Interview with Mickey Hoffman, Author of School of Lies

What is your book about?

School of Lies is a funny mystery novel about a bunch of teachers who work in a dysfunctional, urban high school. The stressful environment is a perfect catalyst for the murder that takes place. My new book, Deadly Traffic takes a teacher out of her comfort zone into the word of human trafficking when female students disappear from campus.

Tell us a little about your main characters. Who was your favorite? Why?

My MC is a Special Ed. teacher named Kendra Desola. She’s compulsive and overly inquisitive; every problem has to be examined and solved. She is devoted to her students but has learned the hard way that the best way to help them often involves breaking the rules. There’s a tension between her wanting to be a good role model and her willingness to lie when she thinks it’s useful. In Deadly Traffic, Kendra meets a young man, Win Ni (who my brother decided to call Win Ni the Pooh). Win has a good heart but he wants to be rich and is willing to do almost anything to achieve his goal. I wanted to make him a lot darker than he ended up because I became fond of him.

Who is your most unusual character?

I’d have to say most of them are unusual, but they’re true to form. The good characters I create are never all good and that bothers some people. Readers who aren’t familiar with what really goes on in public schools may think the teachers I portray are over the top. I’ve had people react in shock. They say, “A Vice Principal wouldn’t talk like that.” Oh, but they do, they do.

Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it? (searching Internet, magazines, other books, etc.)

For School of Lies I relied on my own experience moving through different schools. I mentally filed away what other teachers told me of their experiences as well. The book, in fact, started because some of my fellow teachers knew I liked to write and said, “You should really make a book about some of this stuff because no one would believe it.” For my second book, Deadly Traffic, I read several nonfiction books about modern slavery—in this country as well as overseas—and human trafficking, and visited many websites.

What was the first story you remember writing?

My family used to make up poems and stories in the car during road trips when I was very young and I’d try to contribute when my older brother would stop torturing me. Just kidding. I do recall writing a play in 9th grade with some friends about a super pigeon named Supersplatt.

What do you like to read?

I like mystery novels, fantasy and science fiction. I try to find mysteries with puzzles and with as little gore as possible. Some of my favorite writers are Elizabeth George, Ian Rankin and Tad Williams.

What writer influenced you the most?

Mark Twain. Absolutely.

What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you’d written yourself?

Hitchhiker’ Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

What, in your opinion, are the essential qualities of a good story?

I want the main characters to have a “quest.” The quest can be a real journey or one in their heads and if there’s mystery involved all the better.

What is the best advice another writer gave you?

I asked how you tell when your manuscript is finished. The reply: “You don’t leave a book when it’s done, it leaves you.”

See also:

Mickey Mickey Hoffman’s author page at Second Wind Publishing, LLC
Interview of Kendra DeSola the Hero of School of Lies by Mickey Hoffman
The first chapter of School of Lies by Mickey Hoffman
Review of School of Lies by Mickey Hoffman

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Interview With Steven Clark Bradley

My guest today, Steven Clark Bradley, has been to or lived in 34 countries, including Pakistan, Iraq and Turkey. He has a master’s degree in liberal studies from Indiana University. He speaks French and Turkish. He has been an assistant to a prosecutor, a university instructor and a freelance journalist. Bradley is the author of four novels, including Patriot Acts.

What type of books do you enjoy writing?

It is such a driving passion to tell stories that could make one pause and reflect on where we were and where we are, to gain a better understanding of where we are going. The only problem is that when we look at where we are and perceive of where we’re going, then the story always, inevitably come out shocking and … dare I say spooky. It is never my intension to paint a bleak picture, but the truth can set us free. All of my books center on a major theme that typifies the human experience and tragedy. I look at my novels as my footprints in the sands of time that will live after I have been covered by the earth. I want to leave my books as my last will and testament, my final word to a world that my children will inherit, stories that make us look back so we can gain our bearings on the present to ensure a better future.

Did a special person in your life inspire you to become a writer?

Since my earliest years, until now, I have seen that life is carried forth by those who left behind accounts of the life that was common in the past. Every generation has the responsibility to share their thoughts and emotions for the future ones. So, I would not say that any one person has been my catalyst for my writing exploits. Instead, I feel that I am motivated to write by an ideal, the need to put into practice the freedom I possess from God to present the issues of our current day in a brave, realistic and plausible manner. With all that, there are certain writers who have pushed me forward. Thomas Clancy is a great mentor for me. He has had a great affect on me and made me know that freedom is not free. So, I am driven by my desire to demonstrate the freedom of our fingers to ensure that such liberty is never trampled on or disregarded.

