Dark Factory – Q&A with Kathe Koja

Welcome to Dark Factory! You may experience strobe effects, Y reality, DJ beats, love, sex, betrayal, triple shot espresso, broken bones, broken dreams, ecstasy, self-knowledge, and the void.

Dark Factory is a dance club: three floors of DJs, drinks, and customizable reality, everything you see and hear and feel. Ari Regon is the club’s wild card floor manager, Max Caspar is a stubborn DIY artist, both chasing a vision of true reality. And rogue journalist Marfa Carpenter is there to write it all down. Then a rooftop rave sets in motion a fathomless energy that may drive Ari and Max to the edge of the ultimate experience.

Dark Factory is Kathe Koja’s wholly original new novel from Meerkat Press, that combines her award-winning writing and her skill directing immersive events, to create a story that unfolds on the page, online, and in the reader’s creative mind.

Thanks to publishing house Meerkat Press, I got the chance to interview Kathe Koja about her latest book.


1) Hi Kathe, Congratulations on the release of your newest book. How did the idea for Dark Factory come about? What was your inspiration for the club?

All my novels begin with a character, and for Dark Factory that’s Ari: the club’s wild card floor manager, the bright heart of the party. Ari is the first one we meet in the novel, the one who introduces us to the club and the world of the story. Once I met Ari, Dark Factory was good to go.

2) Unlike your other novels, Dark Factory is interactive – the ebook provides the reader with links to follow and engage, the website is filled with activities to explore. How challenging was it to create a multidimensional novel that goes beyond a story?

It took a minute – a long minute – for me to really understand what I was making, writing the main narrative and a lot of bonus material, about the characters and their world, and the ways that all the material could mesh. It was my experience as an immersive event creator, where the task is blending many elements together to create one event, that helped me to understand how to make it all happen.

3) What challenges, if any, did you or your publishers face while bringing this book to fruition. What reader audience did you have in mind, considering the final product moves beyond reading?

The fun and challenge for Tricia Reeks of Meerkat Press, and for me, was, How do we present to readers this complete experience that’s operating on multiple levels? We wanted to make sure readers could engage at every step, so whether you choose to read the print book, bonus content, the DarkFactory.club site content, you’ll get a satisfying narrative, and if you want to add your song to the playlist, or participate in one of the fan art contests, you can do that too. If you want more, there’s always more.

4) Your writing is known for being experimental. Who are your literary influences? Any favorite authors or books?

Shirley Jackson was a great influence on me, her insistence on narrative economy, and she taught me to always trust the reader to be able to keep pace with the story. Emily Bronte and Emily Dickinson taught me about honoring the story’s own intensity, and never being afraid to tell it your own way.

Two new writers whose work I love and recommend are Maryse Meijer (Heartbreaker) and Lindsay Lerman (What Are You). I read for voice, and these are two very strong, very different, voices that readers should meet if they haven’t already.

5) The mask-making contest was an interesting build-up to the book’s release. Do you have any other hobbies or creative pursuits besides writing?

I’m always open to new disciplines and new ways of telling a story – who knows what might be next (VR)?

6) The storyline talks about the creative bonding between the main characters. And another central character is the club itself. How do you conceive your characters, situations and themes while working on a new novel? What sort of research does it entail, or do you rely more on imagination?

The story grows from, and flowers through, the characters and their feelings, conflicts, interactions – the same way we experience our own lives. So it’s a very organic process, and sometimes surprises me with the directions it takes along the way. As far as research, I took a deep dive into club culture, specifically techno clubs like Berghain in Berlin, and learned about mushrooms, and performance philosophy, and current VR/AR trends, and. . . . Basically it’s everything that the DF world needed to come alive. And all of that was immense fun.

7) With such an immersive and interactive novel, how did the cover come about – to include all these multi layers and present the story you wanted to tell?

Tricia and I went over cover concepts together, and we both fell in love with our cover boy dancer, who became the Dark Factory paper doll. She has a superb eye for design, and an intuitive sense of what makes an image come alive.


Kathe Koja writes novels and short fiction, and creates and produces immersive fiction performances, both solo and with a rotating ensemble of artists. Her work crosses and combines genres, and her books have won awards, been multiply translated, and optioned for film and performance. She is based in Detroit and thinks globally. She can be found at kathekoja.com.

DARK FACTORY by Kathe Koja

RELEASE DATE: May 10, 2022

GENRE: Speculative Fiction / SciFi / LGBT / Literary

BOOK WEBSITE:  https://darkfactory.club/

BUY LINKS:  Meerkat Press | Amazon Barnes & Noble

Website  |  Twitter  | Facebook

GIVEAWAY: $50 Meerkat Giftcard

GIVEAWAY LINK: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/7f291bd832/?

Soulcat – An Interview with Amy-Vaughan Spencer

Amy wrote a love letter… a note to the love of her life. Only Molly never read it. Even if she’d been alive when it was written, failing eyesight would’ve prevented her from making out the words.
Besides which, she was a cat. And cats can’t read.
No ordinary feline, Molly lived a life full of challenge and adventure, determined not to let gradual blindness hold her back.
This is that letter and – against all the odds – Molly’s long-lost memoirs.

Soulcat is a delightful furrytail of a unique friendship, filled with amusing anecdotes and touching moments. The first half is Molly’s story told from the author’s perspective, including a glimpse into the life of a touring theatrical stage manager. Each chapter is punctuated with a photo of Molly and an apt cat quote. Part 2 is life through Molly’s fading eyes, told in her own words (translated into English). Beautiful illustrations by Ellypop accompany the text.

Thanks to Random Things Tours, I got the chance to interview author Amy-Vaughan Spencer about her feline memoir.


  1. Hi Amy, Congratulations on the release of your latest book. What made you decide to write a ‘feline memoir’, interspersing Molly’s story with your own? Why not a biography about Molly, or a memoir of yourself?

Thank you! The decision to write a feline memoir was made for me really, when my letter to Molly developed into something more than a brief note. I’ve always enjoyed writing, but hadn’t considered myself brave enough, or good enough, to write a book. Soulcat just kind of grew organically out of that letter.

It’s all thanks to Molly and her uniqueness really! Writing about someone or something you know so well feels easier than writing about yourself, although I did include some autobiographical content, to provide background to Molly’s story. Having lacked confidence when I was younger, I wouldn’t expect anyone to be very interested in reading about my life. The memoir developed out of the letter and I just decided to keep writing in that style as it felt authentic, and a little different.

2. In the book you mention writing a letter to Molly after her death. How did the letter transform into a book? When did you realize you wanted to write more to her and about her?

