Brian Young is a graduate of Yale University and Columbia University. He is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. He enjoys reading, watching movies, playing video games (when he has time), and keeping physically active.
What brought you to writing? When I first wrote The Healer of the Water Monster, I lived in Albuquerque and worked as a meat cutter, and contributed to the native film community as a screenwriter and director. I first envisioned Healer as a movie, possibly a trilogy of feature films. But when I sat down to write it, I knew that a film interpretation wasn’t feasible. The scope and size of Healer’s story was growing in ways that would require an extensive budget to successfully depict. At that time, no one was willing to financially produce native stories because of the prejudiced idea that “Native stories don’t sell.” So, I made the decision to write Healer first as a book because those limitations that filmmaking imposed don’t exist with prose writing. It also helps that I love writing.
How long did it take you to write your first book? Such a long time! Six or seven years? The first draft took me like two months because I was really motivated and in love with the story. I already had daydreamed about the plot points and character growth paths. I did revisions to it for three years. But I was using techniques from screenwriting. I’d have huge paragraphs at the beginning of chapters and scenes going into great detail of the land and environment, then like five pages of nothing but dialogue. I had to grow as a storyteller, definitely as a prose writer. That’s why I decided that getting an MFA was going to help me get Healer published. I was super fortunate but also did a tremendous amount of work to get into Columbia’s MFA for Creative Writing. Through that program, I learned the tools, techniques, and unique abilities that prose writing has.
How long to get it published? I hear this process can take a long time. But for me, it was very short. To complete my MFA program, I did a ground-up revision of Healer for my thesis. I took a third year to rewrite every single sentence of my manuscript. Columbia University’s School of the Arts hosts an agent mixer for third-year writing students and alumni. It was there that I met my agent. I pitched Healer to him, and he wanted to read my manuscript. I wasn’t fully finished with my revision, and he agreed to wait.
A month later, I had finished the revision and sent it to him. When he offered me his representation, I cried. I literally spent ten minutes in my room praying and saying thank you to the Navajo Holy Beings. After accepting his offer through an email, he wanted to go right into sending it out to publishers and editors. After another revision I felt was needed, my agent and I sent Healer out to publishing houses and editors. The rejections came first, as they usually do. But then, we got some interest. My agent set up some meetings, and I had the massive fortune to meet with Rosemary Brosnan, who was gearing up to launch Heartdrum, a native-focused imprint of HarperCollins. I had some immediate gut vibes that told me Rosemary was the one who was going to help bring Nathan’s story across the finish line. After we met, Rosemary offered a pre-empt and my agent worked his magic. By the end, I had a signed two-book deal! It was finalized the day I picked up my mom and sister from LaGuardia for my graduation from Columbia. I had experienced so many setbacks and heartbreaks before. But all that hardship was worth it when I showed my mom my contract. All in all, it took four months, getting an agent then a book deal. After that, Rosemary and I did another revision (I’ve lost count of how many revisions I did), and that is the version that went to print.
We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show? In my opinion, if your protagonist isn’t making decisions that shape the environment, world, people around them, then why are they the protagonist? Nathan, the protagonist of The Healer of the Water Monster, definitely runs the show. Both he and I agreed that his actions would have consequences for the worlds around him. There are very precious few stories that depict native children as heroes whose actions shape the world around them. So, throughout all the revisions and from the very start, both Nathan and I wanted him to be as active as he could possibly be. I speak of him as an actual person because I spent seven years with him! Actually more, because he is in my next book!
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? On that spectrum, I am more of an outliner. I love seeing the story in its entirety. It’s actually my favorite part of the writing process. I love looking at the macro-level of the story and tinkering with plot points and action beats. When writing a new story, I’ll often do a 27 chapter outline and write a paragraph describing what happens in each chapter and break it down further into scene outlines for each chapter.
