ROSE OWENS – Author and Professional Storyteller

Rose Owens writes middle-grade fiction, short story, essay, and memoir.

As a professional storyteller, she often tells stories that she has written. The name of her blog site is Rose the Storylady: Making a Difference through Storytelling and Writing That title explains her motivation for blogging. She is a past vice-president for the Tri-Valley Branch of California Writers. She currently serves as the Newsletter Editor. She edits the Toolbox column in that newsletter, which provides other members a place to ask questions and share information. Rose has become somewhat of an amateur Zoom expert. She hosts storytelling, family chats, a cooking club and art club for her family, and online meetings. Zoom links for her two storytelling programs (Storytelling for All Ages and an Interactive Storytelling Program for preschool and lower elementary students) are posted on her website. Http://

Rose is the author of the Maryalise Trilogy (middle-grade fantasy novels) that are available on Amazon. She has also authored a picture book: Who Was There: A Nativity Story for Children. She has been published in the Las Positas and Tri-Valley Writers’ Anthologies. Rose’s essay, “We Live in a Mobile Home,” contains family stories about the process of recovering from a fire that destroyed the interior of her home. It was published in the BYU Alumni Magazine. A BYU Family Recovers from a House Fire with Humor and Help 

The Poemsmiths of the Mojave High Desert branch of California Writers have selected two of Rose’s poems, “How Far to Bethlehem” and “They Pity Me in the Village,” for inclusion in the anthology, From Silence to Speech: Women of the Bible Speak Out. Rose recently attended the online Surrey International Writing Conference, where she participated in an Author Showcase and had the opportunity to talk about her books.

Rose lives in Livermore, California. She arrived fifty-five years ago and has settled in nicely. She is the mother of seven children and the grandmother of twenty-five. She finds inspiration for her writing as she crafts, cooks, gardens, walks, and participates in other activities.

Tell us about your recent release and other books. Maryalise and the Snatched Fairy (published 2020) is the third book of my Maryalise trilogy. Maryalise is a fairy child hidden in the mortal world with no memory of her previous life. In Maryalise and the Singing Flowers (2019), she discovers her identity, learns to use magic, and ultimately goes down into an underground cavern without magic to rescue her father, who the evil fairy, Villiana, has imprisoned. In Maryalise and the Stolen Years (2019), she must discover how Villiana has stolen years of magic from the people who are buried in an old forgotten cemetery. William (another fairy) and Cuthelburt (a ghost) help her in this quest. In Maryalise and the Snatched Fairy (2020), she goes into the Fairytale Dimension to rescue William, who has been stolen by Villiana. She interacts with the Cheshire Cat, Snow White’s stepmother, the Hansel and Gretel Witch, the Chicken House, and Baba Yaga. Blackie (who is actually a dragon in disguise) helps her. All three books have been self-published on Amazon. She has also published a picture book: Who Was There: A Nativity Story for Children, available on Amazon.

What brought you to writing? I have always enjoyed writing. As an elementary school student, I wrote poetry and an impossible fairytale story. When I was in junior high school, I wrote very mushy, sentimental love stories. Fortunately, none of these early writings have survived. I wrote poetry and essays during my child-rearing years. In 2007 I registered for a creative writing class. Since that time, I have written essays, poetry, stories, and novels. The idea for my Maryalise trilogy happened because my teacher gave her students a prompt to write on in class. Maryalise emerged from my imagination, and her adventures have been chronicled in three books.

Tell us about your writing process I have learned that when I get an idea, I should write it down—even if I don’t have time to develop it fully. Otherwise, that idea disappears into the void. The Idea for Maryalise and the Snatched Fairy came in a dream. The sensation of being snatched and carried away into the void woke me in the middle of the night. I wrote the details down and went back to sleep. When I looked at my notes in the morning, I realized that I had the idea for my third Maryalise book. When I am working on a book, I start my writing time by reviewing the previous chapter and making minor edits. Then, I am ready to begin the next chapter. After I finish writing, I think about what needs to come next. I process that information during the day and before I go to sleep at night. When I am writing shorter pieces, I usually wait several days before I edit them.

What are you currently working on? I am writing a non-fiction piece about the Bank of Vernal. The 80,000 bricks for this bank were mailed from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Vernal, Utah via the US Postal System. I am using the same research to write The Outlaw Trail, a middle-grade historical fiction novel about the son of William Coltharp (the man who built the Bank of Vernal). Butch Cassidy and Josie Bassett are two of the historical characters who appear in this novel.