Have you written any books based on a true life story?

I have lived in many cultures and that has given me a love for the differences amongst us, but my life has also opened up hundreds of doors or directions to write my stories. Because I have lived in so many cultures, I can say that all my books are, to a great extent, about myself. I love to fictionalize things that I have actually lived. It gives me an ability to describe things in such a realistic manner and takes the reader with me on a journey that will both tantalize them and at times, frighten them into taking stock of their own lives. I am a student of American culture and write about the changes in our society. Yet, every place I have been and in everyone I have met there has always been that same driving force; the desire to leave those who follow us something that says we were here! This is an intrinsic passion for every writer, ultimately.

The genre of stories I have written and the views I have expressed in my books are an intense effort to say something about my current society and to perhaps warn Pluribus Unum of the things that threaten the life we now have. I consider my books to be hard-hitting stories that may frighten the reader, as a result of the realism and the plausibility of the evil unleashed on an apathetic and ill-mannered world when faithlessness falls upon the just and the unjust.

Who is your favorite Author?

The writer who has most influenced me is Francis A. Schaeffer. Though he was a greatly respected Philosopher and not a novelist, his uncanny ability to show the cause and affect aspect that the decisions we make and as inhabitants of our world greatly spell victory or defeat of our way of life, so Schaeffer’s call to renew our respect for human life influences me to this day and is exemplified in all my novels. I think I am his antithesis in that his call was to show what faith would do for society and I write of a world devoid of any, and what woe it would work. No one else has assisted in the formation of my world view more than Francis Schaeffer, and I feel I am carrying forth his message in creating stories that show that none of us is an island and that we all have a major impact on the world around us, rather we know it or not.

Are your characters created from people you’ve known in real life, or are they from the imagination?

Well, almost all my characters are patterned after either great and honorable and bad and disreputable men and women I have met, and many I have known. I can recall sitting back in my chair and closing my eyes and picturing these people and asking how the person the character is patterned after would respond to something, what expression they would have on their faces or what actions would be instigated as a result of a given situation. I have met a great many people and that is a big help in creating my characters.

How many books have you written?

I have written and published four novels. Whether probable Cause which is a story of the tragic results of infidelity, Stillborn, which is a study of the lethal outcome of a life started and lived without love, compassion or human contact or Nimrod Rising which describes what a world could become when we leave behind all the human values that separate us from the rest of creation. Finally, Patriot Acts is an expose of the dangers of pretending that catastrophe is not out there when it is staring us in the face. Since I have traveled widely around the world, I have been privileged to possess the ability of giving a fair accounting of the life we share on this part of the small globe we call home. I also know how easy it would be to see liberty all blown away into the sands of time to only be disinterred by a yet to form people far different than our own. So, the stories that flood my mind are to help us stop, perceive, reflect…perhaps alter our actions and cause us to look at where we are, where we have been and determine, perhaps with more clarity, where we are going.

Describe how you felt the first time you were Published.

The freedom to write so freely in a free land is such a wonderful thing. It is something to be cherished lest it be whittled away to finally be axed to death until we die for what we believe. It would not be the first time, nor the last. That is why I feel that there is nothing greater than writing & creating something from nothing. It’s the closest thing to the divine! The freedom to say what we believe is not bequeathed to us by any man or woman. The ability to create worlds and personalities, to describe something so powerfully that it can make the reader laugh with joy, shiver in fear or cry in sorrow and empathy and then to breathe into them the breath of literary life is a gift from God; a process that starts in human imagination and comes to life on the printed page. It is the thing that separates us from the rest of creation! It is exactly what God did when He stepped into nothing and created something that lives and breathes! The process that takes hours of exciting and painstaking work, getting the manuscript to a publisher, getting it approved and edited and reedited and then printed and to actually see it in your hand! There is a world of intrigue and mystery in my hand and I am its creator. That’s a pretty powerful feeling!

Do you have any current work in progress for a new release?

I currently have two projects going. My third published novel, Nimrod Rising was actually three novels in one volume. I am deeply into part four of Nimrod Rising which is tentatively titled, Generations. That title is subject to change. I also am writing a children’s book titled Aiden’s Ashes which is a collaboration with one of my students, 15 years old, mind you! He is a great writer and really gifted. So I am working together with him on a really great story. I have three other works started. I always get an idea down on paper so I don’t forget it later. It is a real juggling act to market one’s novel while ever writing another one. It is tough work and it demands that the writer be dedicated to his or her trade and never grow weary of challenge before them.

