Tuesday, January 27, 2015

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Susan Leigh Noble, Fantasy Author

Susan Leigh Noble, Author
Susan Leigh Noble likes stories with “magic, dragons and sword fights” all included in her recent release THE HEIR TO ALEXANDRIA as well as her original trilogy THE ELEMENTAL. Reviewers tout her “memorable characters” and “solid story.” For the sake of credibility, Noble develops the details of her various worlds, characters, and magic before she even starts writing. She considers believability critical to her stories.

When she’s not writing, Noble enjoys spending time with her children and helping out at their school. She currently lives with her husband, two children, and three cats in Texas.

Q: Your previous books include a fantasy trilogy featuring a girl who could start fire with a thought and a fourth book with a telepathic cat.  How did you conceive of your new novel, THE HEIR TO ALEXANDRIA, a story about a girl looking for her own parents meeting up with those either searching for or trying to prevent discovery of the heir to Alexandria? What draws you into writing fantasy stories?

Susan Leigh Noble: I have always loved fantasy stories with magic, dragons and sword fights so those have been in both this story and my original trilogy – THE ELEMENTAL. The plot for THE HEIR TO ALEXANDRIA started with just a few scenes revolving around a girl with red hair that was destined to fulfill a prophecy. I had jotted down those scenes in between writing SUMMONED and QUIETUS (Books 1 and 2 of my trilogy) but didn’t develop those scenes into an actual novel until after I finished my trilogy. A lot has changed from those first basic scenes though most of them – or at least a version of them – did end up in the final book.

Q: Who would enjoy reading THE HEIR TO ALEXANDRIA? Do you target youthful readers? Or is it relevant to all of us?

Susan Leigh Noble: I think THE HEIR TO ALEXANDRIA could be enjoyed by anyone who likes adventure or fantasy novels. This story has more dark scenes than my trilogy which was quite tame (though more death and destruction happened in the third installment.) I know some readers consider THE ELEMENTAL trilogy as a young adult book because the heroine was 18 but that market was not my intention when I wrote it.  And the same applies to THE HEIR TO ALEXANDRIA.

Q: I applaud the creativity of your stories and the fantasy genre in general. How important is credibility to telling your stories? What makes THE HEIR TO ALEXANDRIA and your other stories believable?

Susan Leigh Noble: I think credibility in any story is important. The reader has to believe what is happening whether the story takes place here on Earth or on some other made up world. I spend quite a bit of time building my worlds, developing character histories and of course the system of magic before I even begin writing my novels. I believe as a writer, it helps to know all these details even if they don’t make it into the actual book. These small details can add quite a bit of credibility to both your story and your characters.

Q: Are there any cats in THE HEIR TO ALEXANDRIA? I know you like cats!

Susan Leigh Noble: I do love cats but there aren’t any in this book. I like wolves a lot too so I included one as a protector of my main character, Alista.

Q: What pulls your readers into your fantasy world? The characters? Suspense? Action? Romance? Back story? How important is back story to telling your story?

Susan Leigh Noble: I like to think it is the characters that people will like and relate to in my novels. But I do try to include some good fight scenes and there usually is some romance thrown in there too.

Backstory is always important to telling a story. I spend quite a bit of time building histories for my characters – at least the main ones. A lot of that backstory may not make it into the novel but I think it helps write well-rounded characters.

Q: What makes us care about your protagonist, Alista? Is she a perfect heroine?

Susan Leigh Noble: Alista is far from the perfect heroine. She is more of the reluctant heroine. She doesn’t want anything to do with being tested as the heir to Alexandria but she is thrust into this adventure because she curses someone in front of the King’s court. This is a type of magic not been seen before so they immediately assume she could be the heir. As she travels, her magic grows and she spends a lot of time trying to conceal it.

Q: What are the characteristics of an effective villain? Are there villains in THE HEIR TO ALEXANDRIA?

Susan Leigh Noble: To have a good villain you have to know WHY they are the way they are. No one is born evil. Something had to have triggered their behavior which for them might seem quite “normal.” As for this book, the Order of the Black Dragon, a secret society set on preventing the return of the Alexandria line, is the antagonist. One of the members, Keres, ends up having a personal vendetta with another of the main characters and I guess becomes the true “villain” of the story.