The letter grew longer as I remembered more anecdotes. I was drafting it in a notebook, and as it got longer and longer it developed into a something more akin to a record of my memories. I don’t have a brilliant memory, so I was genuinely worried I might forget how much she meant to me and how much I loved her, so I wanted to try to capture as much as I could – not really for anyone else’s benefit, but for my own, and for my future self to take a trip down memory lane. I started writing it very soon after her death, which had come about so suddenly I felt the need to do something to say goodbye to her. Putting pen to paper was a way for me to process my feelings and work through my grief.

3. Molly lived with you for 9 years, and she was already 5 years old when she came to you. How challenging was it to compile this memoir – remembering things long gone by, small anecdotes, peculiar events and specific quirks?

It was all very fresh when I started writing, so the memories came easily. But I was pleasantly surprised at how much I could remember, and the more I did, the more my brain was prompted to recall. My relationship with Molly was pretty intense, as we spent so much time together and she was very dependent on me, so my time with her was very precious, and I think that helps it stick in my mind.

It took me around five years to write the first draft of the book. I would work on it for a few days, writing a couple of thousand words, but then I’d put the notebook down and come back to it a few months later to write some more. In the meantime, I kept a list of things that popped into my head – memories that came out of nowhere, that I knew I’d want to include in my record.

Throughout my life I’ve moved around and worked different jobs, for different companies, so if I want to recall a particular time in my life I think about where I was living, who I was socializing with and what work I was doing at the time. I take myself back to that location, and cross-reference with the people who were around me, to help jog my memory about events that occurred. I worked my way chronologically through all the places Molly and I lived, all the housemates I had and all the people she met, to piece together all the anecdotes that surfaced. I also asked people, like my Mum, who she stayed with for a few months, and my ex, who adopted her with me in the first place.

I’m a perfectionist, so I was determined to get all my facts accurate, although even after finishing it, I’ve learned things that I’d mis-remembered or forgotten about.

4. Books written in second person are hard to come by. You haven’t written as Molly in the first person, and neither about her in the third person. Was it a conscious decision to adopt this format in the narrative?

Since Part 1 was the letter, it made sense for me to stick to the second person narrative. Once I’d decided to share it, I liked the quirkiness and the authenticity it added to the story. Someone did suggest I re-write it in third person, but the idea just didn’t sit right with me, because the whole point was that it was my letter written to Molly. When I had the idea for Part 2, I knew I wanted it to be different. It would be boring if I just re-hashed the first half from a slightly different view-point, so I wanted to ring the changes. One of the most obvious was to write it in first person narrative rather than second.

5. While epistolary novels are common, epistolary memoirs not so much. What was your writing experience in penning down Soulcat?

I just wrote from the heart. This is my first book, so I although I have since drafted a couple of fiction novels (in first and third person), I hadn’t written anything on this scale before, so I didn’t really have anything to compare it with. My focus was going down memory lane with Molly, and sharing those memories with her, so I didn’t find it too challenging. The idea for Part 2 only came about last year, when I decided the letter wouldn’t be long enough on its own, and I’m so glad I chose to write Molly’s story from her own perspective. There was a light-bulb moment when I realized she had five whole years before I met her that I didn’t have a clue about, so I got to invent her back-story and come up with plausible reasons for her quirks, which was really fun.

6. Soulcat belongs to a distinctive genre of nonfiction books about cats. What readership did you envision while working on this book?

Honestly, I didn’t. I know that’s a cardinal sin for a writer – not to have their audience in mind while they’re writing, and perhaps it was a mistake, but I just wrote something I thought I would enjoy reading. I shared a draft with my book club when I was thinking about publishing or sharing it in some way, and they loved it so much it gave me huge encouragement to put it out into the world. I was probably considering my readership more when I was writing Part 2, which spurred to me into trying to make it entertaining and funny. I had a lot more artistic license with Part 2 though, as I got to merge fiction into the facts.

7. Any favorite memoirists or books about animals you would recommend to readers?

Caitlin Moran’s How To Be A Woman was quite revolutionary to me when I was younger. Having always been a very self-conscious, shy, introverted child, she made me realize that underneath I was actually quite normal, and it was a really refreshing read!

More recently I’ve been very moved by Ruth Coker’s All The Young Men, about her experiences helping men with Aids in the 80s. I encourage everyone to read it. It’s funny, honest, beautiful and heartbreaking all at the same time.

In terms of books about animals, I’ve only recently read Charlotte’s Web and I wish I’d read it when I was young! It’s a wonderful book and should be essential reading for children! There are several cat-themed novels that are lovely, gentle reads, like Jennie by Paul Gallico, and The Travelling Cat Chronicles, by Hiro Arikawa. Personally, I prefer something a little more gritty. My run-away favourite book last year has a wonderful feline narrator: The Last House on Needless Street, by Catriona Ward. I don’t want to give anything else away, but it’s a really great read.

Thank you, Amy, for taking the time for this interview.

The Cactus Surgeon – An Interview with Hannah Powell

From the blurb

Thanks to Random Things Tours, I got the chance to interview Hanna Powell about her book, The Cactus Surgeon.


  1. Hi Hannah, Congratulations on the release of your new book. What made you decide to write a book about nature, that isn’t wholly about nature?

Nature has been such a big part of my life, that it was always going to feature. I grew up living next to a garden centre (where I now work) and studied for a degree in horticulture. Nature has been the backdrop to my life, and my health journey, and the two together made for an interesting memoir.  

2. You have grown up around flowers, and plants have always been a part of your life. What’s the story behind the title, The Cactus Surgeon? Why did you choose the cactus instead of any other plant?

I fleetingly wanted to be a Cactus Surgeon, when I was six years old! I used to gouge out rotten pieces of cactus, or try to reattach fallen limbs with cocktail sticks.  Whilst writing the book I was part of a writing group and they all said I had to go with that title – because it is so unique!

3. How challenging is it to write about nature? Do you write about the things you see and perceive, or do you study specific plants in detail? How do you strike a balance between personal experience and research?

The majority of my writing comes from personal experience, from memories or by revisiting photos of the nature I want to talk about. Normally I talk about plants or animals which have either had an impact on me, or which are the backdrop to a significant event. I generally find the writing flows onto the page, but then I have to come back and work hard to add in the additional language, the metaphors, to ‘show not tell’. I had some great feedback from beta readers and from my editor which helped me to improve this aspect of my writing.  

4. A nonfiction book about plants is a very distinctive genre. What kind of readership did you have in mind for this book?

Nature writing has exploded in the UK in the last five years, and accounts of health experiences are also popular. I particularly wanted to reach readers who were struggling with their own health, because my story is one of hope and recovery. I’ve been pleased that it has been described as very relatable by a wide range of readers.

5. As a reader, who are your favorite writers? Any books you would recommend, about plants or otherwise?

I love non-fiction, and I read a lot of nature and health memoirs whilst writing mine. I would highly recommend Wintering by Katherine May, Still Life by Josie George and Seed To Dust by Marc Hamer. They all tell stories about life, discovery and the healing power of nature. 

