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The Motivation Myth. How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up To Win With Jeff Haden
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Interview with Christina Hoag – Girl on the Brink
Do you consider yourself locked in to one genre?
I write both adult and YA. What they have in common is that I write contemporary realistic stories about social/moral dilemmas and issues. My adult title “Skin of Tattoos,” where the protagonist is barely out of his teens at age 20, is a gritty tale about gangs, sort of an LA twist on “The Outsiders,” that seeks to delve deeper into the reasons kids join gangs and the consequences of choosing that life.
Did Girl on the Brink begin with an idea, theme, or factual events?
This novel was born out of my own experience in an abusive relationship. I really wanted to write about it because being a former journalist I know a good story when I see one and I knew this was a good story, despite the fact that it happened to me. Also, I felt strongly that I wanted to write sort of cautionary tale to alert girls at the beginning of their dating lives to the red flags of dangerous relationships, such as a fast ramp-up of a romance and being pressured quickly to making a commitment. These signs can be easily misinterpreted if you don’t know what they mean. Using the aforementioned example, that can be interpreted as a “whirlwind romance,” like something out of a movie, but it can be someone looking for control. This stuff isn’t taught in schools or anywhere else so girls and women aren’t trained to look for these signs.
Did you get emotional while writing this title?
I had enough distance from the actual events not to get emotional, but it did bring back a lot of memories. However, I found that helped me write faster because I just wanted to get through reliving this stuff and have the project done!
Who is Chloe?
Chloe is a 17-year- old who wants to be a reporter so she gets a summer internship at the local weekly newspaper, where she meets Kieran on an assignment. She is smart and empathic, but she’s also going through the split of her parents and feels very alone. That makes her lean on Kieran all the more.
Who is Kieran?
Kieran is a 19-year- old aspiring actor. As a child, he suffered from an abusive stepfather and a father who left and never returned. So he is torn between loathing his real father for deserting him and desperately wanting his love and approval. This has created a huge insecurity in him, which is reflected in his desire to control and dominate Chloe. Although it’s never stated in the book, Kieran has borderline personality disorder, which is characterized by sudden, terrifying Jekyll-and- Hyde type rages.
Is Girl on the Brink a standalone or will you write more YA novels?
I’ve got two more YA projects on the burner. Both are realistic contemporary stories that revolve around social issues, teens getting in trouble and learning from their mistakes. Both are also set in the same fictional town of Indian Valley, New Jersey, as Girl on the Brink, and involve some of the same characters.
What’s next for you?
I’ve been working on a few short stories and then will likely plunge into a YA novel. I’ve also got two half finished adult novels sitting in my proverbial drawer so I may dust one of those off. But my gut is feeling I should do one of the YAs so that’s what I’ll likely pursue next.
“An engrossing tale of a dangerous teen romance.” – Kirkus Reviews
“Girl on the Brink is a must have for every high school and public library.” – Isabella Kane, author & school librarian
The summer before her senior year, 17-year-old Chloe begins an internship as a reporter for a local newspaper. While on assignment, she meets Kieran, a quirky aspiring actor. Smitten with Kieran’s charisma and his ability to soothe her soul, torn over her parents’ impending divorce, they begin dating.
But as their bond deepens, Kieran becomes smothering and flies into terrifying rages. He confides in Chloe that he suffered a traumatic childhood, and Chloe is moved to help him. If only he could be healed, she thinks, their relationship would be perfect.
But her efforts backfire and Kieran becomes violent. Ending the relationship is hard for Chloe and Kieran pursues her relentlessly to make up.
Now Chloe must make the heartrending choice between saving herself or saving Kieran, until Kieran’s mission of remorse turns into a quest for revenge.
As a journalist, Christina Hoag had her laptop searched by Colombian guerrillas and phone tapped in Venezuela, was suspected of drug trafficking in Guyana, hid under a car to evade Guatemalan soldiers, and posed as a nun to get inside a Caracas jail. She’s interviewed gang members, bank robbers, gunmen, thieves and thugs in prisons, shantytowns and slums, not to forget billionaires and presidents, some of whom fall into the previous categories. Now she writes about such characters in her fiction.
Her noir crime novel “Skin of Tattoos” was a finalist for the Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award for suspense, while her thriller “Girl on the Brink” was named to Suspense Magazine’s Best of 2016 YA list. She also co-authored “Peace in the Hood: Working with Gang Members to End the Violence,” a groundbreaking book on violence intervention used in several universities.
