Sunday, April 13, 2014

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Author Andrew Clawson

Andrew Clawson, Author
Andrew Clawson just released his latest present-day thriller using history to entice readers, DARK TIDES RISING. Reviewers describe Clawson’s books as, “historically intriguing,” “fast-paced thrillers,” and “true-to-life well developed characters.” Clawson says his interest in the past combines with his curiosity to explore small moments with a big impact. He says he creates suspense more through dialogue than back story, and divulges his characters slowly.

Clawson lives in Pennsylvania, loves to read, seeks out the sun, and “of course a good craft beer will always get my attention.”

Be sure to check out the excerpt from DARK TIDES RISING following his interview.

Q:  What inspired you to use history to tell modern day thrillers?

Andrew Clawson: The biggest inspiration is a lifelong interest in our past, which bred a fascination with understanding not only where we came from, but looking beyond the surface and wanting to know what events from bygone eras led to the reality we experience today. The tiny coincidences or mundane actions of years gone by, which at the time seemed irrelevant, can have a permanent impact on the future.

Take, for example, George Washington’s famous crossing of the Delaware. December 25, 1776. The Continental Army was camped in Pennsylvania, and Washington led a surprise attack by crossing the ice-choked river in the dead of night, which allowed him to take the Hessians in New Jersey by surprise, capturing 1,000 soldiers along with much-needed supplies. Now, how was this bold maneuver able to succeed? Other than excellent planning and decisive action, the much-needed victory came about because a Hessian officer who received word of the impending crossing from a loyalist spy failed to pass on this information, as he was playing poker. Had he folded, the British would have known Washington was coming, could have captured or killed him, along with Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, and the Declaration of Independence becomes nothing but a dream. Truth is stranger than fiction, and this is a perfect example of how history can be inter-woven with truth to drive a thriller today.

Q: “Historically intriguing,” “sparked my interest in American history,” “adept handling of historical details…Far from a dry history lesson, the author weaves details from the past into the fast-paced action of the present.” Are you a historian? Do you enjoy history? How do you engage readers with historical facts?

Andrew Clawson: The only historical training I’ve received is in a classroom, much like every other student in the country, but it seems to have stuck. As noted before, I enjoy reading about history, and I’ve been fortunate enough to combine a subject I get excited about with a chance to craft tales that keep a reader intrigued on multiple levels. In every novel I write, extensive research goes into each twist and turn. I do my best to weave an authentic storyline that is as true to the times in which the narrative is set as possible. Utilizing a historian as one of the recurring characters allows me to take the best parts of modern fiction, such as technology, weaponry, and geography, and mold them with the wonders of the past. Part of what I believe makes this all work is that though we have a vast knowledge of our past, there are still countless mysteries regarding what exactly happened in any number of situations. With such a trove of material, the hard part is choosing what to write about, because it’s all so good.

Q: How important is historical accuracy to telling your story? Do you believe historical accuracy leads to credibility and believability? If so, what kind of research do you conduct?

Andrew Clawson: Accuracy is vital – to a point. With the kind of stories I like to write, it’s important that the lines between fact and fiction are difficult to discern, because much of the inspiration for my plots can be found in textbooks. Borrowing from the past allows me to paint a much more vivid and engrossing picture than simply creating most detail from thin air. I believe that type of story is much more likely to make a reader question what’s in front of them, which takes away from the whole purpose of a book – to entertain (at least a fiction novel). By incorporating factual information into the narrative, it allows a reader to more easily accept the story, as many readers who pick up one of my novels will have at least a passing familiarity with the time period from which parts of the tale are drawn. And this all leads to one of, to me, the most important outcomes of a book like mine: making the reader think. I want everyone who finishes a book I’ve written to go out and do a little research. Did that really happen? Was that person real? By drawing someone into the past, and by doing so in an entertaining manner, I hope to stoke, or even create, a newfound interest in the past.

My research is multi-faceted. I have a decent grasp on events of significance from our past, though of course this is painted with the brush of who wrote the history books (a favorite saying: “History is written by the victors”). Once I latch on to an idea for a story, I’ll begin to read about the period, specifically the time and place in which the impetus for my modern-day adventure will be drawn. This initial research is less focused than later readings and investigations, because I’ve found that if I limit myself in the beginning, I risk missing out on facts and trivia that I never knew existed, some of which may work perfectly with my storyline. Once I have a better idea of exactly what the tale will contain, my research focuses specifically on how I can incorporate factual information from the time period or place into my writing. Soon after this, an outline begins to take shape, and I can move forward with confidence.

Q: How do you create interest in your characters—both modern day and historical?

Andrew Clawson:  I try to incorporate traits from people I know or with whom I am familiar, people who have inspired or in some way left an impression on me. I also like to utilize actions or motives that create a strong reaction, positive or negative. Giving characters depth isn’t a product of detailed back story or endowing them with stereotypical villainous qualities. Creating a memorable individual can be much more subtle, a sentence here or a pointed action there. Sometimes, of course, it’s best to hit your audience over the head with one of these, but I try to mix it up and paint characters in small strokes without a wide brush. Complexity, to a point, is paramount. And it should be revealed over time, with a dash of misdirection thrown in when you can. Always keep the reader guessing (except when you don’t).