Q: Do you write for entertainment only? Or do you also intend to deliver a message?

Susan Leigh Noble: I write purely for entertainment. I always try and write a story that I would like to read.

Q: What’s next?

Susan Leigh Noble: I have a few ideas. Since I love dragons, I am currently working on the plot details for a story focusing on a dragon as one of two main characters. Then I have also had some fans ask for another story involving Lina and Val from my THE ELEMENTAL trilogy so I am considering another trilogy that would take place about 10 years after my original story.

Q: Tell us about Susan Leigh Noble. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Susan Leigh Noble: I am an author (obviously) as well as a blogger and a mother. Most of my time is taken up with writing or volunteering at my kids’ school. I am the treasurer for the school parent-teacher association as well as handle the bookkeeping for my husband’s law office. If I do get any spare time, I do love to read. However, I find reading while writing is often too much of a distraction so my downtime often turns to watching TV after the kids are in bed.

About Susan Leigh Noble

Susan Noble has always loved dragons and magic so it is no wonder that she became an author of fantasy novels. As a cat lover, she also had to throw in a telepathic cat to the mix in her THE ELEMENTAL trilogy. Her latest book, THE HEIR TO ALEXANDRIA, was released in January 2015.

When she isn't writing, Susan is an active volunteer in her neighborhood and at her children's schools. She lives with her husband, two children, three cats and a Cocker Spaniel in Texas.

Believed the descendants of the Gods themselves,
The Alexandria line ensured peace,
Until they were brutally murdered.
But rumor spread a maid escaped with the youngest daughter.

Now as the world rushes toward a period of unrest, the nations’ Kings continue their 200-year-long-search for the Heir to Alexandria – the one person who can bring peace and stability through divine power.

Alista has her own search – for the parents who abandoned her as a baby years ago. When her only lead proves to be a dead end, she heads to the capital with a reluctant escort. Grayson is just following his aunt’s order, but he would rather be on one of his solitary scouting missions for the Landra Guard. However, when Alista unintentionally curses a guard in front of the King’s court, everything changes for both of them.

Now forced to travel to Covington for testing, danger lurks at every turn as a secret society strives to prevent the return of the Alexandria line. Are Alista’s visions of the future enough to save herself and those traveling with her?

Amazon Author page

Thursday, January 22, 2015

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Cate Beauman, Romantic Suspense Author

Cate Beauman, Author
The Bodyguards of L.A. County series
Welcome back, romantic-suspense author Cate Beauman who has just released REAGAN’S REDEMPTION, the eighth book in The Bodyguards of L.A. County series.
She features Reagan Rosner, physician—a profession requiring significant research by Beauman—who joins with her Ethan Cook Security bodyguard in Eastern Kentucky where they meet “a few mishaps.”

Beauman, who says she doesn’t “know how to tell a story that doesn’t weave romance and suspense together,” also appreciates  strong women, doses of humor, and protagonists with interesting careers. Reviewers of previous books in the series claim they have “a great balance of romance, action, and suspense” and that “the characters are developed very well and the story believable.”

When writing, Beauman MUST have music playing, and she creates a song list for each of her stories. You can see the REAGAN’S REDEMPTION list following her interview. She currently lives in North Carolina with her husband, their two boys, and St. Bernard’s, Bear and Jack.

See the giveaway opportunity following this interview.

Q: Your Bodyguards of LA County books incorporate some interesting backgrounds for your main characters. For REAGAN’S REDEMPTION, what drew you into the medical field? How much can you use a chosen occupation, such as doctor, to tell your story? Do you research a suitable occupation?

Cate Beauman: Since the men of Ethan Cooke Security are all close protection agents, I really like to give the heroines of each story eclectic careers. I think it’s important to the series as a whole to keep things fresh and exciting. For REAGAN’S REDEMPTION, it was vital that Reagan be a physician. The entire plot is driven by her work and the trouble she uncovers during one man’s physical examination.

Yes, yes and YES!! I research everything I write about. Authenticity is so important to a story. It’s hard for readers to get lost in an adventure if the facts don’t ring true. Sometimes I’ll skim over details if they don’t work for my plot, but I always try to keep things as reality-based as possible.

