A Q&A with Crime Writer Thomas O’Callaghan

 

 

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Is there a sociopathic killer on the loose and murdering prostitutes in New York City? NYPD’s top cop, Homicide Commander Lieutenant John Driscoll, believes there is. Someone who calls himself “Tilden” and claims to have been sexually abused as a child by his mother’s john. But what could have triggered Tilden’s rage that has him on a mission to eradicate all the women of the night in The Big Apple?

 

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Police line crime scene in New York City with blurry background

 

 

 

Q&A with Thomas O’Callaghan for Benjamin Thomas’ The Writing Train

 

How did your early reading habits lead you to become a writer?

After graduating with a liberal arts degree from Richmond College I landed a job with Allstate Insurance Company as a sales agent.  When the company opted to take their sales force in another direction I decided it was time to retire and find something else to do with my time. I spent much of that time reading.  On the beach in summer and on the couch in winter.  One day I picked up a copy of HELTER SKELTER, by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry. This is an often used adage, but I couldn’t put it down. The author’s attention to detail fascinated me. After that, I was hooked on novels depicting murder, mayhem and suspense. I soon discovered such notables as Thomas Harris, John Sandford, Lawrence Block and Ed McBain, just to name a few. Unlike, HELTER SKELTER, where the storyline was based on an actual murder, Harris, Sandford, Block, McBain and company, created murder and the intrigue that surrounded it. I was enthralled all the more. Read on, I said, and so I did.  After I finished reading my twelfth 87th Precinct novel, I thought: I could do that!  And so, on a gloomy, rain-soaked Friday afternoon, that happened to follow Thanksgiving, I began writing NIGHTKILLS, which would later become BONE THIEF.  Looking back, I’m happy with the course my life had taken me, bringing me to what has become my life’s passion:  Writing!


Was it a journey developing the confidence to write, or did it come naturally? 

 

It was a journey that had begun at a slow pace.  Aside from essays in college I’d never written in a narrative fashion.  When I took an early retirement from Allstate I was 49.  With a great deal of free time on my hands a very good friend suggested to either take on a new job or devote time to a hobby I’d enjoy.  My first venture toward that end had me wandering through Prospect Park in Brooklyn, NY armed with a 35mm camera taking photographs of nature-in-the-raw.  That interest waned after four or five weeks.  I then enrolled at HB Studios in NYC to study the art of ‘acting’.  It was fun, but after two months I began to lose interest. Since I enjoyed reading mysteries and thrillers, my trusted friend suggested I write one.  Me?  Write a book?  I haven’t a clue as to where to start, I argued.  She suggested I write 

an opening chapter similar in style to what I liked to read.  And so I did.  After she read it she asked me what I had in mind for the next chapter.  This went on for several weeks at the end of which I had written the opening of a story that only she and I had read.  I didn’t think it was very good but she encouraged me to call a friend of hers, a “writing coach” of sorts, which I did.  His name was Stephen Ohayon.  He had once taught the art of writing on a college level and offered to work with me to turn my feeble attempt into a saleable novel.  We met weekly in his office in Manhattan where his day job was as a psychotherapist.  He scheduled time for me between patients.  I brought him a typed chapter and during a one hour session he helped me push that chapter from first draft to second, third, fourth and fifth.  When we reached Chapter Last I set out to market the book.  It sold close to 100,000 copies and was translated and published in Germany, Slovakia, Indonesia, the Czech Republic, China, and Italy.   

 

 

What do you enjoy most about writing?

I enjoy writing for a number of reasons.  One that comes to mind immediately is that writing allows me to escape the hum drum of everyday life.  Another reason is that creating characters for the sole purpose of performing in a story that I’ve set in motion is exciting.  I’m fueled by that. And, because it’s fiction, I’m motivated to weave memories of times in my life, some good, some regrettable, into the back story of my characters. We all have chapters we wish never to see published, but, with the right finesse, the theme of those blunders can and do add human authenticity to fictional entities. 


What are the most challenging aspects?  

