Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Penny Warner in my Hotseat!

Meow! Today I'm pleased to welcome the author of the popular "Killer Party" series, Penny Warner!

Penny has been writing ever since she got hooked on Nancy Drew in the 6th grade! Since then, she's had over 50 books published, fiction and non-fiction, for adults and children. Her books have won national awards, garnered excellent reviews, and have been printed in 14 countries, including Russia, France, Spain, Germany, Holland, Australia, Canada, Indonesia, India, Israel, Poland, Japan, and China.

Penny has a Bachelor’s degree in Child Development and a Master's degree in Special Education, and she's taught child development at the local college for over 20 years. She also teaches writing tips at conferences across the country, including Pikes Peak, Whidbey Island, San Francisco, Jack London, and dozens of others, and is a member of not only Mystery Writers of America, but Sisters in Crime, SCBWI, Women Writing the West, and California Writers Club.

R:  Hello, Penny, and welcome to my hotseat! Hope it's not too warm!
P: Thanks, Rocco!

R:  Tell us about your "Party Planner" series. What was its inspiration? 
P: The HOW TO HOST A KILLER PARTY series features Presley Parker, a reluctant party     planner who seems to invite trouble along with her guests. She hosts parties about the San Francisco Bay Area, including Alcatraz, the Winchester Mystery House, and the Napa Wine Country. I was inspired by my own background. I’m the author of several party-planning books for kids and adults, and love to party!

R: You write both fiction and non-fiction. Which do you prefer and why?

P: They both so different. I like to work on fiction during the morning and throw myself into that venue, which I think is right-brained. Then in the afternoon I tend to write non-fiction, which is more left-brained. It’s a nice balance so I like both.

R: You, like the Human, love Nancy Drew.  How did she inspire you? Which of her adventures is your very favorite and why?

P: I grew up reading Nancy Drew mysteries and thought she was a great role model. There were very few books for girls featuring female protagonists back in the day, so we didn’t have a lot to choose from. I loved her because she was so independent, smart, and brave.

R: You are also a teacher. Which profession is the more challenging and which do you prefer?

P: I teach child development at the local college and love it, mainly because it gets me out of the house and away from the computer. The students are wonderful – I learn so much from them. And it keeps me on my toes.

R: Is there a writing genre you have not yet attempted that you would like to try your hand at?

P: I prefer mysteries. I don’t think I could write sci-fi, fantasy, or romance. I enjoy the puzzle, and the structure of the mystery novel. And if I did try to write in another genre, I think I’d still make it a mystery.

R: Every writer has an “agent” story. How did you get your agent, and what is your advice to aspiring novelists querying agents?

P: I did a lot of research looking for the right agent for me. Then I sent her a query and she asked to see my proposal. She took me on and sold the series within a month or so. It doesn’t always happen that way, but doing the research first helped. I wanted someone who enjoyed mysteries. One of the best ways to find an agent is to look in the acknowledgments page of your favorite books and see who the agent is, then send them a query.

R: What book is on your TBR shelf you can’t wait to get to?

P: I have a lot of middle-grade books right now. My new middle-grade series, THE CODE BUSTERS CLUB, features four kids who solve mysteries by deciphering codes. THE MYSTERY OF THE SKELETON KEY just came out in paperback, and THE CODE BUSTERS CLUB: THE HAUNTED LIGHTHOUSE, will be out in November. I’m having a great time speaking at schools and teaching the students codes!

R: What advice would you give new writers just starting out?

P: Perseverance pays off. Even after receiving dozens of rejections, I didn’t give up. Along the way I became a better writer. Now that I have over 60 books publishes, I’m glad I stuck to it!

R: What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

P: Oh jeeze. I’m not a very crazy person. I let my characters to crazy things for me. I think the craziest thing I ever did was get a third cat….(R: That doesn’t sound so crazy to me, meow!)

R: What do you most hope readers will take away from your work?\

P: I just hope they have fun reading the story.

R: Finish this sentence:  If I had just one wish, it would be________________________________________

P: To have more hours in the day so I could write more books.