Q:  I believe REAGAN’S REDEMPTION is your 8th Bodyguards of L.A. County book. How do you manage to keep each book fresh?

Cate Beauman: It’s really important to develop each character and their circumstances separate from the characters in the previous novels. Although the Bodyguards of L.A. County is a series, each book can technically be read on its own. That really allows me the freedom to “play” with each plot. There’s nothing from the novel before or after that rides on the current story I want to tell.

Q: Would you characterize the women in the Bodyguards of L.A. series as modern women? Independent? Or do they require a man in their lives in order to be successful? Likewise, are the men of the series “modern” men? Would they do the laundry or cook? Or do both men and women fulfill traditional roles?

Cate Beauman: I grew up in a single-parent household. There was never a “man’s work” or a “woman’s work,” there was just work. I myself am a strong, independent woman and expect nothing less from the characters I write. Men are not required to help these ladies through the trials and tribulations of their lives, but the Close Protection Agents of Ethan Cooke Security do offer a support system. All of the characters in the stories are facing some sort of crisis as each adventure unfolds. Often the men and women find themselves working together, growing and evolving to conquer their personal and external conflicts.

Q: I know you enjoy mixing suspense with romance in your stories. What other elements help engage readers? Does humor entice them? What about setting? Villains vs heroes? How important is credibility?

Cate Beauman: I honestly don’t know how to tell a story that doesn’t weave romance and suspense together. Both are vital to each story I share. I also believe that adding a good dose of humor and making each character as flawed and as human as you and me is paramount. No one wants to read about perfection because it doesn’t exist. If you have strong characters and a good plot the rest follows along.

Q: You typically provide a list of songs that you play while writing. How does music inspire you?  In general, do you think music jumpstarts creativity?

Cate Beauman: I can’t write without music. As I tell each story I get so excited when I hear the lyrics of a song that match perfectly with my characters’ situations. It’s motivation and validation that their story is exactly right. Music is vital to my career. I know some writers need complete silence to be creative but not this girl!


Cate Beauman: I’ve wanted to tell Reagan and Shane’s story for quite a while now, but I kept putting it off, knowing where the weeks of research would take me. Reagan Rosner is a doctor, which is great for her but not so much for me as the writer. Unfortunately, I’m a bit of a hypochondriac who is afflicted with White Coat Syndrome. Typically, I stay as far away from anything “medical” as possible, but for Reagan’s Redemption I had to dig deep and conquer a personal demon or two. There were many days where I cringed, watching how-to videos on IV insertions and blood draws and hyperventilated my way through more than one resuscitation tutorial, but I did it, making Reagan’s character all the stronger for it.

After the days of dreadful research, I really knuckled down and got to work. I had so much fun with this story. Reagan is kind and dedicated and Shane extremely funny. This couple complements each other well, which is perfect because they’ll face more than their fair share of trouble in Black Bear Gap, Kentucky.

Q: I have to ask. Your bio says you have two St. Bernards. How do you manage? I assume they’re not lap dogs!

Cate Beauman: Jack, our one-year-old thinks he’s a lapdog! He’s more than happy to come and sit on us if we happen to be settled on the floor! I love our pups to pieces. They do drool quite a bit and eat A LOT, but they’re wonderful with the kids and are great protectors. I can’t imagine life without them.

About Cate Beauman

Cate currently lives in North Carolina with her husband, their two boys, and St. Bernard’s, Bear and Jack. She is the author of the best selling romantic suspense series, The Bodyguards of L.A. County.  Before her career as an author, Cate worked in special education for 12 years.

“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, five years later, I’m working on my ninth novel, Answers For Julie, which I plan to release during the summer of 2015.  I remain so very grateful for the support and success that I have had.  Thank you!”  - Cate

Doctor Reagan Rosner loves her fast-paced life of practicing medicine in New York City’s busiest trauma center. Kind and confident, she’s taking her profession by storm—until a young girl’s accidental death leaves her shaken to her core. With her life a mess and her future uncertain, Reagan accepts a position as Head Physician for The Appalachia Project, an outreach program working with some of America’s poorest citizens. 

Shane Harper, Ethan Cooke Security’s newest team member, has been assigned a three-month stint deep in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, and he’s not too happy about it. Guarding a pill safe in the middle of nowhere is boring as hell, but when he gets a look at his new roommate, the gorgeous Doctor Rosner, things start looking up.