One of the most challenging aspects of being a writer is constantly competing with an inner voice that tells me what I’ve written isn’t very good.  That, of and in itself, drives me to be a better writer.  Writers write.  Rewriters get published.


How has your writing process developed over the twelve years it took to become published?

The writing process as outlined above continued in the same fashion, day after day, week after week.  Those weeks became years as I needed to convince a publisher my work was ready for print.  That involved submission after submission of query letters and partial manuscripts to every single literary agent that specialized in my genre.  When I reached the end of the line, so to speak, and any further submission would be repetitive I took the advice of a few well intentioned literary agents along the way to have a professional editor have a look at my manuscript.  After working for two years with the late Dick Marek, who’d edited The Silence of the Lambs for Thomas Harris along with nine of Robert Ludlam’s books, Kensington Books agreed to publish my debut novel.  


What are some ways working with an editor has helped you?

Aside from learning that a tightly written novel reads very quickly, thereby keeping the reader engaged, working with a professional editor taught me a wonderful lesson:  a writer, especially someone starting out, often feels his or her work is sacrosanct, but the editor is keenly aware of what a publisher is looking for and what sells.  It’s best to accept that reality and be open to change.  It will increase the chance of having your work published.   

How important is rewriting when working on a manuscript?

Extremely important.  I begin by writing a first draft of a chapter which entails typing without concern for spelling, punctuation, or cohesion.  The point is to get the thought on paper as quickly as possible without listening to that inner voice telling you “Oh, that’s not good,”  Once that’s done, I’ll go in and rewrite the chapter over and over again, until I have what I consider perfection.  In essence, one must write drunk and edit sober.


If we were to meet NYPD homicide cop John Driscoll, what kind of person would we meet?

In short, he’d be a taller version of me.  He’s an Irishman with a sense of morality who tries to do the right thing.  A compassionate soul who tries to be kind to friends and foes alike. Yes, Lieutenant Driscoll is flawed.  But, then, who isn’t?

 

Do the John Driscoll mysteries employ a certain theme?

Yes, the theme is that good prevails over evil.  They are psychological thrillers which detail the fictionalized onslaught of heinous murders perpetrated by a madman, or in the case of THE SCREAMING ROOM, a set of demonic twins, using New York City as a killing field.  Lieutenant Driscoll is brought into the equation intent on putting a stop to the madness.

 

If you were John Driscoll in, No One Will Hear Your Screams, could you solve the case?

 

Absolutely!  The Lieutenant is a resourceful investigator who, with the able-bodied assistance of two professional and ingenious associates in Margaret Aligante and Cedric Thomlinson, evil can’t triumph.

 

What are you currently working on?

My current work in progress introduces Richard Singleton, a bestselling author suffering from writer’s block.  When he becomes the owner of a beach house where a heinous murder had taken place, he finds stimulation and is able to put the pen to paper again.  His manuscript is progressing well and his faltered career is looking bright again, that is until he gets an anonymous call from the former owner of the house who had perpetrated the aforementioned murder who has plans of his own regarding what this bestselling author should write. 

 

 

Thomas O'Callaghan

 

 

Thomas O’Callaghan’s work has been translated for publication in Germany, Slovakia, Indonesia, the Czech Republic, China, and Italy. As an internationally acclaimed author, Mr. O’Callaghan is a member of both the Mystery Writers of America and the International Thriller Writers associations. A native of New York City and a graduate of Richmond College, Mr. O’Callaghan resides with his lovely wife, Eileen, a stone’s throw from the Atlantic Ocean in beautiful Belle Harbor, New York. His debut novel BONE THIEF introduces NYPD Homicide Commander Lieutenant John W. Driscoll. THE SCREAMING ROOM, is the second in the John Driscoll series. The third book in the series, NO ONE WILL HEAR YOUR SCREAMS was recently released by WildBlue Press. For more information, please visit: ThomasOCallaghan.com

 

ThomasOCallaghan.com

 

 

Old Locomotive

 

 

 

 

 

A Q&A With the Authors of Robin Hood’s Widow: Olivia Longueville & J.C. Plummer

 

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Don’t miss this unique retelling of the Robin Hood legend!

