Tom Robinson

In this feature exclusive to BookPage.com, authors are asked a question about the craft of writing to give readers an insight into how their favorite writers think and work. For this author forum, BookPage brought together Sandra Brown, Carla Buckley and Michael Palmer to ask: What's on your summer reading list?

SANDRA BROWN
I've been saving a couple of books for the season. I loved Chris Bohjalian's Skeletons at the Feast, so I bought Secrets of Eden. [see our reviews of Bohjalian's books] It's been in my stack of to-be-read books for several weeks. I'm savoring the anticipation. He writes lyrically and tells a captivating story. That's tough to do. Sometimes you get one of those qualities at the sacrifice of the other.  Bohjalian, however, tells an action-packed and emotionally-gripping story in language that often reads like poetry.

I also look forward to reading John Sanford's newest Lucas Davenport novel, Storm Prey. I've read them all, but you could hardly call Lucas an old standby!  He's as far from familiar and comfy as the far side of the moon.  He always surprises. I fluctuate between wanting to smack him with my fist, or with my lips! I never tire of this fascinating character or of the intricate plots that Sanford—with excellent storytelling ability—plunges him into.

Internationally best-selling author Sandra Brown will publish Smash Cut on July 20 and Tough Customer on August 10. Read an excerpt here.

CARLA BUCKLEY
This summer, I’ll be digging into research as I begin my next novel. As a non-scientist writing about scientific threats, this will involve a lot of nonfiction reading. In between, however, there will be a number of long road trips and for those, I’ll be taking along Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. I’ve heard fantastic things about all three, and I’m eager to see for myself how Larsson managed to keep the tension going strong throughout the trilogy [our reviews of Larsson's books].  I’m also planning to read Anna Quindlen’s Every Last One, which several readers have recommended to me [see our review], and Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay which I hear is exceptional.

Carla Buckley's debut novel, The Things That Keep Us Here, is now available from Delacorte.

MICHAEL PALMER
When my first book, The Sisterhood, came out, a number of well-knowns gave it blurbs. I vowed then that if whatever I had to say ever mattered, I would never say no to a new writer if I could help it. Little did I know. I now get anywhere from three to 10 ARCs or manuscripts a month. I am a slow reader under the best of circumstances, and with a book-a-year contract, the need to exercise, and a part-time medical career, I am always scrambling for time to read non-blurb books, and inevitably falling asleep at night with one of them open on my chest. I try to have one pleasure read going at all times, and especially when I go on any kind of vacation. Right now, The Help [read our interview] is on the bedside table because I want to experience what has moved so many others. I also have a Lee Child (he's my favorite) ready and waiting, along with the Stieg Larsson trilogy. If I get five blurb books plus those titles read by the end of the summer, I will be one happy and fulfilled dude.

Michael Palmer has been publishing suspenseful medical thrillers since 1982. His latest bestseller is The Last Surgeon (St. Martin's).

Tom Robinson is an author publicist and media consultant working with authors across the country. Visit his website.

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In this feature exclusive to BookPage.com, authors are asked a question about the craft of writing to give readers an insight into how their favorite writers think and work. For this author forum, BookPage brought together Sandra Brown, Carla Buckley and Michael Palmer to ask: What's on your summer reading list? SANDRA BROWNI've been saving a […]

In this feature exclusive to BookPage.com, each month, four authors are asked a question about the craft of writing to give readers an insight into how their favorite writers think and work. For February's author forum, BookPage brought together Ken Bruen, John Hart, Lisa Patton and Hank Phillippi Ryan to ask: What literary character do you find most memorable, and why?

KEN BRUEN
Tom Piccirilli’s The Fever Kill has my favourite character in mystery today. Crease has been beaten, jailed and thrown out of the wonderful named town of Hangtree. His father was the sheriff, ending his career in disgrace.

Crease has gone undercover and been under the radar for so long, he’s not sure if he’s a cop or mobbed up guy. This leads to some amazing pieces of writing as he struggles with the conflict. And Crease doesn’t have to go looking for trouble. He’s no sooner back in town than he impregnates his wild psychos boss’s girlfriend.

