Thursday, September 22, 2011

Karen Fritz's Blind Vision

This morning I'm interviewing Karen Fritz, author of Blind Vision.  Welcome, Karen.

Good morning, Susan. Thanks for the invitation.

How many books have you written, Karen?
Blind Vision is my first novel.
What books or authors have influenced you?
Gosh, there are so many.  John Hart, James Patterson, Tess Gerritsen, JK Rowling, Dean Koontz, Steven King, Lisa Gardner, Michael Gruber to name a few.
Karen, since this is your first novel, what has been your most rewarding experience during the writing process?
Finishing the novel, without a doubt.  I felt such a sense of accomplishment.  I didn’t let it defeat me even though there were times I thought it would. 
Tell us about Blind Vision.

Blind Vision takes place in a small southern town.  It’s a story about a young blind psychic, Peter Cole, who starts having horrific visions of women being murdered shortly after he moves into a Southside boarding house.  He joins forces with Detective Joe Carson to stop a serial killer before another murder happens. 
Is it available in print, ebook, and Kindle formats?

Blind Vision is available in paperback and Kindle.

Since you plan to write a series, what are some of the problems you  might face while plotting a series with ongoing characters?

Blind Vision is the first novel in my Southside Mystery Series.  I think the big thing for me as I am writing book two, is making sure I give just enough background for the reader who may not have read book one while also making sure I don’t bog the story down.
Yes, that's so important, and don't forget to move the characters forward in age and experience. 

How do you develop characters?

They talk to me and I listen.  For me, it’s about letting the character take you over.  Letting them show you how they feel inside and then putting that emotion on paper.  The reader needs to be able to see and feel what the character is seeing and feeling.  They need to know that he/she is vulnerable or afraid. And if I do my job correctly the reader will become emotionally tied to the character.

How do you choose your setting? 
In Blind Vision, the story takes place in a truly horrible part of town.  But that was where I needed it to be.  In reality, Southside is a part of Winston-Salem, NC.  I think probably thirty years ago it was as I have described.  It’s a little better now.  But the interesting thing is people who have read my book and lived in that area thirty years ago tell me I nailed it.  That pleases me. 

What are your protagonist’s strengths? Flaws? 
Peter Cole is in his early twenties.  He is blind and living with his mother.  He realizes if he ever wants to have his own life he has to learn to make it on his own. He starts out being very self-centered; maybe even has a bit of chip on his shoulder.  As you read the story you will see Peter grow.  Through his experiences he becomes this strong, independent, good man.  By the end of the story, the reader will want to see him succeed.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing? 
 I think all writers are probably watchers.  I love observing people.  I love listening to how they talk and watching their mannerisms.  In my opinion, that’s what allows writers to write about any situation.  For me, it’s not so much about environment or upbringing.  It’s about research and letting your mind explore places you haven’t been.

We all know how important promoting our work has become. How do you get the word out both off and online? 
Wow!  That’s where the real work begins.  Obviously, I do the book signing circuit, social networking on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, anything I can think of to get the word out.  My biggest problem and frustration is time.  There never seems to be enough time to do everything that needs to be done!

Can you tell us about current or future projects?

As I mentioned earlier, I am working on book two of the Southside Mystery Series, Crossroads.   I’ve even written the first three chapters of book three.  I am hoping to have Crossroads out by summer.  I’ll just have to see how it goes. 

Where can folks learn more about your books and events, Karen? 

Check out my website,

It's been a pleasure, Karen.
Thank you for this opportunity.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Author Doug Roberts Stops By For Hot Chocolate

Good morning, everyone! Don't you just love this cool air? I'm so excited that I made a pot of hot chocoate for myself and guest, Doug Roberts, author of  The Man Who Fooled SAVAK. Welcome to the blog, Doug. Have a cup of steaming hot chocolate.

Thanks, Susan. I believe I will.