Shane and Reagan encounter more than a few mishaps as they struggle to gain the trust of a reluctant community. They’re just starting to make headway when a man’s routine checkup exposes troubling secrets the town will do anything to keep hidden—even if that means murder.


The front door opened and closed. “Shane?”

“Down here.”

Reagan hurried in, her eyes full of excitement. “How are things going?”

“Good. Faith is clean, eating, and will hopefully be sleeping in the next couple of minutes.”

“I can take a turn. I know I’ve been gone for awhile.”

He shook his head. “We’re fine. Looks like you’ve had a run today.”

She smiled. “Two patients—one ear infection and a strep throat.”

“Good stuff.”

She nodded, sitting on the edge of the mattress. “That’s not the best part. I was talking with Jodi, Josiah’s mother, about her gardens—trying to break the ice a little. She was telling me how she grows some of the best corn around but constantly has trouble with her beans. Apparently, Sue Anne’s family seems to have the opposite issue.” She swiped her hair behind her ear. “Anyway, while Jodi was talking, I got this idea. I was thinking we could organize an evening where families can get together here at the clinic and swap fruits and vegetables for a bigger variety of healthful foods—kind of like a farmer’s market. We can offer some simple snacks and drinks, and I’m hoping I might be able to throw in a few nutrition facts while we’re at it. There are so many kiddos with bad teeth. They’re drinking too much soda.”

“Sounds like you’ve got a plan. Go get ‘em, tiger.” He liked seeing her like this—her eyes bright, her hands punctuating certain words as they spilled from her mouth, caught up in her own enthusiasm.

“I will.” Her smile dimmed as she touched Faith’s toes peeking out from the blanket. “But I don’t know how many people will come.”

“So you won’t have standing-room only on your first try.”

She licked her lips. “They’re afraid.”

He frowned. “Who?”

“The people here. They’re frightened by either me or the clinic.”

“Why do you say that?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know. That was the sense I got when I spoke with Jenny’s mother and then again with Jodi.”

He remembered Mrs. Hendley’s weird spewings about heeding warnings and staying away, but she also seemed like a bit of a whack job. “I don’t know, Doc. When I look at you ‘intimidating’ isn’t exactly the first word that comes to mind.”

“Maybe not to you, but they were certainly uneasy. Maybe I’m trying to make sense of an unusual situation, but I don’t think so. Both women kept looking toward the trees, like they were being watched or something.” She shuddered. “It gave me the willies.”

“We’ll keep an eye on the situation, but things have been pretty low key so far.”

She nodded. “I just really want this to work. I can help this town if they’ll let me.”

The Unofficial REAGAN’S REDEMPTION Soundtrack

“Here are a few of the songs that I had on “repeat” while I created Reagan and Shane’s story!  You can listen to them on my website www.catebeauman.com.”

The soundtrack, of sorts, for Reagan’s Redemption:
·      Devil Town by Tony Lucca
·      So Easy by Phillip Phillips
·      Not A Bad Thing by Justin Timberlake
·      Science and Faith by The Script
·      Daylight by Maroon Five
·      Hazy by Rosi Golan ft. William Fitzimmons
·      Get Out by Casey Abrams
·      First Flight Home by Jake Miller
·      Human by Jon McLaughlin
·      Have A Little Faith In Me by Jewel
·      Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran
·      Parachute by Train

Purchase Links

Author Links


For a chance to win a Kindle or Nook copy of REAGAN'S REDEMPTION, click here.

Monday, January 19, 2015

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Author Sandra Nikolai, “What Makes a Mystery?”

Sandra Nikolai, Author
Sandra Nikolai writes mysteries described by reviewers as “urbane, witty and enjoyable” and “action-packed…with characters who grow as they come to grips with what is happening.” She’s published more than a dozen on-line or printed short stories and two novels (FALSE IMPRESSIONS and FATAL WHISPERS) and a short story (TIMELY ESCAPE) featuring Megan Scott and Michael Elliott as a romantic pair solving crimes. 

A mystery reader since her first Nancy Drew story, Nikolai experienced true crime in real life facing a series of armed bank robberies while working at a bank. Both influenced her to write her own stories. 

