Category Archives for Interview

Author Spotlight: LaVonne Griffin-Valade

SRP: What can you tell us about Dead Point?

LaVonne: Dead Point is a novel about a smart, tough female sergeant in the Oregon State Police who is more of a justice warrior than a law and order buff. By some measure, the story is based on my own experience growing up in the rural American West where poverty and the baggage that often comes with it are woven into the fabric of local culture. The one constant is the beauty of place, at least for those who love Grant County, Oregon’s vast landscape, which includes high desert country, ranges of blue mountains, profoundly strange fossil formations, forests of Ponderosa pine, fir, and spruce, rangeland juniper and sagebrush, and the sprawling John Day River valley.

SRP: How did you come up with the main character, Maggie Blackthorne?

LaVonne: As I’ve noted before, I didn’t come up with Maggie Blackthorne, she came knocking at the door of my imagination, fully formed, a bit mad at the world, and looking for truth and justice. Well, and with a good heart and some of her own personal baggage.

SRP: Do you see yourself in Maggie?

LaVonne: Absolutely. She is me in many ways, although I would never have the courage or tenacity to chase down a killer.

SRP: What drew you to set Dead Point in Oregon?

LaVonne: I wanted to set the novel in Oregon, in part because that’s what I know best. But largely I knew I wanted the setting to be the eastern Oregon high desert. It’s a relatively unique fictional setting. Plus, most stories set in Oregon take place in or near the lush, green Willamette Valley of western Oregon or in towns and cities on the rugged coast, so I wanted to show a side of Oregon not often written about.

SRP: What’s next for Maggie Blackthorne?

LaVonne: The second Maggie Blackthorne novel is titled Murderers Creek, and I believe it is set for release this Fall. In addition to Maggie Blackthorne, Murderers Creek brings back these reader favorites: Trooper Hollis Jones, his wife Lillian Two Moons, Maggie’s love interest, Duncan McKay, and her surrogate mother and landlord, Dorie Phillips. Crotchety gas station owner, Cecil Burney, shows up again too. No spoilers, but Chapter One of Murderers Creek ends with the brutal slaying of another character from Dead Point and takes off from there.

SRP: What are you reading now and/or what good books have you read lately?

LaVonne: I’m currently reading Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain—the poverty and hardship in that book are heartbreaking, and the characters, particularly Shuggie and his mother, are living, breathing beings. It’s a wonderful novel in so many ways.

I like all kinds of novels, and one of my favorite recent reads was Richard Prowers’s The Overstory. Four great mysteries I loved and recommend often are Percival Everett’s Assumption, Lawrence Osborne’s Only to Sleep (a Philip Marlowe update), Julia Phillips’s Disappearing Earth, Evie Wyld’s All the Birds, Singing.

SRP: Do you believe in writer’s block? How do you push through it?

LaVonne: I definitely believe in writer’s block. I like to think of it as a necessary pause, a means of my mind and body suggesting, or often demanding, I take a break. I push through it by taking that break—reading, hanging out with family, going for a walk, or going outside and taking in a bit of sun (yes, the sun does come out in Portland, OR). And when I come back from a break, more often than not, my imagination fires on all cylinders.


Dead Point by LaVonne Griffin-Valade launches June 15.

Click here to get your copy.

Author Spotlight: Warshot by Wallace and Keith

SRP: Where did you come up with the idea for Warshot, the sixth book in The Hunter Killer Series, and what can you tell us about the plot?

George: Our regular readers know that real life has had an uncanny way of actually following the plot lines of most of our stories. This is not really accidental. Don and I look at the trends, twists, and turns in current events and then use our imagination to look five to ten years into the future, or at least what we think will be five to ten years in the future. Real life has a way of catching up faster than we anticipate. Since we are both students of history, we look carefully to see what the past tells us, too. Warshot happened just that way. We looked to where the action would be in the next five years. Not surprisingly, we ended up in the South China Sea general area and a confrontation with the PRC. The rest you can either read from Warshot or wait and read in the newspaper in a couple of years.

Don: Our goal in each of the books is to tell a good, believable story, so we necessarily try to anticipate real-world events. Note that with his background and current activities, George has a good perspective on technology and where things are going. The hardware you read about in The Hunter Killer books is just as real as the potential action about which we write. We are already seeing some of those things we put into Warshot playing out.

SRP: You’ve been writing novels together for many years. How did you two decide to start this partnership?

George: I guess that it has been over twenty years now. Doesn’t seem that long. Way back in the Dark Ages, Don and I shared an agent. Robbie Robison, a real character who deserves a story of his own, suggested that the two of us see if we could work together, that he saw potential in that team. (I think that Robbie envisioned Don teaching me how to write a novel.) Don is down in Alabama and at that time I was living in Western Colorado. We exchanged a few phone calls and some emails and decided to give it a try. We write our stories by exchanging emails, phone calls, and files over the internet. When we finally actually met in person, Final Bearing was already a National Best Seller. And the rest is, as they say, history.

Don: Robbie was a former submariner and had recruited me to write a book on a boat on which he had served in the US Navy, the ARCHERFISH. I had only written fiction to that point, ten novels published by then, but the story was so good—during WWII, ARCHERFISH sank the largest vessel ever sunk by a submarine, an aircraft carrier they first mistook for an island—that I had to do the book. Now I’ve been honored to do a long list of submarine and World War II non-fiction books with more on the way. When he told me he had another former submariner who wanted to write thrillers, I agreed to talk with George, admittedly just as a favor to Robbie. But after a few conversations and a look at some of the stories and ideas George had, I was all in.

SRP: What is one interesting or unexpected challenge in partnership writing that you haven’t encountered in your individual writing?