Q: Are you in charge of your characters, or do they take over? Do you follow an outline? Or…what is your writing process?

Andrew Clawson:  It’s not very often my characters begin to direct the action, mostly due to the fact that I outline every scene prior to starting the novel. I actually work backwards, starting with the ending, and stepping back through time to determine the best (read: most entertaining) path to arrive there. With such an investment in the outline, I tend to stick with it, though of course there are certain times when the story speaks to you, and if that happens, I believe only a fool ignores it. Barring such intervention, however, the most effective method I’ve found involves hours of preparation to allow yourself the luxury of focusing only on the writing itself as opposed to worrying about the storyline at every turn. If you’ve already plotted the dance, there’s little need to worry about each step.

Q: Are there villains and heroes in your books? What makes a good villain? Do you need villains in order to have heroes?

Andrew Clawson: I try to have both, but to paint them in shades of gray as opposed to black and white. Imbuing characters with qualities normally associated with their natural opponents gives them depth, creates a deeper association with the reader, and adds a level of complexity that isn’t found with the straightforward hero versus villain dynamic. And as to the need for both? I say, no, you don’t. A hero can be his own worst enemy if you write him properly.

Q: Your reviewers tout the “fast paced action.” How do you create an “electrically charged thriller?” What are the characteristics of a good thriller?

Andrew Clawson: For me, I seem to have success when my interactions are dialogue-based. By that I mean the characters reveal their motivations, come to realize their situations, and aid in story development through what they say as much as what they do. Tense, tightly-knit plotlines can be built through the careful construction of engaging dialogue, which I believe stems from putting yourself in the characters shoes. What would they say? Does it sound right? Focusing on putting not only the right words, but believable words, in a character’s mouth is what allows me to keep action flowing and reveal plot twists and turns in an engaging manner.

Q: Do you write your books primarily to entertain or were you also trying to educate or deliver a message?

Andrew Clawson:  Great question. For me, it’s both. I believe books are dual-purpose weapons. I believe you can get lost in a beach read that also makes you think. By weaving truths and near-truths together in a tale that gets your pulse racing, my hope is that readers will be inspired to delve more deeply into the issues, even if all they do is toss a few phrases into a search engine to fact-check. I’ve always found that truth is much stranger than fiction, so by incorporating my knowledge of the past with a good tale, I believe a reader can be both entertained and educated in one sitting.

Q: What’s next?

Andrew Clawson: My next tale will take readers to the green fields and bustling cities of Ireland, and from there on a non-stop adventure that traverses the Emerald Isle from north to south, finally ending in the heart of Great Britain, London. An ages-old conflict will serve as the focal point, and of course the story will stretch back through the centuries to bring a long-forgotten period of the British Empire’s past to the forefront, with global consequences on the line.

Q:  Tell us something about Andrew Clawson. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Andrew Clawson: If I can find enough time to read a great new book, that’s always first on my list. Away from the written word, I enjoy spending time out in the sun (though we haven’t seen much of that lately in the northeastern part of the U.S.), and supporting my favorite sports teams. And of course a good craft beer will always get my attention.

About Andrew Clawson

Andrew Clawson is the author of several books, including A PATRIOT'S BETRAYAL, THE CROWNS VENGEANCE, and DARK TIDES RISING

He lives in Pennsylvania, where he enjoys reading, writing as much as possible, and spending time with his rescued black cat, who brings him good luck and the occasional dead bug.

You can learn more about Andrew and his novels at

In Philadelphia, Penn historian Erika Carr studies a Revolutionary era map that had been lost for centuries. Scrawled across its surface is a cryptic poem, the contents of which Erika suspects may point to a prize that has fascinated mankind for ages.

Buried treasure.

When a mysterious benefactor appears and offers her a fortune in exchange for the map, Erika cannot imagine what her refusal will unleash. With Erika at his side, investment banker Parker Chase soon finds himself racing for his life as they unravel the mystery of the map and the treasure it protects, deciphering clues charted by some of history's most infamous pirates.

Every clue brings them closer to the truth masked within the enigmatic poem, though they have no idea what darkness awaits. The treacherous course takes them from the remote beaches of North Carolina to the sparkling waters of the Caribbean, and if they can stay alive, Parker and Erika can uncover a treasure that will rewrite history.


Parker slipped into the warm water and all was black. Moments later, silky sand met his heels as he struck bottom.

His light flashed toward the surface. He was about ten feet down. Ahead, all was inky black, the white beam fading to nothing. A mental clock began ticking down the seconds.

Hand raised, he felt for the rocky roof and found it just ahead. Beneath him, he didn't even bother looking. Using the roof as a guide, he kicked hard, back skimming just below the stone, eyes burning.

Ten seconds left. Ahead was nothing, an infinite pool of space.

The first surge of fear hit him. His body floated, weightless in the warm water. His only guide, the rocks above.

Five. Still nothing ahead.

His internal clock hit zero.

Lungs burning, he started to turn around.

Something slammed into his face.

The last breath of air shot from his lungs. Through a mass of bubbles, Parker caught a glimpse of the stalactite, a curving mass of cruel rock hanging from above.