Do you have goals set for the future in your journey of writing?

Goals, at least in my head, are guideposts, markers that can take us to a certain point. I am always careful to make my goals alterable, since many of the side streets we venture down mentally as writers produce the most unique stories, stories that stand out and proclaim the message the most clearly and brightly. Since my stories are always message driven more than mere entertainment, though I love entertaining material, I have to always have my heart tuned and my mind open. I am an ever growing, constantly learning, very dedicated writer. I try very hard not only to write about today as I also seek to point the way in which today’s lifestyles, whatever they may be, shall either take us towards a reasonable position of faith and unity or shall shove us headlong into a pitiful humanity where man is reduced to mere trouble, scarcely meriting bread and water, such as in the case of Terri Schiavo. Remember her? She could be you…me…any of us, in a world that makes human life so cheap that it renders death itself as the sole solution, with dignity. I guess I am saying that I drive my goals, they do not drive me.

At this point and time in your life, are you exactly where you wanted to be in your writing endeavors?

I am never satisfied with any product I create, I know that I must go the extra mile to get the story to people and to make sure it is at the point where I can be sure the readers will grasp the overall and underlying message. So, I am never where I want to be because I keep pushing the bar further out and continually giving an extra push to achieve. There is always another word, another issue, another story to tell. I suspect, I’ll never feel I have arrived. I tell my students that the times when you feel you are learning nothing, or that they are not achieving their goals, that those are the times when they are most likely learning the most. With every new thing we learn or try, there is a new feeling of inadequacy, but that is because it is new and still being implemented in my mind. The times of euphoria are not the times to sit back. I never feel I have arrived or that I am where I want to be. That drives me to be creative and to reach higher.

In your opinion, what are some factors that can help authors reach their dream of accomplishment?

You want to write a book, you have an amazing idea that you need to get on paper before you lose it and you do not know how to get started. Ever feel that way? Writers do all the time. It takes time to make your image in your mind into a world with living breathing characters that do a multitude of things and have a multitude of personalities.

Writers draw their ideas from the world around them. They also most often pattern the characters, the good the bad and the not so bad characters after people they have met. My novels are full of distinct, international, good, bad and evil people. We all have met people whom we have categorized in one group or another. Click on the link below to learn about the main characters of the story of Nimrod Rising . Who is the hero, heroine, villain. Click here and learn about characters that are as real as it gets!

As a child, did you have any favorite books that you enjoyed reading?

I loved the Chronicles of Narnia as an older teenager and of course read Mark Twain, but I loved Nancy Drew books. I was a strange child, which means I have not changed that much. I was into history and political material, at a very early age. I read lots of history and loved political magazines, believe it or not.

As a child, did you enjoy reading a lot?

As I said earlier, I was a bit strange, as a child. I remember I read through almost all the World Book Encyclopedias in my school library, which gave me my great love for travel and culture, and which gave me ideas for stories like no one else has written.

If you had the opportunity for one day to live the life of a famous author, who would it be?

I think I would be Vince Flynn. This author is one of the best I have read in terms of painting the picture so real that I can see it in my mind. He too writes about real-life situations that are now confronting the world. Each of his books are strong, assertive and passionate with drama and action, but with action that could be really taken. He is the best writer I have read.

How do you balance your current occupation with your goals for writing?

This is the easiest question to answer; I never sleep. I have been blessed with the strange ability to be rested with as little as 5 hours sleep a day. I have been that way all my life. My wife too is just wonderful. She knows that what I do demands lots of time and she is my best supporter and full of understanding. I am a language teacher and I find that my writing and my teaching fit well together. I do feel times of stress, and I realized that during those times, it is important to take a break, recharge the batteries and write with pleasure and never because I feel I have to.

How did you feel at your first book-signing, or the first time you signed one of your published books?

I was surprised that people actually wanted to buy them. I found that I was really able to communicate the story as I spoke about it and made me feel really confident and I understood that that was what I was really good at. I am a people person and love the face to face. Getting book-signings and public appearances are hard to line up, but they not only sell books, such events encourage the writer to be ready to carry out the same tough work that we did on the previous book, because it is our passion.

If you won the lottery tomorrow, would that change your plans in your writing career? If so, how?