6. What advice would you give to city dwellers in high rises who are disconnected from nature?

Buy a houseplant (or several!). They are wonderfully calming, and it’s good for your mental health to have something to care for. Outside of your high rise, seek out routes which take you past nature. Become friends with the local trees or wildlife. Enjoy the changing seasons. Find a botanic garden, park or community garden. Don’t wait to be invited, seek out the green spots. 

7. If you were a plant – any variety of flower, herb, fruit-bearing, or cactus – which one would you choose to be?

It would have to be the sunflower. From a tiny seed grows a very tall stem, bearing a flower which brings smiles and joy to all, and keeps on stretching, up, up, up to the blue sky.

Thank you, Hannah, for taking the time for this interview.


Hannah Powell (née Bourne) is Communications and HR Director for the Perrywood Garden Centres she runs with her dad and two brothers. When she was six years old, she wanted to be a cactus surgeon.

Before coming back into the family business, she had a successful career in PR and marketing, running high-profile campaigns for clients, including Barclaycard and Domino’s Pizza. She was part of the team that launched Global Entrepreneurship Week, an annual campaign to encourage young people to set up businesses worldwide.

She now lives in North Essex with her husband, daughter and many plants.


An Interview with Christopher Bowden – Author of The Purple Shadow

A beautifully crafted, atmospheric and absorbing story with a strong sense of place and a compelling cast of characters. In the years before the war, Sylvie Charlot was a leading light in Paris fashion with many friends among musicians, artists and writers. Now she is largely forgotten. Spending time in Paris during a break in his acting career, Colin Mallory sees a striking portrait of Sylvie. Some think it is a late work by Édouard Vuillard but there is no signature or documentary evidence to support this view.

The picture has some unusual qualities, not least the presence of a shadow of something that cannot be seen. Perhaps the picture was once larger. Colin feels an odd sense of connection with Sylvie, who seems to be looking at him, appealing to him, wanting to tell him something. Despite a warning not to pursue his interest in her portrait, he is determined to find out more about the painting, who painted it, and why it was hidden for many years.

Colin’s search takes him back to the film and theatre worlds of Paris and London in the 1930s – and to a house in present-day Sussex. As he uncovers the secrets of Sylvie’s past, her portrait seems to take on a life of its own.

Thanks to Zooloo’s Book Tours, I got the chance to interview the author about this book.

  1. Hi Christopher, could you tell us about the inspiration behind The Purple Shadow? How did you decide on a painting to occupy centerstage in a novel?

I wanted to write a novel set largely in Paris, a city I have visited many times, and to write one with purple in the title.  All my books have colours in the title and it was purple’s turn!  But the purple what?  I eventually settled on shadow as providing interesting possibilities and decided that the shadow should appear in a painting – found in Paris.  My titles always come first and help to shape and drive the story, rather than other way round.

2. Movies, theatre, art galleries – the story is a smorgasbord of art and culture, moving across place and time periods. What sort of research did the story entail?

Paris itself provided a starting point; everywhere my characters go I went myself while I was writing the book.  This includes galleries in the Place des Vosges where part of the action takes place.  More generally, I drew upon a long-standing interest in art, plays, films, supplemented by internet research into specific aspects (eg 1930s films and double portraits) and reading journals etc published at the time.

3. How did you choose the genre of literary mystery – a hybrid of literary fiction and crime fiction? Was it a conscious decision to blend genre and non-genre writing, or did the narrative lead you?             

The books are, in my view, essentially literary fiction that develops and explores character, plot and themes through the setting and solving of mysteries: problems to be solved, things and people to be found, often with unexpected consequences.  The Purple Shadow is, in a nutshell, about relationships and their shifting nature and the possibility of reconciliation, as manifested, for example, by the splitting of a double portrait, attempts to re-unite the two halves, and references throughout to shadows and their characteristics, not least the shadow in the title.

4. The Purple Shadow is set across a century, as clues are navigated in a compact storyline. How difficult was it to present a lot of information to the reader in few words? As a mystery writer, how do you strike a balance between giving the reader enough clues to keep them engaged, try and solve the puzzle, and not get bored on the way?

The process is instinctive and organic rather than plotted out in advance.  In the first instance, I myself need to be interested and engaged and wanting to find out what happens and how various elements come together.  I hope the reader is too.

5. The novel has a hint of supernatural elements, merging the lines of thriller and horror. How do you cater to different reader tastes when plotting a multi-genre story?

There are elements that could be described as supernatural, or unexplained, but they are just hints, as you say, which serve the overall plot and themes.  I don’t think they take the book in the direction of thriller or horror or subvert the sort of approach discussed above.

6. Some of your other books are titled, The Amber Maze, The Yellow Room, The Green Door. What role does color play in your life – in books and otherwise? Why did you pick purple for this one?

Yes, as I mention, all the books have colours in the title.  The first three addressed the primary colours (blue, yellow, red). I then moved on to the secondaries, of which the first I used was green.  That left purple and orange and I ducked orange at the time as less easy in a book title.  When it eventually came to orange I opted for amber instead.  Sounds much better.  The next book (due to be published in the autumn) casts the net a bit wider: it’s called Mr MagentaMore generally, I’d say that colour was central to the way I look at the world, whether paintings on a wall, plants in a garden, or anything else.  The books reflect that.

7. What are some of your favorite books and writers in the mystery genre?

Very varied, from the likes of PD James and Colin Dexter to the British Library crime classics, the Maigret novels of Georges Simenon, the extensive noir series published by Akashic Books in the US, and the sort of bibliomysteries to be found in the Mysterious Bookshop in New York.

Thank you, Christopher, for taking the time for this interview.


Christopher Bowden lives in south London.  He is the author of six novels, each with a colour theme.  His books have been praised variously by Andrew Marr, Julian Fellowes, Sir Derek Jacobi, and Shena Mackay. Of his third novel, The Red House, Sir Derek said, “Very entertaining, cleverly constructed and expertly paced. I thoroughly enjoyed it.”

He can be reached at:
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/christopher.bowden.90

Website: http://www.christopherbowden.com/

Book links:

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Purple-Shadow-Christopher-Bowden-ebook/dp/B01JLMD7N4

Amazon US – https://www.amazon.com/Purple-Shadow-Christopher-Bowden-ebook/dp/B01JLMD7N4

An Interview with Eugen Bacon

As part of the ongoing blog tour of Mage of Fools, I got the chance to interview author Eugen Bacon, thanks to the publishing house Meerkat Press. I have read and loved other books from this publisher that specializes in speculative fiction, and have also interviewed Bacon about her previous books. Here, I get to talk to her about her newest dystopian novel that revolves around storytelling.

