6Ws, Author Interview

6Ws with Author PJ McIlvaine

PJ McIlvaine is this week’s author featured in my 6Ws series. She and I share a keen interest in the Titanic, a storied shipwreck that happened for real. But her character, Violet Yorke, a feisty survivor of that tragedy, has a lot more she’s dealing with like her ability to see ghosts and the demands of her rich family. I will let PJ take over and tell you about her writing, including Violet Yorke, Gilded Girl: Ghosts in the Closet.

Who is author PJ McIlvaine?

I’m a prolific Jill of all Trades in several genres: picture books, middle-grade, young adult, and adult. About the only genre I haven’t tried is porn, but there’s still time.

What is your latest book?

My latest book is Violet Yorke, Gilded Girl: Ghosts in the Closet (darkstroke books, 2022), a middle-grade supernatural historical mash-up about a poor little rich girl who sees ghosts and gets into all kinds of mischief and mayhem in 1912 Manhattan. It’s a high-spirited mystery adventure for all ages. 

When did you begin writing?

Since I was extremely young. The first thing I wrote was a neighborhood newsletter with my brother. I’d do the articles and he’d draw the cartoons. Later, I wrote poems, short stories, song lyrics, essays, books, etc. Maybe it’s in my genes as I was always told I’m distantly related on my maternal grandmother’s side to the French writer/feminist/philosopher Simone de Beauvoir. 

How do you write?

Well, with two hands…lol, I write by instinct and the seat of my pants. I don’t outline. I have it all in my head. I write every day, even if it’s only a sentence. Writing is like everything else, the more you do it, the better you get at it. 

Where do you write?

Mentally, I’m always writing. Physically, I write in my office (when my hubby isn’t occupying it) and at the dining room table. 

Why do you write?

Keeps me out of the wine bottle. No, I write because I have to. It’s like breathing to me, as much a part of me as my arms and legs. And at this stage of my life, I’m too old to join the circus. 

More about PJ McIlvaine: parting words; links to your books; social media

Writing is 75% waiting. This is not a quick-get-rich scheme. You need the patience of Job and the hide of a rhino. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. 

PJ lives on Eastern Long Island with her family and furbaby Luna.

PJ’s social media links:

PJ’s website: https://pjmacwriter.com

Twitter: @pjmcilvaine

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pj.mcilvaine

Instagram: @pjmcilvaine 

6Ws, Darkstroke Books

6Ws with Author GJ Scobie

Today’s featured author for my 6Ws series is GJ Scobie, author of The Kill Chain. GJ uses his expertise working in cyber security to create this cybercrime thriller, published by darkstroke books. A busy author, remarkably he has just completed his 13th novel and is onto the next. Here, I will let GJ take over this post.

Who is author GJ Scobie?

I work in cyber security and I’m a Certified Information Systems Security Professional. I have trained in Ethical Hacking and have a particular interest in how technology impacts on our everyday lives. As a public speaker, I regularly present at industry and government conferences and roundtables on various aspects of computer security including sessions on Ransomware, Mobile Security and Cyber in the Movies. I also participate in the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with my show, “My neighbour hacked my toothbrush” highlighting the dangers of internet connected devices in the home. In my writing, I deal with the dark side of technology and how it affects society reliant on computers. I live in Scotland and, when not writing, love to explore my native country, taking more photographs than I can ever hope to catalogue.

What is your latest book?

The Kill Chain, is a cybercrime thriller set in the present day, and was published by darkstroke in July 2022. It was inspired by news reports of black hat hackers, nation state sanctioned cybercrime and the debate over privacy in a connected world. The Kill Chain (the term given to the stages of a cyber-attack) is set in the present day, the story taking off from what should have been a private moment years before; a long game played by threat actors determined to take control for political and economic gain, while their victim struggles doing what they believe is right based on a code of ethics versus his need to keep his marriage, friendships and reputation intact. 

When did you begin writing?

