Author Interview: Blake Fontenay

One of the many authors included in the Killer Nashville Noir: Cold-Blooded anthology is Blake Fontenay with his story, “The Coal Torpedo.” Mr. Fontenay takes a few minutes to stop by The Book Diva’s Reads and answer a few questions about himself and writing. 

Thank you Mr. Fontenay for stopping by…

Q. You’ve described yourself as a “recovering journalist.” Did you find it difficult to transition from journalist to novel writer?

A. Writing a novel is much different from writing a story for a newspaper. As a newspaper reporter, you know you’ll be working on a story for a day, or maybe a few days, or maybe even a few weeks. But you know at the end of that time, your work will appear in print under your byline. (Or if the story doesn’t pan out, at least you know you’ll get paid for your time.) With novel writing, you don’t have those assurances. You work for months on end, not knowing for sure if your work will ever be published or if anyone will read it if it is. I think novel writing is a much tougher test of self discipline.

Q. The Politics of Barbecue was your first published novel; was it your first attempt to write a novel? 

A. Actually, I wrote a book called Scouts’ Honor before I wrote The Politics of Barbecue. On my first attempt, I didn’t have any luck finding a publisher for Scouts’ Honor. But after I got The Politics of Barbecue published, I re-worked Scouts’ Honor and it was published last year.

Q. Writing a novel can be a relatively solitary endeavor. Did you find it easier or more difficult to write your novels or the story for this anthology?

A. In newspaper writing, you’ve always got editors who are monitoring your progress. This can be both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because editors keep you motivated and focused on meeting your deadlines. It can be a curse if you’ve got an editor who is always breathing down your neck and trying to micro-manage you. At least I’m told that can happen with some editors.

Q. Do you have any rituals you adhere to while writing, such as dedicated writing space, typewriter versus computer, set hours to write daily, silence or music in the background or can you write anywhere?

A. I typically write in the evenings after I get home from work. Usually, that only happens after quite a bit of procrastination. I’ll flip on the TV and spend a while surfing Facebook or reading news stories online before I ever get serious about writing. But once I do get serious, I tend to go on writing benders. I’m not a big believer in forcing myself to write every day because if I’m not feeling it, the work product isn’t going to be any good. But when I am feeling it, I don’t want to stop writing.

Q. Do you need a detailed outline before writing your stories or do you allow your creativity free reign? 

A. I’ve written with outlines and without outlines. For me, I think it’s helpful to have a general skeleton of what the story will look like before I start writing. However, I’ve never done an outline from start to finish for a novel. I just try to outline the first few chapters to get me started, then I make up the rest as I go along. I like not knowing how a story is going to end. Until I have to write the ending, of course.

Q. If you had to choose a soundtrack for “The Coal Torpedo,” what songs would be included?

A. “The Coal Torpedo” is a really dark story. Since the story is set right after the Civil War and concerns events that happened during the Civil War, I think a really slow, creepy whispered version of “Dixie” would have to be on the soundtrack. Maybe the same kind of treatment for “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” If I had to go with something modern, maybe “Bring Me to Life” by Evanescence. But even that might be too upbeat to fit this story.

Killer Nashville Noir: Cold-Blooded
ISBN: 9781626818781 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781626818774 (ebook)
ASIN: B014RY2W00 (Kindle edition)
Publication Date: October 27, 2015
Publisher: Diversion Publishing

Bestselling authors Jeffery Deaver and Anne Perry join rising stars like Dana Chamblee Carpenter and Paul Gail Benson in a collection that proves Music City is a deadly place to be when your song gets called.

Featuring stories by: Donald Bain, Robert Dugoni, Jefferson Bass, Mary Burton, Jonathan Stone, Steven James, Maggie Toussaint, Clay Stafford, Heywood Gould, Jaden Terrell, and more…

Every year, some of the biggest names in the thriller world converge in Tennessee for the Killer Nashville conference, an event where stars of the genre rub elbows with their most devoted fans, where the bestsellers of tomorrow pick up tricks of the trade, and where some of the best writers of today swap dark tales of good deals gone bad, rights made wrong, and murder in all shades…

This collection of new stories features some of the biggest names in suspense, from bestsellers to ferociously talented newcomers. Grouped around the classic theme of murder, Killer Nashville Noir: Cold-Blooded is a first-class collection and a must-have for fans of the genre.

“The Coal Torpedo” by Blake Fontenay 

The Civil War has just ended and historical figure Allan Pinkerton is in Washington, D.C. in the office of President Andrew Johnson on a mission to set wrongs right. But Johnson may have another agenda than the truth and – if Johnson has his way – the person responsible for the deaths of 1,700 American civilians may go unpunished.