  1. Hi Eugen, Congratulations on the release of your latest book. You have written The Road to Woop Woop – a collection of short stories, and Speculate – a co-creation of vignettes with Dominique Hecq. Mage of Fools is a dystopian novel. What’s your experience switching between writing forms and styles?

I’ve always found it natural to switch mid-text across forms and genres, wearing different faces, hats and cloaks.  I think it’s because of the immersion I find in writing, and our world is not black and white. I love experimentation, bending boundaries. I tend to resist boundaries that restrict text, and I approach a work with an openness to how a story may morph and shape itself.

One of my recent stories is a blend between a short story and a script. Some of my short stories have prose poetry hidden in them. Some of my novels have short stories hidden in them. Some of my creative nonfiction—like ‘Inhabitation: Genni and I’ (Sydney Review of Books), where I talk to my other self, or ‘The New Seduction of an Old Literary Crime Classic’ (LitHub), where I pay homage to Peter Temple—integrates excerpts of fiction or poetry in it.

I love the fluidity of text, as literary enthusiast Roland Barthes would have it.  

2. Your books fall under the umbrella of speculative fiction – alternating science fiction, fantasy and horror. Is there a genre you prefer, both as a reader and writer?

My favourite genre is literary speculative fiction, where imagination is the limit. An introduction to my upcoming collection, Chasing Whispers by Raw Dog Screaming Press, describes my work as ‘towards an Afro-irreality’. Except for a time travel novel (Secondhand Daylight) that I am co-writing with a European slipstream author, Andrew Hook, I never start a story thinking that this is going to be science fiction, fantasy or horror.

3. Stories occupy an important place in Mage of Fools, where reading is banned and characters try to sneak in their daily dose of storytelling. The novel is peppered with names of authors. Who are your favorite authors? Any favorite books you would recommend?

I was only recently talking about Anthony Doerr and look forward to reading his latest historical and speculative fiction Cloud Cuckoo Land. Peter Temple’s dialogue is genius.

And Toni Morrison is subversively in Mage of Fools, where I imagine her language in my stories. Anyone who hasn’t read all this Nobel prize-winning author’s fiction is missing big time.

I am inspired by selfless people, like Nelson Mandela, who give of themselves so generously.

I also have on my reading list a hardcover copy of Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation, written by Octavia Butler, adapted by Damian Duffy, illustrated by John Jennings.  

4. When writing speculative fiction, what goes into world building? How do you balance imaginary scenarios with real world issues; the new with the familiar?

The reader must find familiarity in the worlds we create, however strange, through the nature of our worldbuilding, whose intent is to demystify. Credibility is a necessity in any imaginary world.

It all depends on the size of the story, its nature or setting, where it wants to take me, to determine whether it is a primary world (that resembles our real world) or a secondary world (mostly invented and dissimilar from our real world).

But even in a secondary world, an author may want to introduce themes and issues pertinent in our world today, and how the protagonists in those invented worlds deal with them. This is the author as an agent of change.   

5. Your writing is often poetic and lyrical, starkly contrasting the dark themes explored. Is this merging of prose and poetry deliberate, or does the narrative lead you?

The narrative talks itself, the characters guiding it. Language is important and, in my mind’s eye, is always the musicality of the text.

6. The cover of Mage of Fools mixes the traditional with the futuristic. Could you tell us about the story behind the cover?

Ask the publisher, Tricia Reeks of Meerkat Press! She’s the closet designer, discovering herself. She asked for my art preference, and I said something African, maybe a mask.

Thank you, Eugen, for taking out time for this interview. We wish you all the very best with Mage of Fools, and other books that follow.

The pleasure is entirely mine.


Eugen Bacon is African Australian—her books Ivory’s Story, Danged Black Thing and Saving Shadows are finalists in the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) Awards. Eugen was announced in the honor list of the 2022 Otherwise Fellowships. She has won, been longlisted or commended in international awards, including the Foreword Indies Awards, Bridport Prize, Copyright Agency Prize, Horror Writers Association Diversity Grant, Otherwise, Rhysling, Australian Shadows, Ditmar Awards and Nommo Awards for Speculative Fiction by Africans. Eugen’s creative work has appeared in literary and speculative fiction publications worldwide, including Award Winning Australian Writing, BSFA, Fantasy Magazine, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Bloomsbury Publishing and Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction. New releases: Danged Black Thing (collection), Saving Shadows (illustrated prose poetry). In 2022: Mage of Fools (Meerkat Press), Chasing Whispers (Raw Dog Screaming Press) and An Earnest Blackness (Anti-Oedipus Press).

Website: eugenbacon.com / Twitter: @EugenBacon

A Clandestine Interview with James Quinn

A former spy investigates the murder of an old colleague – and uncovers a conspiracy that takes him back to the horrors of the Second World War.

A Close Protection Driver runs the gauntlet against assassins in the heart of Mexico City and is determined to keep his VIP alive. No matter the cost.

A Russian spymaster tells the tale of his nefarious plan to get an agent inside the Oval Office and to bring down American democracy, with devastating results for the future.

Enter a world of masterful suspense, action-packed adventures and thrilling twists with James Quinn’s ‘Clandestine‘ – his first short story collection based around espionage, deception and intrigue.

Thanks to Random Things Tours, Tomes and Tales got the chance to interview author James Quinn about his latest book.


  1. Hi James, Congratulations on the release of your latest book. How did Clandestine come about? Since you’ve previously published novels, what made you work on short stories for this collection?

Hi and thanks for having me here today.  Clandestine started as a bit of fun.  I had just finished the Gorilla Grant series of books with Berlin Reload and didn’t want to commit to my next series of books straight away.  So for me this was a palate cleanser, something a bit different but that still kept with the espionage theme.

I have always loved short stories, they are like a guilty pleasure – on a plane or train journey especially – and I thought it would be fun to see how many intelligence/espionage related stories I could come up with.  It turned out that it was more than I thought I could!

2. The stories vary in length, from extremely short to lengthier ones. Since you also write novels, including series, what are your experiences or challenges faced while working with different forms? How do you decide which stories to write in the short form and which ones would work better as a series?

I think that is one of the things that I like about short stories, having that ability (if possible) to get a concise amount of information into a limited number of pages but without losing the tension and the flow of the narrative. 

For me it always starts with the character, the protagonist or even the antagonist, and see where they lead me. For example one of the stories in Clandestine is titled Vagabond.  Its main character is a former spy who is occasionally called back to help out British Intelligence in the post war years.  Now the story was meant to be a short detective noir type story, but once the character came to the forefront I began to imagine putting him in any number of adventures, perhaps even in a full novel at some point in the future.

3. Your professional experience in security and intelligence features strongly in your fiction. How do you strike a balance between real-life stories versus fictitious narratives in your writing?