George: The biggest challenge that I have had is in satisfying Don’s inordinate delight in expending ordnance. He is always wanting something to blow up. 😉

Don: And I think our readers want just that! You can only describe docking a submarine so many ways. Seriously, though, I come at the books from a place of ignorance. If there is a system or tactic or action that I don’t understand, I can get George to explain it to me and then I try to write it from the perspective of someone who has not skippered a nuclear-powered submarine. Which I haven’t. And George has.

SRP: What do you do when you disagree on a plot line or character arc?

George: This has been a rare occurrence. Normally we are very much in sync on the story line and the characters. If not, I just pout until I get my way. Except for the beautiful Chinese spy that Don managed to slip in to Warshot. 😉

Don: George rarely pulls rank on me! We seldom disagree on plot or characters. Sometimes I’ll ask George, “Are you sure that could happen?” And he’ll reply, “Sure. It did.” Our biggest conflict occurs outside the realm of writing. George is a proud alumnus of Ohio State University. I graduated from the University of Alabama. They occasionally meet on the gridiron, as happened in the national championship game this year. We have had bets riding on the last two meetings and are currently tied at one win apiece. We’re hoping for a tie-breaker this season.

SRP: Can you speak on your military experience and how it influences your writing?

George: Well, I spent twenty-two years serving in submarines. I served on four different subs, including commanding the USS HOUSTON, SSN713. All of my boats are gone now, replaced by newer, more capable boats. The genesis of my writing was to try to tell the story of what submarining is like, what the dangers are, what the crews and their families sacrifice. After retiring, I quickly found that only a very small percentage of the population had any concept of submarines and submarining. Because of the classified nature of what we did, there was no way to write a factual account. Hence, the novels. The submarine experience is still accurate and the technology, again within the limits of classification, is accurate, too.

Don: And my only military experience was two years of Air Force ROTC in college. But as noted, I have written extensively about military history, with most of the books dealing with submarines. I, too, find so few people know what it was (and is) like to serve aboard a ship deliberately designed to sink. Or what a powerful deterrent to all-out war the “Silent Service” is. Submarines are a mystery to most people, yet so many are fascinated by them and the men and women who serve there. But I maintain that I don’t write about submarines. I write about the people who serve in those vessels. And they are a unique breed. Thank goodness for them!

SRP: We like to force our authors to play favorites, so, if you had to pick, which is your favorite character from The Hunter Killer Series and why?

George: I’m probably going to surprise you. The character that I identified with the most, and thus is probably my favorite character, only appeared in Final Bearing. He never appeared in another story. We have watched many of the characters develop as they progressed from story to story, some we have literally watched grow up. But Dave Kuhn, the Engineer on the SPADEFISH, had a tour on that old boat very similar to my Engineer tour on the old WOODROW WILSON. She was a real challenge to keep running and going to sea. My CO from those days and I have often reminisced about those tales.

Don: I am an unabashed Jon Ward fan. Here’s a guy who followed his father’s example and became a submariner. And has a son who becomes a Navy SEAL. Even his wife gets involved in a story or two. Ward is a stickler for doing things the right way, but he allows and relies on his crew to show their initiative and skills in hairy situations. Situations that might seem mundane to us at first, but that could have a major effect on the success of a mission. Or even the difference between life or death. I never knew some of those flanges and bearings were so crucial! Ward’s leadership skills carry over even when—and this may be a minor spoiler if you have not read the last couple of books—he gets kicked upstairs to head Naval Intelligence.

SRP: What’s next for The Hunter Killer Series? Your stories consistently predict the future, so we’ll be cross-referencing this information with news headlines!

George: We are working on that. To get an idea of where we are going, all you need to do is look at the newspaper headlines for 2030.

Don: There is no lack of bad guys! Or trouble spots. It is a frightening world out there and thank goodness for the men and women who keep an eye on it all and stand ready to defend us. Their stories are the kind we love to tell in the series. And that we hope our readers want to continue to see. Note, too, that we continue to introduce new and (we hope) interesting characters. Some of them may even deserve their own series of books at some point. Just saying.

SRP: What are you working on now? (if different from above)

Don: I have just completed Only the Brave, which tells the true story of the two Battles of Guam in World War II. This is one of those stories that tends to get lost in history yet ranks right up there with Iwo Jima and Okinawa. And, as usual, I try to tell the human side of the story, including its effect on the proud Chamorro people of Guam. Only the Brave releases in June 2021. I am now working on a book about one of the great personalities in the submarine war in WWII, Admiral Eugene B. Fluckey, who is one of only eight submariners to receive the Medal of Honor. His boat, the BARB, also sank a train. Torpedo Run will be published early in 2022.

SRP: What are you reading now and/or what good books have you read lately?

George: Actually, I’m going back and reading the complete works of Mark Twain. Looking at how the old masters wrote.

Don: With the recent death of Larry McMurtry, I just went back and re-read both Lonesome Dove and Streets of Laredo.

SRP: What would you include in your “Author’s Survival Pack”?

George: Ibuprofen and beer. And access to a good search engine.

Don: Definitely the search engine! Just remember that not everything you see on the web is true and that 68% of all statistics there are made up. And when I speak at writers’ conferences, I urge would-be authors to become very familiar with the “Synonyms” menu item in Microsoft Word.

Warshot by Wallace and Keith is out May 25. Get your copy here.

Author Spotlight: LynDee Walker

LynDee Walker is an Amazon Charts best-selling author of eleven books in two riveting thriller series. Her protagonists are strong, smart, and confident women who run headfirst at a problem. We talked with LynDee about her writing inspiration, how COVID-19 changed her writing process, and what she simply cannot write without.


SRP: You have published 11 books and 2 novellas throughout your two series, The Nichelle Clarke Crime Thrillers and The Faith McClellan Series. Do you have a favorite? (We know this is like asking a parent to pick a favorite child, but we promise we won’t judge.)