There have been a lot of versions of The Three Little Pigs published. But one day, I thought, What About Mama? I am working on telling her story.

How long did it take you to write your first book? It was about three years from the time I created the character of Maryalise until I finished the book. However, it took about ten years to write the Maryalise trilogy. I waited until I had finished all three books before I published them. This turned out to be a good decision because I was able to make minor changes in the first books based on what happened in the third book in the trilogy.

Do you have any advice for new writers?

  • Keep a notebook or computer file of ideas.
  • Write regularly.
  • Edit and edit again.
  • Save the pieces that don’t fit into your current project. They may be useful later.
  • Find a compatible critique group, listen to the other members. But don’t change your work just because someone else has a different idea.
  • Organize your computer files. (I’m still working on this)
  • Save backups of your work in 2-3 different places. Save a hard copy. Email a copy to yourself.
  • Don’t be afraid to try a new genre.
  • Search with your planned title on Amazon or Google it. You want to know what other books have similar titles.

Where do you write? Distractions? I usually write on my computer. Sometimes I am sequestered in my storytelling room, and sometimes I write in the family room. I’m able to tune out the distraction of the television noise and just write. Having a regular schedule for writing keeps me from procrastinating my writing to a time later in the day that never seems to arrive.

How do your readers contact you?

My readers can contact me through my blog

Book links on Amazon:

Maryalise and the Singing Flowers Maryalise and the Singing Flowers (Maryalise Trilogy Book 1) – Kindle edition by Owens, Rose. Children Kindle eBooks @

Maryalise and the Stolen Years Maryalise and the Stolen Years (Maryalise Trilogy Book 2) – Kindle edition by Owens, Rose. Children Kindle eBooks @

Maryalise and the Snatched Fairy Maryalise and the Snatched Fairy (Maryalise Trilogy Book 3) – Kindle edition by Owens, Rose. Children Kindle eBooks @

Who Was There: A Nativity Story for Children Who Was There?: A Nativity Story for Children – Kindle edition by Owens, Rose. Religion & Spirituality Kindle eBooks @


  1. Peggy Schimmelman

    I’ve long admired Rose’s writing and storytelling, as well as her work ethic. The above tips for writers are worth noting. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Larry Pope

    If anyone is considering becoming an author of any type of book, this information would be helpful as a guide. One must be genuine in their interactions with others, particularly with children, and Rose does this very well. Her voice changes can be very subtle, but catching.

    I have followed Rose’s storytelling for many years and sincerely believe that she gets better as time goes on.

    I wish her the very best.

  3. Ruby Regnier

    It’s been very rewarding following Rose’s development as a professional storyteller and writer.

    I’ve known Rose all my life and she has shown amazing dedication in all her research in the quest to be authentic.

    Not mentioned in the interview is her ability to do healing storytelling to help students process their thoughts after a traumatic public occurrence.

    Onward ho, Rose!

  4. David

    This is Rose’s son, I have heard my mom tell many stories on zoom. Some she has adapted and some she tells with permission. She has told me a good story needs a teller and a listener for the experience to be complete. I remember in schools she would sometimes get permission to come into my classes and tell stories. She had a skirt with bunches of pockets and in each pocket would be something which would mean something to a story. She would let us kids pick a pocket and she would tell the story. It was fun. I did not choose much, but my class mates did (And I still got to listen 🙂 ) My class mates had a good time listening to the stories that were told. I think this is enough for now.

  5. Sharlett Durfee

    We love all of Rose,s stories
    And her talent of telling stories to the public

  6. Julie Orvis

    Great article about Rose. My grandkids love her storytelling, but are still too young to read her books. I know they’ll love them when they are old enough to read them. I’m glad you included her advice for writers (good advice for all writers, not just new ones). Thanks for the article.

  7. Sandra Tayler

    So fun to see you featured!

  8. Michael A. Black

    Wow, Ms. Owens, your story and your work ethic are enviable. I particularly liked the advice you listed for new writers. Those comments were excellent. Best of luck to you on your new book.