R:  And now, Just for Fun:

Your Favorite:
TV show - HOUSE
Actor – William Powell (The Thin Man)
Actress – Bonita Granville (the original Nancy Drew)
Night or Day – Day, when I have energy
Mountain or Lake – Ocean or Forest
Hawaii or Alaska – Hawaii, Maui
Book or Nook - Book
Cat or Dog? – Too many cats  (R: One can never have too many cats, IMHO!)

Folks, if you’re interested in learning more about Penny Warner and her books, visit her website:

all her books can be found on Amazon and Barnes and Noble!

Penny will be giving away a copy of her “Killer Wine” book to one lucky reader!  Just leave a comment below with your email address (entries without email addy’s will be disqualified, sorry).  To get extra entries, you can:
Friend the Human, Toni LoTempio, on Facebook
Friend Penny or follow her on Twitter
Follow moi on Twitter @RoccoBlogger
Tweet or FB about this blog and contest (gets you 3 extra entries!)

Be sure to mention all you’ve done when you leave your post! Winner will be chosen using random.org.  Contest open to US residents and closes midnight, September 30, winner announced October 1!

The winner of our Angie Fox giveaway is:  Maggi Shelbourne! Watch for an email from Angie to claim your prize.

And coming in October:
Sheila Boneham
Vicki Lewis Thompson
Nina Bangs

Wow! Meow!


Monday, September 17, 2012

In the Hotseat...NYT Bestselling author ANGIE FOX!

Meow! My guest today is NYT Bestselling author Angie Fox, author of the popular “Demon Slayer” series.

Angie Fox is the New York Times bestselling author of several books about vampires, werewolves and things that go bump in the night.

She claims that researching her stories can be just as much fun as writing them. In the name of fact-finding, Angie has ridden with Harley biker gangs, explored the tunnels underneath Hoover Dam and found an interesting recipe for Mamma Coalpot’s Southern Skunk Surprise (she’s still trying to get her courage up to try it).

Angie earned a Journalism degree from the University of Missouri. She worked in television news and then in advertising before beginning her career as an author.   

R:  Hello, Angie and welcome to my hotseat!

A: Thanks, ROCCO!

R: Tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer?

A: I’ve love books, and paranormals in particular. In fact, I remember discovering the paranormal genre back in college. In my sophomore year, there were six of us, living in this tiny place. One night, my roommates started talking about Interview with the Vampire. They were shocked I’d never heard of it and, like the enablers they were, they managed to put together Ann Rice’s entire vampire series, which they stacked next to my bed the next day. I picked up the first book and wow. I was always a good student, but I skipped class for the next week and read the series straight through.

Ironically, when I decided to actually try and write a book of my own, I completely ignored my love of paranormals. Because, you know, that makes sense. I decided to write mystery/suspense with lots of science and research involved. I’d outline, I’d write pages and pages of character notes, I’d force myself to do those little note cards. And I hate note cards. In retrospect, I was fighting my voice. When I was about ready to go insane, I’d sneak off and read Kerrelyn Sparks, Lynsay Sands or Katie MacAlister, just to catch a break.

It took three unpublished books for it to click and for me to realize that hmm…maybe I should write the kind of books I love to read. I had this spark of an idea about a preschool teacher who is forced to run off with a gang of geriatric biker witches and The Accidental Demon Slayer was born. Instead of a 20-page plot outline, I had a 5-page list of ideas, one of which included “but little did they know, all the Shoney’s are run by werewolves.” Instead of following the rules, I broke a few. Instead of painstakingly writing over the course of a year, I grinned my way through the book and had a complete manuscript in five months. 

The opening chapters did well in contests and caught the eye of Leah Hultenschmidt, who asked to see the whole thing. Leah bought the book less than a week after I finished it. And I didn’t write one single note card.

R: You worked in television news – how would you contrast reporting with writing fiction? And which do you prefer?

A: Ha. Well, with reporting, you have to stick to the facts (mostly). Fiction is all about creating new worlds. And I love fiction best.

R:  You also rode with Harley biker gangs? Was that in the name of research?

