Saturday, June 24, 2017

Take the Jungle Red Seatmate Quiz!

Hank over Chicago without Steven Spielberg
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Yeah well, traveling.  It can be wonderful, it really can. A fun window seat over a cool recognizable city like Chicago. Sitting by, say, Steven Spielberg. I mean, it could happen. It didn't, though. Yet. 
Oh, now, this isn’t what I was going to write, but hmm. Who would I love to sit by, more than anyone?  Not counting any of you, of course,  because that might really happen. But what if you got on the plane, sat in the widow seat, got organized and say (because this is a fun thing), you looked really great. And as you settle in,  you hear a little rustle. And you look up. And about to take the empty seat beside you is—WHO?
While you contemplate, say hi to our Jungle Red stalwart pal, the fab David Burnsworth! He travels. A lot.  And he can take the seatmate quiz, too. Right after he gets his luggage back.

DAVID BURNWORTH:  I travel for both my day job and my writing. And, as I’m sure with most of you who travel, I have some stories. Some of them good. Some of them not so good. I happen to be on a trip to South America as I write this, so the challenge of travel is fresh on my mind.
My first trip outside of North America, I was to meet a friend in Customs in the Brussels Airport. My departure was from Knoxville and he was flying standby from Atlanta. A problem for him, and soon for me, was this was the same time that the World Cup was being played. In France. And he was flying standby. See the problem here? So, my first time out of the country I had no idea what I was doing. As the first hour and then the second ticked by while sitting in the airport in another country waiting and he didn’t show up, I started to wonder that there might be something wrong. And there was. He was still in Atlanta. I had to figure out the phone system and make a few calls back to the states. Long story short, it was my first trial in travel and I had to figure it out on my own.
David's actual finicky toiletries
Fast forward twenty years to my current travel challenge. I thought I had everything covered: a four-hour layover in ATL before the long flight, a spare set of underwear in my carry on. Only, and this isn’t the first time I’ve experienced this, Atlanta shuts down all ground activity because of lighting and heavy rain. Apparently they value the ground crews’ lives. (Kudos to you, ATL!) So, my fifty-minute flight from GSP (Greenville Spartanburg) took four hours thanks to a few loops over Atlanta and a two-hour stopover in Chattanooga for more fuel. Lucky for me, I walked off that flight, stopped for a quick restroom break, and walked right on my flight to Chile.
The challenge this time was while I made it, my bag didn’t. Turns out I can buy most of my finicky toiletry choices (ed. note: see above) in Santiago which is great. But transferring clothing sizes from US English measurements to metric isn’t so easy. My waist didn’t really just add fourteen units of measurement? Was it that extra pastry on the flight?
I love to travel. But I find that it requires patience and a willingness to be flexible.
My best experience? There’s two: Five years ago, my wife and I got a free upgrade to a suite in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The downside? She likes suites now.
The second great experience? Stuttgart to Atlanta, I got a first class upgrade.
The latest book in my Brack Pelton series, Big City Heat, Brack travels from Charleston to Atlanta to help a friend find a missing woman. He also faces some challenges, some of them a little bit more involved than missing luggage.
Do you like to travel? If so, what are some of your stories?
HANK: Or hey, Reds and readers—tell me your answer to the seatmate quiz! Only one choice.  I’d pick—Stephen King!

David Burnsworth became fascinated with the Deep South at a young age. After a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Tennessee and fifteen years in the corporate world, he made the decision to write a novel. Big City Heat (April 2017, Henery Press) is the third title in his Brack Pelton series. In It For The Money (September 2017, Henery Press) continues the story of Private Eye Blu Carraway from the cross-over novella, Blu Heat (March 2017, Henery Press). Having lived in Charleston on Sullivan’s Island for five years, the setting was a foregone conclusion. He and his wife call South Carolina home.


Friday, June 23, 2017

The Amazing Tale of Karen Dionne

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  Okay, so say you’re a writer.  Say you’ve written for years, with moderate success. Say you fill your life with helping other writers—with organizing conferences and doing the complicated stuff and generally being wonderful and supportive and enthusiastic and hardworking.

And then just say, you have a great idea for a book. And you do it and do it and do it.  And then-wow. It sells to a publisher. A big publisher. And it really really sells. Sells so well you can finally—well…it’s not about the money.  

But you still worry—what if everyone hates it? Lee Child reads it. Says:   I loved this book.  Publishers Weekly gives it a star and says: Exceptional.

Good, huh? But wait, there’s more.

And then one Sunday morning, you open the New York Times.  And the review says: “Brilliant. …in its balance of emotional patience and chapter-by-chapter suspense, THE MARSH KING’S DAUGHTER is about as good as a thriller can be.”

That means you are Karen Dionne.

Wow. And Karen Dionne is about as good as a person can be! No one deserves these accolades and this success and this  much fun more than she does.

She’s crazy on book tour, but promises to stop in. 

Hey, Karen! Congratulations! So--your novel takes its title from a Hans Christian Anderson fable. That’s about a young woman named Helga, who was beautiful and terrible during the day and an ugly (but very sweet)  frog at night.  So--does that inform the novel?