LynDee: Haha! Truth. They’re all special in their own way, for sure. In the Nichelle series I’d probably pick Small Town Spin as my favorite by a hair, because I have a lot of fond memories of exploring Gwynn’s Island doing research for the setting, and I think that was the book that made me realize I could really make a career of writing fiction.

For Faith, I think again it’s SUCH a close race, but Leave No Stone probably wins in a photo finish, because I really stretched so many of my abilities with that book, writing things in a way I’d never tried before, and I was so pleased with how it all finally came together.

SRP: Readers are loving your latest release, No Sin Unpunished. Can you tell us a bit about the plot?

LynDee Walker: The hunt for a serial murderer whose preferred weapon is fire turns deeply personal for Faith when former members of her father’s staff begin to die horrifying deaths. In digging up old secrets that could be motive for the attacks, Faith learns some things about her family, while questioning her role in trying to save people she doesn’t necessarily think deserve saving.

SRP: You wrote No Sin Unpunished during the COVID-19 pandemic. Did you notice any differences in your writing style or process as a result?

LynDee: Yes—all of them. I started this book in January of 2020, I got COVID in March and took a seven week sickness break from writing it, and by the time I was back on my feet, my quiet writing days were gone because my three children were learning from home. It took a few reinventions of routine and a family effort to get this one across the finish line, but it makes me feel deeply connected to—and especially proud of—this book.

SRP: You write strong female characters who can handle themselves in some pretty dangerous situations. Do you see yourself in Nichelle and Faith? Were they modeled after women in your life?

LynDee: There’s a little of me in them both, but probably moreso in Nichelle. One of the things I love about her is that she begins the series just as naive as I was as a young journalist, but through the dangerous situations she gets into, she learns and grows. She’s more savvy and jaded and definitely tougher by the later books. It makes those books harder to write, because someone who’s had her experiences wouldn’t walk into danger trusting people so easily, which means I need craftier ways to get her in trouble, but I love a challenge and I’m so proud of the way she’s grown.

Faith is fun to write because she reminds me of my mom and my granny: they were both pretty badass in their own ways. If you’ve ever watched Designing Women (and if you haven’t, it’s on Hulu), I swear they modeled Julia Sugarbaker after my mother. From the 80s business suits to the quick wit and sharp tongue when it was needed, my mom was a pretty extraordinary woman. She was brilliant and kind, never afraid to call out injustice where she saw it, and quick to help folks in need. A lot like Faith. My granny was 5’2 with waist length black hair that never went gray, raised mostly out in the country during the depression, and to my knowledge never met a human she was afraid of. Family legend holds a great story my mom and aunts all swore was gospel truth, about my tiny little grandmother standing alone on her front steps in California in the early 60s successfully ordering an angry contingent of the Hell’s Angels off her lawn.

SRP: You started your writing career as a journalist. Do you ever miss the hustle of “getting the story” and making a print deadline?

LynDee: Only when there are big things happening in the news, and less even than in recent years. I have a specific memory from a few years ago: at the time, our congressman was the House Majority Leader, and it was primary day. I’m a political junkie, so I was at home watching the returns come in, and it became apparent that he was going to lose his race. I turned immediately to my husband and said “Cantor’s going to lose. Wow, what I wouldn’t give to be in a newsroom tonight.” The adrenaline rush of those kinds of nights, when something you thought was a lay-up goes crazy, or a big story breaks, make the long hours and sad stories worth it.

SRP: What’s up next for Nichelle and Faith?

LynDee: I am finishing up the final touches on Faith #4, Nowhere to Hide, this week, and next month I’ll start writing number 5. And it just so happens that I have a contract in my inbox for Nichelle #9, a project I am super excited to begin, brought about largely by letters and messages from loyal readers—I can’t wait to share details with everyone about that soon!

SRP: What are you reading now and/or what good books have you read lately?

LynDee: Lori Rader-Day’s The Lucky One knocked my socks off, as is normal for her books. And I have a brand new Kindle waiting on my desk and an advance copy of a favorite author’s latest teed up for Spring Break: I have loved everything Laura McHugh has ever written and cannot wait to read What’s Done in Darkness.

SRP: What’s the one thing you couldn’t write without?

LynDee: Coffee. Hands down.


No Sin Unpunished by LynDee Walker is out now in all formats. Buy your copy here.

Author Spotlight: Jason Kasper

SRP: Where did you come up with the idea for The Enemies of My Country?

Jason: Many heroes of military thrillers have no family—a fact inconveniently pointed out to me by a reader of my first book, shortly after I’d committed to writing about a military thriller hero with no family. At the time I was fresh out of the Army, and didn’t think much of it.

But since then I’ve become a father myself, and my adorable daughter has succeeded in making me very, very soft and weak. I just couldn’t write about a lone mercenary killer anymore; at the same time, I was far too ruined for a normal job to pursue any other line of work.

So for this book, I decided to flip the normal convention on its head. This time, my hero would have a family—and he was going to find them in grave danger.

SRP: What can you tell us about the plot?

Jason: David Rivers is an elite-level assassin. He’s an expert in the art of violence. Honing his skill first as a Ranger, then as a mercenary, and now as a CIA contractor conducting covert action around the world.

But in his secluded mountain home in Virginia, David Rivers lives a double life. There, Rivers is known as a caring husband to his new wife, and the doting father to his young daughter.

Soft targets to his enemies.

Half a world away, on a mission to assassinate a foreign operative, Rivers uncovers his worst fear.

An imminent attack on US soil will occur in four days.

The target is in his hometown.

And his wife and daughter are mentioned by name.

SRP: What were the easiest and most difficult parts of writing The Enemies of My Country?