A: Yes, I did ride with Harley biker gangs. Believe it or not, it was for book research. The first series I ever wrote is about a newly-minted demon slayer who has to run off with her grandma’s gang of biker witches. The biker witches ride Harleys, and I’d never been on a motorcycle before. Plus, the demon slayer has a dog, so I had to figure out how to get a Jack Russell Terrier onto a bike.

I went online and learned about the Biker Dogs Motorcycle Club, made up exclusively of Harley riders and their dogs. I ended up meeting some of them, along with a few other bikers along the way. These bikers were so great to me. They hoisted me onto the back of their Harleys (with dogs in tow). They took me to biker rallies (note to self: don’t wear pink). And they laughed at me when I tried to put my helmet on backwards (I still say I was distracted by the Pomeranian wearing a tiny pair of motorcycle glasses).

After a few outings with my new biker friends, I was able to make my geriatric biker witch characters a lot more realistic. And I took home some great pictures, too.

R:  We all love your “accidental” demon slayer series – do you have any more books planned in that? How did the idea for that come about?

A: The Accidental Demon Slayer series started out as a kernel of an idea that amused me. What if a straight laced preschool teacher suddenly learns she’s a demon slayer? And what if she has to learn about her powers on the run from a fifth level demon? Ohhh and wouldn’t it be fun if she’s running with her long-lost Grandma’s gang of geriatric biker witches?

I let the story evolve based on the characters and that central issue of what happens when a reluctant heroine is thrust into a series of extraordinary situations. And I knew the story was working when I couldn’t wait to get back to the keyboard every day.

There are now four books in that series, and the fifth book, My Big Fat Demon Slayer Wedding, is coming out in spring 2013.

R: If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?

A: This is a tough question for me because I rarely think in terms of movies. For the Accidental Demon Slayer series, I’d most likely cast Reese Witherspoon as the heroine, Lizzy, and perhaps a young Harrison Ford as Dimitri.

For Immortally Yours, the heroine is a no-nonsense surgeon who is actually quite vulnerable at times, so perhaps Keira Knightley. And then for Galen, the special ops soldier, Channing Tatum.

R: Tell us about your latest series, Monster Mash. What can we expect from that?

A: The new series is about a group of paranormal M.A.S.H. surgeons who are stuck in the middle of a great supernatural war. I wrote it because wanted to do something different. Plus, I love writing books that are not only about the hero and heroine, but also about the community where they live. A quirky, paranormal MASH unit sounded like a blast to write. Plus, I love books about special ops soldiers. They are too sexy. So I made my hero a tough-as-nails wounded warrior and my heroine is the doctor who saves him (in more ways than one).

Petra is one of the strongest heroines I’ve ever written. She’s stubborn, independent and used to being on her own. She’s also dealing with her own personal tragedy. Petra is a thoracic surgeon who has been drafted out of her practice in New Orleans and into the middle of this seemingly endless paranormal war. Enlistments run until the end of the conflict, which for her will be a life sentence. Still, she manages to keep her dry sense of humor and she’s even created a new family, of sorts, among her colleagues at the MASH 3063rd.

The only thing she’s not prepared to deal with, it seems, is the hero, who bursts onto the scene first as a critical patient on her operating table and then as the only man who knows her secret ability. He discovers it while she’s saving his life. Unfortunately, her secret ability is forbidden by the gods and could get her killed – or worse. She’s survived so far by keeping her head down and now Galen is threatening that.

But he isn’t interested in hiding. Galen is a hardened special ops soldier, who has risked everything time and time again. He’s focused on his duty and determined to bring an end to the war. Petra and her ability will give him a means to do it. He’s not just an alpha, though. He’s very charismatic. And either by charm or by force, Galen will bring her onto his side. He needs to convince Petra that  a) she can make a difference  and b) she needs to trust him enough to risk eternal damnation. I mean really, it’s hard to talk a girl into that. But Galen isn’t one to give up. And like they say, all’s fair in love and war.

R: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

A: Just call me a plantser. I like to know where the story is going, but not too much because when I’m creating and having fun, that’s when the story itself takes on a lot more energy.

R: What is a “must have” for you that aids the creative process?

A: My dog(!!!!!), a spot on the green couch and a Coke Zero.

R: Is there anything in particular that inspires you.