I have never thought of money as my claim to fame. Of course, I would go crazy to win that much money and I’d head down the list helping some people I’d love to bless, but I’d use it to further my writing and to ensure my stories were read. I am not driven by money, another point in which I am strange, I guess. Yet, I am a writer and the artist gene is alive and well in my head.

As writers, we begin with a manuscript that becomes published, and then we learn the meaning of promotions. In your opinion, what was the most difficult task?

The hardest task is getting book stores to believe in you and getting your story to readers. Finding a good agent is like pulling teeth, as well. I think the publishing and book store industry is geared against writers, to a great extent. It is true that there are a lot of bad books; badly written, badly edited and many publishers are into money and care less about authors. It got me down for a while, but I told myself that I write for the message and that there were just some things that would just have to do for myself. Though writing the book is challenging and meticulous, it is fun and enjoyable, because that is what we do. I am not an editor, an agent nor a publisher. Yet, I have had to do almost all those things. It has taught me a lot and I am glad for the struggle, because I come to discover other talents that I did not know I had.

Some writers need to listen to soft music to help them write those chapters for a new release, some prefer looking at the ocean, or flowers. Do you have any particular scenery, or object that you wish to focus on when writing?

I find that I always listen to music when I write. I love to listen to movie soundtracks as I write. The music is written to set moods and feelings for particular scenes. This has been perfect for me to give my mind the mood of the part I am writing. Music is powerful helps me write with the language the story dictates.

If you had books published in one Genre such as horror, and became daring to write a novel for a different genre, what would it be?

Every story has a genre of its own. I never set out to write a horror story. I like to say that I write about the world around us. I touch subjects that most of us do not dare broach. My books do not all fit into any one genre. I want to warn people about the loss of faith and the world that we do not see colliding with our own, so I wrote Nimrod Rising . I wanted to warn about the dangers of child abuse and the creation of criminal monsters, so I penned Stillborn, suspense drama. I wanted to show what infidelity could do to an exceptionally good man who lost everything and how it could transform him into a raging maniac, so I wrote Probable Cause. I wanted to demonstrate how lethargy and pretending that a terrorist danger is not present could place the nation at large in the forefront of a national disaster, and I wrote Patriot Acts. I want to be broad in my writing and I cannot predict what I will write next, not until the story tells me.

Where can your books be purchased?

You can find my books almost anywhere across the net and in an increasing number of bookstores. Here are a few links to help readers get copies of my Stories the will read them.

Amazon.com
booksamillion
com powells.com
bordersstores.com
barnesandnoble.com
copperfields.com

What are some links to your websites where visitors can read a BIO on you as author, and your writing?

Author Steven Clark Bradley
From The Mind of Steven Clark Bradley
Steven Clark Bradley @ Inspired Author
Steven Clark Bradley – Nikki Leigh Virtual Book Tours
Steven Clark Bradley @ The Power of The Written Word
Steven Clark Bradley @ Communati.com
Steven Clark Bradley @ Blogtalk Radio.com
Steven Clark Bradley @ Facebook
Steven Clark Bradley @ Twitter.com
Steven Clark Bradley @ Xanga.com
Steven Clark Bradley @ Amazon.com
Steven Clark Bradley @ yuku.com
Steven Clark Bradley @ Bookmarket.com
Steven Clark Bradley @ Published Authors.com
Steven Clark Bradley @ Word That Work
Steven Clark Bradley @ Goodreads.com
Steven Clark Bradley @ Myspace.com

Interview with Pierre Dominique Roustan

As part of my weeklong book launch party, Pierre Dominique Roustan and I are interviewing each other. (You can find me at http://writingandreading.today.com) Pierre is the author of the soon-to-be-released novel The Cain Letters.

Bertram: How and when did you know you were a writer?

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Pierre: That’s a difficult question to answer, because it was most definitely a process over time. I was always interested in writing but never knew I had a gift (desire) for it. It was when I hit my freshman year in college did I realize that there was something to this whole writing ‘thing’. I had a professor at the community college, one of my first classes there, English 101, I believe, tell me flat out that I “had a gift”. Now it wasn’t what he said that convinced me of that, though. It was what I wrote for him in class. Either he went easy on me, or he saw something in my writing that had been developing for so long ever since I was little. I would most definitely say that that final subtle pivotal point in the journey of discovery was at the age of 18 when I became so enamored with writing essays for my classes. I can safely say, at that point, I became a writer.

Bertram: What are some of your favorite authors to read?