Jason: The easiest part was the premise—a man finds his family in danger, and has four days to uncover and stop an imminent terrorist attack. Simple, right?

The catch was figuring out how to turn that promising foundation into a full storyline, and packing all the events and characters into one cohesive and fast-paced book. THAT was the hard part, and I quickly wondered if I’d bit off more than I could chew.

Several months, many hours of weeping at a keyboard, and untold bottles of bourbon later, the result is this book.

SRP: The hero of this book is former Army Ranger David Rivers. What would he say if he met you in person?

Jason: First and foremost, he’d probably shame me for being a cat owner—rightfully so. Then he’d slap me for all the trouble I’ve put him through in this book—once again, fully justified.

After that, we’d probably sit down and enjoy our shared favorite pastime: drinking bourbon.

And I’d try not to make him angry.

SRP: What’s next for David?

Jason: The Enemies of My Country kicks off a ten-book series outline that will take David to the world’s most dangerous corners, as he uncovers a sinister conspiracy with global implications. The second book will be released later this year.

SRP: You’re known for engaging with your readers, from answering emails to chatting on your Facebook reader group. What’s it like interacting with them on a daily basis?

Jason: There’s an Eastern saying that “the teacher and the taught together create the teaching.” I think this applies equally well as “the author and the readers together create the books.”

If no one read my work, I’d still write every day—but my stories wouldn’t be nearly as good.

Feedback from readers helps me improve with each book, and their support keeps me going no matter how difficult a manuscript gets. As any author can tell you, the writing process is filled with dizzying highs and crushing lows. It helps a lot to know the readers have my back, and no matter how many books I write in this lifetime, I owe them a lot more than they owe me.

Also, I vividly remember starting out and having no readers at all. The world is a cold and lonely place for a struggling writer, so it’s hard for me not to be deliriously grateful today.

SRP: What good books have you read lately?

Jason: Confession time—I’ve never been big into zombie movies.

When a friend of mine recommended World War Z, I reluctantly agreed to check out the first few chapters.

Three days later I’d not only finished the book, but was ready to wrap a baseball bat in barbed wire and go battle the undead hordes. If you haven’t read that book, check it out!

SRP: You’re stranded on a desert island with all of your basic needs taken care of (food, shelter, clothes). What three items would you bring?

Jason: All the bourbon I could take with me, obviously. Then a baseball bat. And finally, some barbed wire to wrap around the bat, just in case the zombies come.

The Enemies of My Country launches January 15. Pre-order here.

Author Spotlight: Carolyn Ridder Aspenson

SRP: Where did you come up with the idea for Damaging Secrets, and what can you tell us about the plot?

Carolyn: Rachel’s been sitting on my shoulder for a few years now. I knew who she was, what she’d been through, and where that would ultimately lead her. I just didn’t know what she’d do when she got there. For that, I worked with an excellent editor who helped me with the plot. I submitted several ideas and we molded them together into something I think turned out well.

SRP: You’re a bestselling cozy mystery author, what made you want to dive into writing grittier thrillers?

Carolyn: Writing is like everything else in life. If you don’t take risks, you’ll never discover what you can do. I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone. I love my cozy characters, but writing someone with a lot of strength and even more emotional baggage was a stretch for me, and I wanted to explore Rachel’s psyche.

SRP: What was the most difficult part of writing this book?

Carolyn: Self doubt and insecurity ad nauseum. I carry those emotions around with me with every book I write, but this new genre was a big step, and I’ve had to stuff a sock in my inner critic’s mouth and glue it shut. Once I got through the first few chapters, I felt that familiar groove set in, and it came a lot easier, but those first few chapters were brutal. My husband will tell you I didn’t think it got easier at the time, and he would be right. Hindsight is truly 20/20.

SRP: What’s your favorite characteristic of your protagonist, Rachel Ryder? Do you see any of yourself in her?

Carolyn: Rachel doesn’t have a filter. I love that about her. We share that trait to a certain degree. The only difference is she knows how to use it to her advantage. I’m usually trying to get my foot out of my mouth after spouting off something I never should have said in the first place. I envy her ability to stand up for what she believes, to fight for it, and not shed a tear because her principles are so rock solid. Everyone has baggage, but Rachel, as hard as she tries, struggles to move on from hers. She’s tied up in guilt and grief, and she uses those as crutches to stay emotionally disconnected. Thankfully, we don’t share that, but I will say, she’s working hard to detach herself from those negative characteristics.

SRP: What’s next for Rachel Ryder?

Carolyn: I can’t go into too many details because I don’t want to spoil the first book, but let’s just say her past comes back to haunt her, and like it or not, she’s got to deal with it!

SRP: What are you reading now and/or what good books have you read lately?

Carolyn: I have just re-read all of the Spenser mysteries by Robert B. Parker, and the last Sue Grafton book. Parker is my favorite author, and Grafton is a close second. I’m waiting for the next Robert Crais book to publish and when it does, I’ll be glued to that until I finish.

SRP: What’s your number one piece of writing advice for someone just starting out?

Carolyn: Most people think too much and struggle with every word. Don’t. Just write. The goal is to get the words on the page, even if they’re garbage. And honestly, that’s the easy part. Once you finish that first draft, that’s when the hard work starts. Get them on the page and let it flow. It will get easier as time goes by.

Damaging Secrets is out now. Buy your copy here.

Damaging Secrets, the first book of her newest crime thriller series, is an engaging story of corruption and cover-up that you won’t soon forget.

New to town and a little rough around the edges, Detective Rachel Ryder finds herself on the receiving end of a suspicious person’s call in Hamby, Georgia. When the call turns out to be a dead body, the medical examiner is quick to rule the death a suicide. But was it something more sinister?