England, 1154-1194
A kingdom under assault.
A conspiracy born of anarchy.
A hero standing against tyranny.

Robin’s duty to his king sends him on an odyssey that will unfold from the streets of Paris to the banks of the Danube. From incredible triumphs on the battlefields of the Crusade, to harrowing sea voyages, to a desperate dash across the frozen landscape of Central Europe, Robin Hood must ensure that King Richard safely returns to England.

Meanwhile, the outlaws of Sherwood Forest rise again under a new leader—and she is unwavering in her pursuit of justice against the tyranny of Sheriff de Argentan. Marian endures the heartbreak of widowhood only to find strength and purpose as she leads a small band of devoted men in her quest for vengeance while she protects Robin’s legacy.

Sir Guy of Gisborne, tormented by his conscience and enslaved by the sheriff, faces the wraith-like fury of the woman he once loved. How do you find forgiveness when you have committed an unforgivable crime? He must attempt a daunting journey of redemption, while finding inspiration from an unexpected source.

And through it all, Robin, Marian, and Guy are entangled in a web of treachery spun by the King of France and his sinister advisor, Montlhéry, as the plot to dismantle the Angevin Empire and take the throne of England from the Plantagenets boldly continues.

Part two of an exciting three-part retelling of the Robin Hood legend!

Although the books in the trilogy are not stand-alone, they do not end in cliffhangers.

 

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Author Q&A with Olivia Longueville and J.C. Plummer

Robin Hood has been featured in many books, movies, and television shows.  How is your trilogy different?

In our first book, Robin Hood’s Dawn, we re-imagined the origins of the Robin Hood legend, which included exploring his family dynamics: an aloof, selfish father and a kind-hearted mother devoted to ministering to the poor.  One theme is how the consequences of immoral actions and secret sins can reverberate across generations.  This is part of Robin’s legacy from his father.

We cast Robin as a hero fighting against the tyranny of a lawless government official. When Robin is falsely accused of a shocking crime by the new Sheriff of Nottingham, he could have retreated to a safe place beyond the reach of the sheriff.  However, he feels a responsibility to the people because he believes in the intrinsic value of every human being.  Instead of running away, he stays to protect the people from the sheriff.  And this points to another theme: one person can make a difference by taking a stand for what is right.

The second book, Robin Hood’s Widow, picks up where the first book ends. Robin is alive and still with King Richard in the Holy Land, but Marian, the sheriff, and Guy of Gisborne have returned to England thinking that Robin Hood is dead.

Robin Hood’s Widow explores themes of grief and redemption, while featuring Marian’s adventures as leader of the outlaws. Her story is interwoven with Robin’s quest to return home while fulfilling his obligations to King Richard.

In this book, we wanted to explore both the stages of grief and their non-linear nature. Experiencing loss and grief is not like climbing stairs; you don’t complete one stage, progress to the next, and eventually arrive at acceptance. The emotional turmoil of an earlier stage can reappear and reassert itself during the process.

That being said, this story is not sad or depressing; Robin Hood’s Widow is an optimistic tale of triumphing over adversity. 

You’ve emphasized how your Robin Hood story has been re-imagined.  Will fans of the traditional ballads still recognize this as a Robin Hood story?

There is a lot of variety in the many books and screen adaptations of the Robin Hood legend.  We wanted to create a story that was respectful towards fans of the original ballads and legends without adhering to the same story lines that have been previously written.  We hope that all Robin Hood fans will enjoy this fresh retelling of the story.

However, we felt that Marian is a character who deserves more attention.  All too often she is a background character with little to do.  With this in mind, we have focused on creating a Lady Marian who will figure more prominently in the story, especially in Robin Hood’s Widow, where she takes center stage as the leader of the outlaws. She must learn how to lead while finding clever ways to thwart the sheriff and rob those supporters of Prince John who dare enter Sherwood Forest.  We also wanted Marian to be feminine and believable as a woman of the 12th century.    

Do the first two books of the trilogy end in cliff-hangers? Are the books stand alone?  