Meet the Author:

Blake Fontenay spent more than 25 years as a reporter, columnist and editorial writer for metropolitan daily newspapers — including the Sacramento Bee, Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville), Orlando Sentinel and Commercial Appeal (Memphis). Since leaving the newspaper business, he has worked as the communications director for Tennessee’s Comptroller, Treasurer and Secretary of State. He is currently the coordinator for the Tri-Star Chronicles project at the Tennessee State Library and Archives. He has two published novels: The Politics of Barbecue, which won an Independent Publishers Book Awards gold medal for fiction in the South region, and Scouts’ Honor.

Connect with the author:     Goodreads      |     Facebook      |     Twitter 


Enter to win 1 of 8 ebook copies of Killer Nashville Noir: Cold-Blooded via Diversion Books and the Killer Nashville Team. Giveaway ends November 30 and is open to US residents only.

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Book 339: BROKEN Review, Author Q&A and more

Broken by C. J. Lyons
ISBN:  9781402285455 (hardcover)
ISBN:  9781402285462 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00ENQEMJW (Kindle edition)
Publication date: November 5, 2013 
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

For Scarlet Killian, every day is a game of Russian roulette – she has a 1 in 5 chance of dying… 

The only thing fifteen-year-old Scarlet Killian has ever wanted is a chance at a normal life. Diagnosed with a rare and untreatable heart condition, she has never taken the school bus. Or giggled with friends during lunch. Or spied on a crush out of the corner of her eye. So when her parents offer her three days to prove she can survive high school, Scarlet knows her time is now…or never. Scarlet can feel her heart beating out of control with every slammed locker and every sideways glance in the hallway. But this high school is far from normal. And finding out the truth might just kill Scarlet before her heart does.

Scarlet Killian has spent most of her life in the hospital. She only attended elementary school for a few years before she was taken out and home-schooled. Scarlet has several “near misses” where she’s been on death’s door only to be revived to survive another day. Now that she’s fifteen, she’s asked her parents if she can attend school. She knows that it will be difficult simply because her heart could give out on her at any time, but she wants this chance to be “normal.” Her parents agree to allow her a one-week trial and then they will reassess the situation. Scarlet feels as if she’s won the lottery, one whole week to experience being a teenager outside of her home or the hospital. Scarlet doesn’t know what she’s in for . . . 

Scarlet’s first day at school begins with problems. She immediately makes an enemy of a member of the football team, so (of course) his teammates and others go out of their way to treat her like a freak. If that wasn’t bad enough her mother (actually her stepmother), the school nurse, intrudes on Scarlet’s lunch on the first day and attempts to take her vitals in the cafeteria in front of other students. The horror! The only plus to the first day is that Scarlet has made some new friends; namely her peer mentor support group consisting of Celina, Nessa and Jordan. She is also befriended by a student, Tony, in one of her classes after she is set on fire by her lab partner (the aforementioned football player), and she throws up on Tony after he tries to help her out. What a first day and talk about first impressions.

All of the action in Broken takes place over the span of five days. It is filled with the normal teenage angst and drama, but it is also filled with friendship, budding romance, and a heart-stopping mystery (pun intended). It seems like the more Scarlet looks into her past medical history the more questions she finds that require answers. Ms. Lyons has incorporated quite a bit of mystery, suspense and thrills into her first foray as a YA author. Of course I haven’t been a “Young Adult” for quite a number of years, but I enjoyed reading Broken as much as I’ve enjoyed her other contemporary suspense thrillers. The action gradually builds, as did my tension while reading, and most of the suspense and thrills take place in the last 20-25% of the book. Broken is a well-crafted mystery-suspense-thriller that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages, so don’t be off-put by the YA classification. Read it and you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

To read a few of the first chapters of Broken, click here:

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

About the author:

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of twenty-one novels, former pediatric ER doctor CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge Thrillers with Heart. 

Winner of the International Thriller Writers’ coveted Thriller Award, CJ has been called a “master within the genre” (Pittsburgh Magazine) and her work has been praised as “breathtakingly fast-paced” and “riveting” (Publishers Weekly) with “characters with beating hearts and three dimensions” (Newsday).

Learn more about CJ’s Thrillers with Heart at

Connect with the author:     Facebook      |      Goodreads  

The character of Scarlet and the story Broken was inspired by Ms. Lyon’s niece Abby, a teen with Long QT syndrome.

How is Abby coping with Long QT?

CJ: Abby’s great, thanks for asking! She’s totally opposite of Scarlet, fiercely independent and refuses to let her heart condition hold her back from anything she wants. She rides horses, raises Rottweilers, is a straight A student, and a budding fashionista.

You can see for yourself in this video my publisher produced:

Abby has never allowed her heart condition to define her life. I think a large part of the credit for that goes to her parents—they were always open and upfront with Abby about her Long QT. By the age of three she could explain what Long QT was (including a short summary of the genetics!) to anyone who asked about her MedAlert bracelet.