In the following article, published earlier on this blog, Nikolai outlines the elements of a good mystery.

What Makes a Mystery?
Sandra Nikolai

Fans of the genre will agree that nothing beats the thrill of reading a mystery and trying to solve it.

But what exactly makes a mystery?

To put a spin on what Sherlock Holmes might have said, “The elements must come together, my dear Watson.”

In a mystery, the plot is the element that weaves events together to create a dramatic and engaging story. The solution to a murder or another crime is gradually revealed by a detective or amateur sleuth through the logical interpretation of evidence and a bit of luck. A mystery is similar to a jigsaw puzzle in that all the pieces of information, or clues, needed to solve the mystery are presented. These clues connect so that the solution or true picture reveals itself by the end of the story.

To continue with the analogy, a piece of a jigsaw puzzle might look as if it connects to another at first glance but then doesn’t, as with certain clues scattered throughout a mystery novel. Clues that mislead, or red herrings, are the ultimate challenge to readers of whodunits. Red herrings raise doubts about characters linked to the victim and expose them as potential suspects, making it harder to determine which one is the real perpetrator.

The investigator is the protagonist or main character, the element with which we form a “human” connection from the onset. Secrecy and danger surround the crime, so it’s normal to fear for the safety of the investigator who gets pulled into the case. If the investigator’s private life is affected by the incident, it can bring into play inner struggles with personal issues and generate more conflict—a situation that keeps us turning the pages.

Suspense is intensified when an amateur sleuth plays the role of investigator because we identify more easily with a protagonist who is inexperienced in solving crimes. Feelings of surprise and fear are heightened each time our hero or heroine experiences a setback or encounters danger. Regardless, we cheer them on, knowing that the end of their journey will bring worthwhile results. Family, friends, and other secondary characters complete the protagonist’s life with their comments, emotions, and actions, and add a realistic feel to the unfolding story.

The perpetrator is the character we love to hate. However, no one is one hundred percent evil, so he or she needs at least one redeeming quality. He might be a family man who takes his kids to baseball games or a part-time volunteer at a hospital. She might be a reliable employee at the office or someone who helps an elderly neighbor with the groceries. A pleasant characteristic in a criminal generates surprise—even horror—when the real perpetrator is exposed. Who? The butler?

No mystery is complete without the element of setting. Forget the “dark and stormy night.” Nothing is more shocking than finding out that your neighbor down the street is a serial killer or that a young woman in the hotel room next to yours was murdered the night before. Extraordinary events that happen to ordinary people in everyday places incite more terror because we can’t possibly imagine such terrible things happening in our little corner of the world.

Whether real or imaginary, the setting adds visual layers to a story by zooming in on small locales, such as a room, and zooming out of larger places, for example, a city landscape. The setting can include a period in time, local news events, the weather, the culture of the population, and natural disasters. These aspects also affect how a character feels and reacts, and intensifies the mood of the story.

Like the pieces of a puzzle, the elements that make a mystery can vary in countless ways. What’s important is that they all fall into place at the end.

About Sandra Nikolai

Sandra Nikolai has published more than a dozen short stories online and in print, garnering Honorable Mentions along the way. She is also the author of a mystery series featuring ghostwriter Megan Scott and investigative reporter Michael Elliott. FALSE IMPRESSIONS and FATAL WHISPERS are the first two books in the series.

When Sandra isn’t weaving ordinary characters into extraordinary, life-threatening situations, she shares her writing experiences on her blog and has been a frequent guest writer on other blogs. She has recently published TIMELY ESCAPE, a short story and prequel to ICY SILENCE, the third novel in her mystery series (expected publication: 2015).

A millionaire’s beautiful young wife.
A homeless woman.
A parish priest.

Three baffling deaths within days. No sign of foul play. No police leads. Even medical authorities can’t explain the cause of death. An unprecedented occurrence in Portland, Maine.

Megan Scott and Michael Elliott look for answers when their trip to this alluring New England town coincides with the mysterious deaths. As they probe deeper, they discover ominous secrets buried decades ago and ruthless killers who won’t let anyone get in the way of revenge.