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LYNN HESSE – Come Visit as this Author Shares Her Story

Lynn Hesse won the 2015 First Place Winner, Oak Tree Press, Cop Tales, for her mystery, Well of Rage. Her novel Another Kind of Hero was a finalist for the 2018 Silver Falchion Award and won the International Readers’ Chill Award in 2021. Her short story “Jewel’s Hell” was published September 2019 in Me Too Short Stories: An Anthology by Level Best Books and edited by Elizabeth Zelvin.

Her short story about a domestic homicide, “Murder: Food For Thought,” published in the anthology Double Lives, Reinvention & Those We Leave Behind, 2009 by Wising Up Press, was adapted in the play, We Hunt Our Young, produced at Emory University Field Showcase and Core Studio Luncheon Time Series, 2011. Excerpts from the play “Unacceptable Truths” were performed on the Atlanta BeltLine in 2013.

An interview concerning Lynn’s role as a police officer, “Blue Steel,” is in The Women’s Studies Archives, The Second Feminist Movement, Georgia State University. She performs in several dance and theatrical troupes in Atlanta, Georgia.

 Appreciation for Other Writers: I owe Public Safety Writers Association, PSWA, gratitude, and a hearty thank you for mentoring writers. Let me tell you why. My latest endeavor is an audiobook release based on my first novel, Well of Rage, and, of course, the marketing of it.

Recruit Carly Redmund is accused of mishandling evidence by her white-supremacist training officer and must solve the cold case murder of an African-American teenager whose bones and high school ring are found in an abandoned well in Mobile, Alabama.

During the 2016 PSWA conference in Las Vegas, I was given a suggestion by Lorna Collins, another PSWA member, to submit to Desert Breeze Publishing concerning my traditional mystery Another Kind of Hero. They published my novella.

A casket full of drugs and money found at the Pick’n Pay in Forsyth, Georgia, plus a ghost, put two contentious sisters and an uncover DEA agent in jeopardy.) Lorna also edited this novella, a finalist for the Silver Falchion Award at the 2017 Killer Nashville Conference, and won the International Readers’ Chill Award in 2021.

What new skills have you learned recently? I finished the audio book’s final proofing for Well of Rage and came away with several valuable lessons. For instance, most tags “he said” or “she said” necessary in a regular book are distracting while listening to an audiobook. It makes me aware of cutting out as many tags as possible in my regular writing and give the character an action or gesture to convey who is speaking. If there are only two characters in a scene conveying pertinent dialogue, tags should be minimal. I’m considering going back to Vellum to edit the eBook. Again.

Next time I will pick a southerner to read my books. Conveying how a southern drawl should sound by email is frustrating. I’m acutely aware of how I pronounce the words either and route. I’ll probably pick a woman to read my upcoming novels with female protagonists. The professional male reader I chose for Well of Rage did a good job; however, I missed hearing some version of the female voices I have in my head.

I found several paragraphs left out during the first proofing process, and some random scenes sounded robotic. When I replayed the audio during the last proofing process, it had vanished, but it took patience and effort on my part.

If you are interested in helping me reach my goal of testing Amazon’s algorithms for bestselling books, please preorder/buy the audible book for Well of Rage and then post a review.



What manuscript have you completed this year? Gritty stories, sometimes with a bit of jaded humor, pour out of me. If statistics prove anything, female crime writers are traditionally published less often than male ones, but rejection goes with the territory. If I’m not offered a traditional contract soon, I’ll self-publish the sequel to my first novel, A Matter of Respect, the first of next year.”

In Mobile, Alabama, Officer Carly Redmond witnesses a robbery in progress and makes an off-duty arrest of a mentally ill man, Joshua Randall, that leads to the death of a fellow officer by the suspect in the jail’s intake sally port. During interrogation by her department’s Internal Affairs and the Alabama Bureau of Investigation, Carly learns the jail’s video of Joshua murdering the officer with a knife is missing, and the radio printout is altered. She is sure she patted down Joshua and bagged the switchblade, but “the powers that be” accuse her of negligence.

 What are you in the midst of publishing? I am in the process of self-publishing Stranded in Atlanta, a novella about a trio of con artists. They are stuck in Atlanta without funds when the oldest member has a heart attack and dies. Clara Shannesy Blyth and her adopted Uncle Roman are crushed at their mentor’s death. Still, Clara must take over the reins of the duo and pull off a risky art heist of an Edward Hopper painting with a cut-throat team. She falls in love for the first time at twenty-seven with Hernando and realizes too late he is the Hopper painting’s forger, and his brother is the man trying to kill her.