There are elements of real life experiences in all my books.  My job as the author is to hopefully disguise them as well as I can so that the reader doesn’t see the join between fact and fiction.  So far I think I’ve managed to get away with it, but I always check with the powers that be to ensure that I haven’t breached any confidences.

4. Your interest in world travel stands out in the range of your story settings. What are your other hobbies, besides writing and travelling?

I love the movies and the theatre!!  I always have. There is nothing quite like a live performance to get the hairs on the back of your neck standing up.  It’s one of the best feelings in the world.

My children, at this late stage of my life, have introduced me to the world of football!  Both in terms of watching it and helping them train for their matches.  I’ve taken some of the tactical and leadership qualities that I’ve been taught from my professional life and applied them to their football matches.  

We have a constant debate about who is the best player in the World.  They say Ronaldo; I say Lionel Messi. 

The debate continues…

5. What are the key elements of creating spy stories? How much of it is personal experience; where does research come in; and when does imagination take over?

For me a good spy story should have an element of risk as well as believability. We all know the Hollywood movies where the hero takes out an army of tactically clad gun ninjas. That is not realistic and I think it insults the reader’s intelligence.  After all if the hero can wipe out an army – then where is the risk? The threat? The peril? 

From my own point of view the majority of the tactics and operational techniques that are used in my books are things that I have either done for real or been involved in at some level.  I hope that this level of insider knowledge gives the reader a taste of what it is like to be operational whether that is running surveillance, meeting with a covert source or protecting a VIP. Again the trick is to blend the fact and the fiction seamlessly so that the reader only sees the character doing these things.

6. Clandestine covers the gauntlet from supernatural occurrences to historical references, international espionage and local cafes, humor and horror. How did you work on this range of genres and subjects, while still maintaining the core elements of intrigue and deception?

Great question!!  In short, they weren’t planned.  I didn’t sit down and say, “Right I need a comedy, historical and action story.”  They were just subjects that interested me and I took it from there, letting them run. The only anomaly in Clandestine is the first story entitled CHIS – which is basically a spooky story.

But my criteria for all the stories were that they had to have a theme of espionage, deception or intrigue.  The only other addendum was that there had to be a twist somewhere in the story or as one of my readers called it “Spy Tales of the Unexpected.”  I liked that.

7. Do you have any literary influences? Any favorite writers or books you would recommend we read?

Absolutely!  The one constant author for me has always been John LeCarre.  I started reading his work when I was fifteen and I’m still coming back to them even now.  Now LeCarre can be quite heavy at times so sometimes you have to lighten the load and just have a bit of fun with books. So I’m quite eclectic with my reading and can flow back and forth between Graham Greene, Stephen King, Lee Child, James Ellroy, Richard Stark, Frank Herbert, and any number of biographies.

My children have introduced me to David Walliams children’s books and they are just so much fun. I briefly met David Walliams at a taxi queue at Euston Station several years ago. I have dined out on that story for ages, so much so that it’s taken on a size of its own and been blown out of all proportions,  much to the annoyance of my kids.

8. Thank you, James, for taking the time for this interview. Finally, any new projects you’re working on?

It’s been my absolute pleasure and thank you for having me here.  I’m currently conducting the research for my next book series titled The Fisherman which I hope to have completed sometime in 2022.  I’m really excited about this project as it brings the espionage world into modern day and future events.

If readers would like a brief taster of what The Fisherman has to offer (no spoilers here I promise) then might I suggest that they check out the story in Clandestine titled “The Increment Man.”

Thanks again.

James Quinn is the author of the ‘Gorilla Grant’ series of spy novels. A professional security consultant and corporate intelligence operative, he currently resides in the UK but likes to travel extensively around the globe.

His latest projects are ‘Clandestine‘ – a short story anthology, based around espionage, deception and intrigue; and ‘The Fisherman’, which introduces a new character to the world of covert intelligence.

He can be reached at his author website and on Facebook for more information about upcoming projects and events:

Facebook : James Quinn – Spy Author

Interview with Hallie Lee

I had recently read and loved the book Paint Me Fearless, and was thrilled when author Hallie Lee agreed to an interview for Tomes and Tales. It’s always interesting to speak to writers about well written books and stories that have resonated – a peek into the story behind the story, and how it has travelled from the writer’s mind to the reader’s hands. For those who missed my earlier post, my review of Paint Me Fearless can be found here:


  1. Hi Hallie, congratulations on the release of your latest book from the Shady Gully series. What’s the story behind this series? Had you always envisioned a series of books, or planned a standalone novel which then expanded into a series?

That’s a great question. When I started Paint Me Fearless, I had no plans for a series. But Brad Wolfheart’s character tugged at me. Initially, he was nothing more than a peripheral character, a dastardly villain created merely to challenge my protagonists, Desi and Robin. But I grew fond of him. I started seeing him as this intriguing multi-dimensional, rogue. By the middle of the book, he’d evolved. By the end of the book, he became almost noble. Eventually, that rogue insisted on his own book.

2. The alternating perspectives between Robin and Desi in Paint Me Fearless make the story interesting. As a writer, how challenging is it to change first-person narratives repeatedly within the same book?

It’s tough, I’m not gonna lie. I got the names of their husbands mixed up a few times! Honestly though, while Desi and Robin were similar in appearance, their characters were vastly different, and that made it easier. They each processed situations and events differently, both from the skewed lenses of their own insecurities, so that made it easier for me to get into character when I switched POVs.

3. What was your experience in charting out an entire lifespan for your characters within one book? How did you strike a balance between fleshing out the characters and situations, and skipping years and events to carry the story forward?

That was a challenge. I spent a lot of time in high school. LOL! Desi’s and Robin’s experiences in their formative years significantly impacted their adult lives. I wanted the reader to understand why Robin had so much anxiety about her weight, and why Desi’s relationship with her mother was so convoluted. I wanted the reader to see how those traumas played into their marriages, and even into the dynamics of their friendship.

As far as charting their lifespan (I love that term, BTW) I used significant milestones in life, such as having children and losing parents, to indicate the passage of time. I wanted to show that while Desi and Robin were evolving in some ways, they wasted a lot of time fretting over things the world values. Like beauty, wealth, and esteem, which are fleeting at best.

4. Your characterization stands out for its skillfulness. Do you base characters on people you know? How do you create behavioral traits to keep the story engaging while also being realistic?

Thank you. Your questions are very thought provoking! Wow! Neither character was based on anyone in particular. It’s possible I drew from a variety of people I’ve known over the years, but I certainly seasoned them with my own wild imagination. And lots of times, my characters took me places I didn’t plan to go. They did things I didn’t intend for them to do. Quite truthfully, my characters were the boss of me. Behavioral traits and all. LOL.

5. Your delicate writing over sensitive topics like child abuse and eating disorders is another standout feature. Any tips for writers on how to address real world issues with sensitivity?