About TIMELY ESCAPE (a short story)

Megan Scott’s car takes a hit—literally—when a pedestrian is shoved onto the hood. Even worse, the man is one of two notorious prison escapees on the loose in Montreal. Megan chases the felon through the Old Port, convinced that her photographic evidence will lead to his capture.

Just as the escapee disappears aboard a yacht in the marina, another man forces Megan aboard the same yacht at knifepoint. Gagged, tied, and terrified, she witnesses a murder.

Will she be next?

Montreal ghostwriter Megan Scott falls under police suspicion when her husband and a female friend are found murdered. In what a QuĂ©bec detective calls a crime of passion, startling evidence surfaces to implicate Michael Elliott, a young investigative reporter who’d rather rub elbows with scumbags than live the posh lifestyle he inherited.

Clutched out of her comfort zone, Megan is flung into Michael’s dark world of criminal investigation. As they make a last-ditch attempt to prove their innocence, an elusive enemy closes in and threatens their lives. Who wants them out of the way and why?

Their only path to freedom is to catch the twisted killer before they become the next victims. But not knowing who to trust or where to turn can have consequences that are just as lethal…


To learn more about Sandra and upcoming events, visit her website at http://sandranikolai.com

For links to Sandra’s books, visit her Amazon page here or visit other major online retailer sites.

How to contact Sandra:

Twitter: @SandraNikolai

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Joseph Tatner, Author

Joseph Tatner, Author
What you need to know about Joseph Tatner’s FLOYD AND MIKKI: ZOMBIE HUNTERS, according to reviewers, is that it is “a hilarious foray into the world of zombies.” Tatner approaches the world of zombies with humor, yet quickly adds that he intends the story to be “compelling” with “colorful characters” and the book does include “truly creepy parts and genuine horror.”

Tatner, a child actor and the son of a well-known 1940s musician, turned from technical writing to telling zombie stories, a favorite genre of his wife, after seeing World War Z with its "new spin."  FLOYD AND MIKKI: ZOMBIE HUNTERS is the first of a series. The second book, Floyd and Mikki: Zombie Slayers, Dawn of the Living, is due to be released soon. 

Don’t miss the excerpt at the end of his interview.

Q: Why zombies? What drove you to choose this genre to tell your story?

Joseph Tatner: Actually, I have never been a fan of zombie movies. I think they are the dumbest of all monsters and I don’t like excessive blood and gore. However,  my wife loves zombie and monster stories. She and I had recently seen World War Z in the theater, and while we were waiting to change planes in an airport, I joked that I should write a book called, “Floyd and Wanda: Zombie Hunters.” She didn’t like the name Wanda, so I changed it to Mikki. I liked the new spin World War Z had taken and I decided to write something completely different with a lot of humor.

Q: Reviewers say FLOYD AND MIKKI: ZOMBIE HUNTERS is “a zombie book with a difference.” What makes it different?

Joseph Tatner: First, it is very funny. Although I do include some truly creepy parts and genuine horror, the book is easy to read and makes you laugh. But I think that what really sets it apart are the characters. The two heroes aren’t one-dimensional by any means, and you learn more about them as the book (and their love for one another) progresses. The living and undead creatures and people they encounter are also interesting and fun. At one point, Mikki adopts a zombie kitten as a pet, despite the fact that Floyd hates cats – especially undead ones. Floyd and Mikki get on each other’s nerves, yell at each other, joke with each other, laugh, cry, etc. They have real questions about life and almost no answers. They are real people caught in an unreal situation. Readers can really relate to them.

Q: A key theme among reviewers about FLOYD AND MIKKI is that it is “an amazingly funny book.” How important is humor to telling your story? Or, for that matter, how important is humor to any story?

Joseph Tatner:  Humor was critically important because although there are many die-hard zombie fans, there are also many people who don’t take the genre seriously. I wanted to have something for everybody, and everyone loves to laugh. I wanted this to be like the movie Galaxy Quest. It’s a spoof about Star Trek and Trekkies, but whether you love or hate Star Trek, you will probably love Galaxy Quest because it has a compelling story with colorful characters and a lot of humor. I wanted this book to have the same appeal.

Q: Why did you set FLOYD AND MIKKI in a post-apocalyptic America? Could your zombies have existed in our current world, e.g., zombies who resemble everyday people shopping in the mall or supermarket?