Stranded in Atlanta took me deep into research about the Roma culture and their displacement into ghettos throughout European history. My studies about the Roma culture and their myths are ongoing. However, Julie Baggenstoss—a flamingo dancer and academic in matters concerning the marginalized Roma culture and the important influences of their people—was one of my six beta readers and provided research materials for me. Also, my Spanish daughter-in-law at the time added her insights. Darija Pichanick, the SinC President for the Atlanta Chapter, provided details about Croatian food, geographic traveling timetables, and attitudes toward foreign guests. This eye-opening research drove me to develop what I hope is a likable anti-hero character as my protagonist.

When you aren’t writing crime novels, do you write in other genres or styles? Yes, I branched out during the pandemic and wrote a short science fiction piece to entertain my teenage grandson. It has turned into a YA novel-in-progress called “Grams and Grandson Teddy, the A.I. Private-Eye Detective.” Recently, I was informed my short story “Bitter Love” will be in the fall issue of Crimeucopia by Murderous Ink Press.

Have you ever judged a writing contest? I was honored to judge a local writing contest, and now I have empathy for editors who read countless submissions.

You may contact me at:

To buy my books



  1. Lynn Hesse

    Thanks, Marilyn,
    It would be lovely to see you again. The plane ride to Las Vegas is a pricey trip for me, but I appreciate PSWA.

  2. Marilyn Meredith

    Hi, Lynn, so excited to hear about your endeavors. PSWA has helped me in so many ways. Would love to see you again.

    • lynn hesse

      Thanks you, Lynn. I was named after my paternal grandfather, a Pentecostal preacher. Congrats on your new novel published by Level Best Books.

  3. Lynn Hesse

    Thank you George for hosting my story on your blog.

  4. Lynn Hesse

    Thanks, Vicki,
    FYI: My husband has 6 feral cats. You want one?

  5. Vicki Batman

    very nice interview and good to learn more about you

  6. Michael A. Black

    Great to hear you’ve got so many projects rolling, Lynn and thanks for mentioning the PSWA. I’ve always been fascinated by the regional accents of our country as well, and I know what you mean about hearing your work read by someone whose accent is not the same as your character’s. Keep up your fantastic research and writing pace and best of luck to you.

    • Lynn Hesse

      Hi, Mike,
      Thank you. I feel like a slacker compare to you and others who published multiple books a year.

    • lynn hesse

      Thank you, Mike. I feel like a slacker compared you and others who produced multiple books a year.


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MARK COGGINS – See What Has to Say About Writing Successful Crime Fiction

Mark Coggins was born in the Four Corners region of New Mexico and is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation. His work has been nominated for the Shamus and the Barry crime fiction awards and selected for best of the year lists compiled by the San Francisco Chronicle, the Detroit Free Press, and


THE DEAD BEAT SCROLL – Private investigator August Riordan’s quest to avenge the death of his old partner drops him in the missing person case his partner was working when he died. An alluring young woman named Angelina is looking for her half-sister, but what Riordan finds instead is a murderous polyamorous family intent on claiming a previously unknown manuscript from dead Beat writer Jack Kerouac.

What brought you to writing? I composed my first published short story, “There’s No Such Thing as Private Eyes,” in the late ’70s for a creative writing class at Stanford University taught by Ron Hansen. This was shortly after I’d learned about Raymond Chandler and his distinctive writing style in another class, that one taught by Tobias Wolff. I was all of 19 years old when I typed out the original draft on my Smith-Corona portable, but it was eventually published in the mid-1980s in a revival of the famous Black Mask magazine, where Hammett and Chandler got their start.

In addition to being my first appearance in print, the tale also introduces my series character, San Francisco private eye August Riordan.

Tell us about your writing process: I maintain a research folder on my computer for each novel I write. In it goes digital photographs, Word and PDF files, links to web pages, etc.—anything that can be stored on disk. I also have a small notebook in which I write a variety of things, including location descriptions, snatches of dialog, plot ideas, and similes. The dialog can be imagined or something I’ve overheard.