Everyone in the small department believes the case is closed—except for Rachel. The sudden passing of a local politician during the mayor’s run for Congress strikes her as a little too coincidental, and Rachel is eager to follow her instincts. Her partner, Rob, a 30-year veteran, isn’t the type to disobey his boss or ruffle any feathers, but he can’t convince strong-willed Rachel to let it go.

Obsessed with finding out the truth, Rachel begins to examine the evidence and drags her reluctant partner along for the ride. But the clues are confusing. Nothing is adding up.

Puzzled and running out of time, Rachel and Rob rush to work every angle and bring the elusive killer to justice before someone else ends up dead.

Author Spotlight: James Chandler

SRP: This is your debut novel! How does it feel?

James: I am excited at seeing Misjudged published. The entire project started several years ago with a sort of off-handed comment to my wife after I’d read a particularly poor novel: “I could write a better book than that,” I said. “Well, why don’t you?” And it was on. The process of writing, revising, finding a publisher and working with the SRP team to bring the book to readers has been eye-opening—you have no idea the amount of work that goes into publishing a book until you go through it. It has been both challenging and exhilarating, and it will be fun to see everyone’s efforts come to fruition. I hope readers will enjoy themselves for a couple of hours.

SRP: Where did you come up with the idea for Misjudged?

James: When I decided to write the novel, I had a very rough outline in mind. Misjudged is admittedly a character-driven, rather than plot-driven, novel. Because I’m not trying to make any points or drive home an agenda in my books, and because trials are structured, linear affairs, the plot beyond the initial outline evolved from the characters: “How would a guy like Sam handle a situation like X?” “What would Judge Daniels do if confronted by Y?” and so on. The key players are composite portraits of men and women I have known, mostly inspired by military officers I encountered during my career (trust me when I tell you the Pentagon was a rich source of material). I had some procedural and forensic twists I wanted to introduce, so I outlined and revised until I felt like I had a solid idea for a novel I could sit down and write.

SRP: What can you tell us about the plot?

James: Misjudged introduces the reader to Sam Johnstone, a disabled veteran who went to law school after being discharged from the Army. After struggling at a law firm in Washington, D.C., a down-on-his-luck Sam accepts an offer from an old friend to relocate to rural Wyoming to practice in a last-ditch effort to save his career—and himself. Against his better judgment, Sam agrees to defend a veteran accused of killing a prominent local attorney. Misjudged follows Sam and the other key players as the case develops and is tried in front of a jury. Along the way, Sam struggles with his demons while he and the various participants find their assumptions about the actions and motives of others are not always accurate.

SRP: Why did you choose Wyoming as your setting?

James: I’ve been fortunate to have been around the world several times—and yet, here I am! I love Wyoming like only someone who has been everywhere else can. Custer, Wyoming is a fictional place, but I think it represents what Wyoming, its people, and its legal practitioners are all about. I gave serious thought to basing the novel elsewhere, but decided I was most comfortable with Wyoming people, places and law.

SRP: What’s next for Sam Johnstone?

James: The next novel in the series, One and Done, follows Sam as he defends a star athlete charged with the murder of a gay college student. While the facts alone are problematic, outside pressures and Sam’s internal struggles complicate an already difficult situation and threaten to interfere with Sam’s defense of his client. I’m already mulling some general ideas for the third book. There’s a minor character—a woman—who was introduced in One and Done. I think she might merit a closer look. I could see some interesting things happening in her life, and her interaction with Sam could get complicated.

SRP: Have you read any good books lately?

James: My reading is heavily weighted toward non-fiction, especially military history. Right now, I am reading several books dealing with the Great Sioux War and the Army of the West. As a retired Army officer formerly assigned to places like Fort Riley, Fort Leavenworth, and Fort Bliss, I have a fondness for the old Cavalry posts. It must have been an amazing experience to be garrisoned at one of those posts at the relevant time. My fiction reading is rare and leans toward dated detective novels, police procedurals and thrillers. I’m a huge fan of Robert B. Parker (who could say more in fewer words?), Evan Hunter a/k/a Ed McBain (talk about page-turners!), and Alistair MacLean (the breadth of subjects he dealt with in his thrillers is unmatched). I am not as a rule a big fan of legal thrillers, and purposely and with malice aforethought have read but a single legal thriller since I started writing Misjudged in 2016: Anatomy of a Murder, by Robert Traver, the pen name for John D. Voelker.

SRP: If you were shipwrecked on a deserted island with all your physical needs taken care of—such as food and water, what two items would you want to have with you?

James: I would need a fly rod to keep me busy and some way to communicate with my wife and daughters. Although I tend toward the misanthropic, I love the women in my life and would need to communicate with them—if only to send them pictures of my catch.

Misjudged is available to purchase here.

When a disabled veteran takes a new job as an attorney in a small Wyoming town, he is thrust into a mysterious murder case.

Sam Johnstone was hoping for renewal when he took a job at a boutique law firm in rustic Wyoming. The mountains and streams of the west would be a refreshing, quiet place to start over after years of war and turmoil in his personal life.

But after a local woman is brutally murdered, Sam realizes that things aren’t so quiet in this rural American town. The accused is one Tommy Olsen, a known delinquent who had been sleeping with the victim. Sam is repulsed by the crime and wants nothing to do with the case, but meets with Tommy to make sure he has legal representation.

Yet things are not as they seem.

What begins as a cut-and-dry case becomes infinitely more complicated as new facts are uncovered, and Sam agrees to serve as Tommy’s defense attorney.

With the killer’s identity still unknown, Sam is enveloped in the small-town politics and courtroom drama of a murder investigation that keeps getting more shocking.

But if Sam can’t uncover the truth, an innocent man might be punished…while the real killer watches from the shadows.