A: Yes. I think it’s important to push the envelope. The best ideas come when I’m dancing on the edge. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m not allowed moments of panic during enlightenment. For example, when I sold Immortally Yours, I was very excited because the series has a definite edge and was going to make me grow as a writer.

And then…panic. I remember calling my critique partner about a week after I’d sold the book and asking her, “What did I just do? I told them I could write a book about an immortal war. I write funny. How am I supposed to pull this off?”

Once she calmed me down, and talked me into a bit of therapeutic chocolate (thank you, Kristin), I realized that the underlying drama of war could serve to bring the oddball personalities in the MASH camp together. These doctors and nurses don’t have much, but they do manage to find ways to save their sanity and create the kind of relationships that offer a port in the storm.

It forced me to learn about myself and my abilities, it made me push the story to places I’d never gone before. Yes, it was scary, but it was really cool too.

R: What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks? :)

A: I’m a huge reader. My favorite genres to read are paranormal, mystery and historical. I’m also trying to learn yoga (even though I do tend to fall over at least once per class) and other than that, I like getting together with my friends and going to baseball games.

R: Where can we find out more about you and your work?

A: Check me out online at www.angiefox.com

R: What one thing would your readers be surprised to know about you?

A: Even though I made my husband install a chandelier in my office for inspiration (and hey, because I always wanted an office with a chandelier), I still prefer to do most all of my writing on the green couch in the living room.

R: Do you have any advice for other writers just starting out?

A: It’s important to write a world that is different from anything you’ve read before. Add your own twist to it. And whatever you choose to write about, make sure it excites you. If you’re anxious to see what happens next, then chances are, the book has energy and your readers are going to feel it too.

Also be sure to be open to unexpected character twists along the way. Sometimes, the characters you don’t plan, the characters that rise up organically from the story itself, are the ones that truly make a book stand out.

A great example of this is Pirate the dog. When I sat down to write the Accidental Demon Slayer series, I had no notes about a sidekick for Lizzie. But right away, in those opening chapters when Lizzie learns she’s a demon slayer and there are some very scary, very angry creatures on her tail, she takes comfort in her dog. As I was writing, I thought, “who knew she had a dog?” Certainly not me. But she was the type.

And then as I wrote more, I thought, ‘this girl-hugging-dog is a sweet moment. Now how do I throw her off?’

I made the dog say something to her. Nothing big. After all, he’s only after the fettuccine from last week. And he knows exactly where Lizzie can find it (back of the fridge, to the left of the lettuce crisper, behind the mustard). It amused me, so I did it. Thanks to her unholy powers, Lizzie can now understand her smart-mouthed Jack Russell Terrier.

It was weird. It was unexpected. But I ended up having a ball with it. Pirate can say and do things that Lizzie can’t. He’s such a kick to write. That dog is one of the most popular characters with my readers and he didn’t come from an outline or a note card, he came about because the story needed him.

And maybe that’s the key: I didn’t know Lizzie overly well at the start of the book, but I knew why the book needed her. Pirate was unplanned, but he stayed because I knew why the book needed him.

R: You love to make up fun quizzes – give us an example of one.

A: Sometimes I don’t know when to quit when it comes to expanding the worlds I create. For example, the Accidental Demon Slayer series is about a demon slayer who runs off with her grandma’s gang of geriatric biker witches. All the bikers have nicknames, and the names were so much fun to create. So I developed the What’s Your Biker Witch Name? Quiz (LINK: http://quiz.angiefox.com ) It was an offbeat extension of the books. Plus, you haven’t lived until you get emails from physicists in China telling you that their biker witch names are things like Wino Wally No Brakes and Two Date Tessa Hard Rider.

For Immortally Yours, I’m doing a viral program that is cracking me up right now because it is getting slightly out of control (which in my world, means things are going well). I’m going to offer readers an interactive experience that centers around the news network that is covering the war.

In this new series, PNN is the paranormal version of CNN. So I’m basically setting up the “official” PNN website to be like The Onion, only paranormal. It allows me to have a blast, while giving readers a taste of the series. Check it out at www.PNN-Network.com

Just for Fun:

Your favorite:

Movie: The Shawshank Redemption

Author: Charlaine Harris

Book: Undead and Unwed by MaryJanice Davidson

Tv show: True Blood, 30 Rock

Tarot or Tea Leaves: Tarot

Sorcerer or Warlock?: Warlock

Detective or Demon?: Demon

Sunrise or Sunset: Sunset (I’m awake to see it!)