Pierre: I had such a variety of authors I loved as a kid and as an adult, and I can safely say that it contributed to me being a writer: I liked all sorts of books growing up. I was into Isaac Asimov, J.R.R. Tolkien (of course!), even those classics by Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Frost, Ernest Hemingway. Leading to more contemporary ‘today’ authors, I’m a BIG fan of Terry Goodkind. I’ve read Terry Brooks as well. J.K. Rowling, of course! I was just getting into some other favorites of mine like Jordan Dane and Robert Liparulo. On a literary level, I was enthralled with such works by Sandra Cisneros, Tim O’Brien and Joseph Conrad. Those were some of the best in literary fiction I had ever read. Oh, and Toni Morrison! She was a remarkably intense writer.

Bertram: Which do you prefer: e-books or print?

Pierre: That’s quite the relevant question in today’s publishing market, now isn’t it? And you’re asking me that question at a very interesting time. Maybe two years ago, if you had asked me that, I would easily, hands down, say print. There’s nothing better than the smell of paper on a good book and being able to flip those pages really fast and hearing that buzzing sound when you do. Plus the cover art’s always cool.

HOWEVER…I’ve noticed quite easily how difficult it is to read on the computer. The reason I bring that up is that I do have a lot of friends/colleagues who write as well and always love to have me as a beta reader. They send me their work via e-mail and I read it right on my computer while my rump goes to sleep. It’s not fun. Not a day goes by that I don’t wish I had an eReader or a Kindle. It would make reading other people’s work so much easier. That, and the concept of buying any book on one of those electronic devices does have a certain appeal to me. For those authors I have a particular affection for, I’d definitely still always prefer print. But other authors that I would just like to read, just to expand my literary field, owning a Kindle or eReader seems priceless (even though it’ll always feel like I’m shelling out an arm and a leg for such a thing).

Bertram: What’s your favorite food?

Pierre: I love it when people ask me that question! It always feels like I’m on a date. I have the perfect answer. My favorite food is…. YES. Meaning, put in front of me monkey brains, and if it simply looks good, I’ll eat it. Simple as that. I’m a human trash can.

But I can go specific (I’ll limit it to a top ten, no particular order): pizza, shrimp scampi, chicken salad, chilli, soups, breakfast food, ice cream cake, Chinese food, sub sandwiches, Mexican food.

Bertram: If you could choose any wild animal, what would it be?

Pierre: That’s definitely an easy one. I love wild animals, and I’ve always had a thing for wolves. They’re so beautiful. Majestic. And I identify with them so well, in that they always seem shy, even timid when it comes to ‘man’. I’m much the same way to a certain degree; I can be guarded. But you see, the thing is-people, to me, particularly my friends and loved ones, are the other wolves in my pack. And I’m generally a nice wolf. So when I see other wolves from other packs, I don’t usually get defensive or violent or unusual. I’m generally very friendly. I’m an easy person to get to know.

Bertram: If you were going to die in the next three days and you could do the next ten things without worrying about cost, what would you do?

Pierre: I would go bungee jumping (never done it), get a tattoo (don’t have one), visit Europe (never been there), visit all the States except for Nevada, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Michigan, Florida and Rhode Island (been to all those States already), donate $1 million to one of those Children’s Funds, get married (again. Yes, I was married before. And let’s just say it didn’t ‘pan out’), anonymously donate money to an engaged couple looking to get married, buy a Playstation 3 and all the Final Fantasy’s and play all of them all night until I’ve beaten them all (except for Final Fantasy 7 and 8, already beat those), visit the grave of my grandfather in Nicaragua (his name was Pierre Dominique Roustan, too, so it holds a lot of meaning for me), SLEEP and do NOTHING for one whole day.

Bertram: What advice would you give other aspiring writers out there?

Pierre: It’s simple. Just enjoy your craft for yourself. Let it delight you. In the end, you’re the only audience. That’s how it originally starts. The bonus, the gift, comes around when others get to witness what you’ve created and how much you delight in it. There’s no better high than that, having someone else read your stuff and watch them be fascinated by the fact that you actually wrote something. Forget about the stress of whether or not you’ll land an agent or publishing contract or start that dream career as an author. What truly gives you joy should be that you wrote something that represents the deepest part of you and that you have a friend or family member you can share it with. It keeps you writing. It also keeps you believing in the goal itself. Because don’t get me wrong-goals are good. Having the goal of publication is good. But don’t let it consume you. Your writing comes first. Your desire comes first. Your love for words defines the spirit in you, and don’t ever forget that.

Also see: The Cain Letters
                Blog Exhange with Pierre Dominique Roustan