Joseph Tatner: Actually, the timeline is contemporary, as if the Zombie Apocalypse could start today. While other stories focused on how the infection began, spread, etc., I wanted something different. Unlike the hero in most stories, neither Floyd nor Mikki have any clue what created the zombies. They do what they can to learn about the creatures and survive against all odds. They each had been alone for nearly two years, and this sense of isolation was crucial to set the stage for their first meeting. They don’t like each other, don’t trust each other, and don’t respect each other, but for all they know, they are the last two people on Earth. That forces them to deal with each other, and eventually to rely on each other. The more they learn about each other, the more they come to respect and even love one another, until they are fiercely devoted to each other.

Q:  You have had a variety of careers, including child actor, dancer, technical writer, as well as two diverse degrees -- a BA in Communications and an MA in National Security Studies. Now you are a writer. Of all of your careers, what is your favorite? What caused you to turn to writing fiction?

Joseph Tatner: I love telling stories, as an actor or a writer. As an actor, I learned to observe people and create a variety of characters. Obviously, this is a very useful skill when writing characters for a book. Actually, I made my living for years as a technical writer. It’s really nice to write something a lot more creative.

Q: Reviewers applaud FLOYD AND MIKKI as an “Amazing story, great characters and a really good plot.” Did you write it to entertain or did you intend to deliver a message? A warning?

Joseph Tatner:  I definitely wrote it to entertain, but there are a lot of deep questions raised in the book – all without answers. Floyd and Mikki question whether there is a God, what is right and wrong when the rules no longer apply, what obligation do they have to others in an every-man-for-himself world? They really don’t know, but like all of us, life is a search for meaning. Every reader will have his or her own interpretation, and that was intentional as well. It brings the reader into the story in a cerebral way that is highly unusual for a zombie story.

Q: Why do readers care about the characters Floyd and Mikki? What makes them engaging?

Joseph Tatner:  Floyd and Mikki are Everyman and Everywoman. Like all of us, Floyd and Mikki just want to live every day without drama and complication. But also, like all of us, drama and complication plague our lives. In their case, that drama and complication is raised to the extreme, but they are really just simple people who want to be left alone to live their lives. They have the same thoughts, questions, feelings and needs that we all have, so watching them struggle to survive everyday against all odds makes them the underdogs. We all love watching underdogs triumph. By making them as real as possible, the reader can see himself or herself in the characters, which makes the story more engaging.

Q: Is the concept of heroes vs villains relevant to your story? Are zombies essentially the “bad guys?” What makes a compelling villain? Do you need villains to have heroes?

Joseph Tatner:  The concept of heroes and villains is essential to the story. The big question is, what is good or bad when a society falls apart and there are no rules? The real “bad guys” in the book are the living. Zombies are mindless and somewhat predictable (at least in book 1), but human beings are not. There are criminals and gangs that raided and looted and killed when society fell apart. They gathered all the gold and jewelry they could rob or steal, only to have it all end up being worthless. Yet, they still murder and destroy whatever is left in society. There are many levels of good and evil in the people Floyd and Mikki meet, and they become heroes without ever intending to be.

Q: What’s next?

Joseph Tatner:  Floyd and Mikki 2, of course! I am proofing the second book, Floyd & Mikki: Zombie Slayers, Dawn of the Living now, and am about 20% finished with Floyd & Mikki: Zombie Destroyers, Zombie Trek. Book 4 in the trilogy (pun intended) will be, Floyd & Mikki vs the Martians, which will spoof the entire series as Floyd and Mikki get abducted by aliens to fight in an arena similar to the Predator movies. Mikki loves to blow things up, so this way she gets to blow up an entire planet. A character oddly similar to Doctor Who will show up in that novel. If I can find the right illustrator, I may turn the first book into a graphic novel, as well. I also have a prequel short story simply entitled, Mikki, which I am currently shopping for publication in a horror magazine in the US or UK. It tells the story of how Mikki transforms from runaway teenager to Zombie Hunter as the Zombie Apocalypse begins. In addition, I have an action/adventure novel called Caribbean Heat and a Dungeons & Dragons style trilogy called The Black Lore that will be published soon, but I haven’t begun the final proofreading and I want to get at least the first three Floyd & Mikki books done first, as everyone keeps nagging me for more. Apparently the story is pretty addicting!