Out of air and panicked, he reached forward to shove off. He needed air.

But the stalactite was slippery, covered with algae. His hand slipped across it like ice.

Desperately grabbing for purchase, his hand was suddenly cold.

His fingers had broken the surface. There was air above him.

He had no other options. Lungs screaming, Parker shot out of the water into a black void.

All he could do was gasp. Parker greedily gulped the warm, salt-tinged air, chest heaving. Only after he'd sucked in the most wonderful breaths of his life did he pull his flashlight up and look around.

What he saw nearly sent him back under.

Not ten feet away was a sandy beach, the mirror image of where he'd left Erika. However, it wasn't the cave that grabbed his attention. It was the shoreline.

Or, more appropriately, what was on it.

Skeletons lay strewn about the sand.

Purchase and Author Links


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Author Cate Beauman

Cate Beauman, Author
Sixth book of "The Bodyguards of LA County"
Cate Beauman has just released the sixth suspenseful thriller in her series “The Bodyguards of LA County.” In JUSTICE FOR ABBY, Beauman’s protagonist, Abigail Harris, is chased by members of the Mid-Atlantic Sex Ring after she testifies against them. Reviewers tout Beauman’s combination of suspense and romance. She says she enhances suspense through plausibility and romance through 'real' characters.

Beauman currently lives in Tennessee with her family. Music plays a big part in her writing process, and she has offered us a list of the songs that helped her write her latest book. She points out that although JUSTICE FOR ABBY is fiction, sex trafficking is a serious crime worldwide.

Don’t miss the excerpt from JUSTICE FOR ABBY following the interview.

Q: Your best-selling books are part of a series “The Bodyguards of LA County.” Why do you write a series of books rather than independent standalone novels?

Cate Beauman: When I first started my writing journey I had no intention of creating a series. Heck, I didn’t even know I could write! MORGAN’S HUNTER was supposed to be a standalone novel about a bodyguard and the woman he protects in the backwoods of Montana. Hunter’s good friends Ethan and Sarah played very minor roles in the story, but as the manuscript started to unfold, I had this overwhelming urge to bring Ethan and Sarah to life.  At that point, Ethan and Sarah were supposed to be the end of a two-book deal…until Hailey and Austin entered the picture. Halfway through FALLING FORSARAH, I knew I had a series on my hands. Now that I’ve begun research for book seven, I can’t imagine starting another project until all of Ethan’s close protection agents have a turn to share their adventures. Writing The Bodyguards of L.A. County is so much fun.

Q: Reviewers tout the suspense in your books as “a real thrill ride.” How do you create suspense? What contributes to suspense and makes a thriller?

Cate Beauman: I love that my readers find my work suspenseful. I think the key to creating a good thriller is basing a story on plausibility. If the situation couldn’t happen in real life, then it loses a bit of the ‘zing.’ Half the fun of suspense is having an idea of what you think will happen and seeing if it plays out the way you thought it would. Another key component of “a real thrill ride” is believable character development. I basically imagine men or women who embody the worst mankind has to offer. I try to dig deep into what scares most people and bring that to life.

Q: “very suspenseful and believable romance.”  How do you make your romantic thrillers “believable?” How important is credibility to enticing readers?

Cate Beauman: Bringing romance and suspense together certainly has its challenges, but I can’t imagine writing any other genre. I think my thrillers are believable because I try to base them off of some facet of reality. I’m a crime TV junkie. Almost every story I’ve written has been sparked by something I’ve seen while watching one of my favorite shows. It never has to be much. Just recently I watched a program where they showed a bone in a grave and it gave me an idea for a story I plan to tell down the road.

When it comes to the romantic side of storytelling, I try very hard to create characters that are ‘real.’ My heroes and heroines are good people at their core, but they’re flawed just like the rest of us. It’s so much fun to bring two people together and create a love story with plenty of hiccups along the way. Romance is fun, but my heroes and heroines have to work hard to earn their happily ever afters.

Q: How relevant is setting to your books? Are you able to use the background of L.A. to tell your story?

Cate Beauman: Setting is pretty important to all of my novels. What is a story without the details that tie everything together? I like to mix the novels up a bit though. Los Angeles is where Ethan Cooke Security’s main offices are, but Ethan’s agents travel all over to protect their clients. So far my readers have followed the bodyguards to Montana, Mexico, Maryland, Utah, Nebraska, and of course, California.

Q: When writing, are you in control of your characters or do those “bodyguards” push you around?

Cate Beauman: I would say the bodyguards have their fair share of room to grow. It’s not uncommon to rewrite at least half of my manuscript by the time I get to the second draft and really know who each bodyguard and his principal are. I try hard to stick to an outline, but that typically doesn’t last long. As each story grows, original ideas are usually forgotten and the ones that advance the plot and characters are what are used.

About Cate Beauman

I currently live in Tennessee with my husband, two boys, and our St. Bernard, Bear. I recently resigned from my day job to concentrate on this thing I refer to as ‘My Dream Come True’ career!