I’ve always written but looking back it was around 2010 when I started to think about seriously finishing a novel and submitting it. Since then, I’ve drafted one novel a year. A number of these novels have never been queried. The last four I’ve written, including The Kill Chain, all received full manuscript requests, so the last couple of years I’ve had good feedback which has resulted in being published. The Kill Chain was my eleventh novel. I’ve just completed my thirteenth and I’m busy planning the next.

How do you write?

I’m an early riser and write for a couple of hours before work. I write most days, but don’t stress if I feel I need to take a day off to do something else. I’m one of those writers who believes writing is not just about putting words on a page, but all the other activities necessary to write those words in the first place. If that involves reading, thinking, going out to visit locations, speaking and listening to people, always looking for inspiration from the world around me, catching snippets of conversation as people pass by, this is all part of the process for me. I imagine I have this ‘writer’s filter’ through which everything going on around me passes through, and what is collected is all material for new books.

The only tool I use is Microsoft Word, typically one document with the draft, another with the initial plan and notes. I also scribble a lot using pen and paper as ideas come to me during the day. I did use my mobile for taking notes, but that meant having to transfer those notes and I just find it quicker and easier to use pen and paper and then type what’s written down if it’s needed. I’m a technology geek, but I like to keep my process as simple as possible.

Where do you write?

Up until the pandemic I wrote on the train. My commute to work was almost an hour each way and with the travel time to the station and waiting on platforms, it was the best part of three hours on top of working full-time. I had no choice, but to learn to shut the world out and write surrounded by strangers. It used to be time I filled with reading, but once I started writing seriously, it was part of my day I could use to complete my novels. Cafes and station platforms when trains were delayed and the journey itself, became protected time to write. I rarely wrote at home as I always took the weekend off, satisfied with the progress I had made during the week.

When the pandemic started, I moved to working from home and now only travel one day a week. Having to learn to write in silence in a room with a desk was strange and it did take some adjustment. My writing initially slowed as I’m surrounded by books and music and guitars to distract me, and I would say during the first six months of that period, I found it difficult. However, I adjusted and now I still rise early, but instead of commuting I have my own study and desk and a door I can close.

When I was commuting, I did listen to music, but only during the return journey in the evening. I don’t know why, but I didn’t put headphones on in the morning. I recall the morning session was more writing and the return journey, editing what I had written. Today, I rarely write or edit when music is playing. I have a great sound system, with speakers on either side of my desk, but I find I end up spending more time listening than writing. 

Why do you write?

I think it’s a way of coping and making sense of the world as I see it. My job is stressful, and I find when I write I am not worrying about anything else other than the characters and the world they inhabit. I was brought up with books and my family were always reading. My father had a boxroom that was lined with shelves and stacked to the ceiling with books. As a young child I used to go in and sit on the floor and browse whatever I could reach. From an early age I wanted to write my own book and place it on a shelf beside the others. 

More about GJ Scobie: parting words and links.

I self-published a future cyber thriller in February 2022, The Copernicus Coercion, the first in a series featuring body hackers, the manipulation of computer networks via internet-connected implants and rogue Artificial Intelligence. I’m currently working on a sequel to The Kill Chain, called The Kill Switch and finalising a science fiction fantasy series called The Clockmaker Conspiracy. This features a parallel world run on steam, accessible via a quantum portal, and is on a collision course with our own. 

I blog at https://gjscobie.com and can be found on Twitter and Instagram @gjscobie

The Kill Chain is available here: https://mybook.to/killchainh

The Copernicus Coercion is available here: https://amzn.to/3Emv0VZ

6Ws, Author Interview

6Ws with Author Stacey L. Pierson

This week’s featured author for my 6Ws series is Stacey L. Pierson, whose genre is horror. (With a nod to my years as a journalist, I opted for the 6Ws of the business: who, what, when, where, why and how, which counts as it ends in W.) Stacey, a fellow darkstroke books author, says she loves to scare readers and take them on a “wild ride.” Her debut novel, Vale was published in July. Here, I will let her take over this post.

Who is Stacey L. Pierson?

