a middle-aged, plus-size paralegal myself, I already had certain character traits and career information to draw upon, making it easier to kick-start the series;
  2. I felt the mystery genre was already full of women who could run 5 miles and still shoot  the label off a beer bottle while it teetered on a fence. Odelia is an ordinary woman with no super powers or talents;
  3. I felt middle-aged women were under-represented in the genre, and plus-size women definitely were. I wanted to show the mystery reading community that a fat mature woman could be smart and sexy and intuitive. She didn’t always have to be the chubby friend who watched the purses while her friends had a good time.

In book after book, Odelia is constantly called upon to dig deep inside herself and pull out strength and courage she didn’t know she possessed to help people and to keep herself and her loved ones out of danger.  This is especially true in A Body To Spare (November 8, 2015) when her mother’s life is in danger and Odelia herself is the center of the investigation. A Body To Spare also explores one of her more puzzling relationships with someone on the wrong side of the law.

When asked in interviews to sum up the character of Odelia Grey, I say:  She doesn’t see the world through rose-colored glasses, but through Groucho Marx glasses.

Jess Lourey

Jess Lourey is the author of the Lefty-nominated Murder-by-Month mysteries set in Battle Lake, Minn. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, The Loft, and a founding faculty member of Mystery Writers of America's MWA University. Lourey resides in Minneapolis, where she is a professor of writing and sociology. For more information, visit her online at www.jessicalourey.com

Mira James is flawed, authentic, and constantly evolving. Those qualities make her strong, but they also make it hard for her to relax. In February Fever (February 8, 2015), she comes face to face with a childhood fear, juggles a long-distance relationship, has to solve a murder on a speeding train, and loses someone very close to her. Her greatest strength—her ability to find the humor in even the darkest situation—is put to the test like never before in the 10th book in the Murder-by-Month mysteries.

Kathleen Ernst

Kathleen Ernst is an award-winning author, educator, and social historian. Her past work as an Interpreter and Curator of Interpretations and Collections at Old World Wisconsin inspired the Chloe Ellefson mysteries. The series won the Lovey Award for Best Traditional Mystery (The Light Keeper's Legacy) and the Anne Powers Fiction Book Award (The Heirloom Murders). Visit her online at www.kathleenernst.com

Chloe is the curator of collections at Old World Wisconsin, a large living history museum where I used to work.  She has survived personal loss, and derives some of her inner strength from the long-gone women she discovers through her work.  Countless women in the 19th century managed to cope with challenges and problems that are almost unimaginable today.  Their stories are inspirational.

In Death on the Prairie (October 8, 2015), Chloe and her sister Kari set off on a road trip to explore Laura Ingalls Wilder homesites.  Personal revelations (and a murder or two) challenge Chloe’s relationships with Kari, and with her cop-boyfriend back home.

Sheila Webster Boneham

Sheila Webster Boneham is the author of the Animals in Focus mystery series. Drop Dead on Recall, the first in the series, won the Dog Writers Association of America Maxwell Award for Fiction. Like her protagonist, Boneham shows her dogs in various canine sports and has founded dog rescue groups. Her nonfiction books have also won awards from teh Dog Writers Association of America and Cat Writers Association. To learn more, visit her online at www.sheilaboneham.com or www.writersandotheranimals.blogspot.com

Fifty-something and long divorced, animal photographer Janet MacPhail loves her pets, her home, her family and friends, and—just to complicate her life—Tom Saunders. Janet is a blend of the many terrific women I’ve met through the dog, cat, and horse worlds—exhibitors, trainers, breeders, rescuers, therapy-dog volunteers, advocates, pet owners. She is devoted to her animals, gutsy (have you ever faced a flock of stampeding sheep?), compassionate, funny, and determined to be her own woman while loving and being loved. In Shepherd’s Crook (October 8, 2015), she finds herself once again pulled into a murder investigation even as she makes other life-altering decisions. Let’s face it—the second half-century of life isn’t for wimps!

Return to this blog tomorrow to hear about the serie-ous (and sassy) protagonists!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Celebrating Women's History Month #2: The Ladies of 2015 Series Starters

Here at Midnight Ink Headquarters, we find that the best way to celebrate Women's History Month is to talk to our authors whose books feature strong female protagonists. Every day this week, return to this blog to find out more about the ladies portrayed in our various series and stand-alone releases this year!

Check out the first in this series here.