Born in New Zealand, Christina grew up as an expat around the world. She resides in Los Angeles and teaches creative writing at a maximum-security prison. She has also mentored at-risk teen girls in creative writing in South and East Los Angeles. She has been a speaker at numerous writers’ conferences and groups, bookstores, and libraries.
Fiona Cummins is an award-winning former Daily Mirror showbusiness journalist and a graduate of the Faber Academy Writing a Novel course. Rattle, her debut novel, which sold at auction across Europe, is published in the US by Kensington. It has also been optioned for a TV series with scripts penned by The Grudge screenwriter Stephen Susco. Fiona lives in Essex, England with her family.
INTERVIEW – FIONA CUMMINS
Compare your career as a journalist and your career now as a novelist.
In some ways, they’re two sides of the same coin. After 12 years on the Daily Mirror, I’m used to meeting deadlines and being edited. Both jobs shine a light on stories that have emotional resonance.
But publishing works so slowly compared to newspapers. In my old job, I’d write a news story and within a few hours it would have been sub-edited, laid out and printed. My first novel was published twenty one months after I signed my deal.
Tell us about the Faber Academy Writing A Novel course and why you decided to attend.
I heard SJ Watson (Before I Go To Sleep) talking about it on the radio and I loved the sound of it. It was expensive and I’d just left my job, so I was worried we couldn’t afford it, especially as I had no idea whether I could write a full-length manuscript. But it gave me permission to take myself seriously as a writer. I also learned the importance of finishing what you’ve started.
Do you feel like you know your own writing process now?
Not really. Every book has a different feel about it. Rattle took multiple drafts to get right while The Collector took one. My third novel – I literally finished it about two hours ago – is quite complex and will need some more work, I think. But I have approached each of them in the same way. I don’t plot, it’s much more of an organic process. I have a rough idea of the shape of the story and that’s it. I don’t tend to start writing until I know the first line, and often, the last.
In another interview you talked about talent.”Talent is all very well tenacity, self-belief, originality, and the ability to get the words on the page….” I love this definition of talent.
Describe your experience of tenacity and how this affects writers.
I think it’s about keeping the faith. Talent is important, but persistence is key. Novels are rejected for so many reasons, some of which have nothing to do with an ability to write well. An editor is unlikely to buy a book about a crime-fighting circus act if she bought one like it the week before. A literary agent might already have an author writing a novel about a crime-fighting circus act and wish to avoid a conflict of interest. The market may have seen several books featuring crime-fighting circus acts and have become saturated. The point is, we all need a healthy spoonful of good luck too, but if you give up, you won’t even get a chance to lick the spoon.
Describe your experience of self-belief before after publishing your books.
If you don’t believe in yourself, no-one else will. It takes a lot of discipline to sit in front of a computer and write every day, to keep writing and polishing and editing. What keeps us going? Faith that we can do it. But not blind faith. It’s important to listen too. If your manuscript has been rejected by multiple agents multiple times, perhaps it’s time to think very carefully about where you might be going wrong and the best way to fix it.
Describe your experience of originality and how it can benefit writers.
Publishers are always looking for fresh voices, for the Next Big Thing. I enjoy books that do things a little differently, that have a distinctive narrative voice or approach their stories from an interesting angle. I try to do this with my own writing too.
Have you ever wanted to quit writing?
Never. I’ve been frustrated when I can’t make my stupid brain match my vision for a book, I’ve been beset by self-doubt, I’ve ridden the emotional rollercoaster of rejection and disappointment but why would I ever want to quit the best job in the world? Someone is paying me to sit in bed, wearing my pajamas, drinking tea, eating biscuits and making stuff up. You’ll have to prise my laptop from my cold, dead fingers.
How important is it to “Keep going?”
This was a regular refrain throughout the Faber Academy course and weirdly, this had never occurred to me. I made the mistake of thinking that if the first chapter wasn’t right, the book wasn’t right. We were encouraged to keep writing. First drafts can be worked upon, and often, the end informs the beginning.
What are you working on now?
I have just finished my third novel. It is set on an ordinary street but some of the residents of The Avenue hide some very dark secrets indeed.
Penny believes she’s being watched. Yet no one should know where she lives.
Penny seizes the chance of a new life for her family when her husband is offered a job in Europe.
