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Interview with Linda Schroeder, author of ‘Artists & Thieves’

Linda Schroeder divides her time between the bright sun of California and the high mountains of Colorado. She has a Master’s degree in English and one in Communicative Disorders/Audiology. In addition to her novel, Artists & Thieves, she has published a college text.

Her early interest in English expanded to include language disorders and she began a second career as an audiologist and aural rehabilitation therapist working with deaf and hard-of-hearing children and adults.

Currently, she studies and practices Chinese brush painting, celebrating the vitality and energy of nature. She follows art and art theft blogs and writes her own blog about art and sometimes includes reviews of novels. She is working on two more novels, a second Mai Ling novel about the Diamond Sutra, and a Sammy Chan art mystery about the forgery of a Goya painting.

You can visit her website at www.artistsandthieves.com.

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Q: Thank you for this interview, Linda. Can you tell us what your latest book, Artists & Thieves, is all about?

Artists & Thieves won the San Diego Book Awards in the action/suspense category. It is an art mystery. A priceless Chinese bronze bowl is looted from a dig by smugglers and sold to an art collector in Monterey. Mai Ling is an artist who works undercover for Interpol recovering stolen art. She discovers that this bowl belonged to her ancestor in China and her grandfather is duty bound to return it to China. So she is on a quest to get the bowl, not for Interpol but for her grandfather. Four others are also after the bowl.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

Mai Ling is a Chinese/American who is twenty-five, clever, agile, witty. She is an accomplished Chinese brush painter and a martial arts expert. She knows the world of art smugglers.

Mai’s best friend is Angelo, a flamboyant, arrogant, emotional artist. He is preparing to turn Monterey’s Custom House into a representation of a 1840 sailing ship. He has inside information which helps Mai steal the bowl.

Mai’s counterpart is Hunter. He has flaming red hair and rides a Harley. He is an antique dealer in Rome. He is in love with Mai but he is also in competition with her to steal the bowl.

Angelo’s counterpart is Cypress. She owns a flower shop in Carmel and resells stolen items from it. She is also after the bowl.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

My characters are both. I know someone who is similar to every one of my characters. I use some defining personality traits from them. But the details of their lives, their relationships and emotions are unique to the imagined fictional characters.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

I discover as I write. I don’t work from an outline. I start with a general idea of a character and a situation. As I write, I add details and find interesting relationships between characters by saying, “What would surprise the reader at this point?” Those “Aha!” moments turn the plot and set up the interconnections between characters. I get a first draft this way but the following drafts are rewrites which tighten plot events, develop the characters more, and add descriptions.

Q: Your book is set mainly in Monterey, California.  Can you tell us why you chose this city in particular?

I lived in Monterey for ten years. I know its history and its landmarks. And it is now a major tourist destination, so many people also are familiar with it. It has different aspects within just a few miles of territory.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

Absolutely. The setting reflects the characters. Mai lives by the ocean. Like her life the water is sometimes calm, sometimes dangerous. Angelo lives on Fisherman’s Wharf in an artist’s loft. The wharf is full of colors and smells. He is conscious always of sensory input.  Cypress lives in Carmel, part elite establishment, part used-to-be hippie enclave. She straddles both worlds. Mai’s boss lives in Pebble Beach in a wood and glass house designed by a famous architect. It reflects his education and his affluence.

Q: Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

This is the beginning of the chapter, Ghosts. Mai is on the road, traveling to Locke, a historic Chinese farming town on the Sacramento river. Her grandfather spends the summers there. She had been on her way to her gallery exhibition in Monterey but has been urgently summoned to Locke by her grandfather; she doesn’t know why. Neither does the reader. This is the point on the plot line where the task she faces is revealed.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

This is a point leading to the climatic confrontation between Mai and the smuggler who now has the bowl. Mai is rushing on foot in blinding fog to get the bowl:

“At last she reached the sea. Long bands of glowing light stretched up and down the coast, eerily luminescent in the fog hanging over the waves. The red tide’s tiny organisms sparkled, ebbed and flowed in the ocean’s easy motion. When she’d enjoyed the display Tuesday on her evening run, hundreds of cars filled the beach lots. Now all was strangely empty. Why? The power outage? Road closures? Whatever the reason, the unexpected emptiness grated against her already strained nerves, reinforcing her fear that Toni’s studio would be empty and the bowl already spirited out of the city.

In the sea’s light, Mai ran the short distance to the two story warehouse which was Toni’s ocean view studio. No cars were parked in front. She rattled the front door. A bolt held it tight. A metal shutter secured the only window. A gull screeched a sinister warning. A burst of panic tightened her throat. Maybe she was wrong. How the hell would she find Toni if she wasn’t here?”

Q: Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on track? 

I often get stuck “discovering” which way the plot should go next, what the reader needs to know to keep the story moving forward. When that happens I take note cards and write “what if” events, one per card, and reasons why a character might or might not do that.  I have a critique group which usually meets weekly. The deadline to have a scene ready to be analyzed gets me motivated to put something down on paper. Sometimes I keep that scene, sometimes that scene doesn’t work at all and I put it in the “out-takes” folder.

Q: What would you do with an extra hour today if you could do anything you wanted?

I love walking in the surf at Torrey Pines beach. The ocean goes to a far horizon. The open distance is beautiful and inspiring.

Q: Which already published book do you wish that you had written and why?

I wish I had written Michael Chabon’s The Final Solution. It is an elegant Sherlock Holmes tale, very odd.

Q: What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors regarding getting their books out there?

We are lucky today to have many options. We can hunt for an agent, hope for a big press, hunt for a small press, or self publish either print or ebook. Explore the possibilities. But do not let your book sit unread in a desk drawer.  We are storytellers and stories must be read. We only become better writers if someone reads our writing. So crank that book out any way you can. It will not be easy or trauma free. But having a book to sell is worth it.

 

 

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Interview with ‘Red Hot Sky’ Gordon Gumpertz on writing, new book and global climate

Gordon Gumpertz brings fiction readers another exciting action/adventure experience in his new novel RED HOT SKY. This is the author’s second book, following his highly acclaimed novel TSUNAMI.

In addition to writing novels, Gordon has won gold and silver awards in national and regional short story competitions. He is a member of the Authors Guild, the Palm Springs Writers Guild, a UCLA graduate, and an instrument-rated private pilot. He keeps his website current by blogging on natural disasters and natural phenomena.

Gordon and his wife Jenny live not far from the San Andreas fault, where the Pacific Plate thrusts into the North American Plate, building increasingly high levels of faultline stress which, the seismologists say, may soon produce the Big One.

Visit his website at www.tsunaminaturaldisaster.com.

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About Red Hot Sky

CO2 buildup in earth’s atmosphere reaches a tipping point. Global weather destabilizes, turns chaotic. Ice storms, dust storms, floods, blizzards, hurricanes, tornadoes pummel the earth nonstop. A secret computer model reveals that the frantic weather will peak out, and transform world climate into an alien environment devastating to human survival.

Scientists Ben Mason, Claudine Manet, and Bertrand Short are developers of the computer model. Ben and Claudine are lovers as well as lab partners. While they work frantically to head off the approaching catastrophe, a disgraced Russian general hacks into their model and sees earth’s bleak future as his opportunity for ultimate world power.

Ben, who had left the CIA to develop the computer model at the national lab,  is reactivated by the Agency and sent on a perilous mission to block the rogue general’s plot. Claudine, not realizing that Ben is on a secret mission, misunderstands his absence, putting their relationship on thin ice.

Claudine is placed in charge of a massive NASA project that, if completed on time, could stop the approaching doomsday climate change. But her project is stalled by bureaucracy. Ben is on the run in hostile territory. The climate change calamity steadily approaches.

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Gordon!  Can you tell us what your latest book, Red Hot Sky, is all about?

Red Hot Sky is a fast-moving novel about what happens when the buildup of CO2, methane, and other greenhouse gasses in earth’s atmosphere reaches a tipping point. In this scenario, global weather destabilizes and turns chaotic. Ice storms, dust storms, floods, blizzards, hurricanes, tornadoes pummel the earth nonstop. A secret computer model reveals that the frantic weather will peak out, and transform world climate into an alien environment devastating to human survival.

Scientists Ben Mason and Claudine Manet, developers of the computer model, are lovers as well as lab partners. While they work frantically to head off the approaching catastrophe, a disgraced Russian general hacks into their model and sees earth’s bleak future as his opportunity for ultimate world power.

Ben, who had left the CIA to develop the computer model at the national lab, is reactivated by the Agency and sent on a perilous mission to block the rogue general’s plot. Claudine, not realizing Ben is on a secret mission, misunderstands his absence, putting their relationship on thin ice.

Claudine is placed in charge of a massive NASA project that, if completed on time, could stop the approaching doomsday climate change. But her project is stalled by bureaucracy. Ben, his cover blown, is on the run in hostile territory. The climate change calamity steadily approaches.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

The main characters are research scientists Ben Mason and Claudine Manet. They fall in love when they meet at the national lab and plan to get married. Both are having problems balancing their love life with their careers, and both are willing to sacrifice everything to save the planet for future generations. And they do it with humor, grace, and passion. The main supporting characters are Ben’s lab colleague Shorty, a tall country boy from Oklahoma with a big-heart and a sharp mind, who keeps Ben focused by asking the penetrating questions. And Byrone Culver, a DC police detective who joins Ben in his dangerous mission to expose the general’s plot. The antagonist is General Yuri Kulganin, a Russian general who is fired as commander of the Russian Army for supporting a return to authoritarian military control of the government. He plots to return as ruler of Russia and then the world.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

The characters are imaginary, but some of their looks, traits and behaviors are based on real people.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

I always make a general outline of the story before I start. Plot enriching opportunities arise during the writing, and the characters sometimes take the action in a different direction, but the basic storyline still stands.

Q: Your book is set in Washington, DC, Pasadena, Geneva, Moscow, and Tehran.  Can you tell us why you chose those cities in particular?

Red Hot Sky is an international spy thriller. I chose Washington as the symbolic power center of America. And Tehran and Moscow as power centers with ideologies and goals that conflict with ours. The action moves from National Science Laboratories in Falls Church to Caltech in Pasadena, NASA’s Dryden Research Center in Mojave, to Geneva, to Tehran, and finally to Moscow.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

Yes. Moving from site to site keeps up the fast pace of the action, adds color, and sets up the climax.

Q: Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

Ben’s car is demolished by a car bomb. He’d gotten out moments before the blast to go to a store. Byrone Culver, the DC police detective, arrives at the scene to interview Ben. He says, “Wait a minute. I remember you. The shot on the Key Bridge….Two in a row is more than coincidence. Someone’s trying to kill you. You sure you don’t know who it is?”

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

This is one of my favorites.  It sets the stage for Kulganin’s drive for ultimate power.

The New Year’s afternoon light was almost gone. General Yuri Kulganin slow-marched through the roomy Moscow apartment he’d lived in for the past seven years, trailed by his valet, Sergeant Dimitri Petrov. “Someday we will move back here to Moscow,” Kulganin said, “so I will have the agent sublet this apartment furnished and we will travel light.

Sgt. Petrov, thin, wiry, in his late thirties, uniform freshly pressed, nodded. “Yes, sir. I will pack your uniforms and all your personal items for the trip. Do you also wish to take your gun collection?”

“No, you will pack that for storage.”

“Will I accompany you, General?”

“Naturally, and I advise you to pack for cold winters and hot summers.” Kulganin picked up a silver-framed portrait of his wife, who had left him the year before and was living in Paris with their eleven-year-old son. He put it face down on the table. “Discard all pictures of her, but keep those of my son. This will be a new start.”

“Do I have your permission to take off my tunic, General?”

“Yes, of course, you have some long hours of hard work ahead.” He turned to face the sergeant. “You and I have been together a long time.”

“Yes, sir. Eighteen years.”

“Then you have a right to know. You will soon find out in any case. I am no longer commander of the Russian army.”

Petrov’s spare frame stiffened. “Sir?”

“It’s quite simple. The defense minister has relieved me of my command. We are being transferred to Iran. I will take over the military mission there. Instead of commanding five million soldiers, I will oversee a handful of clerks.” He picked up his wife’s picture and hurled it across the room, smashing the frame and glass against a brick fireplace. “Stupid fools!”

“I am very sorry, sir.” Tears formed in Petrov’s eyes. He’d been with Kulganin since he was a major.  The eighteen years had been good ones.

Kulganin moved to a window. The sky had blackened, signaling another arctic storm on its way. “There is no need to feel bad, Dimitri. The storm will move through. The sun will shine again. Things will be better.”

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Gordon.  We wish you much success!

 

 

 

 

 

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