“I’m a pretty lucky girl; one day I woke up and my entire life changed. I saw the light, so to speak, and decided I was going to be a writer. Now, three years later, I’m working on Saving Sophie, the seventh novel in my best selling romantic suspense series, The Bodyguards Of L.A. County. “

About JUSTICE FOR ABBY – Available NOW!

Fashion designer Abigail Harris has been rescued, but her nightmare is far from over. Determined to put her harrowing ordeal behind her and move on, she struggles to pick up the pieces of her life while eluding the men who want her dead.

The Mid-Atlantic Sex Ring is in ruins after Abby’s interviews with the police.  The organization is eager to exact their revenge before her testimony dismantles the multi-million dollar operation for good.

Abby’s safety rests in the hands of former US Marshal, Jerrod Quinn.  Serious-minded and obsessed with protocol, Ethan Cooke Security’s newest agent finds himself dealing with more than he bargains for when he agrees to take on his beautiful, free-spirited client.

As the trial date nears, Abby’s case takes a dangerous turn.  Abby and Jerrod soon discover themselves in a situation neither of them expect while Jerrod fights to stop the ring from silencing Abby once and for all.

Other The Bodyguard of Los Angeles books

Book One: MORGAN’SHUNTER, the story of Morgan and Hunter.

Morgan Taylor, D.C. socialite and wildlife biologist, leads a charmed life until everything changes with a phone call. Her research team has been found dead—slaughtered—in backcountry Montana.

As the case grows cold, Morgan is determined to unravel the mystery behind her friends’ gruesome deaths. Despite the dangers of a murderer still free, nothing will stand in her way, not even the bodyguard her father hires, L.A.’s top close protection agent, Hunter Phillips.

Sparks fly from the start when no-nonsense Hunter clashes with Morgan’s strong-willed independence. Their endless search for answers proves hopeless—until Hunter discovers the truth.

On the run and at the mercy of a madman, Morgan and Hunter must outsmart a killer to save their own lives.  

Book Two: FALLING FORSARAH the story of Sarah and Ethan.

Widow Sarah Johnson struggled to pick up the pieces after her life was ripped apart.  After two years of grieving, she’s found contentment in her thriving business as photographer to Hollywood’s A-list and in raising her angel-faced daughter, Kylee…until bodyguard and long-time friend Ethan Cooke changes everything with a searing moonlight kiss.

Sarah’s world turns upside down as she struggles with her unexpected attraction to Ethan and the guilt of betraying her husband’s memory.  But when blue roses and disturbing notes start appearing on her doorstep, she has no choice but to lean on Ethan as he fights to save her from a stalker that won’t stop until he has what he prizes most.

Book Three: HAILEY’STRUTH, the story of Hailey and Austin.

Hailey Roberts has never had it easy. Despite the scars of a tragic childhood, she’s made a life for herself. As a part-time student and loving nanny, she yearns for a family of her own and reluctant Austin Casey, Ethan Cooke Security’s best close protection agent.

Hailey’s past comes back to haunt her when her long lost brother tracks her down, bringing his dangerous secrets with him. At an emotional crossroads, Hailey accepts a humanitarian opportunity that throws her together with Austin, taking her hundreds of miles from her troubles, or so she thinks.

What starts out as a dream come true quickly becomes a nightmare as violence erupts on the island of Cozumel. Young women are disappearing, community members are dying—and the carnage links back to her brother. 

As Austin struggles to keep Hailey’s past from destroying her future, he’s forced to make a decision that could turn her against him, or worse cost them both their lives.

Book Four: FOREVERALEXA, the story of Alexa and Jackson.

First grade teacher and single mother Alexa Harris is no stranger to struggle, but for once, things are looking up. The school year is over and the lazy days of summer are here. Mini-vacations and relaxing twilight barbeques are on the horizon until Alexa’s free-spirited younger sister vanishes.

Ransom calls and death threats force Alexa and her young daughter to flee their quiet home in Maryland. With nowhere else to turn, Alexa seeks the help of Jackson Matthews, Ethan Cooke Security’s Risk Assessment Specialist and the man who broke her heart.

With few leads to follow and Abby’s case going cold, Alexa must confess a shocking secret if she and Jackson have any hope of saving her sister from a hell neither could have imagined.

Book Five: WAITING FOR WREN, the story of Wren Cooke and Tucker Campbell.

Wren Cooke has everything she’s ever wanted—a thriving career as one of LA’s top interior designers and a home she loves. Business trips, mockups, and her demanding clientele keep her busy, almost too busy to notice Ethan Cooke Security’s gorgeous Close Protection Agent, Tucker Campbell.

Jaded by love and relationships in general, Wren wants nothing to do with the hazel-eyed stunner and his heart-stopping grins, but Tucker is always in her way. When Wren suddenly finds herself bombarded by a mysterious man’s unwanted affections, she’s forced to turn to Tucker for help.

As Wren’s case turns from disturbing to deadly, Tucker whisks her away to his mountain home in Utah. Haunted by memories and long-ago tragedies, Tucker soon realizes his past and Wren’s present are colliding. With a killer on the loose and time running out, Tucker must discover a madman’s motives before Wren becomes his next victim.