Crease is a continually fascinating character, his search for the killer of a little girl, who might well be his own father, his having to stay one step ahead of the insane boss and just about every inhabitant of the town who seem to want him dead. I’ve never quite read a character who literally burns with the fever that Crease does.

Piccirilli has a wicked sense of humour and the absurd and Crease reflects it at every turn. That the novel is beautifully written makes you yearn for more of Crease.

Ken Bruen’s hard-boiled crime fiction has made him well known among mystery novelists and a favorite of our Whodunit columnist Bruce Tierney, who has reviewed many of Bruen’s books. Find out more on his website.

JOHN HART
I can't possibly answer that question as it regards all books I've ever read, but in recent novels, I'm going to go with Ignatius Perrish, the protagonist in Joe Hill's new novel, Horns. Ignatius, "Ig" as he is known, wakes one day to find that he can't remember what happened the night before, only that whatever it was, it was bad. To complicate matters, he seems to have sprouted horns while he slept, horns and the ability to hear people's deepest, darkest secrets. I love conflicted characters, and how Ig chooses to use his new power makes him one of the most intriguing people I've ever met. Will he run from his new reality or embrace it? What happened the night before, and just what has he become? Trust me, the devil is in the details.

Since his debut in 2006, John Hart has become known for his compelling legal thrillers. Find out more on his website  or read BookPage reviews of Hart’s work. Don't miss our Meet the Author feature with Joe Hill, coming in March.

LISA PATTON
I’m not sure that’s she’s the most intriguing but Lily Owens, the protagonist from The Secret Life of Bees, certainly comes close. She’s feisty. She’s strong-willed and above all determined. With a dauntlessness remarkable for a 14-year-old, Lily resolves to escape her abusive father. Tracking down any link at all about her deceased mother is Lily’s motivation to leave her hostile home life behind. Lily gains strength by watching Rosaleen, her black nanny, confront a group of racist white men. After landing in jail, Rosaleen escapes with the help of young Lily! I loved Lily from the first chapter when we learn that she can’t bring herself to call her opprobrious father “daddy” and instead calls him by his first name, T. Ray.  With sheer determination to take care of herself, and at such a young age, Lily Owens has my fondest admiration.

Lisa Patton’s debut, Whistlin’ Dixie in a Nor’easter, hit shelves in September. Read the BookPage review here. For more information, see her website.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN
Most intriguing character? Well. I’ll confess. In college, while other girls were mooning over rock stars, I was in love with Henry V. I met him in Shakespeare’s Henry IV pt 1, and followed him, swooning, through his own play. Thinking back on that—turns out he had all of  the characteristics of the classic compelling hero: Flawed at the beginning, dashing and impetuous. But brilliant, and clearly destined for gory. Romantic? Sensitive? Oh yes, remember the scene where he first meets Katherine of Aragon—the King of England is almost shy. And when the time came for him to prove his mettle in the glorious battle to save his nation—outnumbered five to one!–who doesn’t still well up at bit at the depth and soul and of his St. Crispin’s Day speech?

Thriller writer and award-winning investigative reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan is on the air at Boston's NBC affiliate. Along with her 26 EMMYs, she has won dozens of other journalism honors. She's been a radio reporter, a legislative aide in the United States Senate and an editorial assistant at Rolling Stone Magazine working with Hunter S. Thompson. Visit her website.

Tom Robinson is an author publicist and media consultant working with authors across the country. Visit his website.

RELATED CONTENT
June 2009 Author Forum

July 2009 Author Forum

August 2009 Author Forum

September 2009 Author Forum

October 2009 Author Forum

In this feature exclusive to BookPage.com, each month, four authors are asked a question about the craft of writing to give readers an insight into how their favorite writers think and work. For February's author forum, BookPage brought together Ken Bruen, John Hart, Lisa Patton and Hank Phillippi Ryan to ask: What literary character do you find […]

In this feature exclusive to BookPage.com, each month, four authors are asked a question about the craft of writing to give readers an insight into how their favorite writers think and work. For December's author forum, BookPage brought together Robert Gregory Browne, Holly Jacobs, River Jordan and Lisa Unger to ask: What book would you like to receive as a holiday gift?