Author Spotlight: J.D. Allen

SRP: Where did you come up with the idea for Sin City Investigations and Jim Bean?


J.D.: I knew I wanted to write a Private Investigator series. I crushed hard on Rockford as a youngster (and still do!). At about the same time I was plotting through it, a good friend of mine was falsely accused of a serious crime. It devastated his life in more ways than I would have ever imagined. He had to start over. New job. New friends. New city. I found his experience, as bad as it was, made an excellent backstory for a PI. He gave his blessing and Jim was born.

SRP: What can you tell us about the series?


J.D.: I want to see characters in a series change over time. It makes them seem more human. With 19 Souls, Jim Bean starts the series dealing with a life-changing incident in his past. He’s gone to Vegas to lick his wounds, changed his name, and is happy to exist with minimal clients, his cat, and a good bottle of scotch. I’d like to think that after a while, he’ll get out of his own way and move past his anger. I’ve started the third book in the series, and he’s still a combination of Dirty Harry and Jim Rockford.

SRP: What was the most difficult part of writing 19 Souls, the first book in the series?


J.D.: I loved writing that book! Female serial killer? What’s not to love about that. Smart villains are super interesting to create, and Sophie Evers fits that bill! I had to take Jim to some pretty dark places though, and I sort of felt sorry for him at times.

SRP: What’s next for the series?


J.D.: Skin Game is next up in the series. In it, Jim and the woman who broke his heart in college have only a few days to rescue several young girls from a human trafficking ring.

SRP: What are you working on now?


J.D.: Wrapping up the next adventure with Jim. I’ll just say that I did some research with a taxidermist.

SRP: What are you reading now and/or what good books have you read lately?


J.D.: Wow. Right now, I’m reading this weird Sci-fi my hubs gave me. Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel. It’s an entire novel in journal entries and interviews. It’s fascinating!

SRP: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?


J.D.: Go big. Stories need to be large, not in word count, but in scope. Big characters, big setting, big themes. You can always back it down if needed, but making a thin story work is difficult.

Her bloody finger left a translucent smear on the phone screen as she glanced through the list of private investigators in Vegas. Her stained nail came to rest on Sin City Investigations.

Jim Bean would serve her well.

Private investigator Jim Bean is a straightforward, to-the-point man. He likes his cases to follow suit. But when his latest client, Sophie Evers, asks him to find her brother Daniel, Jim has no idea how complicated his life is about to become.

As he falls deep into a manipulative game of cat and mouse, Jim uncovers the horrible truth about Sophie. Now he must set things right before her plan leads to the loss of innocent souls . . . even more than it already has.

19 Souls releases October 27. Pre-order today for only $0.99.

Author Spotlight: Don’t Look In Author Tom Saric

With Don’t Look In, the debut in his newest series, Tom Saric pens a twisting novel of psychological suspense, introducing a psychiatrist trying to save lives while battling his own demons.

We talked with Tom about writing his new series— from the inception of main character Gus Young to what his writing weakness is. Read the interview below!

SRP: Where did you come up with the idea for Don’t Look In, and what can you tell us about the plot?

TOM: Don’t Look In started with Gus Young. The idea of a grizzled looking man, with a thick beard, wearing work boots and hunting jacket while being an exceptional psychiatrist spoke to me. In the years after I finished my training in psychiatry, I realized that working as a psychiatrist wasn’t the idealized version I had fantasized about. In addition to seeing patients, my day was filled with paperwork, managerial pressures to see more people more quickly, and therapy was something psychologists did while psychiatrists seemed to be expected to prescribe medications only. So, the idea of this pure, genuine psychiatrist who wasn’t afraid to buck the trend and do his own thing in his own way appealed to me.

The seed for the plot came from realizing that in order to maintain the purity of his work, confidentiality of his patients would have to be absolute. And he would have to take this duty further than the average therapist would.

The plot really developed from there. It follows Gus as he is working in the small practice that he operates out of the back of a hardware store in a rural town. When a patient of his is murdered, he seeks to find out who did it, but in doing so it will put him in conflict with many of his deepest held values.

SRP: How did you choose this setting?

TOM: The story takes place in a fictitious town in Maine. I decided against using a real place in part to make my life easier by giving the setting flexibility for future books. But the town itself has elements of a few different places I’ve visited, worked in or lived in in Eastern Canada and the Prairies. On top of this, I love the East Coast, I love Maine. I find the entire region rich, and atmospheric. The rain, the fog, the hurricanes, the history just give it so much richness that I couldn’t see the book being set anywhere else.

SRP: What was the most difficult part of writing this book?

TOM: I think the most difficult part was trying to describe psychological processes without the jargon in order to make it accessible to people. Psychoanalytic writings and theory is its own language. It took me years to become comfortable with the language and nuance of the differing theories. That’s my biggest criticism (and Gus’) of psychoanalysis: It is largely inaccessible and can come across as elitist. But, in fact, it should be anything but. It is likely the richest understanding we have of the human mind.

So, in keeping with Gus’ character, I was mindful that he would be able to avoid jargon and explain complex theories simply. So it required constant iteration to get it right.

SRP: What’s next for the series?

TOM: I’m already working on the second book in the series, titled Believe In Me. In this book a young woman is found wandering on the outskirts of Bridgetown with no memory of who she is. Gus is called in to help police recover her memories. As he works with her, she begins to show abilities that verge on the supernatural. I don’t want to reveal much more than that at this point, but it will test Gus’ abilities in a way that he hasn’t yet faced.

SRP: What are you reading now and/or what good books have you read lately?