The black bag was ripped from her head, along with several strands of her hair. Abby blinked against the bold light of the naked bulbs hanging from the low ceiling. She glanced around the dingy space in shock as her gaze traveled from girl to girl—six young teens, dirty, bruised, and malnourished, staring up at her through bland eyes while they sat or lay on filthy mattresses on the dirt floor. “What—”

“In.” Victor shoved Abby into a small, windowless room, slamming the door, locking her in with a rusty scrape of something sliding against the heavy metal barrier.

She walked on shaky legs to the wooden chair in the corner and collapsed to the uncomfortable seat, clutching her arms around her waist, shivering as she bit hard on her bottom lip while tears rained down her cheeks. Where was she? What was this place? She shuddered, remembering six sets of listless eyes holding hers. Nothing good was happening here.

She covered her face with trembling hands and gave into her sobs, relieving the worst of her dread, wishing for nothing more than to be home with Lex and Livy. Thinking of her sister and niece, she forced away her tears, taking several deep breaths of stale air. If she wanted to see her family again she needed to pull herself together. She couldn’t get herself out of this—whatever this was—if she didn’t think. There had to be a way out. Her eyes darted around the barely lit space, searching for a weapon, another exit, anything.

The door opened, and she rushed to her feet as a tall, well-built man stood haloed in the beam of light from the room beyond. Abby blinked as he stepped forward. “Renzo?” She bolted from the corner and fell against her friend’s firm chest as a wave or relief flooded her. “Oh, thank god.”

His strong arms wrapped around her.

“I’m so glad you’re here. I don’t know what’s going on. I need help. Can you help me?”

“What happened?” He eased her back some, but she refused to release him from her grip.

“My family—we were on our way home from Virginia Beach. We stopped at a rest area, and two men grabbed me and brought me here.”

“You were with your sister and niece?”

“Yes, Alexa and Olivia. I think they’re okay, but I need to call and make sure. Will you get me out of here?”

“Of course.”

She could hardly believe she was leaving. “Thank you. Thank you.” She hugged Renzo again as tears of gratitude flowed free. “I knew this had to be some sort of mistake.”

“Come on, let’s get you home.” He wrapped his arm around her waist and walked with her to the door. “Oh, wait.” He stopped.


“I can’t let you go.”

The Inspiration Behind Justice For Abby

"Justice For Abby is one of my favorite stories in The Bodyguards of L.A. County series (Okay, they all are, but I really love Abby and Jerrod!). I truly enjoyed writing their adventure. Oftentimes I found myself caught up in Abby’s rollercoaster ride as she heals from her experiences as a survivor of the Mid-Atlantic Sex Ring. At times I cried with her, and at others, I laughed. She’s so strong and sweet, but she’s vulnerable and struggling. Enter Jerrod Quinn, the perfect man to provide her protection and help her overcome her ordeal in his own quiet way.

"Although Abby’s story is one of fiction, sex trafficking is a very real crisis for millions of young women, men, and children all over the globe. My idea for this novel came after a night in front of the television watching crime television. A segment showcasing the mysterious disappearance of a young woman named Amy Bradley bothered me greatly. She vanished from a cruise ship in March of 1998 while vacationing with her family. Unfortunately, Amy has yet to be found, but she is believed to be alive, stuck in the horrific world of human sex trafficking. I immediately began my research into this very troubling epidemic and shortly after wrote Forever Alexa, the story of Abby’s sister dealing with the aftermath of Abby’s disappearance. My readers have requested Abby’s story, and I felt the need to share her experience.

"I hope you enjoy getting to know Abby and Jerrod as much as I enjoyed writing these two fantastic characters."


The Unofficial Justice For Abby Soundtrack

"Music always plays a huge part in my writing process.  With two boys and two dogs in the house, music helps me “get lost” in my story.  I typically listen to Pandora or YouTube and put together a playlist of songs that I feel represent the characters or the situations they face as the novel unfolds.  Here are a few of the songs that I had on “repeat” while I created Jerrod and Abby’s story!  You can listen to them on my website"

The soundtrack, of sorts, for Justice For Abby:
·      Applause by Lady Gaga
·      Safe and Sound by Capital Cities
·      She Is by Ben Rector
·      I Should Go by Levi Kreis
·      The Other Side by Jason Derulo
·      Why Don’t You Love Me? by Hot Chelle Rae ft. Demi Lovato
·      We Owned The Night by Lady Antebellum
·      Stars Go Blue by Tim McGraw
·      Open Your Eyes by Snow Patrol
·      Come Back by Pearl Jam
·      By Your Side by Tenth Avenue North
·      Everything Has Changed by Taylor Swift ft. Ed Sheeran


Social links

Buy links for all five books

Monday, April 7, 2014

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Heather Jacks, Author

Heather Jacks, Author
Heather Jacks has enthusiastically published a unique book—THE NOISE BENEATH THE APPLE®—with its own music (11-track vinyl record) “to legitimize the profession of busking and street culture.”  She tells the stories of 35 New York City street musicians in a “compelling” and “captivating” manner, according to reviewers, in this large book, in a big way. At 200 pages, it weighs 8 lbs and measures 12” by 12".  Her love of street music and busking inspired her to produce the book, and also to continue to support busking in other ways as well. Her next project involves a recording of the Billy Joel song, New York State of Mind with 30 New York City Street musicians, to be released in May.