ROBERT GREGORY BROWNE
The book I'd really like to receive as a holiday gift would have to be a signed, pristine copy of Somebody Owes Me Money by Donald Westlake. Anyone who reads crime fiction knows who Westlake is, but for those who don't, let's just say he was a master crime fiction writer, so good that he could change his voice depending on the particular subgenre he chose to write and did them all equally well. His Westlake books are laugh-out-loud funny; his Richard Stark books are lean, mean and ruthless; and his Tucker Coe books are great murder mysteries featuring a flawed hero whose guilt threatens to consume him.

I first came across Somebody Owes Me Money when I was 13 years old. The woman who lived next door to us had a subscription to Playboy magazine, and when she was done doing whatever it was she did with them, she'd pass them along to me and, believe it or not, I read the articles, including the fiction. The Westlake novel was serialized over a couple of issues and the moment I started reading it I not only fell in love with Westlake, but I knew that this was what I wanted to do for a living. Make up stories. I promptly went out to the library and checked-out every Westlake book I could get my hands on.

But Somebody Owes Me Money was the first and will always be a favorite. It's the story of a Chet Conway, a cab driver who goes to collect on a bet he won, only to find that his bookie has been murdered. Things go downhill from there. If I could get a first edition signed by Westlake, I'd be a happy man. Better yet, I wish Mr. Westlake could come back to life and deliver it personally. I always wanted to meet him but never got the chance. I was thrilled, however, to recently meet one of his good friends, sometime collaborator, and an amazing writer himself, Brian Garfield (Death Wish, Hopscotch), who told me that Westlake was ever funnier in person than he was on the page.

Robert Gregory Browne is the author of Whisper in the Dark and other thrillers. His next release, Down Among the Dead Men, is scheduled for release in 2010.

HOLLY JACOBS
Just one book? Okay, so maybe not a specific title, but if I was asking for just one book for Christmas, I’d ask for something old. Something with a beautiful binding, with illustrations.

I love old books. There’s an air of permanence about them. Books that have been here more than a century, that people have owned and treasured. They were made to last. Receiving a gift like this means someone knew me well enough to know that old books delight me, and that they went to effort to find one. This isn’t the kind of gift you can buy in the mall. It’s a gift that requires effort and thought.

So, if I only received one book this year for Christmas, that’s what I’d ask for.

Romance novelist Holly Jacobs is the author of Everything But a Christmas Eve (Avalon). She lives with her husband and four children on the shores of Lake Erie.

RIVER JORDAN
The perfect holiday book gift would be a complete surprise. Here’s why. What I envision is not the most recent bestseller (although those can certainly find their way under my tree) but something unusual. Something that speaks a bit of a treasure hunt. A rare package with a book unknown to me, yet perfectly suited to my all-over-the-bookstore taste. The greatest gift would be for a book that would thrill, engage, enlighten. Something precious to the giver, perhaps a favorite of their own, and therefore precious to me. Or perhaps a book that simply whispers my name when they touch it: ‘River must read this!’ Books are more than mere inanimate objects but instead are bridges to the past, portals to secret worlds, mirrors of other lives and visions of the distant future. During all my travels, in the strangest and wildest places, monasteries or friends’ libraries, there has always been one unknown title that finds its way into my hands at precisely the right hour. This is the gift I crave. A delicious, amazing, unexpected little volume of poetry. A rare leather-bound classic. A newly discovered tale of a mysterious life well lived. All I ask is for the blessing of a book for Christmas—whatever the giver’s wild, beautiful selection.

River Jordan writes Southern fiction from her home in Tennessee. Her latest release is Saints in Limbo (WaterBrook).

LISA UNGER
Since I’m a serious book buyer, I can’t imagine waiting to be gifted a book. I buy hardcovers, mass market, trade paperbacks—fiction, nonfiction, poetry. I buy from independents and chains alike. No electronic readers for me, though; I need the jacket, the smell of paper, the heft of a real book in my hands. So, if I don’t have something I want, it probably hasn’t been written yet.