Cat or Dog (Careful, now!): Dog. My chocolate poodle, Moxie, sits next to me every day while I write. (R: no cat, eh?  Me-OWR!)

Folks, here's where to check out Angie and her latest release:

Website Links:      www.angiefox.com


And now, Angie will be giving away a signed copy of Immortaliy Yours to one lucky commenter!
To enter:
Just leave a comment below with your email address (comments without email addresses will be disqualified, sorry L) For extra entries you can:

Friend moi or the Human, Toni LoTempio, on Facebook

Follow me on twitter @RoccoBlogger

Follow Angie on twitter or on facebook

Tweet, FB or blog about this interview and contest (gets you 3 extra entries).
Be sure to mention all you've done in your post so we can give you credit. winner will be chosen at random using random.org.

The contest is open to US residents only and closes midnight, September 23, winner announced Sept. 24th
Get crackin'
and the winner of our Dakota Cassidy giveaway is:  Nikki!  She will receive a digital arc of The Accidental Genie from Dakota!
Next week: Penny Warner!

Monday, September 10, 2012


Meow! My guest today is the incomparable author of the "Accidental" series, DAKOTA CASSIDY!

for those readers not familiar with Dakota, here's a bit about her, taken from her website:
Dakota Cassidy lives for a good laugh in life and in her writing. In fact, she almost loves a good giggle as much as she loves hair products and that's saying something.
Her goals in life are simple, (like really simple): banish the color yellow forever, create world peace via hot rollers and Aqua Net; and finally, nab every tiara in the land by competing in the Miss USA, Miss Universe, and Miss World pageants, then sweeping them in a stunning trifecta of much duct tape and Vaseline usage, all in just under one week. Oh, and write really fun books!
Dakota lives in Texas with her two sons, her mother, more cats and dogs than the local animal shelter and has a husband who puts the heroes in her books to shame.

And now....Dakota in my hotseat!

R: Meow, welcome Dakota
D: Thanks, ROCCO.
R: Tell us a bit about yourself, and how you became interested in writing?
D: Writing was a total accident for me. I’d been reviewing books for an online review site and had an idea one day. That “idea” turned into THIS. LOLLOL!
R: if you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?
D: Hoarding animals. Seriously, I love animals and if I could devote 24/7 to them, and didn’t have to pay the mortgage, I’d be on an ep of Hoarders.
R: What advice would you give new writers just starting out?
D: Ignore the minutia. Forget all the rules about what’s right and what’s wrong. Forget the stuff that all the experts say you absolutely must do when creating an MS and just write. Fear not, you’ll figure out all those grammatical and mechanical details as you go. I’m not saying they aren’t important, because they really are. But I’ve found it can really thwart your creativity if you don’t just create the story of your dreams and worry about all the tech stuff later. Find someone who knows how to show you all about adverbs and character motivation, but find them AFTER you’ve written the story.
R: In today’s changing publishing environment, how important do you feel social media is and why?
D: Oh, for me it’s incredibly important. I love Facebook and Twitter, and they keep me in constant touch with readers—that’s awesome. It’s been invaluable in my career because I love being able to chat w/folks. It’s also a terrific tool for promotion. And where else can you watch an episode of The Real Housewives Of New Jersey with five million other people? Love it!
R: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
D:Get married at 18. No. Don’t say it. You can’t say anything I haven’t already said to myself. LOLLOL!
R: What one thing would your readers be surprised to learn about you?
D: I don’t think anything would surprise my readers because going back to that social media thing—there isn’t much I haven’t shared with them at this point. Though, maybe they’d be surprised to learn that I hate makeup. Love the way it looks, HATE the way it feels on my face. So I only wear it like once a week.
R: Are there any writers  in particular that have influenced your style of writing?
D: No doubt, Nina Bangs and Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Both a little nutty and completely willing to go “there.” By “there” I mean to just over the line of outrageous J