KAREN: Yes—in “The Marsh King’s Daughter,” one of Anderson’s longer fairy tales, the main character is the daughter of a beautiful Egyptian princess and the evil Marsh King.  And right, by day, the girl is beautiful like her mother, but has her father’s wicked, wild temperament, while at night, she takes on her mother’s gentle nature in the guise of a hideous frog.

In the novel, Helena is also the product of an innocent and a monster, half good, half bad, and like the Marsh King’s daughter in the fairy tale, she struggles with her dual nature.
HANK: It’s crazy psychological suspense, and also a “back to nature” novel. What’s it about?

KAREN: THE MARSH KING’S DAUGHTER is the story of a woman whose father escapes from a maximum-security prison, and is coming her way through the swamps of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula wilderness. Only Helena has the skill-set to track him down, because she grew up in the marsh, living with her mother and father in total isolation until she was twelve. Even though she never saw another human during all that time, she loved her life—until she learned that her father kidnapped her mother when her mother was a teen, and that Helena is the product of that abduction.

Now a grown woman with children of her own, Helena must use the hunting and tracking skills her father taught her when she was a child to hunt him down before he can kidnap her and her two young daughters.

HANK: It’s such a scary idea, you know? Telling the story of the daughter born to a kidnapped woman and her captor.

KAREN: I’ve always been intrigued by people who rise above a less-than-perfect childhood, and certainly the situation of a child born to a kidnapped woman and her captor is extreme. That said, I didn’t consciously decide to tell the story of such a woman; instead, I woke up in the night with the first sentences of THE MARSH KING’S DAUGHTER fully formed in my head. I wasn’t dreaming about this character, she was just there, talking to me.

Middle-of-the-night ideas don’t always look quite as wonderful in the morning, but this one did. So I wrote a few paragraphs in her voice as if she were telling me who she was.

HANK: And?

KAREN: Before long, I was so captivated by this as-yet-unnamed character, I decided I needed find a story for her. I love books that offer a modern spin on a fairy tale, such as Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child, so I pulled my childhood fairy tale books off the shelf and started paging through them. When I discovered Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Marsh King’s Daughter,” I knew this dark, complex tale would form the perfect backbone for Helena’s story.

HANK: It’s so gritty, and realistic, and raw and  wild.   The novel’s set in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and that’s a place you know well.  Right?

KAREN: Yes! During the 1970s, my husband and I homesteaded in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with our infant daughter, living in a tent while we built our tiny cabin, carrying water from a nearby stream, and sampling wild foods, so I definitely bequeathed to Helena my love of wild places and my ease with nature.

My living situation wasn’t nearly as extreme as Helena’s, so some of the skills she possesses, I do not. Though I can recognize many wild plants and know which parts are safe to eat and how to cook them, I’ve never hunted, or fished, or trapped—our meat came from the grocery store. That said, I can bake a mean batch of biscuits in an iron skillet on top of a wood stove, and I know how to get a lot of mileage out of a single bucket of water. (Step one: use the fresh, clean, hot water to rinse your dishes. Step two: use the still-warm soapy rinse water to wash the floor. Step three: use the dirty mop water to water your houseplants, or the garden.)

My husband I lived in the Upper Peninsula for 30 years. We came back to the Detroit area when our children were nearly grown so they could have better job and education opportunities, and also to be closer to our aging parents.

 HANK: In your book, Helena has a complex relationship with her father.  Because  at first—she doesn’t know the real reality.  As a child, she’d never seen another person!

KAREN: Exactly. Helena’s father is a self-centered narcissist who doesn’t deserve her love, yet she gives it to him unconditionally. In turn he uses her natural interests to shape her into a miniature version of himself, so in that sense, she is as much his captive as her mother.

And yet she doesn’t feel captive, or deprived in any way; she loves her life in the marsh, hunting and fishing and foraging, and she loves her father, the same as any child. It’s not until she grows older and begins to develop her own moral compass that she questions what he does.

This is what makes her situation so heartbreaking: her father has taken advantage of the normal love a child has for a parent and twisted it to his own ends.

HANK: Were you influenced by other novels such as Room or A Stolen Life as you wrote? What other books or writers have influenced you?

KAREN: While I did read A Stolen Life for research, I deliberately avoided reading Room as I was writing because I wanted to keep my mind clear in order to stay true to Helena’s story.

As for books that influence me, I adore terrifically written novels that take me deep into a world I know nothing about: Paulette Jile’s News of the World, Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son, Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, Tea Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife, Yann Martel’s The Life of Pi, as well as older titles such as Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth and E.M. Forrester’s A Passage to India.

HANK: Wow.  SO happy for you!  (And oh, by the away, gang, rights have been sold in 21 countries, and the book has been optioned for film. La dee dah. Just another normal day. J 
And I know you are racing around—so stop by when you can.

 The very idea of living in the wild like that makes me run for an electrical outlet. How about you, Reds and Readers? Could you live in a tiny cabin in the woods?

And I’ll give an autographed copy of THE MARSH KING’S DAUGHTER to one lucky commenter!

Karen Dionne is the author of The Marsh King’s Daughter, a dark psychological suspense out June 13, 2017 from G.P. Putnam’s Sons. She is the cofounder of the online writers community Backspace, the organizer of the Salt Cay Writers Retreat, and a member of the International Thriller Writers, where she served on the board of directors. She has been honored by the Michigan Humanities Council as a Humanities Scholar, and lives with her husband in Detroit’s northern suburbs.