Thank you. To be honest, I wrote this book like it would never see the light of day, which gave me a lot of freedom. Afterwards, because the topics were so current and relevant, I couldn’t bring myself to gloss over them. I didn’t want to diminish them. The advantage I had, I believe, was Desi and Robin’s age. Because they were in high school when Desi was abused and Robin developed an eating disorder, I could present these topics in an innocent, almost naïve way.

6. The covers of both Paint Me Fearless and Wolfheart are striking. What’s the story behind the artwork and color combinations?

Another great question. I always pictured an inspirational landscape for Paint Me Fearless. Something whimsical, thought provoking, something that reflected depth and seriousness. And then I ended up with a bold, blue cover showcasing a woman’s profile surrounded by waves of red hair. LOL.

When my publisher sent me some options to consider, I hated that cover. And then I came back to it. And kept coming back to it. The more I looked at it, the more I realized this woman on the cover represented every woman. She was symbolic. She was fearless in the face of body issue angst. She was unafraid when feelings told her she wasn’t enough. She was beautiful. Just as we all are, in spite of the horrible things we tell ourselves when we look in the mirror.

As to book 2, we expected it would be challenging to find a suitable match to such a unique theme. We needed something featuring two bold colors. We wanted a striking profile. We hoped for something catchy and beautiful like her.

Naturally, because of Wolfheart’s moniker, the idea of a wolf howling at the moon seemed fitting. Also, I was keen to use some form of a dog not only because of the story line but as a tribute to my beloved Lucy Belle, who we lost this year. So, we played with the images, and eventually went with a wolf. He’s not a scary wolf though, and he’s set against pine trees which are prevalent in Louisiana. The bold green worked perfectly, and I think complemented the male POVs in this book. The deciding factor was putting the covers side by side.

I have no clue what we’ll come up with for Book 3, hahahha! Wish us luck!

7. Which are your favorite books in contemporary women’s fiction? Any writers you would recommend?

Oh, so many. I just finished Malibu Rising and loved it. I’m a big Taylor Jenkins Reid fan. Delia Owens, most definitely. Kristin Hannah, who is very good at making me cry. Susan Elizabeth Phillips writes the funniest romances I’ve ever read. I also love the occasional period piece, so I very much enjoy Ken Follett and Phillipa Gregory. Nelson Demille is brilliant and quick witted, a wonderful combination. Mark Sullivan and Lou Berney are also my favs. There are so many wonderful writers out there!

8. Thank you, Hallie, for taking the time for this interview and expanding my reading experience of the book. Finally, what are your plans for the Shady Gully series? Any new books in the works or any other books outside of this series you’re working on?

The first draft of Book 3 in the Shady Gully series is written, so as they say, now the real work begins. After that I plan to convert one of my more successful screenplays into a novel. I’m very excited about doing a standalone. I’ll keep coming back to Shady Gully though as long as there are stories to tell. And wow, do I have BIG plans for book 4!

Amongst The Mist – Exploring Ghost Stories with ML Rayner

It was the most anticipated summer break of their young lives.

For Bran Lampshire, that summer of 1986 would be far different. The lure of a wilderness adventure sends him and his friends on a troublesome journey that would see them far from home and into the isolated shadows of the Sleathton Estate. In a forgotten land where nature thrives, an unexplained mist settles upon the shaded grounds. And stories were told of events so chilling, they were forcibly buried over time.

Lose yourself beneath the endless trees. And discover that legends are sometimes so much more than ghost stories.

In the spookiness of the Halloween month, Tomes and Tales got a chance to interview author ML Rayner, thanks to Question Mark Press and Zooloo‘s Book Diary who coordinated the interview and shared a copy of the book.


  • Hi Matt, congratulations on the release of your latest book. While you enjoy the classics and fantasy literature as a reader, what made you opt for an out-an-out horror novel as a writer?Horror has always been my go-to for books. It’s what started my love of reading in school. I think you can sense an atmosphere with these books. I just love the idea of creating that for readers.
  • Amongst the Mists has a predominantly young set of characters, although the writing is not YA. How did you strike this balance between your characters and your readers – a book for adults with children leading the proceedings?
    I wanted to do a coming-of-age story. But I was very hesitant in how to write it. I find my writing can be rather descriptive at times. It was a case of drilling the idea into my head not to oversimplify. I wanted this book to aim more towards an adult audience, and I think I’ve managed to do that. The book Stand by me was a big influence of how to write young characters for adult readers.
  • What’s the story behind the setting of the 80s?
    Truthy, I dislike writing about technology. The idea of writing about phones and text messages just doesn’t appeal to me. I think if the story was set in present day, kids would rather be glued to social media than going on an adventure. But that’s just my opinion.
  • A cross cultural bicycling trip has an old world charm of holidays in the outdoors with friends. How did you create the Sleathton Estate? What research was required to narrate about these abandoned places and derelict towns?
    I’m a big hiker and spent much of my time going on wild camping trips. I take my influences from a number of locations such as the Peak District, Wales and Scotland. Basically, anywhere with vast open spaces. I once visited the island of Lismore in 2016. A small island in Scotland. On this island there are several abandoned villages made of limestone that sat on the coastline and within woodlands. I always envisioned that’s how the derelict village of thyme appear.   
  • Amongst the Mists blurs the lines between urban legends, folklore and supernatural horror. Was this a deliberate attempt to keep the reader guessing? Or do you often mix elements in your writing?
    It wasn’t deliberate at first. But as you write the story grows and everything comes together. However, I do love to keep the reader guessing 🙂
  • The cover is striking – while we know the mist occupies centre stage, the creepy eyes in the reflection stand out prominently. What’s the story behind the cover design?
    I wanted to shake the cover design up a little. My last book was pretty dark in color, so didn’t want to stick to the same theme. The white eyes looking back at you is my favorite part of the cover. And I guess the idea comes from something simple. A reflection could actually be so much more.  
  • Which are your favorite ghost stories? Any books or writers you would recommend?
    I’m a big Susan Hill reader. I believe she sets the tone for a ghost story perfectly. James Herbert is another of my favorites with titles such as Haunted & Ghosts of Sleath. And also, Michelle Paver with her ghost stories, Dark Matter & Thin Air.
  • Thank you, Matt, for taking the time for this interview and expanding my reading experience of the book. Finally, as a horror writer, how has your experience been with Question Mark Press and publishing with a house that specializes in dark fiction?
    • It’s been a terrific experience. And I feel very lucky to be part of it. The support that all authors provide is beyond words, especially when you’re a small fish in this industry. It’s like a small family in a way. We share our work and take on any advice given before we commit to printing.


Born and bred in the county of Staffordshire, Matt is a keen reader of classical, horror and fantasy literature, and enjoys writing in the style of traditional ghost stories. During his working life, Matt joined the ambulance service in 2009, transporting critically ill patients all over the UK. After writing his first novel, Matt was welcomed into the family of Question Mark Press publishing and now dedicates his time on future releases. His hobbies include genealogy and hiking, and he enjoys spending time with his wife, Emma, his children, and his family.