R: Which of your “accidental” series is your favorite and why?
D: Can’t choose, they’re like children and I love them all, but I will admit to a certain freeing quality when writing the character Nina. She’s uncensored, and that’s badass to write.
R: Tell us a bit about your upcoming release, THE ACCIDENTAL GENIE.  What inspired that book?
D: I love genies, and I loved I Dream Of Jeannie, so to have the op to write one, and make up my own rules, was awesome. I’m not sure what inspired the book other than the usual, “Wouldn’t it be funny IF” theory I write most of my books with.
R: What would you do if you ever found a real genie in a bottle? What would your three wishes be?
D: Oh, hell no. I’m not making any wishes—not if all the mythology I’ve read is true. Those genies are some crazy sons o’ bitches! So I’ll stick to the no wish policy. But if it were more like Aladdin wishes, I’d wish for all the homeless pets in the world to have a forever home, real blonde hair instead of my fake, have-to-hit- the-salon-every-few-weeks blonde, and that my son’s are always capable, strong, and well taken care of J
R: Do you have plans for any more “accidental” books?
D: Well, I always have plans… LOLLOL! It just depends on whether my editor is on board the “Plan Train.”
R: Where can our readers find out more about you and your works?
D: You can hit my two Facebook pages—I have a fan and profile page, and I’m on Twitter, too. I’m all up in social networking’s face!

R: Now, Just for Fun:
D: Night or Day?  . Night
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)  Both. Reptiles, too.
Beach or Pool?   Damn. Both.
Steak or salad?  Sigh. Steak.
Favorite Drink?  Pepsi.
Favorite Book?  The Stand.
Favorite TV Series?  Can’t choose, but Hart Of Dixie has me in total love right now.
Favorite Movie?  Again, wishy-washy here—can’t choose. LOL! But I loved Dodge Ball!
R: Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be
D: my Dad. I really miss him J___________________

Thanks for a great interview, Dakota!

Folks to keep up with all the latest on Dakota and her newest releases, follow the below links:

And now our giveaway: Dakota will be giving away a DIGITAL ARC of “The Accidental Genie!" To enter:
Just leave a comment below with your email address (comments without email addresses will be disqualified, sorry L)  For extra entries you can:

Friend moi or the Human, Toni LoTempio, on Facebook
Follow me on twitter @RoccoBlogger
Follow Dakota on twitter
Like Dakota's fb page, or if you are already a friend, mention that
Tweet, FB or blog about this interview and contest (gets you 3 extra entries).

The contest is open to US residents only and closes midnight, September 16 – winner announced September 17!

And...the winners of our Rebecca Hale giveaway are: Orlando Kat and CarmyBabe 43!  Watch for our email with the details on claiming your prize!
Get crackin’!

On Deck:  Angie Fox and Penny Warner

Stay tuned.  Meow!


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

We welcome....REBECCA HALE!

Today my guest is author Rebecca Hale!

From the Berkeley website:

Rebecca M. Hale is the NY Times bestselling author of HOW TO WASH A CAT. The series, starring Rebecca’s cats Rupert and Isabella, takes place at an antique shop in San Francisco’s historic Jackson Square. While fictional, each book features a different aspect of California history — from the Gold Rush (HOW TO WASH A CAT), to the San Francisco exploits of Mark Twain (NINE LIVES LAST FOREVER), to the Bear Flag Revolt (HOW TO MOON A CAT). The fourth book in the series, HOW TO TAIL A CAT, is due out September, 2012. Rebecca is also working on a new Mystery in the Islands series, set in the US Virgin Islands, which starts with ADRIFT ON ST. JOHN, available March 2012. ADRIFT involves the mysterious sinking of a water taxi off the island of St. John and the possible involvement of the Amina Slave Princess, a ghost from the island’s 1733 Slave Revolt. The second book in the series, AFOOT ON ST. CROIX, is scheduled for 2013 release.

And now....here's Rebecca!

R:  Meow, welcome Rebecca.
RH:  Thanks, ROCCO!

R:   Tell us about your “Rupert” series.  How did the series start and what was your inspiration for adding in the historical tie-in?