Of course, the reason I have the notebook is to draw upon the entries when I’m writing. If I decide to use an item from the notebook, I put a tick mark beside it, so I know I’ve already put it in a novel. But even when I don’t select something I can use directly, I find thumbing through the notebook can be helpful, especially when I’m suffering from writer’s block. Somehow, just reading through everything I’ve jotted down can be inspirational, and I usually come up with an idea to get me back on track again.

Do you ever kill a popular character? If so, what happens to your story? Yes, in The Dead Beat Scroll, I killed a character named Chris Duckworth. (This isn’t a spoiler since the book begins with news of Duckworth’s death.) Duckworth was Riordan’s sidekick for five of the seven books. Many readers found his personality and the byplay between Riordan and him to be one of the most entertaining aspects of the novels. Although Riordan and Duckworth are estranged at the time of Duckworth’s death, I hope Riordan’s regard for Duckworth and the real grief he experiences come across in the book. I found the process of writing the final scene in the novel—which is a celebration of life for Duckworth—to be particularly poignant. I hope some of that poignancy is transmitted in the text.

What kind of research do you do? The first research I do is on Bay Area locations, where most of my books take place. I usually walk around a neighborhood I’m going to set a scene in, taking both pictures and notes that I use to jog my memory when I get to the actual writing.

I also do research about the theme or social issue I’m using to drive the plot. For instance, in my novel Runoff, I researched electronic voting and the possibility of defeating the security of voting machines to rig an election. To do that research, I interviewed computer science experts on the topic and talked with poll workers who had an “on the ground” understanding of how the machines are used in a precinct.

For my novel Candy from Strangers, which was about cam girls, I interviewed a young woman who has a website where she solicits anonymous gifts.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? My settings can probably best be described as hyper-real. I try very hard to set every scene in a real location—often in San Francisco—and many of my books feature black and white photographs of those locales.

Do you have any advice for new writers? I can’t emphasize enough the importance of critique groups. In addition to providing camaraderie and support, they give you feedback, encourage you to write to deadlines. Reading other writers’ work with an eye towards making suggestions for improvement helps me better understand what does and doesn’t work in fiction. Good writers read a lot, and even better writers read a lot and analyze what they are reading.



Twitter: @Mark_Coggins

The Dead Beat Scroll –

Podcast (where I do serial readings of some of my books) –



  1. Mary Hagen

    Enjoyed your comments. Unfortunately, my critique group disbanded. I miss them.

  2. Mar Preston

    I don’t miss my critique group meetings for anything, Mark. That’s sound advice. Something that is glaringly obvious to you may not be to anyone else. It can be humbling.

  3. Michael A.Black

    Really sound advice, Mark. Thanks. I remember the short-lived revival of Black Mask and have several of them. I’ll have to look for your first story as well as check out your new one. Good luck.

  4. Thonie Hevron

    Fascinating interview! Thanks for letting us get to know you.


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L.J. Sellers and Teresa Burrell Discuss“No Consent,” a Universal Issue

L.J. Sellers and Teresa Burrell met at a mystery/thriller convention long ago and have remained great friends. Combined, they have 41 highly-rated novels with 15 International Readers Favorite Awards, a UP Award, and a San Diego Best Mystery Award.

L.J. writes the Detective Jackson mysteries, the Agent Dallas thrillers, and the made-for-TV Extractor suspense stories. Teresa has authored twelve books in The Advocate series and three in her spin-off Tuper series. In addition, she’s known for her work as a legal advocate for children.

Teresa and I both feel strongly about addressing social issues in our novels. In The Advocate series, Teresa focuses on children’s traumas, and in my Detective Jackson series, I highlight people who are marginalized, including the abuse of those caught up in our legal system. So a news story about a corrupt prosecutor caught my attention. That injustice concerned the rights of people accused of a crime and the DA’s planting of informants in jail cells to ensure convictions—a legal no-consent issue that affected mostly men.

But the social issue of no-consent, as it applies to women, is always simmering in the back of our female minds. The me-too movement was personal for both of us. In a broader way, it morphed into a person’s right to say “no”—regardless of circumstances. Such as the way a woman dresses, the provocative subjects she might write about, or how she makes a living, even if it includes something sexual.

As we developed our plot, we needed one of our main characters, a female district attorney, to be engaged in a compelling trial. About that same time, the social media site OnlyFans came to my attention. The platform—and the women who make a living there—intrigued us so much we knew we had to write about them. Then Teresa, a defense attorney, came up with a brilliant crime/trial that fit into our story and theme perfectly.