In 1984, New Zealand author Keri Hulme published a stunning, beautiful novel entitled The Bone People. The winner of The Booker Prize, this is one most gorgeously written, character-rich novels I have read. Decades later, I still think about it. Since then, I have been waiting for another work by this author. Anything. If someone finds her shopping list in the trash, I’ll read that. The rumor is that her next book is slated for 2015. I’m patiently waiting, Santa.

Lisa Unger made her thriller debut with Beautlful Lies. Her latest release is Die for You (Shaye Areheart).

Tom Robinson is an author publicist and media consultant working with authors across the country. Visit his website.

PREVIOUS AUTHOR FORUMS
August 2009 Author Forum

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In this feature exclusive to BookPage.com, each month, four authors are asked a question about the craft of writing to give readers an insight into how their favorite writers think and work. For December's author forum, BookPage brought together Robert Gregory Browne, Holly Jacobs, River Jordan and Lisa Unger to ask: What book would you […]

In this feature exclusive to BookPage.com, each month, four authors are asked a question about the craft of writing to give readers an insight into how their favorite writers think and work. For September's author forum, BookPage brought together Jeff Abbott, Heather Graham, Alex Kava and J.D. Rhoades to ask: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

JEFF ABBOTT

I rocked Show and Tell in first grade. When other kids brought in lizards and paintings, I announced I’d spent the weekend in Montana fighting aliens alongside cowboys. After the third week of hearing my extraordinary adventures, my teacher called my parents and suggested they get me a Big Chief tablet and a Husky pencil. I started writing down my big fat lies. And wow, on paper I could say so much more than I could in the three minutes allotted for Show and Tell. I was six; my mother still has all those stories. And my grandmother told me the people who wrote the books that I loved, and that she shared with me, had started off spinning oversized yarns, just like me. I knew then I wanted to write books.
Jeff Abbott
writes suspense from his home in
Austin.

HEATHER GRAHAM

Like most people, I went through wanting to do many things for a living. I have wanted to be a veterinarian, royalty (knew that was a lost cause early on!) marine biologist, dolphin trainer, salvage diver . . . when I reached high school and college, it was becoming anything in the theater, preferably an actress in award winning musicals. I made it as far as a traveling company associated with USF, dinner theater in Florida (almost an oxymoron at the time!) a stint as a singing tap dancing waitress who sold ribs, and a "pointer" for  a number of training tapes. Oh, yes, and there were the "Trim-Twist" commercials. Anyway, by the time I had three of the five children, it cost me far too much to go to work, and I stayed home with the children, but we had been accustomed to two incomes, and I was (and still am) an absolutely horrible housekeeper. I had always loved books. Reading. Something I still find to be the catalyst for most people, whether they're writing hardcore horror, inspirational romance, technical thrillers, occult, historical, and so on. I never thought I could write better books than what I was reading—I wanted to write books that could do to others the wonderful things so many book did for me. Entrance, scare, fascinate—and long to know more or see more. I didn't know a soul who wrote, and so I bought a book called Writer's Digest, and blindly began sending off manuscripts and short stories. The short stories were usually horror, and went out to Black Cat, Twilight Zone and other such venues, and the books were going off to Dell, Bantam and other houses. I was very lucky when I had a book picked up by Dell, though my first sale was a short horror story. I quickly ascertained that books could provide an income, and I was again, blessed, to get in at a time when houses were buying short romances with a rabid hunger.
Heather Graham
writes romantic suspense, as well as historical romance under the name Shannon Drake.

ALEX KAVA

In sixth grade Mrs. Powers read to us after lunch, books like Charlie the Lonesome Cougar and Harriet the Spy. I didn't know I wanted to be a writer, yet, but I loved how words could trigger the imagination and evoke such incredible emotion. By thirteen I was writing “stories” on the backs of outdated Co-op Grain calendars. They were spiral-bound and 52 pages and because they had been discarded no one cared what I did with them, as they might with a brand new notebook. But no one I knew made a living making up stories and writing them down. So it wasn't until 25 years later that I decided to sit down and give it a try. My first attempt received 116 rejections. That manuscript has never been published but it taught me something very important—I really did want to be a writer.
Alex Kava
writes a series starring FBI profiler Maggie O'Dell.