RH: It all started when a large pharmaceutical company bought out the biotech where I’d been working. I could have stayed on with the new company, but I was ready for a break, so I decided to take the summer off – that’s when I began writing.

HOW TO WASH A CAT was my first attempt at fiction of any sort, much less a full-length novel. It seemed natural for me to use my cats as character models. An actual cat-washing incident inspired the first chapter.

As for the historical aspect, early on in my legal career, I worked for a law firm in downtown San Francisco. Their offices were located in a historic building on Montgomery Street. I’d heard bits and pieces about how dramatically the Gold Rush changed the city’s layout (and that Montgomery Street was the original shoreline), but I never had the time to investigate that history until I started writing.

R:.  You also write another series, Mystery in the Islands. What was your inspiration for those books?

RH: I made my first trip to St. John in 2007 for a friend’s wedding – and I was immediately hooked. As soon as I got home, I booked a return flight. It was during that second week, on the island by myself, that I met many of the people who inspired the characters for ADRIFT ON ST JOHN. I’ve since been back several times…for research, of course.

I’m currently writing the second novel, AFOOT ON ST CROIX. This isn’t a traditional series; the characters shift from one book to the next. For example, a minor character from ADRIFT is the main focus of AFOOT. Each book is really about the island itself, its unique history and culture, and a fictionalization of the people I meet while exploring it. I hope to slowly work my way through the Caribbean, one book at a time.

R:  Which out of all the characters you’ve created is your favorite and why?

RH: For me, the best characters are based on people I meet – in San Francisco, the Caribbean, or anywhere else I travel. Sometimes the briefest, most random encounter can lead to the creation of a major character or even an entire plotline.

One of my favorite characters falls into this category. The “crazy hippie” Conrad Corsair in ADRIFT ON ST JOHN is based on a man I met on a very bumpy ferry ride from Charlotte Amalie to Cruz Bay. I was seasick, rapidly turning green, so he tried to distract me with chitchat. He told me his version of the tale of the 1733 Slave Revolt as well as a vivid description of his “teepee tent” at the Maho Bay eco resort.

R: .  If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?

RH: I’ve been writing fulltime since 2006. I’ve become so thoroughly addicted to it, I can’t really imagine ever going back to “real” work. Much as I enjoyed patent law, I think that part of my life is over. I have too many books left to write!

R: .  What other writing genre would you like to try that you haven’t yet? Historical, screenwriting, etc?

RH: I’d like to work more visual aspects into the story-making process, such as photos and short video clips. Right now, I mostly share those on facebook, but it should be easy to incorporate those into the e-book format, and I suspect we’ll see a lot more of that in the future. Both my cat and island books tend to involve a lot of research, so the visual supplements provide a way for me to share those experiences with the reader.

R:   What new adventures are in store for Rupert and Isabella?  What can we look forward to?

RH: Coming up in HOW TO TAIL A CAT, Rupert and Isabella join their person on the hunt for a rogue albino alligator, who pops up in several locations around San Francisco – as well as in the basement of the Green Vase antique shop.

In real life, last year Rupert and Isabella welcomed a set of foster kittens into their home, and they eventually agreed to let the newbies stay on permanently. One of those kittens, now a “teenage” cat, will be making his literary debut in the fifth book in the series. Chester is a longhaired Russian Blue mix, who started off life as a feral. I have lots of material on cat/kitten interactions to use in that story!

R:  Every writer has an “agent” story. How did you get your agent, and what is your advice to aspiring novelists querying agents?

RH:  I’m somewhat unique on that front – I don’t have an agent. When I finished HOW TO WASH A CAT, I self-published it as a hardcover under my own imprint Green Vase Publishing and took it on the road. I never submitted it to anyone; I had this hair-brained idea that I could do everything myself. Working through the Barnes & Noble Small Press Department, I set up a number of “meet and greet” style front-of-store book signings across the country. Toward the end of that summer, B&N sent the book to an editor at Penguin, who then approached me for a license to the paperback rights. Since then, I’ve handled all of the negotiations myself. HOW TO TAIL A CAT will be my fifth Penguin-published title, and (between the two series) I’m under contract for at least four more books.