That being said, my initial 27 chapter outline usually becomes useless because at the halfway point in the actual writing of the story is when I’ll diverge from the outline. Or I’ll discover some story bits or character emotions that I overlooked when writing the whole story. It’s also here in the middle of the story that the characters start to do their own actions and say their own words. When I’m in the zone, I don’t know what the characters are going to do. It’s like I’m reading a new book that is being written right in front of my eyes.
So, I like to start with having an outline down but will concede to the characters when they start to fully come into their own.
Do you have any advice for new writers? My biggest advice is “Write what you love.” I can’t stress enough that this is a long journey that you are on. From inception to publication, it took me seven years to turn The Healer of the Water Monsterinto a book. You, new writers, are going to be with the story that you are writing for a very long time. If I didn’t love the story or characters, I’m not sure if I would have been as committed to its publication, nor am I sure if I would have been able to devote seven years of my life to Healer. If you love your story, the sacrifices and effort needed to publish a book will be worth it.
People can buy The Healer of the Water Monster on Amazon, but I recommend Red Planet Comics and Books (native owned and operated in Albuquerque, NM)
To reach me, here is my author website: https://brianlyoung.com
Like every author, I also spent a fair amount of time reading. Outside of the pure mystery genre, I also read some thrillers (as long as they are not too violent), paranormal mystery, and some urban fantasy. In both types of books, I’ll read the description to see if it suits my likes. My imagination accepts wizards, but not shape-shifters, witches, or vampires. That’s just my personal taste, and there are many great books with those types of characters enjoyed by other readers.
When acquaintances find out that I’m a mystery writer, they will ask, Did I always want to be a writer? The answer is “no.” I hated creative writing classes in school as I never had anything creative to say. Now I struggle with too many story premises. I have the next story in my head for two of the three series I write at any given time. The third series is complete with four books. The Jill Quint series contains 12 books, and I generally know what the 13th book will be about. I released my new paranormal thriller, NOW YOU DON’T SEE ME, on Thursday, 7/15/2021, which is the first book in that new series.
My protagonist is Michelle Watson, a CIA case officer in her early fifties. After being critically injured on the job as a big-city cop in her mid-forties, she discovers a teleportation skill. I’d like to think of her as an older, wiser, kick-ass, 2021 version of the Bionic Woman. She’ll use her skill to get out of trouble and save the world in each series book.
When I decided I wanted to try my hand at writing a paranormal story, the first thing I had to decided was which paranormal skill I wanted my character to have. My good friend and first-reader suggested teleportation as the special talent that my protagonist would have. Her reasoning was that she hated driving anywhere as it was a waste of time. She asked the question – what good could you do in the world if you could teleport?
I started by making her the police chief of the small town where she grew up and where other paranormal people live. My friend pointed out that it would be a waste of her special talent—how could she impact the world from her small town with her special skill? Good question. She suggested I evaluate making her a spy. Of course, that required creating a new backstory and investigating the CIA and what they do.
It’s been fun creating this new series, especially as I explore how she gets out of tight situations. She’s been with the CIA for five years, mostly working as a lone agent doing hostage rescues. Now for the first time, she’s paired with a partner for a problem so large that only someone with her skill can save the world in time!
Alec Peche is the Northern California author of seventeen novels in three series. Her website is www.AlecPeche.com. There is a free sample of the first two (unedited) chapters of NOW YOU DON’T SEE ME available on the website.
The day after high school graduation, Vinnie Hansen fled the howling winds of South Dakota and headed for the California coast. There the subversive clutches of college dragged her into the insanity of writing, where the dark influences of Sue Grafton and Marcia Muller coaxed Vinnie to a life of crime. A two-time Claymore Award finalist, she’s the author of the Carol Sabala Mystery series (misterio press), the novel Lostart Street, and many short stories. Retired after 27 years as a high school English teacher, she remains sane(ish), notwithstanding the evidence of her tickling the ivories with local ukulele bands.
