Home > Writing > Authors Show Interview Transcript

Authors Show Interview Transcript

My interview on The Authors Show was podcast on October 21st. The interview has not been available since then. Until I can get it back up, here is the text of that interview.

Q. Tell us about this book

A. Daughter Cell is a medical thriller about cloning and the moral and ethical problems of playing God. It’s about two lifelong friends who come down on opposite sides of how to use a very powerful and dangerous technology, and how this conflict tears their friendship apart. It is about too much power driven by too much passion.

Q. Who did you write this book for?

A. I wrote this book for mainstream thriller lovers who want a medical ethics suspense story that also explores how moral crisis touches on what people believe in. The tag line on the cover is, “How far can you genetically alter someone before she becomes someone else? Before she loses her soul?”

Q. Is there a central message in the book?

A. Yes, that even in the face of crushing loss, forgiveness is still a worthwhile and better long term option. I put my protagonist, Randolph Macklin, through a hellish ride in this book. He loses just about everything and he comes dangerously close to suicide. He has the recurring detective of the series, his psychiatrist Sanantha Mauwad there to help him hang on. But the true strength of his character is, he not only hangs on, but comes to rise above and still find forgiveness in his heart. The first book in the series, The Chosen, is about revenge and redemption. Daughter Cell is about loss and forgiveness.

Q. If you could compare this book with any book out there we might already be familiar with, which book would it be and why?

A. Coma by Robin Cook. In both books, the crime that has been committed is not the mystery. The reader figures out who the bad guys are pretty quickly. The suspense comes from unraveling the mystery to find the conspiracy and lies go much deeper and the nature of the crime is much more evil than the reader expects. Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, there comes another “Holy smokes!” moment when you realize things are much worse than you thought. Robin Cook had a lot of fun with that in Coma and I had a ball with the same concept in Daughter Cell.

Q. Jay, can you tell us about the series, and which book are you releasing next?

A. These books are the adventures of a black woman psychiatrist named Sanantha Mauwad. She is from Haiti and she practices the religion of Voodoo. In addition to being a psychiatrist she is also an expert on religions and she tends to look at the spiritual side of things in addition to the medical. These stories are about her patients, and how they come to her with weird stories and odd symptoms, but their problems turn out to be encounters with actual demons and magic.
The first book is The Chosen. It is a supernatural thriller set in modern times but based on events that happened back in the Bible. There is a madman magician who is out for revenge, and the only person who can stop him is an ex-hitman who desperately needs to redeem himself, but who has in fact given up on personal redemption. So this book is about the price you have to pay for revenge, and whether we can be redeemed even if we have given up on ourselves.

The second book, of course, is Daughter Cell, which as we discussed, is a medical thriller about loss and forgiveness.

The third and last book in the series is called Isis Rising. The demon henchman Joseph from The Chosen is back and he meets up with the survivor of the cloning catastrophe in Daughter Cell. This story is about truth and justice. A lot of what drives the first two stories is deceit and evil, and there is a lot of injustice along the way. All that gets wrapped up and set right in the third book. I am writing Isis Rising now, and hope to have it done in 2014.

Q.. It sounds like the first two books can be read individually?

A. Yes, the first two can be read separately. At first glance the first and second books seem to be standalone stories, both starring my detective psychiatrist Sanantha Mauwad. But in the third book you find out there is a larger story arc that ties all the books together. The Chosen takes place in 2001, Daughter Cell takes place in 2005, and Isis Rising takes place in 2009. The first book sets the stage, the second book is essentially the origin story of the heroine of the series, and the third book is where she comes into her destiny. So you do have to read the first two before you read the third, for the characters and background to make sense.

Q. So these stories are set in our real world?

A. Oh, absolutely. They are secret histories. These are things that happened outside of the public’s knowledge. We live in a world full of mysterious and unexplainable forces. I reveal connections between these dark corners to show how dangerous and scary our world really is. In The Chosen I show how Haitian Voodoo is the modern remnant inheritor of the religion of the ancient Egyptians. In Daughter Cell I show how the chi force in Chinese traditional medicine is actually the soul of Western philosophy. Fugu puffer fish are used to make zombies in Haiti yet are eaten as an aphrodisiac in the Orient. I ask might Pharaoh Ramses II of the biblical Exodus have been goaded into a disastrous outcome by a demon spy? And how far can you manipulate someone’s genetic structure before you turn them into someone else, or before you lose their soul?