Since then, she’s grown into a smart, independent young woman who is the first to jump in to defend a friend (or tell them they’re making a mistake), confront a bully, or lead a cause she’s passionate about.

If I sound like a proud aunt, it’s because I am!

Psst…pre-order the ebook before November 5th and you’ll qualify for special ebook pricing at only $4.99!

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Author Interview: Lisa Ellis

Finding Lily by Lisa D. Ellis
ISBN:  9781619351639 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00B4Y331E (Kindle edition)
Publisher:  Soul Mate Publishing
Publication Date:  January 22, 2013

When her newborn baby Lily dies suddenly, Claire Edwards runs away to live in a lighthouse she had fallen in love with as a young child. The lighthouse is reputed by some to have magical powers, but Claire isn’t looking for a miracle. She just wants an escape from her husband Jim’s colder way of grieving, and from their apartment filled with the tiny clothes and stuffed animals they had collected over the past few months. But once Claire is situated in the lighthouse, it begins to illuminate things for her in a new way and she’s suddenly forced to rethink her views on life, death, and her marriage. 

The Book Diva’s Reads is pleased to host a Q&A visit with Lisa Ellis, author of Finding Lily. Welcome to the Book Diva’s Reads Ms. Ellis and thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions about your writing and writing career.

Have you always known that you wanted to be a writer or is this something that you only realized later?

I think I was born with some very specific traits, including my love for chocolate, an affinity for collecting elaborate dresses for places I want to go (and usually never get to), and the need to write! (Not necessarily in that order…)

I remember how, long before I was old enough to put pen to paper, I was fascinated by the words my parents read to me and loved how the sounds strung together into beautiful sentences. Throughout my childhood, I also spent lots of time in my head, crafting my own stories and putting together all of the pieces to try to make all the little details add up into something bigger–usually involving chocolate and ball gowns when I could fit them in.

As a journalist you’ve had articles published on health and fashion, but what was your initial reaction upon learning you were going to be published as a fiction author?

I want to say ecstatic…think “winning the lottery” type of excitement. But in truth, it was a quieter victory, although perhaps more rewarding because I had earned it and it wasn’t just luck of the draw. The reality is that my smaller works of fiction (poetry and short stories) have been published in various small literary journals and magazines throughout my journalism career, so I’ve been working up to being a published fiction writer for a very long time. Therefore, it felt like more of a natural evolution. Still, it’s amazing to be able to talk about my published NOVEL finally!

It’s also interesting to note that the short stories and poetry are more reflective of my inner self and my experiences, while the novel seems to have a life of its own. In Finding Lily, I wrote about things I didn’t know about, and this was a neat way to explore the world and grow. 

Is your fiction ever influenced by your non-fiction writing?

That’s a great question. I was a newspaper reporter for a long time and I got to meet so many people and hear about their experiences that I think this has helped me to be better at character development. It also has sparked my curiosity about so many topics. As a journalist, I am also expected to become a mini expert on so many subjects, and this makes it easier to step in and out of different fiction scenes. In truth, though, I haven’t written about anyone specific that I’ve encountered in my career, but I have found many details that have intrigued me during interviews that are tucked away in my “mental file cabinet,” just waiting for the right opportunity to use them in my fiction. One example in particular that comes to mind is a man I did a feature on a few years ago, who collected hundreds of bees in his home and invited me over to meet them. He was one of the most interesting characters I have met, and I am sure he will find his way into one of my novels eventually. (Although I am afraid of bees myself, so I will explore him from a very safe distance!)

In general, I find that the actual processes of writing fiction and writing non-fiction are totally different for me and it can be difficult to make the transition between the two creative states. With non-fiction, I am very present and alert throughout the writing process, sifting through details and molding the information, while with my fiction, I have to take a step back and let the story find me and unfold at its own pace. 

What authors do you consider to be your inspiration?

So many authors have inspired me over the years, but there’s one in particular that I want to mention. When I was working on Finding Lily, I was stuck at one point in the revision process, so I went to a book signing for Karen Peterson, PhD., author of The Tomorrow Trap and Write: 10 Days to Overcome Writer’s Block. Period. Her presentation really sparked a chord in me and I lingered to chat with her. I learned she was also working on a novel and we decided to exchange manuscripts and help each other. This was the luckiest day for me. She really helped me take Finding Lily to where it is today. More than a decade later, we continue to critique each other’s work, but much more important, she has become one of my closest friends, too, and she is an ongoing inspiration for me. 

What are some of your all-time favorite fiction reads? 