He can be reached at:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MLRayner/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/m.l.rayner/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/M_L_Rayner

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/M.-L.-Rayner/e/B08LTXNSH4

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/20902655.M_L_Rayner

Book Links

Amazon UKhttps://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09DHQDYG1

Amazon UShttps://www.amazon.com/dp/B09DHQDYG1

Q&A with Karmen Špiljak on Culinary Noir

A sinister cook, a cursed cake, and a casual dinner between neighbours that goes murderouslywrong.

Add Cyanide to Taste is a debut collection of dark tales and recipes by Karmen Špiljak that ascends the jagged culinary heights you’ve hungered to explore but could never find on a map. As the characters swoon over every unforgettable mouthful, and sometimes bite off more than they can chew, you’ll find yourself asking: What would I be willing to pay for the meal of a lifetime?

If feasting on culinary noir leaves you hungry, extend your pleasure by preparing the dishes featured in the stories. All recipes provided are cyanide-free.

Tomes and Tales has interviewed author Karmen Špiljak, as part of the ongoing book tour of Add Cyanide to Taste organized by Rachel’s Random Resources.


  1. Hi Karmen, congratulations on the release of Add Cyanide to Taste. Your love for food is apparent in the writing, but the tales take a sinister route. How did the idea for this book come about – taking something you love and weaving a dark element through it?

I’ve always enjoyed stories that involved food in any form, but connecting the two took time. In the case of Add Cyanide to Taste, this was more of an ‘aha’ moment than a big flashy idea. About three years ago I came across a non-fiction book called Blood on the Table, a collection of essays about food in crime fiction, and read it cover to cover. I felt as if that book had been written for me and I wished there were more fiction on the same topic. When I considered writing something myself, I realised I already had. Quite a few of my stories contained a food element and all were on the darker side. So, I wrote a few more and decided to write a collection.

2. While cozy mysteries and food-related series novels are a common genre, culinary noir stands out for its blend of evil lurking in the dark, and the warmth and light of good food. How did you come across this genre, or what made you decide to write a book in it? And why a collection instead of a novel?

To be honest, I made it up, or at least that’s what I thought at the time. I wasn’t sure how to bundle the stories together, as they belonged to different genres from cozy to horror. Noir seemed like the best choice and I congratulated myself for adding ‘culinary’ to it. A few months later, I realised the genre already existed, it just wasn’t prominent. I decided for short stories because I’ve just finished a novel and all the editing and pitching has worn me down. Short stories are a demanding, yet forgiving form and allow for a lot of experimentation with form and narrative. This kept me excited and entertained as a writer.

3. Although a collection of short stories, the characters and events tie up like a novel. For instance, Noonan’s Delights and the curse of the red velvet cake. Was this experimental narration a deliberate attempt while you were creating each story?

At some point, that cake simply took over the story. The connections emerged as part of the process. I suspect this might have something to do with Yoko Ogawa’s Revenge, a horror collection I was reading at the time. In that book, all stories connect in some way, so that idea might have enabled Dark Velvet to sneak into another story. The cheek of that cursed cake.

4. Speaking of experimental writing, you have adopted a variety of forms and styles throughout the collection. Email correspondence in a ghost story, parts of a meal revealing hidden secrets, punctuation as a villain. How would you describe your writing process? What goes into creating plots and characters, and how do you decide on a narrative style for a story?

My writing process is a mix of creative chaos and attempts to create order. I always start with an idea, either for a character or an event, then write my way into the story. With short stories, I don’t plot much in advance, but I edit furiously. Sometimes, it takes years before the story takes the right shape.  This was definitely the case for Dark Velvet, Damned Fine Cook and The Collectors. During the editing process, I tend to leave the stories to cool down between drafts. This helps me get distance and figure out why the story isn’t working.

I like to play with form, but it’s always the story that dictates it. The Collectors was my first attempt at epistolary and the only one that clicked with this particular story.

Sometimes, though, an idea arrives in a flash and I write it down in one go. Dash Friend, for example, started as a single sentence that woke me up. I had no idea where it would take me, so I followed it and let the story develop from there.

The characters are trickier and emerge through scenes. Often, I write extra scenes to get to know them better. Such ‘offstage’ writing is fun and surprisingly satisfying, given the fact that these scenes rarely make it into the story.

5. From genres of crime and mystery, humor and horror, and topics like domestic violence and child abuse, scientific research and mountaineering, urban legends and haunted houses, Cyanide to Taste showcases a range of writing prowess. How did you decide on which stories to write and include for the collection?

That’s a great question! I wanted to avoid being predictable or repetitive, so I picked ideas that offered a different take on a subject or tackled food from an unexpected angle. Two stories were originally written for themed competitions, so  I had to get a bit creative with how to include the food element. Then, there were stories that intrigued me, but had no food connection. The mountaineering one was the result of reading an article about research on Neolithic mass graves. If I got an intriguing idea, I found a way to turn it into a story. Bringing in the food element was easy, as I’m a massive foodie.

6. There is an entire segment of recipes that follows the stories. Was this intentional – to mix fiction with non-fiction?

Definitely. The recipes were always supposed to be there, but I didn’t imagine there’d be as many. As a child, I read a lot of Enid Blyton and often wondered what ginger beer tastes like and why the Famous Five get to drink it in such large quantities. In a way, food is a side character in quite a few stories, so it seemed fair to give it some extra space.

7. Along with food and cooking, gardening is another theme that features prominently in the book. What are your other hobbies?

I enjoy crafts, photography and hoarding books.

8. What tips would you give new writers who want to write about their hobbies and interests and feature them in stories and books?

Go for it. Write it down, edit until you’re happy, then find a writing group that will give you feedback. Writing about something you’re passionate about isn’t always easy, but if you make it interesting for yourself, it will probably be interesting for readers, too.

9. What book(s) are you currently reading? Any favorite writers?

I’m currently reading Anna M Holmes’s environmental thriller ‘Blind Eye’. I’ve got a bunch of favourite authors from Agatha Christie, Shirley Jackson, Roald Dahl and Daphne du Maurier to more contemporary, Stephen King, Kazuo Ishiguro, Miha Mazzini, Margaret Atwood, Sarah Hilary and Silvia Moreno-Garcia.

10. Thank you, Karmen, for taking the time for this interview. Finally, when can we expect your next book? Anything you’re working on currently – either in writing, cooking or gardening?

Thanks so much for having me! My next book is a spy thriller called ‘No Such Thing as Goodbye’, the first book in a series. It should be coming out in May 2022. I’m also working on a science fiction dystopia and a non-fiction book on writing.