We have structured the trilogy so that the books do not end in cliff-hangers, and we have endeavored to create a sense of completion in each of the books. 

Although we want readers to start with Robin Hood’s Dawn, we know that some might be more interested in Robin Hood’s Widow. Therefore, we have endeavored to provide enough information in the second book so that a new reader will not be lost.

Both Robin and Marian are guarding secrets that will be revealed in Robin Hood’s Widow!

How did you become interested in writing this story and working together as co-authors?

Olivia:

The story of Robin Hood’s Widow is very special to me, and I wrote the original version after I experienced a devastating personal loss. Readers might be surprised to learn that Robin Hood’s Widow was written before Robin Hood’s Dawn!

I love to tell stories with multi-dimensional characters.  I am multi-lingual, and I enjoy writing stories in different languages.  My first novel is an English-language alternate history featuring Anne Boleyn.

I met Coleen (J.C.) on the Internet, and we decided to co-author a Robin Hood Trilogy with Robin Hood’s Widow as its centerpiece.  

So, you’ve never met, you come from different countries, different cultures, and speak different languages.  How can you co-author a book?  Is it because you have similar writing styles?

Coleen:

Fortunately, Olivia is fluent in English, because that’s the only language I know!

Olivia:

We have found that we have a lot in common—especially our love of writing and of history.  We have to work hard to merge our writing styles, but we have successfully done this. 

Coleen:

That’s true.  Olivia and I have very different “voices” and writing styles.  You might even say they are nearly opposite styles.  

I write in a straightforward, expository style, with a minimum of descriptive elements and metaphorical flourishes.  I am good at explaining things, organizing ideas, and creating natural sounding dialogue.

Olivia:

My writing is characterized by lush romanticism and passionate lyricism.  I love to create metaphors and descriptions which excite the imagination of the reader in a vivid and dramatic way.

Coleen:

In some respects, Olivia’s words are the emotional heart of the story, and my words represent the rational intellect.  Of course, it’s not quite that cut-and-dried, but it is one way to describe how two people with such different styles have come together to create Robin Hood’s Dawn and Robin Hood’s Widow

 

 

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Author Information

Below are the author biographies and social media profiles.  

Olivia Longueville 

Olivia has always loved literature and fiction, and she is passionate about historical research, genealogy, and the arts.  She has several degrees in finance & general management from London Business School (LBS) and other universities.  At present, she helps her father run the family business.  

During her first trip to France at the age of ten, Olivia had a life-changing epiphany when she visited the magnificent Château de Fontainebleau and toured its library.  This truly transformed her life as she realized her passion for books and writing, foreshadowing her future career as a writer.  In childhood, she began writing stories and poems in different languages.  Loving writing more than anything else in her life, Olivia has resolved to devote her life to creating historical fiction novels.  She has a special interest in the history of France and England.  

Having met on the Internet, Olivia and J. C. Plummer, a writer and historian, decided to co-author The Robin Hood Trilogy.  Olivia and J. C. are retelling the Robin Hood story with an unusual and imaginative plot that is solidly grounded in 12th century history. The trilogy incorporates twists and turns which will captivate and entertain readers.

 

Olivia’s social media profiles:

Personal websiteOlivialongueville.com

Project websitewww.angevinworld.com

Twitter@O_Longueville

FacebookOlivia Longueville

Tumblr: http://www.olivia-longueville.tumblr.com

 

J. C. Plummer 

J.C. Plummer (Jennie Coleen) graduated Summa Cum Laude from Washburn University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Anthropology.  She later earned a Master of Science degree in Computer Information Science from Dartmouth College.

Co-authoring The Robin Hood Trilogy has merged J.C.’s passions for history, culture, and technology into one unique, exciting project.

As an author and historian, J.C.’s goal is to provide thoughtful and entertaining storytelling that honors the past, is mindful of the present, and is optimistic for the future.