At the airport they meet charming Sophie, fluent in French and looking for work as an au pair. Penny, struggling to cope in France, offers Sophie a job and she soon becomes an important part of the family’s life. But Sophie is hiding something.
Then Penny’s toddler son, Ethan, is abducted and an international hunt for the child begins. The police beg Penny and her husband to take part in a television appeal but the couple refuse. Unknown to the police, Penny and Seth have new identities and are determined to lay low and protect them. But it may be too late for that.
Who has taken Ethan and why?
Are the couple’s true identities linked to the abduction?
And who has been watching them?
To save her son Penny may have to put her own life on the line
Yes. I decided to rate blurbs, why not?
This book sounds very interesting. It sounds shrouded in mystery, suspense and secrets. That sounds like a recipe for a good book! You have a family with a hidden past, hidden identities, in the midst of troubling circumstances leading to an uncertain future. I”m hooked.
First impressions are everything, right? I love where this story begins. A couple with an unspoken past that required witness protection involving the FBI. They went as far as getting new identities, so you now its gotta be pretty bad. So it makes you wonder. What happened to them? But that wasn’t even the first impression.
Penny, seems paranoid about someone watching her at every turn. Why is she paranoid? Who is watching her, and why?
Then they meet Sophie at the airport on the way to France. Right away I’m thinking who is the “Sophie” character. She’s already on my radar for a shady person.
This was a great lead in for the first chapter!
On still nights, when the curve of a winter moon is smudged in the flow of the River Quaggy, the dead clamor for him. And sometimes he coaxes the living to join them. To other people, his victims might be mere medical oddities. To him, they are fascinating specimens, worthy of display. Above all, he is a collector, eager for recognition even as he hides in the shadows.
Detective Sergeant Etta Fitzroy is the first to recognize the connection between the disappearance of a young girl and a cold case that almost cost her the career she’s sacrificed so much for. A faceless psychopath is walking the streets of London, tantalizing the authorities with clues, taunting them with his ability to spirit his victims out from under their very noses.
Better than anyone, Etta Fitzroy understands loss. But this is one contest she will win if it kills her . . .
Now that’s how you do a blurb! The first section poetically reveals the mysterious antagonist lurking in the shadows. By reading it you can sense his uniqueness, M.O., and ambition for recognition. Excellent.
Every serial killer requires a hard nose detective, and that sounds like Detective Sergeant Etta Fitzroy. I like the fact that this has a female lead. intriguing indeed.
The first chapter was juicy! Fiona Cummins is quite poetic in her delivery and has a great command of the language. Her sentences flow nicely leaving you wanting more. I loved the use of metaphors to reflect the nature of the predicament of the family. A lot is revealed in such a short chapter.
The stunning new novel from Clare Mackintosh, the international bestselling author of I Let You Go and I See You.
The police say it was suicide.
Anna says it was murder.
They’re both wrong.
Last year, Tom and Caroline Johnson chose to end their lives, one seemingly unable to live without the other. Their daughter, Anna, is struggling to come to terms with her parents’ deaths, unwilling to accept the verdict of suicide.
Now with a baby herself, Anna feels her mother’s absence keenly and is determined to find out what really happened to her parents. But as she digs up the past, someone is trying to stop her.
Sometimes it’s safer to let things lie….
I’m totally loving this blurb!
The police say it was suicide.
Anna says it was murder.
They’re both wrong.
How can you not love that? Isn’t it striking?
Need I say more? Even in the blurb, nothing is as it seems. You can tell this is extremely suspenseful. Can’t wait to read this one.
Very fascinating first chapter! I love how she begins this book. A person flirting with death, or decision that might lead to it at the slightest misstep. The person speaking then turns their attention to their loved one, conversing back and forth in romantic tones. Who will die first? It doesn’t say who is speaking but we can infer it’s Anna’s parents based upon the blurb. Tom and Caroline Johnson. Impressive beginning.
“Rip-roaring legal thriller…Twisty, bloody, and convincing.” —Ian Rankin
An innocent client. A wife in jeopardy. Who will take The Plea?
When billionaire David Child is arrested for the murder of his girlfriend, Clara, the FBI believes they can get him to testify and take down a huge money laundering scheme.
Con-artist-turned-lawyer Eddie Flynn is given the job: persuade David to plead guilty and give the agents the evidence they need. If Eddie can’t get David to take a plea bargain, the FBI has incriminating files on Eddie’s wife – and will send her to jail. But David swears he didn’t murder anyone.