We’d love to share more details, but we don’t want to spoil the surprises. But again, the issue was lack of consent. In the end, we crafted synergistic themes for our characters, Conner & Hitch, and plotted a story that brings it all together. In short: Just because a man has been accused of a crime doesn’t mean his legal rights can be violated. And just because a woman posts sexy videos doesn’t mean it’s okay to sexually assault her.

But does the legal system actually protect either person? That depends on the prosecutors, judges, and juries involved. And humans are flawed, so the system often fails. For writers, the joy of crime fiction is the opportunity to create our own endings and have justice be served. As readers, it helps us feel a little better about the world.

I don’t want to give away more—because we plotted some shocking twists—but readers call the novel  “scintillating,” “brilliant,” and “totally engaging.” Here’s a tagline that gives a hint about our characters: A stressed-out prosecutor needs help from a charming ex-con. What can possibly go wrong?

Readers are already asking what’s next, so we’re plotting a second adventure for Conner & Hitch. We hope you’ll check out NO CONSENT and find the story as intriguing and emotionally engaging as we did.

Learn more about L.J. and Teresa at:


  1. Lynn

    I’m so glad to hear you include social issues in your books and delve into the complexities of the issues through the plot and characters. I’m looking forward to reading your novels.

    • L.J. Sellers

      Thanks! We love new readers! L.J.

  2. Vicki Batman

    Wonderful to learn more about you! Great interview. vb

    • Teresa Burrell

      Thanks, Vicki. It’s fun to be here.


  3. Teresa Burrell

    Thanks, George. I hope you’re having a good time!

  4. George Cramer

    I folks,

    I’m attending the 20Books-Las Vegas Conference in Las Vegas this week. So, if like Val, your comments are slow to post, it’s because I’m not at my laptop most of the day.

    Aren’t L.J. and Teresa awesome? I’m so glad to have a chance to read their post live.

    Take Care & Stay Safe


  5. Michael A. Black

    Bless you for bringing these important issues to people’s attention through your books, and for looking out for the welfare of children. Good luck.

    • Teresa Burrell

      Thank you, Michael. We both feel it’s important to shed light on social issues through our writing.

  6. Teresa Burrell

    Hi Everyone,

    We’ll be around today, checking in, so if you have any questions, feel free to ask.

    Teresa & L.J.

    • Val

      I love the way social issues are written about without being preachy. Fiction is the perfect vehicle for delivering truth. And I agree that satisfying endings give us a boost in an otherwise rarely ‘fair’ world. Particularly in our justice system. Looking forward to Book 2 in the series.


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BILL RAPP – Cold War, Berlin Wall, Espionage

The title of my latest book is Berlin Walls, the fourth book in the Cold War Thriller series from Coffeetown Press. In Berlin Walls, CIA officer Karl Baier returns to Berlin to exfiltrate a KGB defector just as the Wall is going up. The world of Cold War espionage is about to change forever. As if that wasn’t difficult enough, Baier’s German-born wife asks him to help get her family out of East Germany at the same time.

Karl Baier is the protagonist in each of the Cold War spy stories in this series, which begins in the months immediately after the end of World War II in the ruins of Berlin. His adventures then take him to Vienna on the eve of the signing of the State Treaty ending the occupation of Austria in 1955 (The Hapsburg Variation) and Budapest during the Hungarian revolt and Soviet invasion in 1956 (The Budapest Escape).

I was initially attracted to mysteries as a graduate student working on my Ph.D. in European History. When I needed a break from all those history books, I took to reading mysteries and fell in love with the novels of Raymond Chandler and Ross MacDonald. Throughout my 35 years working for the CIA, I harbored the dream of writing my own stories and finally broke through with one set against the fall of the Berlin Wall, which I experienced during my assignment in the city between 1989 and 1991. I followed that with a three-book private detective series set outside Chicago, where I grew up. Later, my memories of the many times I had visited and lived in Berlin and Europe brought me to the first spy thriller, Tears of Innocence, and the Cold War series that followed. I draw on my years of experience as an analyst, diplomat, and senior executive at the Agency and my background in European—and especially German—history for these novels, a writing experience that allows me to blend two of my greatest passions: history and intelligence.