Stacey L. Pierson is a Young Adult and Horror Writer, living in Louisiana. She collects horror memorabilia, which sits right next to her as she writes. From reading to watching, there’s nothing like a good scare or mystery to keep her on the edge of her seat. And spice, she loves spicy anything. She loves taking Louisiana traditions and incorporating them into breathtaking new worlds full of mystery, conflict, and the taste of revenge, taking readers on a dangerous ride alongside my characters and leaving them walking the line between reality and the unknown.

What is your latest book?

Her latest and debut Young Adult novel, Vale, is a bayou murder mystery centering around a missing girl and someone walking the dark tree lines of the bayou sending letters to the girl’s closest friends. As they rush to hide their secrets, they keep them buried as they sink further into the bayou.

When did you begin writing?

At age nine and traveling the states as a military brat, Stacey used her imagination and escaped into the worlds where anything was and still is possible. She started writing poems and won the Editor’s Choice Award along with being published for, ‘When I was Ten’ and then published for the second time for ‘My Little Dragonfly’ in Collected Whispers, The International Library of Poetry in 2008. Also, she writes horror and dark comedy screenplays. The more sarcastic the better, Stacey says.

How do you write?

During the day she takes tons of notes from post-its to filling notebooks, which she has in every room, acts out possible scenes in chapters, and then “I come alive at night,” Stacey tells people. Panster? Plotter? She can be either. It depends on the type of story she wants or is writing. Vale is a plotted-out YA series, while a few of her horror stories she is writing are ‘open the laptop and see where the character wants to say kind of day.’

Where do you write?

She has a small desk in her bedroom with a coffin sitting on it. As Stacey says, it’s the perfect spot next to her horror collection. If there is a time she is stumped or blocked on anything, she looks over, smiles, and knows that each one of the writers could have had the same thing before writing the amazing characters that she loves. Many writers have been an inspiration to her from the beginning as a child to now. And they are on her horror shelf as well.

Why do you write?

“Writing has always been an escape, but more than anything I love to scare and take readers – or anyone who reads my words on a wild ride. Secretly, I hope readers have racing hearts, chilly spines, feel uncomfortable and become so sucked into my stories, they are the characters. 

“It’s all about the vibe. Sometimes you have to get out of your own head and let your characters take you on their journey. They know what they want to say, so let them. There are times I’m shocked at what is happening. But it’s the best of being a writer. You can be all these different personalities and get away with it.”

More on Stacey L. Pierson

VALE is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble


Twitter: @SuperStacey318 

Instagram: @superstacey318

6Ws, Author Series

6Ws with Author Helen Matthews

After a reprieve, I am relaunching my 6Ws series to give some well-deserved attention to my fellow authors. With a nod to my former years as a journalist, I opted for the 6Ws of the business: who, what, when, where, why and how, which counts as it ends in W. And Helen Matthews, whose book Girl Out of Sight has an Oct. 4 release, is the first. Helen is a fellow darkstroke books author. You might have read her novel, The Girl in the Van, which was released earlier this year. I did and I highly recommend it. Anyway I will let Helen take over.

Who is author Helen Matthews?

Thanks for inviting me, Joan. I’m a British author, originally from Wales but I now live with my husband in a village in Hampshire, about an hour away from London. My son is a journalist and my daughter’s a police officer – handy when I need some detection and crime scene details checked. 

My novels sit within the crime genre but are page-turning psychological suspense and domestic thrillers rather than police procedurals. Although people die or face life-threatening danger in my books, investigating a crime isn’t the main plot driver. The books are more whydunnit than whodunnit. I’m fascinated by the darker side of human nature, flawed characters, unreliable narrators and how a life can change in an instant.

What is your latest book?

My latest book Girl Out of Sight is being published Oct. 4 by darkstroke books. It’s a suspense thriller with a theme of human trafficking and tells the story of seventeen-year-old Odeta, who leaves her remote village in Albania with a man she believes is her boyfriend. She thinks she’s going to begin an exciting new life and career in London, never imagining that her dream is about to descend into a nightmare. Odeta’s life isn’t especially grim but it’s colourless and lacks opportunity. Since leaving school, she’s been working in her father’s shop and thinks nothing interesting will ever happen to her again. Girl Out of Sight is a human-scale story not a vast-canvas international organised crime thriller. I wanted readers to relate to Odeta and walk in her footsteps, sharing her hopes and dreams as she travels to the UK and discovers what awaits her behind the doors of an ordinary London street.