Karmen Špiljak is a Slovenian-Belgian writer with a taste for dark and twisty tales.

Her short fiction has been awarded and anthologised. Her as yet unpublished thriller was shortlisted and received an honourable mention on ‘The Black Spring Crime Fiction Prize 2020’. She writes across different genres, from suspense to horror and science fiction.

She currently lives in Brazil with her husband and two cats.


Social Media Links –

Twitter: https://twitter.com/karm3ns33ta

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/karmenseeta/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6862662.Karmen_piljak

Purchase Links



Barnes & Noble

Google Books

General purchase link (all the other links are here): https://www.karmens.net/books 

Historical Crime Fiction – Q&A With DS Lang

After returning home from her service as a United States Army Signal Corps operator in the Great War, Arabella Stewart’s goal, to save her family’s resort, seems within reach as the summer season progresses. She and her business partner, Mac MacLendon, look forward to re-establishing a successful championship golf tournament, once the signature event of the resort’s year. Problems arise when one of the contestants, an overbearing snob who has created problems at other competitions, clashes with more than one person. When he is found dead, the victim of a suspicious automobile crash, Bella once again helps Jax Hastings, the town constable and her childhood friend, investigate. As they pursue answers, Bella and Jax find several suspects who might have wanted to make the victim suffer for his lethal arrogance.

A Lethal Arrogance is the third book in the Arabella Stewart historical mystery series. Thanks to Rachel’s Random Resources, Tomes and Tales got the chance to interview author DS Lang about history, literature, sports, and everything in between.


1. Congratulations on the release of the latest book in the Arabella Stewart mystery series. How did the series come about? What’s the story behind Bella – an unconventional crime-solving protagonist?

I wanted a female sleuth, so I developed the main character as a “modern young woman.” Her service during the Great War sets her apart from many of her contemporaries. In order to provide logic for her participation, I gave her a back story to explain it. Bella’s maternal grandfather was a constable. When she was ill with scarlet fever (as a young girl), Bella and Grampa Morton went over his old cases and read detective stories, which piqued her interest in mysteries. Also, saving her family resort is her primary goal in the first few books. Solving crimes in and around it are of great importance to her.

2. Post-WWI is an intriguing setting. Although the series is set in the era of the Great War, it alludes to the war effort covertly, while still featuring a story in a completely different setting. How did you conceive this idea of historical crime fiction?

I have an ancestor who served with the American Expeditionary Force. Although he died before I was born (he suffered the after-effects of gas), I heard a lot about him. Also, I saw a PBS documentary on “American Experience” about the war. I majored in social studies and English, but the program made me realize I didn’t know a lot about World War I. That led me to do a lot more digging! In addition, I find the 1920s of interest because women’s roles changed dramatically.

3. While sports memoirs, biographies and technical books are common, sports in fiction are a rarer genre. What inspired the usage of golf in A Lethal Arrogance and its predecessors in the series?

My dad was a golf pro. I dedicated the book to him because he not only taught me how to play, he instilled a love of the game and its history. The post-World War I period saw a big growth in play. Interest in golf grew as more middle-class people took it up. There are a number of advertisements from that era showing people playing golf, even though the ads are not always for golf equipment or attire. Sportswear as daywear also became more common for women. We often associate that time period with flappers and fancy dresses, but Bella lives at a resort in a rural area, so she wouldn’t be wearing the typical flapper fashions. The cover of A Lethal Arrogance, designed by Karen Phillips, has Bella in an updated outfit. Skirt lengths varied a lot at the time, though.

4. What role do sports play in your life? Do you watch or compete in any yourself?

I learned to play when I was very young and competed in amateur events. Due to a shoulder injury, I no longer play. I still watch the major tournaments. Also, I love college basketball—men’s and women’s. “March Madness” is a fun time!  

5. What sort of research does the series entail? How do you balance historical facts with creative fiction?

I love to research, and I can get really engrossed in it. For this series, I started gathering facts about the Great War as it related to my characters. Bella was a United States Army Signal Corps operator. There is a lot of material about “Hello Girls,” as they came to be called, and I read and viewed much of it. Jax was a lieutenant in the Ohio National Guard. I was able to get details about when they were called up and sent to France with the American Expeditionary Force, so I thread that into the books.

In addition, I researched slang, fashion, automobiles, and other elements. I want to be historically correct with details in order to provide a strong sense of time and place for readers.

6. The victim in A Lethal Arrogance is portrayed as a snob whose death doesn’t come as a surprise. At the same time the case needs to be solved, even though no one is really rooting for him. How challenging was it to write such an unlikeable character who lends much importance to the storyline?

One of my beta readers, an old friend, said she hoped I had not known anyone like the victim, and I haven’t! It was challenging because I do not know anyone who is so unlikeable. In this book, I leaned on the need for justice more than evoking sympathy for the victim. In the previous two books in the series, the victims only appear briefly at the very beginning.  

7. As an English teacher, what were your favorite books to teach?

When I taught junior high English, we read Anne Frank: the Diary of a Young Girl. I had the same students in reading, and we did a unit on literature of World War II at the same time. There are many wonderful works for young readers set during that time. It was always moving to have students identify strongly with the young characters in the various books. I think literature can make history come alive in ways that nonfiction doesn’t always.

8. Which genres do you prefer as a reader? Any favorite authors?

I love historical mysteries, but I also read nonfiction (history, mostly) and the occasional romance. It would be really hard to choose a favorite author. I have so many.

9. Thank you for taking the time for this interview. Finally, any sneak peeks into the next book of Bella’s adventures? Or anything else you’re working on outside of this series?

A Baffling Absence, the fourth book in the series, will be out in December. Bella’s best friend Ida is teaching at a nearby girls’ boarding school. When one of the teachers does not return after the holiday break, a substitute is needed. Since Bella was studying to become a teacher, she accepts the temporary position only to discover that the job will call on more than lesson planning; her sleuthing skills are required, too. She and Ida embark on an investigation, and Constable Jax Hastings is soon involved.

I have several more books planned for this series. The next series will be located on an American college campus after World War II.


D.S. Lang, a native Ohioan, has been making up stories since she was a little girl, and she still is! Along the way, she studied English and social studies as an undergrad. After graduate school, she went on to teach government and American history in high school. She also taught English at the junior high, high school, and college levels. In addition, she has worked as a program coordinator, golf shop manager, and online tutor.

Now, she spends much of her time reading, researching, and writing. Most recently, she has delved into the Great War era and the years immediately after it. Her Arabella Stewart Historical Mystery Series was inspired by her Great Uncle Brice who served in the American Expeditionary Force during World War One, and by her love of historical mysteries. In her spare time, she loves to spend time with family and friends, including her dog Izzy.

Social Media Links – https://www.facebook.com/Author-DS-Lang-106722091331345

Purchase Links: