Tag Archives: revenge

Author Interview & An Excuse For Murder by Vanessa Westermann

Please help me welcome today’s guest, Vanessa Westermann…

Please tell us a little about yourself, where are you from? Where do you live now?

I’m half-Canadian, half-German and was born in Germany. I moved to Canada two years ago and currently live in Ontario.

Why did you choose this genre?

I’ve always loved reading crime fiction, starting with Nancy Drew mysteries to Agatha Christie and Tana French. It’s not the violence of the crime, but the emotion that motivated it that intrigues me – the why, rather than the how.

I wanted to write a traditional village mystery, with its puzzles and quirky characters, but include the suspense of a thriller. In order to accomplish this, An Excuse For Murder is told from two points of view: from the perspective of Gary Fenris, a haunted former bodyguard who commits murder and then has to live with the consequences, and from the perspective of Kate Rowan, a bookstore owner who discovers the body. The characters are linked by danger and uncertain romance.

Do you have another occupation, other than writer? If so, what is it and do you like it?

Besides being a writer, I’m an English teacher and have also taught creative writing to young adults. I love teaching. Having the chance to inspire students and make a difference in their lives is wonderful.  There’s never a dull moment. And I get to spend my day talking about books.

What was your first job?

My first job was in Karstadt Oberpollinger, a department store in Munich, Germany. I worked in the store’s pop-up Christmas market. Besides having to listen to two recently released pop albums being played over and over again at the MAC cosmetics counter, it was a lot of fun.

What’s your favorite book of all time and why?

My favorite book of all time would have to be The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. Literary detective, Thursday Next, is on the trail of a criminal mastermind who is kidnapping characters from classic works of fiction. In this alternative version of 1985 London, people are obsessed with books – there are museums devoted to famous authors and “HyperBookworms”, i.e. Thesaurean maggots. The Eyre Affair is surreal, witty and gripping.

I was lucky enough to interview Jasper Fforde about his latest standalone, Early Riser, on my blog: https://www.vanessa-westermann.info/Fforde-interview

What’s your favorite childhood book?

My favorite childhood book is I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith and my favorite picture book is The Balloon Tree by Phoebe Gilman.

What do you want readers to come away with after they read An Excuse For Murder?

After they read An Excuse For Murder, I would like readers to come away with a sense of hope: that Gary will lay his ghosts to rest and that he will solve another crime with Kate. I would be thrilled if my characters linger on in readers’ minds after the last page has been read, and that Kate, Gary and Marcus feel like old friends.

Would you rather have a bad review or no review?

I would have to quote Oscar Wilde on that one: “There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about and that is not being talked about.” I would rather have a bad review than no review.

What is your favorite quote?

“The trouble with real life is that you don’t know whether you’re the hero or just some nice chap who gets bumped off in chapter five to show what a rotter the villain is without anyone minding too much.” ― Sarah Caudwell, The Sirens Sang of Murder

If you could spend time with a character from your book, whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?

I would love to have tea with Kate in The Old Fire-hall Café and then help her stock books in her bookstore, while discussing the mysterious behavior of the late Mr. Wendell.

What is the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

The toughest criticism given to me as an author was by an editor who described an early version of An Excuse For Murder as a “woman-in-danger novel”. I was horrified that I had given the impression that my female protagonist needed saving. I revised the novel, making sure that Kate showed strength and courage in every decision she made and every action she took. The best compliment I received was from Barbara Fradkin, in her praise quote for An Excuse For Murder: “Kate Rowan is the perfect heroine for our times; wit, charm, and spirit balanced by impressive skills in self-defense and lock-picking.“ Taking the tough criticism to heart, and making those changes, led to the best compliment.

How did you come up with the title?

The book was originally titled The House of Silent Words. In that earlier version of the manuscript, the focus was on Kate and the other tenants living in the fairy-tale house, owned by Kate’s great-aunt. Gary Fenris was just a shadowy figure on the sidelines. During revisions, Gary became a protagonist in his own right and the title had to reflect that change. An Excuse For Murder stems from Gary’s storyline and emphasizes the theme of revenge.

Blurb:

As a former bodyguard, it should be easy for Gary Fenris to kill, especially when the motive is revenge. But Gary has made two mistakes in his life. The first was letting the woman he loved die on his watch. The second was thinking vengeance could bring him peace.

Local bookstore owner and amateur lock pick Kate Rowan loves nothing more than a good mystery. Her curiosity soon leads her down a trail of blackmail, obsession and death. Despite the risk – or maybe because of it – Gary finds himself drawn to Kate. When danger strikes, Gary is forced to face the fact that he used love as an excuse for murder. And he’s got one last score to settle.

 Excerpt:

The ghost of her laughter teased across his skin, raising the hairs on his arms.

There she was, vibrant as though she was in the room with him. “Don’t tell me you don’t like it.” She gave her new dress a twirl, barefoot and beautiful, all ready for a night out but for the heels she would wait to put on to the last. Her toe-nails were painted red. The arch of her foot flexed strong and graceful with the movement. Her blonde hair shone in the light of memory. She stopped short, the soft blue fabric swinging against her legs, and grinned at him.

It went straight through him. He raised the bottle of Scotch to his lips, holding on to the vision. It wavered beneath the intensity of his gaze.

Then there was nothing on the floor but scuff marks and the shimmer of dust. His trainers, mud-caked from that morning’s eight kilometer run, took up the space where her heels should have been. He had almost forgotten the way she used to toe her shoes off, always sliding the left one off first for some inexplicable reason.

The wall was cold and hard against his back, the Scotch smooth and warm.

There was no other choice. He’d made his decision two years ago. It was time.

Tomorrow, he would commit murder.

 Buy links:

Amazon | B&N | Indiebound | Kobo | Books-A-Million

 

Bio:

Vanessa Westermann is a former Arthur Ellis Awards judge, and has given a talk on the evolution of women’s crime writing, at the Toronto Chapter of Sisters in Crime.

Her book review column entitled “Vanessa’s Picks” was published in the monthly newsletter of a popular Toronto mystery-specialty bookstore, from 2012 to 2016. The column was developed into a blog, featuring literary reviews and author interviews.

While living in Munich, Germany, Vanessa attained an M.A. in English Literature and went on to teach creative writing.

Vanessa currently lives in Canada and is working on her next novel, while drinking copious amounts of tea.

Readers can find her blog at www.vanessa-westermann.info and follow her on Twitter @VanessasPicks.

Contact links:

Website & Blog | Twitter

 

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Filed under Author Blog Post, New Release

Working with a Voice Artist by Jessie Clever ~ Historical Romance: To Save a Viscount

I am especially pleased to introduce today’s guest. I have had the pleasure of working with Jessie Clever, proofreading and editing some of her work. Her books are fantastic! Historical is not my preferred genre, but her stories definitely kept me engaged. Her characters and premises are unique and compelling. She has a knack for bringing you into the story, the setting, and makes you want to keep turning pages.

Today, she is sharing an interesting article about working with a voice artist on an audio book. I had the experience myself, and it was quite an adventure. Please help me welcome Jessie with her take on the process….

The Voice in My Head: Working with a Voice Artist to Bring Your Story to Life 

As an author, I jumped on the audio bandwagon with unstoppable glee.  I could not wait to turn my Regency romances into audiobooks in order to reach the voracious audio listeners I knew I was missing.  My main goal in writing has always been to share my stories with those who crave them, and romance readers are an exceptional bunch.  We are always looking for more, and audio has allowed me to reach even more wonderful readers.

So when I first approached this business of audio recording, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  I used an online service called ACX that allowed me to audition voice artists for my manuscript.  Now, I’m sure like many of you, when I read something, a certain voice appears in my head.  Depending on the book.  Depending on the genre.  Or depending on my mood at the time.  The story has already taken on a voice before someone reads it aloud.  So the auditions became something for which I was not prepared.

None of the auditions sounded like what the story sounded like in my head.  They got it all wrong!  That was not how Jane sounded.  She was not a cranky old lady.  She was very much a debonair, refined lady of the ton much like Maggie Smith’s performance on Downton Abbey.  Nora was not whiny and weak.  She was demure and controlled.  Her very voice spoke to her struggles as a character.  My unstoppable glee was quite quickly, well, stopped.  I didn’t like the “sound” of this business at all.

And then I received one more audio file from a voice artist outside of London.  (That is the magic of the Internet, isn’t it?  We creatives get to collaborate with folks from around the world while sipping coffee in our bathrobes.)  I reluctantly clicked the play button on this audition, steeling myself to hold back the disappointment that I knew would be coming in waves.  But then—What was that?  That clear, concise voice.  Those softly rounded consonants.  That contrasting crisp voice of authority and surety that said nothing more than dignified.  That.  That right there was the voice!  That was Nora.  That was Jane.  That was even rascally Alec, the Earl of Stryden.  Yes!  Finally, I heard it.  The thing I didn’t even know I was looking for.

The very voice in my head.

The one that had tripped along silently as the Black family spun their tales of espionage, war, and romance.

How could it be?  How had this amazing, talented person “heard” what I heard?  How could she have interpreted these characters so precisely as I had?  It didn’t seem possible.  But as I finally came to understand, this is the mark of a truly talented voice artist.

I immediately accepted the audition of this brilliant artist, and so began a journey I will treasure as a very special part of my writing endeavor.  Rachael Beresford took on the Black family and their many misadventures, their trials and tribulations, their passions and joys.  She took these characters that until then had only existed in my head and pulled them out, fluffed them up, and made them like real, tangible things.  Now when I heard my stories performed back to me, it is as though I could reach out and give Jane a hug.  (And oh, what a wonderful thing that would be!)

Once Rachael completes the narration, I receive the files for review.  That is one of my favorite times as an author.  I covet that time.  I treasure it.  I curl up in said bathrobe, steaming cup of coffee in hand, and click play.  And Rachael reads me a story.  A story completely unlike the one I wrote.  That, too, is the magic of a talented voice artist.  The story becomes something else.  Something more.  It is no longer the black and white text you’ve carefully created on the page.  It’s suddenly alive and three-dimensional.  The characters shape the sounds that until then had only been black lines on a page.  And that’s just it.  They’re sounds.  The characters are suddenly human.

While I relish reaching the end, I’m saddened to no longer have the anticipation of discovering the story again through Rachael’s performance.  I usually listen to her narration all in one sitting, because I cannot bear to interrupt it.  Once approved by me, the files are whisked off into the ether of the web, and Audible and iTunes suddenly have a packaged audiobook ready for hungry readers.  It looks so mundane, that thumbnail of the final product.  But beneath that quiet exterior, magic awaits.  And more, as a reader, you know it’s there.  Waiting.

That is the power of a talented voice artist.  That is the magic that only a true narrator can weave.   As an author, I would advise other authors not to settle on the first audition if it doesn’t seem quite right.  Somewhere out there is the right narrator for your story.  You need only wait and listen.

To celebrate the release of the final book in the Spy Series on audio, I am giving a copy of the audiobook of the first book in the series, Son of a Duke, to a random commentor on this blog post.  Just answer this question: audiobooks – do you love them or hate them?  And if you love them, what is an audiobook that you fell in love with instantly and forever just from the sound of the artist’s voice?

 

Blurb:

When an assassin threatens England’s spy network, Lady Margaret Folton must find the killer before it’s too late. Hardened from being forced to witness the murder of her British spy parents by French revolutionists, Margaret approaches this mission like any other, with steely determination and a resolute focus on the necessary outcome at the cost of all else.

Commodore John Lynwood, newly returned from the Mediterranean, finds himself granted the title of viscount in honor of his service during the war. Plagued with a string of good luck throughout his life, the title serves as another reminder that Jack has done nothing to earn the glory and prestige that comes with his position, and he’ll be damned if he’ll enjoy such an honor.

But when Jack is accidentally granted a title meant to be used as bait to lure the assassin into the War Office’s trap, Margaret must face the tragedy of her past and decide which is more important: the assignment or love?

The books in the Spy Series:
1/2. Inevitably a Duchess (A prequel novella)
1. Son of a Duke
2. For Love of the Earl
3. A Countess Most Daring
4. To Save a Viscount

Excerpt:

London

August 1815

He had grown so accustomed to the sound of gunfire that he did not hear the shot that was meant to kill him.

This would have worried Richard Black, the Duke of Lofton, if he had had time to think on it.  But as the situation inherently required immediate action, prolonged and abstract thinking on the subject was neither prudent nor wise.  So he refrained.  Instead, he wondered whom it was that smashed into him at incredible speed, sending him tumbling backwards off the walk along the Thames and into the bitter, black water below.

He had been meeting his contact there along the water at an unholy hour, and darkness had lain all about him.  The exchange had gone as planned, and he now held the knowledge that he knew would prove key to his current assignment with the War Office.  But as the inky water of the Thames closed over his head, he wondered if he would ever get that information to the necessary people.

And then as the last of the light disappeared, he thought of Jane, his wife.  His Jane.  He did not think of her in specific instances or certain memories that lay in his mind.  He thought of her in pieces.  Her smell.  Her laugh.  The sound her hair made as she brushed it at night.  The way she always laid her hand on top of his whenever they should find themselves sitting next to one another.  Her amazing talents with chestnut roasters.

He would have laughed if such an action would not speed up the inevitable drowning that suddenly became all too real, flushing thoughts of Jane from his mind.  His arms began to push against the water as his feet began to pulse, driving him toward the surface.  Only he did not move.  Whoever it was that had slammed into him still held him about the waist, dragging him deeper into the water.  He began to struggle, the need for air and life and Jane surging through his veins in a way he had never felt before.

And then a hand brushed against his cheek, and slender fingers came to rest across his mouth.  He wanted to open his eyes, but he knew it would do no good in the black water.  But he let the feeling of his attacker’s hand brush against his skin, the shape of it press into his face, the narrowness of limb and the delicate arch of bone.

It was a woman who held him beneath the water.

And he stopped struggling.

 

Goodreads Link:

http://bit.ly/1mUg1km 

Purchase links:

Now available on audio!

Also available at these etailers –

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/1tddN6P

Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/YXK6dd

Kobo: http://bit.ly/1zHa0gJ

Nook: http://bit.ly/1otXb34

iBooks: http://bit.ly/1pjfhe7

Google Play: http://bit.ly/10FAmFc

Smashwords: http://bit.ly/1qCRsu2

About the Author:

Jessie decided to be a writer because the job of Indiana Jones was already filled.

Taking her history degree dangerously, Jessie tells the stories of courageous heroines, the men who dared to love them, and the world that tried to defeat them.

Jessie makes her home in the great state of New Hampshire where she lives with her husband and two very opinionated Basset Hounds.  For more, visit her website at jessieclever.com.

Connect with Jessie…

Facebook: http://on.fb.me/1foelMH

Twitter: http://bit.ly/1IM6UPJ

Instagram: http://bit.ly/1HYaQdM

Pinterest: http://bit.ly/KZQ4TQ

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/1fge8x9

Amazon Author Page http://amzn.to/2kKoZcH

Get a free book when you sign up for Jessie’s Newssheet http://eepurl.com/cpHMa1

 

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Filed under Author Blog Post, giveaway