R:  Are there any writers in particular that have influenced your style of writing?

RH: Graham Greene is my all time favorite author. Right after I took my bar exam in 1997, I hopped a flight to Vietnam for a few weeks vacation before I started my first law firm job. While there, I discovered The Quiet American and read it while walking down the streets of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), where the novel was set. I had about $90,000 of law school debt to pay off and ten years of working as a lawyer ahead of me, but that’s when I first thought to myself “I want to be a writer.”

R:   What book is on your TBR shelf you can’t wait to get to?

RH: When I set aside my writing for the day, I like to read something completely different, typically nonfiction such as travel writing or history.

I’m currently reading Robert Kaplan’s Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power. It’s a fascinating overview of the history of the region surrounding the Indian Ocean and how the monsoon, which switches direction from one season to the next, shaped world trade and development.

R:  What advice would you give new writers just starting out?

RH: Believe in yourself. Get feedback from every available source, but focus only on the constructive criticism. There will be countless people willing to shoot you down. Ignore all that. The only opinion that really counts is your own.

R:  What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

RH:During that trip to Vietnam, I rode on the back of a moped from Saigon an hour south down a busy highway to the Mekong River, where I got onto a tiny fishing boat for a private tour of the delta. The forty-year old me is a much safer traveler now than I was then!

R: Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be…

RH:  If I had the opportunity to go back in time, I would want to see my grandfather, Bill. He’s the inspiration for the Uncle Oscar character in the Cats and Curios series. He died many years before I left the law and started writing, taking with him his secret fried chicken recipe…

R:  Tell us Your Favorite:
RH:  Book:  The Quiet American
Movie:  Casablanca. Close runners up: The English Patient, Sliding Doors, and The Man From Snowy River.
TV show: Spooks (MI-5)
Actor: Nathan Fillion  (R:  who doens't love Nathan! Meow!)
Actress: Zooey Deschanel

Night or Day: Sunrise
Mountain or Lake: Mountain
Hawaii or Alaska: Hawaii
Book or Nook: iPad
Cat or Dog?: Iguana

R: Thanks for a great interview, Rebecca!
RH: Thank you, ROCCO!

Folks to learn more about Rebecca and keep up with her works, you can visit Rebeca's Facebook author page: Rebecca M. Hale Author.

Also these websites:

Books can be purchased at your favorite bookstore or online at Indibound, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, Apple iBooks, Amazon, and generally wherever books are sold.

And now for ourGiveaway: Rebecca will be giving Signed copies of HOW TO TAIL A CAT and ADRIFT ON ST. JOHN to two lucky readers!  To enter just leave a comment with the book of your choice (please select only one - either Tail a Cat or St. John) with your email address.  Winners will be chosen by random.org. For extra entries you can:
Friend moi or the Human, Toni LoTempio, on Facebook
Follow me on twitter @RoccoBlogger
Follow Carole on twitter
Friend Carole on Facebook
Tweet, FB or blog about this interview and contest (gets you 3 extra entries).

The contest is open to US residents only and closes midnight, September 9 – winner announced Sept. 10!

Get goin!
Next week:  Dakota Cassidy in MY hotseat!  Meow!

That Incredible Talking, Blogging Cat!

Monday, September 3, 2012


Meow, Happy Monday KITTIES!  Hope everyone is enjoying their Labor Day weekend! I know the Human is laboring over how to make me stop talking....a humongous undertaking, I assure you. but more on that at a future date.

right now it's time for giveaway announcements, and my Pet of the Month!

The winner of our Gerry Bartlett giveaway is: Ada Kringler!
Congrats! Watch for an email from The Human on claiming your prize!

and now to important business....

My guest tomorrow is the lovely and talented Rebecca Hale, author of the CATS AND CURIOS mystery series!  When Rebecca sent us this photo of her cat, Isabella, I not only fell in lurvve, I knew she HAD to be my September Pet of the Month. I mean...c'mon...look at her!

and Isabella would like y'all to know...yes, that is an alligator on the cover of Rebecca's latest book!  she's so nice I posted her twice.  MEOW!

Tune in tomrrow to read my interview as Rebecca Hale sits in my hotseat!