Q: Tell us about Joseph Tatner. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Joseph Tatner: I unwind playing Neverwinter and other computer games, but as corny as it may sound, I really like spending time with my family. I have a lovely wife and young daughter. I always make time to do something special together, whether it’s a road trip, visiting the mall, or just staying at home watching movies.

About Joseph Tatner

A true renaissance man, the author Joseph Tatner holds a BA in Communications and an MA in National Security Studies. He has written numerous published Web and print articles, books, technical documents and promotional materials.

After writing so many technical manuals over the years, Joseph nearly turned into a zombie himself, so he has a unique insight into the mindless void of a soulless drone. Yet like his father before him, Jack Tatner (a famous musician in the 1940s), Joe has kept his offbeat sense of humor. He has a unique talent for taking an otherwise normal situation and turning it on its head, then twisting it again with delightful, thought-provoking results. Joe is a modern day Gilbert and Sullivan, examining humanity, society and personal relationships in a topsy-turvy apocalyptic world.

Unlike most zombie books, which are as dry and mindless as the creatures they feature, this first book in the trilogy packs plenty of action and creepy horror as Floyd and Mikki rely on each other, their wits and whatever supplies they can scrounge as they travel through the Midwest to New California Haven, the last safe zone in America. Lost in a shattered world populated by the undead, they don’t know what caused the infection or how to stop it. With wry humor and snarky comments, they encounter plenty of action, colorful characters and riveting horror as they fight to stay alive and help others along the way. This is one zombie novel for readers with a brain!
Suddenly, a light flipped on, shattering the total darkness. Floyd had to blink a few times to adjust. Then he got the shock of his life.
“Holy crap! You’re a girl!” he exclaimed, noticing the obviously feminine figure for the first time. He removed his face mask.

“No shit, Sherlock. You figure that out all on your own, did ya?”

She wasn’t just a girl. She was a hot girl! What the hell? She spoke with a southern drawl that Floyd couldn’t quite place. It certainly wasn’t Texas. Tennessee? Georgia, maybe?

She wore short, tight jeans that she had cut off right at the top of the thigh and a T-shirt cut off just below her ample breasts. She removed the football helmet to reveal light blonde hair tied into unbraided pigtails. Two fountains of yellow hair tied with rubber bands erupting from the sides of her head. She wore pink cowboy boots—or cowgirl boots—and the stem of a Dum Dum lollipop was sticking out of the side of her mouth.

If it weren’t for the size of her chest and the granite gaze in her eyes, Floyd would have thought she was about 15. Whoever she was, she sure knew her way around a shotgun and was far more mature than her young face would indicate. In a saner world, she would have been safe at home, playing with dolls or getting all dolled up herself in some fancy dress for the prom, instead of sneaking out after curfew to kill undead monsters. Buffy the Zombie Slayer.

“How old are you?” Floyd asked.

“Old enough!” she snapped back. “But don’t get any funny ideas or I’ll gut you like a fish and cut you into bait!”

Ignoring the mixed metaphor, Floyd knew by the look on her face that she wasn’t kidding. He began to seriously wonder what he had gotten himself into.

“Hey, no problem!” he insisted, throwing up his hands in surrender. “I’m Floyd. What’s your name?”


“Mikki, huh? What is that, short for Michelina or Michelle or somethi-”

Before he could finish the sentence, Mikki was up in his face screaming at him with a large, evil-looking combat knife that she seemed to have pulled out of nowhere pointed at his throat.

“Don’t you call me Michelle! Don’t you never call me Michelle! You hear me? I’ll cut of your balls, stuff ‘em in your mouth and sew up your lips! We clear?”

“We’re clear! We’re clear!” Floyd stammered. When Mikki retreated, Floyd carried on. “Damn, girl! In case you haven’t noticed, we’re on the same side here.”

Mikki paused and looked him over carefully before saying, “Maybe. We’ll see about that.”

“So what were you doing out there anyway?



“Yeah, shopping! You think cans of food just grow legs and walk their way down here by themselves?”

“I guess not.” Floyd also guessed that hunting zombies every day hadn’t exactly taught her much in the way of manners, either, but he kept that thought to himself.


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Twitter address @FMzombies