Q. Do you do a lot of research putting these stories together?

A. Yes, I do. I have to get the details right. I am firm believer that you can only effectively write what you know. I am very Lee Strasberg Method Acting that way. To be believable, it has to come from genuine experience. So I have to go out and learn all these details so I can write about them. I have so much fun uncovering all these dark connections that I share my research online with my readers. I built a website for The Chosen that is this playful, interactive Tarot Card spread. You flip the cards over and open up all these essays about the research I did for the book.

Q. These books are fast paced, action packed thrillers. I’ve seen reviews that said The Chosen is a roller coaster thrill ride. It won Best Thriller in an open e-book competition the summer it came out. Yet you’re talking about spirituality and magic and souls. How does that work?

A. That’s what sets these books apart. You get hooked on the thrill ride but along the way you come to really care about these people who have their faith shaken by these shocking events. These stories leave you with a lot to think about. I make my readers ask themselves tough questions about how they would handle the moral dilemmas I put my characters through. Sure, it’s fast food, but it leaves you feeling really fulfilled and satisfied.

Q. You talk about dark connections, and these books have plenty of scares. Are they horror?

A. They are not so much horror as thrillers. I build a lot of suspense. I use recurring themes like nightmares and poison and abandonment to build atmosphere. The characters are almost always in danger. Thrillers are the literature of danger. Horror is designed to take you out of your comfort zone and scare you. I have horrific things happen to people. There is an abduction psychosurgery in The Chosen. Someone has his chi gong meridian system booby trapped to kill him in Daughter Cell. There are gun fights and plane crashes and venomous snakes. But as scared as I might get you, my intent is to put my characters in danger, learn who they are by seeing how they save themselves, and get on with solving the mystery or conflict.

Q. Did you self-publish these books?

A. No, these are published by a traditional small press called Damnation Books in Petaluma, California. Hard copies are available in bookstores. Barnes and Noble carries them as a stock item.

Q. Do you have a specific writing style?

A. I tease my readers with tidbits of strangeness and lure them in as the mystery unfolds. In short order I have them caught up in a whirlwind of suspense, action, and emotions. My objective is to give them a white-knuckle thrill ride and still explore the moral and emotional consequences.

Q. Who influenced your writing the most?

A. I admire the creepiness that Peter Straub commands, but I must say for sheer imagination driving a thriller, I tip my hat to Michael Crichton. I love how he folded ingenuity and science fiction into his suspense stories. I was very touched recently when a book reviewer compared my writing favorably to Michael Crichton. It was definitely a high point.

Q. Are your characters pure fiction, or did you draw from people you know?

A. They are fiction, but I draw from my own experiences. As I said, I am a practitioner of Method Acting. I have felt despair and loss. I have been furious with revenge lust. I have been utterly confused by events spinning out of my control. I have had moments of religious ecstasy. I let these memories flow into my characters and become part of who they are.

Q. Are you more of a character artist or a plot-driven writer?

A. I would like to think I balance the two. I outline extensively and plan my books to a fairly fine detail ahead of the actual writing. But I also take time to develop the characters and really get to know them. They are my partners in telling their stories. They help me write their dialogue and decide their reactions to the plot. I am a firm believer that you can’t write what you don’t know, so I take the time to not only do the research for the plot, but to really get to know my characters.

Q. Other than selling your book, what do you hope to accomplish with it?

A. I want to build a readership of folks who love exciting fiction. I have many more books underway, not the least of which is the concluding volume of the series, Isis Rising.

Q. Who should buy this book?

A. Fans of medical thrillers who also want to explore the spiritual and moral side of technology run amok. These characters and their actions are shaped by what they believe in, and that is an excellent introduction to the first and third books, which are more supernatural thrillers.

Q. Where can people buy your book?

A. The Chosen and Daughter Cell are published by Damnation Books. The books are both available from Amazon or Barnes and Noble online, as well as other online books stores. You can buy the books as either downloads for your reading device or as paperback books. The paperbacks are also available from your local bookstore. You may have to ask them to order a book, since my distribution is limited. Barnes and Noble carries The Chosen as a warehoused item. My publisher also sometimes does giveaways. And I also do giveaways on Goodreads. My books are not hard to find.

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