I am definitely a pantser. I usually start with little more than a general idea and an opening scene, and then I find that my characters tend to take over the story. I have to confess that I find working on an outline a bit daunting and, frankly, too much work. I really have only a vague idea of where the storyline will go eventually. But I also find that to be a much more enjoyable creative process. And things rarely unfold as I had initially thought they would.

I would not say that the characters disappoint, but they often do not act as I thought they would—or should. Raymond Chandler never had his great hero, Philip Marlowe, become romantically involved with anyone he met while working on a case because he feared it would compromise his integrity, something that made Marlowe good enough for anyone’s world and the best man for his own (to paraphrase the master). And yet, in the third book of my P.I. series, the protagonist, Bill Habermann, does just that and ends up with the woman at the end of the book. I had to sit back and ask myself how the hell that happened. In the current Cold War manuscript I’m working on, Karl Baier has an affair with a Turkish woman. However, in the real world, an intelligence officer wants to avoid putting himself in such a vulnerable and compromising situation. And Baier is happily married! But in the real world, people do not always act rationally and responsibly. No one is perfect. But it is also the author’s obligation to ensure that there are consequences when something like this happens.

The best book I have ever read? That is perhaps the toughest question on this list. And I am going to cheat by breaking that down into separate time frames. It’s how I respond to the question of the great American novel because each book reflects a different stage of our country and its culture and how those have evolved. I begin with Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, then move onto Henry James’s The American and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. From there, I select Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep and Saul Bellow’s The Adventures of Augie March. Granted, there are no spy novels on this list. Still, I can always say that I find the novels of Charles McCarry, especially The Last Supper and Secret Lovers, as the finest in that genre.

My advice to anyone starting out in this field, or thinking of becoming a writer, is to read and then read some more and more again. I find that critically important in developing your own voice because you will find writers who speak to you more so than others, often because of how they have come to learn their craft and how to express themselves. You have to be careful not to become too imitative (my initial attempts at writing detective fiction read like the work of a Raymond Chandler-wannabe). Still, it will really help in finding your own voice, one that you are happy to put on the page and tell your story.



  1. Bill Rapp

    Thanks, Joseph. See you in July. We should have even more to talk about.

  2. Bill Rapp

    Robert, I hope these books in the series mean something special to you.

  3. Bill Rapp

    Thanks, John. I enjoyed meeting and talking with you in Las Vegas. I’ve got M.P. on my reading table and will finish it before the next PSWA conference. See you there.

  4. Joseph Bryce HAGGERTY Sr

    Bill we met at the PSWA conference. I knew from our first conversation that you had some interesting experiences and I envied your travels as well as your time with the agency. I definitely will be buying some of your books and look forward to seeing you at the next conference.

  5. Thonie Hevron

    I just finished Bill’s first novel, Tears of Innocence and loved it. I’m looking forward to Karl’s adventures in the second book. A fun interview, Bill and George. Thank you!

    • Bill Rapp

      Thanks so much, Thonie, for your kind words. I’m really glad you enjoyed Tears of Innocence. I just hope you find the others in the series as interesting and worthwhile.

      It was great meeting you in July, and I hope to see you at next year’s PSWA conference.

  6. John Schembra

    Good to meet you, BIll. Sounds like you led a very interesting life. Good luck with your newest book. I definitely will be checing out your stories!

  7. Michael A. Black

    Bill Rapp is the real deal. His writing has a sophisticated edge to it and I strongly recommend his work. His advice to prospective writers to read, read, read, is right, right, right. Good luck with your new one, Bill.

    • Bill Rapp

      Thanks, Mike. I’m about to pick up the The Heist and really looking forward to it.

  8. Madeline Gornell

    Great to meet you, Bill, and very much agree–read, read, read, then find your own voice. Continued success! (I was also born and bred in Chicago! Though haven’t been back there for many many years. Different times way back then in the dark ages(smile)).

    • Bill Rapp

      Great to hear from a like-minded colleague–and Chicagoland native! I’ve been fortunate to return to my old haunts in Naperville and the Fox River Valley at least once a year for decades now (except when I’ve been overseas, of course). You should get back there. it’s changed, but then so much remains the same. I get inspired every time I return.

  9. Robert Coburn

    I was an United States Army occupation soldier with the 6th Infantry Regiment in Berlin from March 1955 to August 1957. This time included the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.


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