JD RHOADES

Unlike a lot of writers, writing novels wasn’t my childhood dream. I’d always been a voracious reader, but most of my writing had been  short satirical pieces, with a few stories thrown in. A snarky letter to the editor led to a gig writing a  weekly humorous political column for my local paper. After a couple of years, my editor said “you know, you’re a pretty good writer, why don’t you try a novel?” I looked at some of the dreck that was on the market and thought, “Hey, how hard can it be?”  Isn’t naïveté a wonderful thing? I discovered that the answer is “very hard indeed.”  But once you do it, once you’ve laid a story down on paper all the way to writing  “The END” for the first time,  it’s even harder to stop.
J.D. Rhoades
practices law and
writes suspense novels from his home in North Carolina.

Tom Robinson is an author publicist and media consultant working with authors across the country. Visit his website.

RELATED CONTENT

June 2009 Author Forum

July 2009 Author Forum

August 2009 Author Forum

In this feature exclusive to BookPage.com, each month, four authors are asked a question about the craft of writing to give readers an insight into how their favorite writers think and work. For September's author forum, BookPage brought together Jeff Abbott, Heather Graham, Alex Kava and J.D. Rhoades to ask: When did you first realize […]

In this feature exclusive to BookPage.com, authors are asked a question about the craft of writing to give readers an insight into how their favorite writers think and work. For this month's author forum, BookPage brought together Brian Freeman, Susan Gregg Gilmore and Rosemary Harris to ask: Have you ever judged a book by its title?

BRIAN FREEMAN

Long before I began writing my own novels set in the frozen landscape of northern Minnesota, I came across a slim paperback thriller by Thomas Gifford called The Wind Chill Factor. I knew nothing about the plot, but the title captured the bleakness and ferocity of those below-zero January days. It was easy to imagine lonely rural roads and a bitter blizzard. Years later, I spent most of the winter in Duluth researching one of my books, and I remember seeing Gifford’s novel on the shelf in the cottage where I was staying. The wind was howling like a banshee outside. The title still spoke to me.

Brian Freeman is the author of several mystery novels set in Minnesota. His latest is The Burying Place (Minotaur, April 2010). Read BookPage reviews of Freeman’s novels. Author photo © Martin Hoffsten.

SUSAN GREGG GILMORE

Picking just one of anything is never easy for me. But with that disclaimer out of the way, I’d have to say one title that led me straight to the checkout counter was Mississippi Sissy by Kevin Sessums. Whether I’m writing or reading, I want the words to slide off my tongue like butter and this title does just that. Of course, try saying it 10 times really fast and you may find your tongue-tied. The book was, by the way, just as powerful as the two-word, six-syllable title!

Susan Gregg Gilmore is the author of Looking For Salvation at the Dairy Queen (now in paperback). Read the BookPage review.

ROSEMARY HARRIS

I usually know better than to assume that whatever is on the cover of a book is an accurate reflection of what’s inside. But when I first saw Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, I simply had to pick it up. The title was so evocative. There was a rhythm and languor to it and, of course, the promise that something lovely and tinged with sadness would be found within its pages.

The image, too, was arresting. Who were these people? Why is the woman walking away while the man looks resolutely out to sea? Happily, the book was even better than the cover. One of my favorite books of the last five years.

Rosemary Harris is the author of Dead Head (April 2010) and the Anthony-nominated Pushing Up Daisies from Minotaur Books. Read the BookPage review.

RELATED CONTENT

June 2009 Author Forum
July 2009 Author Forum

August 2009 Author Forum

September 2009 Author Forum

October 2009 Author Forum

In this feature exclusive to BookPage.com, authors are asked a question about the craft of writing to give readers an insight into how their favorite writers think and work. For this month's author forum, BookPage brought together Brian Freeman, Susan Gregg Gilmore and Rosemary Harris to ask: Have you ever judged a book by its […]

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