Do you write in more than one genre? Yes, my short stories range from literary to noir. They’ve appeared in diverse publications from Lake Region Review to Santa Cruz Noir. My most recent print publication, “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend,” is in Gabba Gabba Hey: An Anthology of Fiction Inspired by the Music of the Ramones
In full-length work, my Carol Sabala series falls most accurately in the Private Investigator tradition. Carol Sabala starts as an amateur sleuth, but her career arc in the seven-book and one-novella series takes her into official private investigation.
I’m currently working on two novels, One Gun and Crime Writer, in the literary suspense sub-genre of crime fiction.
Finally, I dabble in non-fiction with a lovely creative non-fiction piece published in Catamaran Literary Reader’s Winter 2021 issue and an article in the last issue of Mystery Readers Journal.
Who’s your favorite author? An impossible question to answer, George! Since I write all over the place, I read all over the place. Right now, I’m in love with literary suspense, and my favorite authors in that sub-genre are Jane Harper, Allen Eskens, and Lou Berney.
When I was working in PI fiction, my inspiration was Sue Grafton.
Some of my favorite books of all time lie where the literary and mystery genres intersect. Think William Kent Krueger’s Ordinary Grace or David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars.
But an author who is a favorite for other reasons is Dorothy Bryant. She comes from an English teaching background, as do I, and that background wends its way into works like Miss Giardino. Dorothy Bryant was feisty, the first woman to wear pants when teaching at Contra Costa College.
Her first book, Ella Price’s Journal, was traditionally published. Still, when her agent deemed her second book “very bad,” Bryant struck out on her own before self-publishing was common or easy. She established Ata Press and published this “very bad” book, The Kin of Ata are Waiting for You. The book was later picked up by Random House and stayed in print for 30 years. Who doesn’t love that story?
But the main thing I love about Bryant is how she explored everything from the diary format to stage plays to science fiction. She followed her love of writing wherever it led her. She did not feel confined by genre. More than any other writer, she’s my role model.
What kind of research do you do? I do whatever research a book or story demands. The fifth Carol Sabala novel, Death with Dessert, involves immigrants coming over the border in Arizona, so I went to Arizona and drove down to Sasabe. I wanted to see the terrain, feel the quality of the air, smell the desert. You can’t Google those sensory details.
Since I’m a crime fiction writer, I’ve toured our local police station, the county jail (twice), San Quentin prison (twice), the FBI Crime Lab in San Francisco, and a prison in Wisconsin. I tried to visit a detention facility in Mexico but was rather forcibly removed. I’ve done two police ride-alongs and attended the Writers Police Academy, where I made a tourniquet for a writhing dummy squirting blood and participated in Shoot; Don’t Shoot video scenarios used for police training.
My personal experience has led to some unintended research. My husband and I were both handcuffed and put in the back of a sheriff’s vehicle to bake for an hour as the LEO’s sorted out a report of shots fired on our street. The photo shows what our street looked like that day. That’s our brown house!
We also came home while our house was being burglarized; my husband gave chase to the burglar, who pulled a gun and threatened to kill him. Luckily, he didn’t. Because of my husband’s pursuit, the cops were able to arrest the young man, and we ended up with front row seats to the criminal justice system—from arraignment through trial. The burglary and the question of what became of the gun served as the impetus for my next novel, One Gun, coming from Misterio press either late this year or early next year.
I’ve attended numerous panels and workshops on everything from search-and-rescue to autopsies. In a survival camp, I constructed an emergency shelter and tried to make a fire. I’ve been to a gun range, of course.
On a more cerebral level, I’ve read Adam Plantinga’s books 400 Things Cops Know and Police Craft and have reference books at my fingertips like Deadly Doses, when I need a little poison, or Police Procedure & Investigation by Lee Lofland when I need a better sense of how the whole bureaucracy operates.
Not all my research is so dark. I visited the Grateful Dead archives here in Santa Cruz to write my story “Dead Revival,” which was published August 15th at Yellow Mama. For an earlier story (“Room and Board” in Fishy Business, the Fifth Guppy Anthology) featuring the same duo of numbskulls, I toured our local Surf Museum.