Odeta is the central character but there’s a second storyline about Kate, a London journalist, whose  seemingly perfect life is filled with anxiety for her son, Ben. He’s obsessed with online gaming but struggles to make friends. Kate, who comes from a village in Wales, wants her son to experience the simpler childhood she enjoyed. In desperation, she disconnects her family from the internet and tries to build a community on her London street. But danger lurks behind closed doors. Perhaps her neighbours are not the friendly community they seem …

This book was first published five years ago by another press, under the title After Leaving the Village, and won first prize in the opening pages of a novel category at Winchester Festival. Because I’m passionate about raising awareness of the hideous crimes of human trafficking and modern slavery, I’m delighted darkstroke is publishing this new edition to bring the book to more readers.  

When did you begin writing?

I might seem like a late starter but I think of myself as someone who has served a long apprenticeship to get my novels published. From early childhood, throughout my teenage years and into adulthood I was always writing. I won a few competitions and had pieces published in teen magazines. A first degree in English was a setback due to years spent reading great literature but the urge to write didn’t go away. After long days in a busy corporate career, I wrote late at night after my children were in bed with a glass of wine by my side. My job conditioned me to business-speak, empty of emotion and I found it harder to write fiction. I didn’t give up. I switched to non-fiction and had some success with articles accepted by family and lifestyle magazines, a couple in national newspapers and even on BBC Radio.

Finally when my children were almost grown up I quit my job with no redundancy package, too young for my pension and went to Oxford Brookes University to do an MA in Creative Writing. I was lucky to get freelance consultancy work for several years alongside developing my writing.

How do you write?

Probably due to my corporate background, I’m instinctively a planner. I’d say I’m 70 percent planner: 20 percent free flowing ‘pantser’ and the remainder is just generally confused. I don’t always stick to my plans. Once my characters take on a life of their own, the book can go in an unexpected direction.

I keep a notebook with me and jot down ideas as they occur. Sometimes, if I’m out walking the dog I’ll record thoughts on my phone. When I have an idea for a new novel I do some mind mapping, assemble my notes and start initial research. Then I’ll do character sketches and a rough plan before  starting writing to see if the idea has legs and will sustain 90,000 words. Not all stories can. I don’t use any tools like Scrivener just Word on my laptop and lots of notebooks and post-it notes. 

Where do you write?

I’ve tried writing in cafes and on the move but I’m distracted by noise and other people’s conversations so I write better at home where I can close the door. I tend to move around rooms so I might write in the kitchen for a while or move upstairs to my daughter’s old bedroom. In summer, I  write outside in the garden if I can keep the glare of sunlight off my screen.

My ideal working environment is alone in my house so I can go deep into the world of my characters and live with them while figuring out their lives, plot and conflict. Having an empty house is rare unless my husband goes to France without me. The minute the door closes behind him I whizz around and tidy up so I’m not distracted by dirty dishes or piles of ironing. Then it’s head down and on with the writing all day and late into the night.

Why do you write?

No one holds a gun to our heads and forces us to write but, for me, the writing habit is impossible to kick. It’s even harder than ignoring the bottle of wine in my fridge that will be empty before bedtime. On a bad day, the urge to write feels like a disease: a virus that inhabits my body and steals my soul.  When writing is going badly, feelings of rejection can be crippling. It’s tempting to despair, press delete or stick an unfinished novel in a drawer. But do we give up? Of course not.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that writing can be both an addiction and a source of joy. The writing life, even when it’s not lucrative, is a total privilege. As well as the creative side of the work, I’ve met some amazing writers on my MA course, locally and in the online world  and built a new network of author friends.

 More about Helen: parting words

My previous novel The Girl in the Van came out with Darkstroke Books in March and made the Finalist list in the 2022 international Pageturner Book Awards. It also has a theme of modern slavery around the grooming of young people by gangs to deliver drugs out of cities into small towns and rural areas. In the UK, this is called ‘county lines’ exploitation, named after the mobile phone lines gangs use to control their young victims.