The evidence overwhelmingly shows that David killed Clara: the security video showed no one else entering their apartment, the murder weapon was in his car, and he was covered in gunshot residue he can’t explain. Yet as the FBI pressures Eddie to secure the guilty plea, Eddie becomes increasingly convinced that David is telling the truth.
With adversaries threatening, Eddie has to find a way to prove David’s innocence and find out if there’s any way he might have been framed. But the stakes are high: Eddie’s wife is in danger. And not just from the FBI…
The Plea is a locked room mystery from Steve Cavanagh, the author Nelson DeMille compares to John Grisham, Scott Turow, and Brad Meltzer.
“The Plea is one of the most purely entertaining books you’ll read this year. It’s a blast.”
—John Connolly, bestselling author of the Charlie Parker novels
From reading the blurb you can tell the plot is rich in detail, dilemma and complexity. I think I was hooked even half way through. It’s a winner. Steve Cavanagh is one of the new authors I’ve found that I can’t wait to read!
Even the first sentence is packed with intrigue, and it’s only the prologue! This is going to be a gritty legal thriller full of conflict, tension and moral dilemmas. Juicy, juicy, juicy. Hooked! Definitely recommend this one. I only read the prologue and was so excited had to stop and write something.
Author: Alec Birri
Narrator: Jonathan Keeble
Length: 6 hours 32 minutes
Publisher: Essential Music Limited⎮2018
Genre: Medical Thriller
Series: The Condition Trilogy, Book 1
Release date: Jan. 17, 2018
Synopsis: The first in a dystopian trilogy based on the author’s command of a top secret government unit.
What if all brain disorders were treatable? Few would lament the passing of dementia or autism, but what if the twisted mind of a sex offender or murderer could be cured too? Or how about a terrorist or maybe a political extremist? What if we could all be “corrected”?
It’s 1966, and RAF pilot Dan Stewart awakes from a coma following an aircraft accident into a world where nothing seems to make sense anymore. Not being able to recall the crash might be expected, but what about the rest of his life? And what’s stopping him from taking his medication? Is it brain damage that’s causing paranoia about the red pill, or is Dan right to think something sinister is going on?
His horrific injuries don’t make any sense either – a post-crash fire caused him to suffer almost 100% burns. How is it even possible to survive that? Are the hallucinations and strange dreams trying to tell him something? They are, and he’ll soon find out what, but not before his doctor’s sure the shock won’t kill him.
I loved this book. The writing combined with the excellent performance of narrator Jonathan Keeble made it great book. The Condition is a psychological medical thriller of its own kind. Author Alec Birri does an exceptional job of unraveling his plot, compelling point of view, and drawing headlong into the story. It seemed like one domino lead the next one, and so forth. Very entertaining with lots of suspense. Can’t wait to start book two!
What do you say to those who view listening to audiobooks as “cheating” or as inferior to “real reading”?
Horses for courses. It’s just a different experience. Having said that, it would worry me if no one read at all.
How did you celebrate after finishing this novel?
Celebrate? I’m the original mister grumpy – the word doesn’t exist in my vocabulary! I carry on writing. There’s a running joke in the military, usually spouted by someone when morale is at its lowest: ‘Never mind, lads – the sooner this job is done, the sooner we can start another one.’ 😀
In your opinion, what are the pros and cons of writing a stand-alone novel vs. writing a series?
I think a series works better than a stand-alone when it comes to the business side of things, as the first can be given away, but that’s not how Condition started out – when it became too big for one novel I split it into two and then, as the words mounted, three books. I’m 25k into my current work, and have no idea if the word count will end up being 40k or even 400k. I write the story and stop when it’s told.
What bits of advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Seek out danger. Nothing like a near-death experience for freeing the imagination! Seriously though, get out of your comfort zone. There’s a good reason why the likes of Frederick Forsyth have visited war zones or risked crossing deserts just as hostile. No money to do that? Then hang out with your local ambulance crews, paramedics, police and get the experience second-hand. Anything that brings you into contact with the uncomfortable.
Alec Birri served thirty years with the UK Armed Forces. He commanded an operational unit that experimented in new military capabilities classified at the highest level (Top Secret Strap 3) and it is this that forms the basis of his novels. Although semi-autobiographical, for national security and personal liberty reasons, the events and individuals portrayed have to be fiction but are still nonetheless in keeping with his experiences.
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