And, of course, probably like every writer, I go down rabbit holes on the internet. I’ve spent whole afternoons looking at and reading about blue scorpions. For the story in Gabba Gabba Hey, I killed an hour watching videos of killdeers.
Vinnie Hansen, two-time Claymore Finalist
The Carol Sabala Mystery Series
LOSTART STREET, a novel
Civil unrest and murder. Can a Roman patrician quell unrest and find a killer before politicians knife him in the back?
A mystery fan and history buff since childhood, Zara fell in love with Italy in one brief visit and keeps returning. She lives near Portland, Oregon.
The Argolicus Mysteries is an ongoing series: The Roman Heir, The Used Virgin, The Vellum Scribe, The Peach Widow, and her latest book The Grain Merchant.
Italy, 512 C.E. Argolicus would rather bury his nose in a book. But, when he leaves his peaceful country villa to open his long-shuttered town home, he dives into town politics and meets a potential bride. He refuses to stand by when her family’s livelihood is threatened and her merchant father slain.
With the grain supply dwindling and Argolicus fighting incompetent officials, he uncovers a list of high-placed suspects and attracts the attention of a shadowy rival bent on his destruction. And as the citizenry grows increasingly desperate to put food on their plates, he’ll have to risk his reputation and life to hunt down the killer before violence erupts.
Can Argolicus find a hidden killer before he takes a knife in his back?
The Grain Merchant is the engaging fifth book in the Argolicus Mysteries historical mystery series. Fans of Ruth Downie, Steven Saylor, and Lindsey Davis, jump forward in time to meet your new detective. If you like intelligent heroes, picturesque Italian settings, and immersive ancient worlds, then you’ll love Zara Altair’s engrossing mystery.
Read The Grain Merchant—explore the streets of antiquity today!
What brought you to writing? I’ve been writing since I was five, but this series started with a phone conversation. My daughter was telling me how I would like Ravenna as a place to visit. She went on to talk about Theoderic The Great, crossing the Danube, winning Ravenna. I wondered what it was like to live then. And so it began.
What is the most challenging part of your writing process? Bringing late Roman culture to life without long narrative passages. Religion and politics were intertwined. I try to keep it simple; otherwise, there would be long dissertations on the natures of Christ. To integrate the history, I focus on the characters’ sensory responses to the world around them. What they see and experience is what the reader sees.
Religion and politics were intertwined, but I keep it on the experiential level because otherwise, the reader could go down a rabbit hole and never return. Just look at all the sects, heresies, and schisms in the Late Roman period.
What are you currently working on? The next Argolicus mystery, The Olive Wife.
Has an association membership helped you or your writing? I’ve made friends in the Pacific Northwest Writers group of 20 Books to 50K organization. It’s the friendliest, most supportive group I’ve been in over the past 40 years of writing. People share information, struggles, and wins, but they also help with specifics. I found my current editor and new cover designer through this group.
Who’s your favorite author? I’ve been reading for a lifetime. That question is almost impossible to answer with one name. Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Umberto Eco, Amor Towles all come to mind. I am a fan of Philip Kerr and especially like the Bernie Gunther series. Robert Harris’s Fatherland and Pompeii are two favorites. Jo Nesbø is a fabulous storyteller. He ratchets up the tension. Tana French goes deep into characters and yet keeps the final twist hidden.
How do you come up with character names? Some names are straight from history, like Argolicus and Governor Venantius. Argolicus was a real person at the time of Theoderic’s reign in Italy. He is mentioned nine times in Cassiodorus’ Variae as praefectus urbis of Rome. His childhood and ongoing friendship with Cassiodorus come from my imagination. Venantius is chastised in the Variae for his lack of care for the people he governs. Many character names come from People and identity in Ostrogothic Italy, 489-554. The introduction is also rich with cultural details. I research Greek, African, and Syrian names for other characters.
Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? The Grain Merchant has two subplots. One is about friendship and love. The other is about the internecine workings of politics as it pertains to a local grain shortage. When I’m writing, I don’t think of subplots as separate stories but extensions of themes. They grow organically from what pushes the protagonist. What weaknesses or perceived shortcomings will grow out of a situation?
How do you raise the stakes for your protagonist—for the antagonist? In a mystery, the easiest way to raise the stakes is for the protagonist sleuth to misunderstand the clues. He makes decisions based on false perceptions that lead him into more trouble. In a traditional mystery, the antagonist is hidden until the end. They must work behind the scenes knowing the protagonist is getting closer.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? Before I plan the story, I cast the characters. I have a basic outline with major plot points before I start writing. That said, as I write, characters do and say things I hadn’t imagined in the planning stage. I keep those surprises in check by focusing on the next story point. For example, at the first major pinch point, a character may do something unexpected. Then I think about how that will help me get to the next big point in the story, the midpoint. So there is discovery as I write, but I work it into the story framework.
What kind of research do you do? A lot. First was the background research. I knew nothing about the period when I first started. Books, articles, Academia.edu. I went to Italy and interviewed several history professors who pointed me toward private libraries and gave me 32 kilos of books. Then, for each story, I end up doing specific research. For The Peach Widow, I looked into inheritance law. For The Vellum Scribe, I focused on theological and church tradition differences between Trinitarian and Arian churches. For The Grain Merchant, I researched civil structure. And, I research and prepare food, so I know what my characters are eating. Because this is a specific time in Italian history, much of the research is written in Italian.
What obstacles do you face when writing about historical figures? The most challenging for me is getting them to act and respond in a way that represents the time. For example, Argolicus’ sidekick is his slave tutor. He’s his best friend but a slave. It’s hard for me to take slavery as a given, so I have to reach to know the attitudes of both those characters.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? Real fictional locations. Rome was real. Ostia was real. Squillace was real. They are all real today. But I fictionalize where my characters live, create their villas and estates.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Write. Along the way, develop your craft. Keep writing.
How do our readers contact you?
Write A Killer Mystery: http://bit.ly/KillerMystery
Argolicus Fans Newsletter : https://bit.ly/ArgolicusReads
Find the books at all major online retailers.
Glenda Carroll writes the Trisha Carson mysteries that take place in the San Francisco Bay area, from Oracle Park, home of the San Francisco Giants to the beautiful lakes in the East Bay to the tree-lined streets of Marin County.
Her mysteries are set in the world of open water swimming. The third book of the series Dead Code will be published by Indies United Publishing House. The launch date is October 27, 2021. Books one and two, Dead in the Water and Drop Dead Red, introduced Trisha Carson, a 40-something woman trying to find her way in the world, and her family to the mystery reading community.
When not writing, she tutors high school and college students for Canal Alliance, San Rafael, in English and occasionally History. These are first-generation teens who understand that education is the way out of poverty.
What brought you into writing? Good question. I never, ever thought I would write fiction. For almost twenty years, I was a sportswriter for the Marin Independent Journal. I covered mostly water sports: sailing and sailboat racing, boating (in general), surfing, some swimming. I remember someone once asked me, “Do you have a novel in there?” I was miffed. “How can you write about something that isn’t true?” I huffed and puffed. But I found that not only could I use my imagination and find dead bodies in all types of strange locations. But I liked doing it!
What is your writing process? Several years back, I entered a NaNoWriMo 6-word contest about writing. “Write like a hurricane. Edit later,” was my prize-winning entry. That seems to be what I do. I blast through the first draft. After that, it’s torture. I write draft after draft. I often take out big chunks of copy and put them in a special deleted file. I’m not sure why I keep them. I have never used anything that I’ve buried in that file. For Dead Code, three people volunteered to be my Beta readers. It was the first time I was that organized to ask for help. They were great…excellent suggestions that made the manuscript better.