As well as novels I occasionally write short stories and flash fiction and these have been shortlisted and published by Flash 500, 1000K Story, Reflex Press, Artificium and Love Sunday magazine.

My rescue puppy, Homer, originally a street dog from Romania, arrived during lockdown and keeps me fit as he needs to walk at least three miles every day. I also cycle long distances with my girlfriends, sing in a choir and once appeared on stage at Carnegie Hall, New York in a multi-choir performance. In the year 2000, my husband and I impulse bought a tumbledown cowshed in France to renovate into a holiday home. It took years! We’re still tinkering with it now and spend several weeks there each year.

When I was researching the original version of Girl Out of Sight, I became a supporter of the charity Unseen UK which supports trafficking survivors and works towards a world without slavery. I’m now an Ambassador for the charity and donate my author talk fees, and a percentage of royalties, to them.

Link to Girl Out of Sight

You can download Girl Out of Sight at: Mybook.to/girloutofsight

Check out my other novels by clicking through to my Amazon page.

Helen Matthews on social media


Twitter: @HelenMK7



6Ws, Author Interview

6 Ws with Author Angela Wren

Angela Wren is the next Crooked Cat Books author to be featured in this 6Ws series. Her new book, Montbel, is the third in her Jacques Forêt Mystery Series, which is set in France .

Why does she write? She says she enjoys creating a world that doesn’t really exist.  “And then, being a crime writer, I get to choose who dies!”

Here are her responses to my 6Ws — who, what, when, where, how, and why. (How does end with a W.)

Who is author Angela Wren?

Having followed a career in Project and Business Change Management, I now work as an actor and director at a local theatre.  I’ve been writing creatively, in a serious way, since 2010. My work in project management has always involved drafting, so writing, in its various forms, has been a significant feature throughout my adult life.

What does she write?

Cosy crime novels, mostly.  But, my short stories vary between contemporary romance, memoir, mystery and historical.  I also write comic flash-fiction and have drafted two one-act plays that have been recorded for local radio.  The majority of my stories are set in France where I like to spend as much time as possible each year.

When does she write?

Whenever I have a moment.  I spend most of my week at the theatre but that leaves me Sunday to Tuesday to do everything else — including writing — to keep household running.

How does she write?

From keyboard straight onto the electronic page.  Working in a very pressured environment taught me to be very business oriented and efficient with my time.  I spend a lot of time thinking about what I want to write — usually when I’m doing really mundane tasks such as the ironing or cleaning the bathroom, or whatever.  This means that when I sit at my keyboard I know exactly what I want to say and my fingers just scramble across the keys to get the words down.

Where does she write?

The smallest bedroom in my house is my office and library.  I have loads of books all over the house but the largest number of them are in my office along with all my notes for stories etc.  My desk faces the window and I can look out on the garden when I pause for a moment.

Why does she write?

Because I love it. To me it’s great fun to be able to create a world that does not really exist and to people that world with interesting, and sometimes evil, characters.  And then, being a crime writer, I get to choose who dies!

More on Montbel:

A clear-cut case?

A re-examination of a closed police case brings investigator, Jacques Forêt, up against an old adversary. After the murder of a key witness, Jacques finds himself, and his team, being pursued.

When a vital piece of evidence throws a completely different light on Jacques’ case, his adversary becomes more aggressive, and Investigating Magistrate Pelletier threatens to sequester all of Jacque’s papers and shut down the investigation.

Can Jacques find all the answers before Pelletier steps in?

Available now to pre-order in e-format and print from Amazon and published by Crooked Cat Books

Her works:

Messandrierre (Jacques Forêt #1)

Merle (Jacques Forêt #2)

Montbel (Jacques Forêt #3)

Anthologies :

Miss Moonshine’s Emporium of Happy Endings

Original Writing from Ireland’s Own 2011

Angela Wren on social media:

Amazon : AngelaWren

Website : www.angelawren.co.uk

Blog : www.jamesetmoi.blogspot.com

Facebook : Angela Wren

Goodreads : Angela Wren

Contact an author: Angela Wren