Jacks has worked in the music industry since the 1980s and today lives in San Francisco, a city she loves. She is an ardent “orange and black” fan (that would be the Giants, for those not familiar with the world champion baseball team). She also appreciates “eating and drinking throughout all the funky and fabulous neighborhoods here.” In whatever spare time she has, she makes (and sells) unique retro shoulder bags from reclaimed records.

Q: How did you become interested in busking? Why did you decide to write a book about it? Are you a musician?

Heather Jacks: My love of busking stems from a childhood spent on Indian land. I was raised in the forgotten sands of the high deserts of southern Oregon during the seventies. The seventies were an interesting time for Indians—who had not yet become Native Americans. We had no running water, electricity or indoor plumbing.  The Vietnam War had ended, the Cold War continued, Nixon was President, Chief Joseph and Leonard Peltier were our heroes.

For Indians, the seventies were a time of great change; of assimilation. Some Indians would leave the ‘rez’—and would forever be apples—(red on the outside/white on the inside). They would never be able to return. Others would stay forever.  But it wasn’t just the Indians who came and went; it was people. The Holy Roller Tent Revivals and the circus’—(which I thought were the same kinds of shows), war dodgers, musicians, traveling bandwagons of performers, gypsies, outcasts, innovators, rebels, rogues and ‘the mad ones’ as described in a Jack Kerouac novel.  They were entertainers, coming onto Indian land for a brief moment, leaving us something of value and taking something of worth with them.  I would excitedly await the arrival of each act, anticipating what ‘show’ they would bring, what new music I would hear, what plays they would perform, what dances and magic I might see. The anticipation was all encompassing. 

When I left Indian land, my love of street performance was firmly ingrained, although I did not know this is what it was. To this day, I still seek out those performers who are standing just outside the mainstream; perhaps they are on street corners, public parks, and train platforms, or at subway stops. No matter where they are, they continue to transform the world around them and by extension; they transform me, just as they did when I was a gap toothed, frizzy haired girl of ten.

Having witnessed the loss of a culture—(my culture, specifically) -- as a young person, I needed to write THE NOISE BENEATH THE APPLE®.  I wanted to capture a piece of busking culture and history, before it evolved into something entirely different; or was legislated out of existence all together. 

Q:  Your book THE NOISE BENEATH THE APPLE features “groundbreaking” musicians from NYC’s “underground music scene.” How did you determine a “groundbreaking” musician?

Heather Jacks:  The word ‘groundbreaking’ was actually not mine; it came from someone who had listened to the vinyl record we produced.  It works, so I kept it!

The current model for mainstream music is one of no to low risk.  That is due to the fact that there aren’t many big labels left. In fact, there are three left standing, (Warner, Universal and Sony.)  These will probably go the way of the dodo at some point as well.

In order to maintain their power and foothold as gatekeepers, they have constructed a massive marketing machine and churn out the same no/low risk formulaic music over and over and over and…..(well, you get the idea). This necessarily means that you will probably not hear some of the best music in the world. The most original, the most daring, the most unique voices, often go unrecognized by the dominant music industry, because they don’t fit neatly inside a pre-designed select number of templates. It’s music performed by the innovators, the rebels, the mavericks, the buskers.

Our book and record, features a Cellist, a Thereminist, folk, ambient, opera and so much more incredible music and the musicians who make it, but you probably aren’t going to hear it—(or them) on the mainstream. Aside from the sound and talent of the buskers, another ‘groundbreaking’ aspect is that theirs is music that exists outside of a financial context—(you don’t have to buy a ticket to go to the show)—and it doesn’t require you to plug out of your daily life to enjoy it.  You just have to be present.

Q: Why did you choose to write about New York’s buskers, rather than those in other cities, such as San Francisco?

Heather Jacks: New York City buskers are the first buskers I’ve written in depth about, but not the last. My goal is to capture the busking culture in other cities as well; New Orleans, Chicago, Boston, Nashville, San Francisco, etc…. So, why New York was the first, has to do with New York herself.

It was the holiday season of 2009 and I found myself drinking rum, listening to rock and roll and reflecting.  Reflecting is what we do at that time of year; the rum and rock and roll simply make that reflection easier to swallow. I had never been to New York before; had never even visited.  My only frame of reference were the postcards that littered my ‘memento drawer’ from people who had been there for business trips or Red Eye weekends and who were all of the opinion;  that I belonged in the Big Apple. At the time I was living in Los Angeles, with no boyfriend, no dog, no job and no prospects; not even an air fern.

Within two weeks, I had given everything away, bought a one way ticket and boarded a plane to New York City.  New Yorkers, I soon discovered, have mastered several things; the bagels, the bars and the buses. I bought an unlimited MTA Pass and began riding the train.  I got off and went ice skating in Central Park, visited Strawberry Fields, took a picture of the Imagine Memorial, and then the three degree temperature, pushed me back onto the train.

At Grand Central Terminal, I met Luke Ryan, who I eventually dubbed The Queen’s Cowboy.  Part Wolf Man Jack, part Waylon Jennings, and part Merry Prankster, he was playing with and cajoling the commuter crowd.  I stayed. I was enthralled. At the time, I was freelance writing for various culture and e’zines, and I knew that there were some good stories here, that would make for good reading.