Have you ever had writer’s block? Oh yes. When I was writing the first book in the series Dead in the Water, I reached a point where I didn’t know what to say and what to type. At those times, I would go out and cut the grass. I had an old-fashioned push mower, and it was in the middle of summer. Maybe it was the dripping sweat that kickstarted my brain, but when I came back inside to my cool house, my mind was working again.
How do you come up with characters’ names? For the protagonist of the series, Trisha Carson, I knew her age and researched the popular girls’ names the year she was born. After that, I began to use the names of family members. In all the books, there is a character I called Inspector Carolina Burrell, San Francisco Police Department. That moniker contains my granddaughter’s name and the name of a former San Francisco Giants outfielder, Pat Burrell. I used my sons’ first names for ballplayers on the Giants. My grandson Caden’s name was used for a secret swimming spot, Caden’s Corner. If you’re related to me or even someone I admire, your name will be usurped at some point.
Do you have subplots? There is definitely a subplot in Dead Code. As I mentioned earlier, the first two books of the series are firmly set in the world of open water swimming, and the plots are water-oriented. Dead Code moves away from being totally involved with water into the world of hacking. (There are swimming scenes for those who can’t get enough of H2O.) Just as I finished the first draft, I had my identity stolen. My hacker found his way into my bank accounts, health care, phone, and email. I tore my hair out for about a week, trying to understand what was going on and how to stop it. I knew I had to add that to the manuscript. I rewrote the whole thing so Trisha could share my pain. She hated it as much as I did.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? Honestly, I seem to start in the middle and work toward the beginning and the end. I usually don’t know ‘who did it’ until I write it. However, I tried to become more organized with book two. For Drop Dead Red, I carefully worked out an outline. Then I started writing. I didn’t make it through the first chapter before I strayed from the outline. I’m not sure why I can’t stick to an outline. I just can’t. I wish I could.
“(Trisha Carson is)…a smart, steadfast gumshoe who, in her second book, continues to flourish…Carroll’s writing bounces off the page.” Kirkus Reviews
What are you currently working on? As I mentioned, I am approaching the finish line with Dead Code. This is a different subject for me, involving hackers and ransomware. I only had a cursory knowledge of the computer crime world. I needed to read everything I could on the subject, and I even lurked on a few hacker bulletin boards. My sister’s sweetheart started his own computer security firm ages ago, and he was happy to answer all my questions, from the simplest to the most complex. He even made a few plot suggestions.
Advice to new writers?
First, keep reading—everything you can. But be critical (in a good way) of the text. How does the author use verbs? What are transitions like? What makes you say, “I wish I wrote that sentence, paragraph, chapter?” Does the ending work?
Second. Do your best to keep that inner voice that tells you. You don’t know what you’re doing at bay. Half the time, I never know where the story is going until I write it. However, I am beginning to have confidence that something, maybe even something worth reading, will come out of the process.
Third. Write. Even when you don’t want to.
Looking to the future, what is in store for you? As you might guess, I write about open water swimming, because I swim in open water (as well as a pool). I swim in rivers, lakes, the ocean, and over the past year in the chilly San Francisco Bay. I’ve raced in more than 150 open water events in Northern California and Hawaii, and Perth, Australia. Currently, I am training for an Alcatraz swim in early September. I was swimming along the other day in the choppy Bay, putting in the distance, and the idea came to me for the next book. A swimmer is making their way across the Bay, and she is being escorted by a pilot boat. The swimmer gets a bit off course, and when she turns to look back at the boat, something is strange. She swims over to it, and the pilot (the captain or driver of the boat) has disappeared. The swimmer and the empty boat are in the middle of the Bay, alone. Sound interesting?
How can our readers contact you?
FB: Author page: https://www.facebook.com/Carrollandfriends
Personal FB page: https://www.facebook.com/glenda.carroll
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Ms.-Glenda-Carroll/e/B00CIJ7HJ8/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0