 

J.C.’s social media profiles:

Project websitewww.angevinworld.com

Twitter@JC_Plummer

FacebookJennie Newbrand

KNOLL: The Last JFK Conspiracist  By Stephen Hillard

 

KNOLL: The Last JFK Conspiracist

By Stephen Hillard

 

 

 

Knoll

 

 

Q&A with Author Stephen Hillard

 

 

Q&A

 

 

 

1.  What led you into writing from your other fields of interest?  

Writing is one of those things that, if you want to do it, I suggest don’t hesitate and delay.  I did both for a long time and regret it.  Even a few pages here and there will keep one from abandoning it.  In my case, other, very important things in life crowded it out, but it was always there.  So a few years ago I decided I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t take the risks and jump in.

As for KNOLL, I’m with the majority of Americans that still believe JFK was murdered as the result of a conspiracy.  Some things nag at you, itch until you have to scratch and open them so they can be treated and healed.  For me, the itch was the assassination of JFK.  It got worse as I pondered over the years how something that momentous, that public a spectacle, could remain obscure and unresolved. Growing up in Louisiana with friends whose fathers were “made men” in the Mob, my brother playing in the band at the club secretly owned by Mafia Kingpin Carlos Marcello, my father as night manager at the downtown Shreveport hotel where vice was part of the room service, all went into the soup.  Teaching inmates at Rikers Island helped me understand how little ever gets known about murder.  My career as practicing lawyer (including as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C.) helped me understand how things “off the record”, hidden from public view, can determine so much of what we call history.    The healing balm was writing a story based in very substantial part on true facts, including references to Dalton Trumbo, the Academy Award-winning, blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter who first had the nerve to write a movie (Executive Action) about the assassination conspiracy.  I wanted to explore how the mystery might (or might not) still be resolved in this twilight era of the last active JFK conspiracy activists.  So all my other fields of interest contributed to this story.  





JFK

 





2. How does writing compare to your previous work experience?  

I confess, I treat writing much like a fascinating legal case or business project, with the same level of passion and discipline and attention to research that I would apply to an entrepreneurial investment or a legal case.  I get “into” of all those and want to see each of them through.  Inspiration and a creative muse are the fun part.  

3. Who is Bus McIntyre?  

Bus is me in an alternative universe.  He has doubts, he struggles to get his bearings in a universe of errant stars and uncertain tides.  He is driven to know that which is probably unknowable — in this case the truth behind the murders of his father and JFK.  Yes, like Bus, I ride a Harley.


4. The plot for Knoll is very intriguing. Why did you choose this particular one?  

Depending on your source, KNOLL is somewhere between the 4,000th and 40,000th book on JFK. It is, however, one of a relative short list of fictional treatments (including movies, comics, and songs)  of those events.  It is the only one set self-consciously in this moment where the “last of the JFK conspiracists” are fading away, perhaps sealing the fate of the matter as one of the great cold cases of history. It also recognizes that the case just might still be solved.  If intelligence resources at the level that were applied to find Osama Bin Laden were applied to this case, plus a lucky break or two of new facts, the unravelling thread might well be pulled from the tapestry of mystery. That is the world into which the two key characters, Banner McCoy, the Millenial NSA fugitive, and Bus McIntyre, the Bilbo Baggins of the JFK Mystery, find themselves. Of course, there are forces out there, living and dead, that will fiercely protect those secrets.





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5. Tell us about your experience in researching this book. 

What great fun!  Of course, the book is a work of fiction, and I have taken liberties in names, places and events.  Behind those, I read much of the JFK literature, researched all the historical characters and places — Carlos Marcello, Elvis, Dalton Trumbo, Bossier City — and revisited all of the sites in the story.


6. What was the most enjoyable part in writing Knoll?  

My favorites were writing the too-brief character of Banner McCoy, along with Bus’ journey on his bike to find the truth about himself and these murders, plus the final stalk in the canyon lands near Grand Junction, Colorado.



 

7.  What was the most challenging?  

Writing the too-brief character of young Banner McCoy.  My kids helped me a lot with that.  More important, Banner will be a key character in a sequel that takes all the events in KNOLL for a speed ride into a higher political dimension.



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Thanks Steve!!!