New York is a city that is brimming with vitality. People come together in this City to clash and fuse and create the future. Cooper Moore, one of our book participants explained it like this. “You cannot be here in New York City without a purpose,” This is not an easy place.  Some people think that if you have money it’s easy to live here. But if you have no purpose, you can end up very lonely. You can end up being ill; emotionally, mentally. You have to have a community. A community may not be people that you see all the time. But you have to feel that you belong here; and that’s something money can’t ever buy. That’s the thing about New York. You have to ground yourself. Not necessarily in people, because people come and go here.  You have to ground yourself in your work and the dream that you have about the work; and you share it with others and that’s your community.”   

As days passed and I navigated the subways of New York, I discovered opera, rock and roll, mariachi, gospel and jazz musicians,  actors and performers, magicians and the Naked Cowboy, to name a few.  I never knew who or what was going to be around the next corner, at the next stop; but, I wanted to find out.  When the idea for a Coffee Table Style Art Book, began to crystallize, I had a purpose.  I went back and found Luke and then I had the beginning of a community. Luke would be my first profile and the inspiration for a project three years in the future; THE NOISE BENEATH THE APPLE®.

Q:  The book is not just about busking in NY but about living your dreams and doing what you love for all the right reasons.” Why did you publish the book THE NOISE BENEATH THE APPLE? Did you intend to educate readers? Publicize the value of these musicians? Or, as the reviewer suggests, instill fortitude into readers to pursue their dreams?

Heather Jacks: That’s such a good question—the short answer is, for all of those reasons. A few years back, I took a Learning Exchange class in SoHo about blogging. The class got way off track and was going nowhere fast. I lived in Brooklyn at the time, and decided to head back ‘over the bridge.’ On my way to the train, I stopped for a coffee at Starbucks, where I met an amazing man. We ended up chatting, I took notes, he was incredible and I learned a lot from him over that Latte. Some weeks later, my boyfriend and I were at the bookstore, when I recognized the ‘guru’ who saved my evening. He was smiling at me from the cover of a best-selling book. It turned out; his name was Seth Godin, who I am a huge fan of to this day. One of the things he had instructed was for me to create a mission statement. Doesn’t that sound awful? Still, I did. That was over four years ago, and there have been many times I’ve gotten sidetracked and distracted, but I go back to my Mission Statement, which is five points long, but concludes with the reason I created THE NOISE BENEATH THE APPLE® in the first place; to legitimize the profession of busking and street culture. However people receive that message, is perfectly valid.

Q: Reviewers tout your writing of the buskers themselves as “intimate,” “captivating,” “honest,” “compelling,” and “superb and insightful.” How do you engage readers to care about your “characters?”

Heather Jacks: Busking is a niche topic and the performers are often the ‘unsung heroes’—unknown to many; so I am delighted and honored by how well people are receiving the book.  Throughout my own writing history, I have been told by reviewers and audiences alike, that I handle dialogue very well; according to the LA Times, ‘better than most.’ They also said that I had a ‘skewed perspective.’  Those things come directly from my childhood, which was devoid of television, video games, computers, etc… Lacking such items, forced me to develop my imagination and memory.

At an early age, I was in love with language; the cadence, the rhythm and the poetry of it. That coupled with the fact that so many odd and interesting people traversed across Indian land and I found myself memorizing what people said, replaying it in my mind over and over; how they looked, the surroundings, etc... For example; when I was a kid, I had a pet cow named Pepper. A group of hippies arrived on Indian land and built a house out of straw, which my cow, promptly ate. Recently we went back to Oregon for a funeral. It has been nearly 40 years and that hippie was still there! He remembered the cow; I remembered the conversation, the weather, the sound of his voice, and his exclamations of surprise.

So, if I have a secret, (and I don’t know that I do)--then that is it; I can relate stories, pretty close to how I hear them. I hear the slang, hear when a ‘g’ falls off the end of a word, hear the drawls and dialects and can capture and reiterate them.  Ultimately, people like a good story and busking is filled with them.  Luckily, I get to tell them.

Q:  Your interest in busking seems to go beyond your book. How else are you involved in this music scene?

I have a long and varied career in the music industry that began in the eighties. Radio was always my first love. I received my FCC License during a time when you still had to be tested in Morse code! I worked in radio a lot, and then graduated to concert production, beginning with the Monsters of Rock Tour, which always featured Van Halen, Dokken and The Scorpions. Eventually I was working at a record label—when AR still existed, then moved on to writing for the world of music; artist bios to profiles, reviews to previews.

Once I struck upon busking, which fit seamlessly in with so many of my interests, I created a website, in which I featured buskers. Over the past year, I have been asked many questions about the music that have appeared on my site:
  • Where can I buy it?
  • Where can I see him/her perform?
  • Can I get a download?
  • Will you make a holiday album?
  • Can I hire him/her for such-a-such?
  • And many, many more...

With this in mind, my newest project is revamping and refocusing my site to become a host for digital music from street performers and musicians--(past & present).  I hope to provide a digital platform for booking, music sales and digital downloads and synch licensing for indie film and webisode series.