Gigi Pandian

Gigi Pandian is the USA Today bestselling author of the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mystery series for Henery Press. A cancer diagnosis in her 30s taught her two important life lessons: healing foods can taste amazing, and life's too short to waste a single moment. Therefore she writes the Accidental Alchemist mysteries while drinking delectable green smoothies and eating decadent home-cooked meals.
Zoe Faust is a centuries-old alchemist. Her character came to me because I loved the themes of immortality explored in The Highlander TV show, but the experiences and challenges would be different for a woman. Living forever isn’t necessarily a blessing, and Zoe has lost many loved ones over the years. When The Accidental Alchemist (January 8, 2015) begins, Zoe has been running from human connections for years – until she’s sought out by a fellow misfit who needs her help. In helping the gargoyle who was accidentally brought to life through alchemy, she embraces her strengths and finds joy in life once again. 

Loretta Ross

Loretta Ross is a writer and historian who lives and works in rural Missouri. She is an alumna of Cottey College and holds a BA in archaeology from the University of Missouri—Columbia. She has loved mysteries since she first learned to read. Visit her online at www.lorettasueross.com

In real life, some of the strongest women I know are also some of the kindest. It was this realization that helped to define my female main character, Wren Morgan. Her strength comes from kindness and a desire to care for those she cares about.

In Death Bogart, she sees a good man broken down by war and tragedy. Letting him into her heart would be scary even if they weren't being stalked by homicidal jewel thieves. But Wren is strong and she will do whatever it takes to see them both through in Death and the Redheaded Woman (February 8, 2015).

Elizabeth Perona

Elizabeth Perona is the father/daughter writing team of Tony Perona and Elizabeth Dombrosky. Visit Tony online at www.tonyperona.com.

Our main character in Murder on the Bucket List (July 8, 2015) is Francine, based on Tony’s mother (Liz’s grandmother) Frances. Frances grew up in a very poor family in Terre Haute, Indiana during the Depression. She was the oldest child. When she was ten or eleven, she was put to work picking berries for a landowner during the summers, day after day in the hot sun. Her income was necessary to help her family survive. When she reached her teens, her parents wanted Frances to quit high school and work full time, but knowing she needed an education to get a better job, she worked long hours after school as a soda jerk until she graduated. Her determination is honored in our stories. 

Deirdre Verne

Deirdre Verne is a mystery writer, college professor, and an active college blogger. A writer for the millennial crowd, Verne regularly delivers straight-forward and often hilarious advice on her college blog. Prior to teaching, Verne worked in new product development for Time Inc., representing the magazine titles Fortune, Money, and Parenting. Visit her online at www.deirdreverne.com

I’ve been a rule follower my whole life and according to my mother, I was the easiest child to raise. I never strayed from the path, I did well in school, I got the right jobs and then I raised my own family.  If this was the start of a novel, you’d probably put the book down and so would I. That’s why I created CeCe Prentice, an unconventional, off-beat, Dumpster-diving freegan who thrives on challenging the rules. Although she does and says as she pleases, her higher power is the environment. Sure, she steps on toes along the way, sometimes even her own, but the socially conscious CeCe genuinely cares about the world and those closest to her. And when people mess with that world? Well, you can find out how far CeCe strays from the path in Drawing Conclusions (February 8, 2015).

Amanda Flower

Amanda Flower is an academic librarian and the Agatha Award-nominated author of Maid of Murder, the Appleseed Creek Mysteries and the India Hayes Mysteries. She also writes the Amish Quilt Shop Mysteries under the name Isabella Alan. Visit her online at www.amandaflower.com

Kelsey Cambridge is a single mom and the director of Barton Farm, a living history museum thirty minutes south of Cleveland, Ohio. Like all single moms, she is strong and does everything for her son. Her dream is to preserve history for all children, and she took the job as Barton Farm’s director because of her love of Ohio and American history. She is determined to help the struggling Farm succeed so that future generations can learn from the past. She brings new ideas, like a Civil War re-enactment, to the Farm, but not everyone embraces those ideas, as in The Final Reveille (May 8, 2015).

Tracy Kiely

Tracy Kiely
is the author of the Elizabeth Parker Mysteries for Minotaur Books. Murder
 with a Twist is her Midnight Ink debut.

My character Nicole “Nic” Martini is a modern-day twist on Dashiell Hammett’s iconic detective, Nick Charles. Like her predecessor, Nic is a former NYC detective who has married into wealth. Husband Nigel shares Nic’s wit, quickness, and love of a “dirty Martini.” In Murder with a Twist (May 8, 2015), the couple is in NYC for Nigel’s cousin Audrey’s birthday party. Unfortunately, Audrey’s shady husband is missing. Nic reluctantly agrees to find him and quickly realizes that there are darker forces at play. Nic’s tenacity and innate sense of justice lead her to seek the truth, even if that truth ruins Nigel’s family.

Return to this blog tomorrow to hear about the protagonists from some of our longest-running series from: Sue Ann Jaffarian, Jess Lourey, Kathleen Ernst, and Sheila Webster Boneham.