TOM: I started reading a couple of books by C.J. Box recently because after I submitted Don’t Look In, my publisher compared it to his novels. I hadn’t read his books previously, though I’d known about them. I picked up Bitterroots and loved it. He has a masterful way of creating setting and atmosphere. So what I said about Don’t Look In not being able to be set anywhere but Maine, perhaps Montana would be a close second.

SRP: What is your writing Kryptonite?

TOM: Social Media. I have a real love hate relationship with social media. On the one hand, it allows me to connect with readers, and other authors. On the other hand, I have spent 4-5 hours mindlessly thumbing through Instagram photos when I meant to be writing. I’m always telling my kids to set limits with screen time. Maybe I should take my own advice.


Don’t Look In launches October 6.

Click here to buy Don’t Look In. The e-book is $.99 for a limited time!

Author Spotlight: After Dunkirk Author Lee Jackson

SRP: Where did you come up with the idea for After Dunkirk?

Lee: I have to give my publisher credit for pointing me toward writing World War II historical fiction. I had recently seen the movie “Dunkirk” and one element of the story that I had never heard before was the question of what happened to the roughly 200,000 left behind.

SRP: What can you tell us about the plot?

Lee: The story is as intriguing as the evacuation at Dunkirk itself. To evacuate 330,000 troops, Great Britain needed a rear-guard to provide protection as the evacuation progressed. Many of those troops composing the protective force, were green troops, just arrived in France. Others were non-combatants suddenly thrown into a combat role. I wanted to know what happened to them. My research revealed stories that were not only intimate to individual players, but also on a grander scale—i.e. small details led to a huge impact on the war. In the case of the Dunkirk, the effort to rescue those left behind led to Britain’s biggest maritime tragedy of all time eclipsing the Titanic. How that came about is detailed in After Dunkirk.

SRP: How did you choose this setting?

Lee: The story chose the setting, and it is larger than Dunkirk. The French Resistance (a term that describes loosely affiliated and independent groups) started up even before Germany crossed the Maginot by intelligent people who read the tea leaves of world events. Immediately, they were faced with hordes of British soldiers left behind who needed help to stay alive, healthy, and get home.

Getting home meant evading capture in sometimes overland treks across France to other places south of Dunkirk. Without food or shelter, those soldiers had no choice but to ask for help from French families, who aided them in abundance at great personal risk. And, as it happens, Winston Churchill had foreseen that this might occur and set up an organization to assist. The cooperation between those elements of British intelligence and the French Resistance is a large part of the story.

SRP: What was the most difficult part of writing this book?

Lee: Boiling down the individual acts of courage and self-sacrifice in the context of the “big picture” was a challenge. For example, Neville Chamberlain is reviled for his appeasement of Hitler at Munich. However, much to my surprise, I found that a credible argument can be made that precisely that action bought Great Britain time to develop an advanced defense system that saved the country in its darkest hours. Simultaneously, they developed an intelligence system that, although it did not predict German actions regarding the invasion through the Netherlands and Belgium, it might have supplied information that led to the notion that the invasion at Dunkirk was feasible, with limited time to execute.

SRP: What’s next for the series?

Lee: The story, as I have written it, centers on a family of British subjects whose home is on Sark Island in the English Channel Islands. The Germans did, as a matter of fact occupy those islands for PR reasons—for bragging rights over taking British territory. The family on whose story I based this series has three sons and a daughter, all engaged in the war effort.

Jeremy, the central figure and youngest son in the family, finds himself on the beach at Dunkirk when the evacuation there is complete. His middle-brother, Lance, is only a few miles away. A very different personality, he relished the army and the thought of combat. Claire, their older sister, is a decoder for British Intelligence in London and struggles with national secrets that she cannot divulge which affect her brothers. Paul, the eldest son, is also in British Intelligence. He is diligent, intelligent, inquisitive, and does not hesitate to prod superiors to take action where it might shed light and assist with his brothers’ individual plights. Their parents, still on Sark Island, confront a different kind of Nazi threat— one that is more subtle.

The next book in the series, Eagles Over Britain, is a progression from After Dunkirk as the family continues to hold together as best they can while Hermann Göring unleashes the full might of his bombers against British airfields, and “the Few” struggle against overwhelming strength to fight. They fight for king and country, not knowing that the stakes are much higher than just losing England to a tyrant.

SRP: What are you reading now and/or what good books have you read lately?

Lee: Writing this series required an enormous amount of research, but I find it rewarding. The challenge then becomes incorporating salient points into a story that is as historically accurate as possible without burdening readers with pointless detail. To that end, these are just a few of the books I’ve read in recent months researching for After Dunkirk:

Dunkirk: The Men Left Behind by Sean Longden
A Life in Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Missing Agents of WWII by Sarah Helm
When the Germans Came by Duncan Barrett
A Man Called Intrepid by William Stevenson
Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan

SRP: As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot?

Lee: The American Eagle

After Dunkirk by Lee Jackson is available now. Get your copy here.

Interview with Chris Bauer: Binge Killer

Author biography:

Chris Bauer wouldn’t trade his northeast Philly upbringing of street sports played on blacktop and concrete, fistfights, brick and stone row houses, and twelve years of well-intentioned Catholic school discipline for a Philadelphia minute (think New York minute but more fickle and less forgiving).

Chris has had some lengthy stops as an adult in Michigan and Connecticut, and he thinks Pittsburgh is a great city even though some of his fictional characters do not. He still does most of his own stunts, and he once passed for Chip Douglas of My Three Sons TV fame on a Wildwood, NJ boardwalk. He’s a member of International Thriller Writers, and his work has been recognized by the National Writers Association, the Writers Room of Bucks County (PA), and the Maryland Writers Association. He likes the pie more than the turkey.


SRP: Where did you come up with the idea for Binge Killer, and what can you tell us about the plot?