The research is in and it’s very hard for musicians to make money on streaming and download services. It is literally pennies on the dollar. To stay true to the TNBTA® mission statement, which is to ‘help legitimize the profession of busking’; with the exception of the 2.75% bank fee, I will not be keeping any money from the down-loads. For example:

A .99¢ download=.96¢ to the musician.
A $5.00 EP = $4.86 to the musician.
A $10.00 Album = $9.72 to the musician.

Of course, as mentioned before, I want to replicate this project in other cities as well, and to that end, I am connecting with more buskers and street performers. I especially loved recording New York State of Mind and hope to record future City specific songs from buskers. I’m thinking New Orleans and The House of the Rising Sun or Boston Rag or Chicago.

I would also love to do a holiday album with street musicians.

Q:  What are the “politics” of busking?

Heather Jacks: Even though busking has a rich tradition throughout the world and has greatly influenced music, art and culture, it has not been accepted unconditionally.  In the United States, street performers are commonly subjected to tough legislation and regulation. But most of the court cases against busking are dismissed or thrown out as unconstitutional. Busking is considered free speech protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.  Yet there continue to be court cases, summons, legislation, rules and regulations introduced daily.

Regulating street performance has fallen to individual cities and municipalities and there seems to be little—(if any)—consistency throughout. At the time of this writing for example; New York has an audition process, San Francisco has a permitting process that does not include a fee, Santa Monica, CA has a permitting process which does include a fee, and Hollywood, CA has no permit, no fee and no desire to have street performers. They actively hustle them off the boulevard.

Q:  As a journalist you are accustomed to writing non-fiction. Have you considered writing fiction?

Heather Jacks: LOL! That is a great question. The answer is a resounding NO!  I think Fiction writing is hard—too hard for me, and I can’t get my head around it. I wouldn’t even know where to start.  I read a lot of books, as all people should—and it’s even more important for writers. I would say 97% of the books I read are non-fiction. In fact, so far this year, I have read 20 books and100% are non-fiction.

Q: What’s next?

Heather Jacks: Last year, I ran a successful crowdfunding campaign via Rockethub, in which we raised money to cover licensing and expenses to record the Billy Joel song, New York State of Mind with 30 NYC Street musicians, who were featured in our book. We went to this fabulous, subterranean studio in Brooklyn, Grand Street Recording, for one day, one time and one take!  Our version has a musical saw, Cello, Violins, Beat Rhymer, guitars and tons of vocals. It was EPIC!  The incredibly talented recording and touring artist, Keaton Simons, flew in from Los Angeles to arrange, produce and mix the final song. We will be releasing that song in May, under the leadership of the terrific boutique music public relations firm, Red Boot Publicity, based in Venice Beach, CA. The music sounds Amazing!

From that day, we also created a 13 minute short documentary film. It is great and I am honored to have the wonderful actor, Eric Roberts, volunteer his talents to narrating it. These two projects, along with gaining exposure for the book, are basically ‘what’s next’ for me!
Q: Tell us about Heather Jacks. What do you like to do when you’re not writing or working?
Heather Jacks: I live in and LOVE my City by the Bay, San Francisco. That being said, I spend an inordinate amount of time eating and drinking throughout all the funky and fabulous neighborhoods here. A lot of people don’t know there is great hiking and biking right in the City limits. In fact, our island is about 7 miles big and we have OVER 87 miles of bike lanes! It makes exploring this great City easy—(with the exception of the hills!)  I also make (and sell) unique, one of a kind, retro shoulder bags, from reclaimed records. The front cover is on one side and the actual vinyl record—(not a pressed blank) on the other side. I was juried into the San Francisco Arts Commission, so I can sell in select spaces throughout the City. It gives me a great excuse to haunt all the vintage shops and record stores in the City. I’m a HUGE Baseball fan. I bleed Orange & Black and watch most of the games—(that takes a lot of time, considering there are about 162 games in a season!) I also read TONS and post little reviews everywhere. Whew! I’m tired just thinking about it!
About Heather Jacks

Heather Jacks was raised on an Indian reservation in southeastern Oregon, until age fifteen. Jacks was the first ‘experimental exchange student’ to Australia with an organization called YFU, Youth for Understanding, where she spent 10.5 months in 1982. Once she returned, she received her B.A. from USF and followed that with two years of study at UC Davis.  She has worked in the music industry in various capacities, since the eighties; radio, production, A&R, booking and most recently as a music journalist.  She was recently named a finalist in the Book of the Year Award for her multi-media project, THE NOISE BENEATH THE APPLE®, which was inspired by her love for street music, busking and the people who make it.  Heather can be contacted at:


Written by Heather Jacks and accompanied by an eleven-track vinyl record, mastered by Grammy and Academy Award winning Mastering Engineer, Reuben Cohen and featuring the original music of a select number of participants, this 200-page art-style coffee table book measures 12’’ x 12’’ and weighs in at a whopping 8lbs. Putting the spotlight on an age-old profession, Jacks also seeks to stem the tide of regulation intended to suffocate creative expression and take performers off the streets.


Book Trailers: #1  and #2