The release of your book coincides rather well with Arab Spring.   When did you start writing it?
In the summer of  2008, a woman I’d met on line named Erica Murray was interested in Iran so I started writing to her about it.   I started doing some very preliminary research into the history and politics of Iran in 1971  in order  to refresh my memory of things I had experienced when I was in Iran during that time.   The book was completely finished several months before the uprising in Tunisia.
Even though that was 40 years ago, there are many common elements with what is happening across the Arab world. 
Yes, especially the fear people experience when living under an autocratic regime is something I hope I have captured, and as the book proceeds, the breaking out of that fear.  Perhaps it will give people hope.  Just like in my book, the methods used by various dictatorial regimes to maintain control seem to be taken from a common playbook:   trample a free and independent press, keep the people fooled, use an iron fist to silence dissent, eliminate fair trials, use torture to extract confessions, -- the list goes on and on.    
But when you wrote the book, you weren’t thinking about that. 
(laughs) True! I don’t have a crystal ball and the Arab Spring was as big a surprise to me as the rest of the world.  
Can I ask you about one of the characters in your book?  Was there really a Junior?
Yes there was.  I think Junior made the story possible to write.  We really did sell our liquor and cigarette rations to him.   I recently learned from a fellow who served in ARMISH/MAAG just before I arrived that Junior mostly dealt with the domestic workers, the Iranian nationals who worked at the bachelor quarters where we lived. 
I’d like to ask you about another character, Mihan Jazani.  She is a historical figure, the wife of the Bijan Jazani who founded one of Iran’s guerilla movements.   It appears that she’s a friend of yours on Facebook.   
(Blushes)  Um, well yes…so it would appear.   (laughs)  Actually, Mihan Jazani doesn’t like Facebook and never uses it.  The Facebook account was set up for Mihan by her granddaughter, Aida.  Aida and I exchange messages occasionally.    
 How were you able to remember so much about what happened then?  It was 40 years ago after all.
I was assisted in several ways.   I had some writings I had done about Iran when I was in journalism school at Kent State in 1972.  I had a large number of slides that I’d taken when I was there.  Those were crucial in reviving old memories.  A huge help was finding on line a 1977 map of Tehran on the (now defunct) Tehran American School website.  I was able to use the exact names of places, even street names.  The fellow I’d mentioned earlier who told me about Junior had sent me a copy of the ARMISH/MAAG directory, which was very useful.  Finally,  talking to people I worked with at that time was extremely important, namely Heidi Eftekhar and Barry Silver, who are characters in the story.  I obviously couldn’t remember all events specifically, but I found I could generate them as needed by being very specific in my language.  I would take seeds of ideas and extrapolate and grow them into full blown events.   For example, a certain lecherous officer really did say to Heidi, “I think you’re a woman who needs a lot of loving.”   I took that and ran with it.  Last but also important, the internet was a valuable tool in researching the historical incidents in the book. 
So, where does the novel part come in?
Some of the human rights related events are novelized, but they’re very accurate in their portrayal of the times.  I’ll leave historians to figure all that out.   They will have their work cut out for them  because I’ve spent a lot of effort weaving the story line into the history of those days.
How close is your character Doug Roberts to the way you actually are?
That’s a really good queston.  (laughs)  I had originally intended that Doug the character would be an extreme version of myself.   But after having read my book now over and over, I’ve come to see that what’s extreme are the circumstances he’s in.   Doug the character is a lot like I was back then: ok in the smarts department,  a little too cocky sometimes.  He’s not very romantic or knowledgeable about women, but does all right in spite of himself.  (laughs)   There’s an element of male fantasy in the book I suppose. In the story  I have two charming female lunch companions in addition to Fari my Iranian girlfriend/fiancĂ©e.
But you really were friends with Heidi Eftekhar your co-worker in the story. 
I still am.  Heidi and I communicate regularly by email and her input on the book was immensely helpful.   Miss Farou is the fantasy.   She actually didn’t like me all that much.  (laughs).
I get the impression you had a lot of fun writing your book.
It was pretty trippy for me at times.  I would totally submerse myself in it.  For example, I had written the scene describing how I spent New Year’s Eve in Iran just a couple of weeks after New Year’s Eve in real life.   When someone asked me about how I’d spent my New Years, it shocked me as to how much effort I had to put into pulling up what I’d actually done versus what I’d just written.   That was a little scary.
What do you think people will get out of your book?
I’m sure everyone will get a little something different, but what I’d like for people to take from it is that, like in the story, life may present you with some extreme circumstances.  When that happens, keep a level head and your wits about you.  Try to see beyond what appears to be happening on the surface.  There will always be some good things happening at any given moment. Try to focus on that.  To get through your ordeal it’s a good idea to engage all your friends to help you and your faith if you have that.  Most important of all:  never give up. 
Doug, it's been a pleasure to have you here. I wish you the best of luck with The Man Who Fooled SAVAK.
Thank you, Susan.Doug's book is available online in ebook format. You may contact him through