Bauer: “Binge Killer came to life when I was looking for a way to showcase the growing number of vocal women who, paraphrasing Peter Finch as Howard Beale in the film Network, are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. A group of small-town female bowlers, quilters, and bingo players with similar ideals have taken to solving matters like violent crime, slow or ambivalent legal processes, and impotent politicians, into their own hands quietly and effectively, careful not to draw attention to themselves. The problem is their town is outed by a national publication as the “Safest Town in America” for its impressive no-crime record, and the anti-heroines (plus one male anti-hero), who all simply want to be left alone, find themselves in the middle of a fugitive recovery effort stemming from the town’s new notoriety. Protagonist Counsel Fungo, female bounty hunter, looks to capture a bail-jumping sexual predator with a history of aliases and identity thefts, and who is now more dangerous because he’s been diagnosed with a terminal cancer and has nothing to lose, with their chase reaching Rancor, a quiet, anonymous small town in upstate PA. The novel’s bones are from a short story I wrote years ago and submitted to local writers groups and a few select noir ezines. The peer writers loved it but the magazines didn’t pick it up. So I made some revisions to the characters when deciding to double-down by turning it into a novel, fortified by feedback from a content editor. Lots of mystery and violence, some twists, colorful language, gore, and dark humor.”

SRP: How did you choose this setting?

Bauer: “Upstate Pennsylvania in and around Scranton has a rich coal mining heritage, a surplus of bowlers, and a reputation for tough-minded residents known for being able to handle themselves. Plus it has the Pocono Mountains, utilized well here during the climax. There are abandoned coalmines, a real-life geological wonder turned tourist attraction with the word “pothole” as part of its official title (Archbald Pothole State Park is renamed in the novel, although I kept “pothole”; how could I not?). Plus it has nearby Centralia, PA, where a coal seam fire that started in a strip mine in 1962 is still burning “hotter than the planet Mercury, its atmosphere as poisonous as Saturn’s,” per David DeKok’s Unseen Danger: A Tragedy of People, Government, and the Centralia Mine Fire, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1986.”

SRP: What’s next for the series?

Bauer: “An unsolved murder committed in Philadelphia comes back to haunt one of the town’s inhabitants whose daughter is now an FBI special agent in charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia region. The daughter’s adult relationship with her father is strained, one, because of her suspicions about the town, and two, because this knowledge goes against everything she’s ever believed in regarding legal law enforcement. I’m still noodling on this one with no words on page yet.”

SRP: What are you working on now?

Bauer: “Working on the follow up to crime thriller Hiding Among the Dead, a second novel in what I’m calling the Blessid Trauma series, title TBD (see below). A certain female mob cleaner-fixer has skipped out on Ka Hui, the Hawai‘ian mob that resurrected itself on the US mainland in Philadelphia. Ka Hui wants her back for typical macho mob bullsh*t reasons, but also because the top mob guy is in love with her. The setting is the Hawai‘ian Islands and involves a small, storied leeward island that is privately owned by a family who purchased it in the 1860s and promised to maintain its third-world culture in perpetuity, but is struggling now to keep this promise. After WWII’s Pearl Harbor attack, when a Japanese pilot crash-landed his mayday-ing Zero there and perished a few days later, the US Navy located its early missile warning radar apparatus on the island’s tallest elevation, and this current-day relationship is a major source of the inhabitants’ income, which is supplemented by ultra-expensive shell leis crafted from special mollusks found on its beaches and nowhere else on the planet. The island’s small population and its descendants are being brutally murdered one-by-one. The murders are allegedly committed by Ka Hui, but the mob denies responsibility. Tentatively titled Her Twelve-Letter Alphabet, as a nod toward the real-life Hawai‘ian language alphabet, this crime thriller will release in 2020.

SRP: What are you reading now, and what good books have you read lately?

Bauer: “Now reading a trio of books. Wool, a post-apocalyptic thriller by Hugh Howey set in a ‘ruined and toxic future.’ Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, because I was told Larson’s female characterizations are phenomenal. And a re-read of one of my favorite novels, Chance, a story about the most famous baseball shortstop of all time, even if it’s only in the mind of the storyteller, by Steve Shilstone. I love the voice of Shilstone’s character’s biographer, an ‘old weird poet.’ I have to mention Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem as one of the great books I’ve read lately even though it’s been out for a while and is soon to be a movie (11/1/19) starring Edward Norton and Bruce Willis. It showcases Lionel “Freak Show” Essrog, billed as a detective, but he’s really more of a mobster. This character had a major influence in characters I created for Binge Killer. I loved Motherless Brooklyn!


Binge Killer Synopsis

A bounty hunter and a maniacal killer come face-to-face… in a town with its own dark secret.

​Counsel Fungo is a unique woman. She’s a narcissistic bounty hunter suffering from Tourette syndrome, and she’s very good at her job. Her two canine companions are officially her therapy dogs, but unofficially she considers them to be her partners. She’s suffered intense loss and has been the victim of a horrible crime. These experiences now drive her unquenchable thirst for justice. She’ll do anything to stop criminals from preying on the vulnerable.

Randall Burton is a binge-killing rapist who has evaded the law and is not long for this earth. Just out of prison and diagnosed with a terminal disease, he’s jumped bail and decides to go out in a blaze of glory. He heads to sleepy Rancor, Pennsylvania, named one of the “Safest Towns in America,” for one last depraved hurrah. A quiet town tucked away in the Poconos, its citizens are mostly widowers, bowlers, and bingo players.

With Randall about to start his bloody killing spree, bounty hunter Counsel Fungo arrives in town, hoping she’s not too late.

But Rancor, Pennsylvania is not as ordinary as it seems.

There’s a reason it hasn’t had a major crime in the past 50 years. And neither Counsel nor the killer are ready for what this quiet town has in store…