Anne of Green Gables is my all-time favorite because I love the rich language and flowing sentences and I am entranced by Anne’s point of view: we are definitely kindred spirits! I also love The Distance by Saborna Roychowdhury, because she does an excellent job of taking me to new places physically and mentally and developing well-rounded and thoughtful characters who feel like friends. I also enjoy all of Chitra Banjaree Divakaruni’s novels, including The Mistress of Spices, Sister of My Heart and her latest, Oleander Girl. Her books are so delicately crafted and every word and image shines. For a lighter read, I love everything by Madeleine Wickham. She has such a talent for bringing her characters together in the most awkward situations to see what will happen next, and this intrigues me. I also am crazy about her Shopaholic series (published under her pen name of Sophie Kinsella), although if my husband reads this interview, I officially deny any resemblance to the main character, even if I do have a thing for collecting clothes, shoes, and handbags much like she does!

What do you hope readers will take from your book Finding Lily?

I hope that many readers will relate to Finding Lily on a personal level because at one time or another, most of us have grappled with the emotional differences in our relationships, even if the line isn’t as clearly drawn as it is for Claire and Jim. I also hope that Claire’s perspective will make people think about what it means to see with the heart and not the head. I would love for readers to step into the rhythmic language and let it gently sweep them into the storyline for a simple but meaningful ride. I have heard from some reviewers and readers that they related deeply with Claire as they read my book, and her pain became theirs. But for me, there isn’t any sadness in her story. It’s meant to be a very enlightening and very honest book and although it does center around a loss that occurs before the first chapter opens and is recounted after the fact, for me the book is really about Claire finding herself and finding a new balance to her marriage… So I hope readers will ultimately feel some resolution and peace when they come full circle with Claire on her journey to the lighthouse and back again. 

Can you tell us anything about your next book, The Rasa-Lila? 

The Rasa-Lila is another book about marriage and motherhood but its style is very different. In this one, my narrator Faith Parker, a new mother, can feel her husband Andrew slipping away from her. She is so caught up in her new role that her marriage seems to have lost its momentum. Desperate to regain his attention, she concocts a tale about their conservative married neighbor, Pramila, having a heated affair with a stranger. The first time Faith tells the lie, she is just trying to shock Andrew and get him to look at her again. She promises herself that she won’t do this again. But her plan works so well that she finds herself elaborating on the story and adding new parts over time to help her and Andrew continue to reconnect. What Faith doesn’t bargain for, though, is that in the process she and Pramila will become good friends. In the end, she is forced to take a closer look at herself, her marriage and her friendship in order to decide what to betray and what to protect.

Watch the book trailer:

About the author:

Lisa Ellis is a writer whose short fiction has appeared in a number of literary journals and magazines. Finding Lily is her first novel. She has a Master’s degree in Journalism from Boston University and provides health content regularly for hospitals and websites in New England and the tri-state area.

Connect with the author:
  Website     |     Facebook     |     Twitter

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Author Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s Favorite Authors

The Book Diva’s Reads recently asked author Anne Elisabeth Stengl to name ten authors she admires and why. Here’s the result:

  1. C.S. Lewis — because he blends fantasy and faith so beautifully it takes my breath away.
  2. Sir Terry Pratchett — because he can make me laugh out loud and cry within a few pages.
  3. Diana Wynne Jones — because if I’m having a bad day, one her books can always cheer me up.
  4. George MacDonald — because for sheer beauty and charm, you can’t beat one of his fairy tales.
  5. Megan Whalen Turner — because . . . I have no words. Her work is just amazing, and her characters are unforgettable! But I can’t quite explain her, so you’d better read her for yourself.
  6. Robin McKinley — because no one retells fairy tales with such grace and adventure.
  7. Jasper Fforde — because no one writes like this man. Ever.  Period. TRULY unique!
  8. Susanna Clarke — because she discovered England’s true mythology . . . and made me believe it.
  9. Peter S. Beagle — because he finds the profound in the absurd and the absurd in the profound.
  10. Tolkien — because he gave us hobbits, noble elves, and Middle Earth.

About the author:

Anne Elisabeth Stengl makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a passel of cats, and one long-suffering dog. When she’s not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and studies piano, painting, and pastry baking. She studied illustration at Grace College and English literature at Campbell University. She is the author of Heartless, Veiled Rose, Moonblood, and Starflower. Heartless and Veiled Rose have each been honored with a Christy Award. 

About the book:

Starflower by Anne Elisabeth Stengl
ISBN: 9780764210266 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781441260475 (ebook)
ASIN:  B008B9HQ6I (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Publication Date:  November 1, 2012

The Black Dogs Are on the Hunt, But Who Is Their Prey?

When a cursed dragon-witch kidnaps fairest Lady Gleamdren, the Bard Eanrin sets boldly forth on a rescue mission… and a race against his rival for Gleamdren’s favor. Intent upon his quest, the last thing the immortal Faerie needs is to become mixed up with the troubles of an insignificant mortal.

But when he stumbles upon a maiden trapped in an enchanted sleep, he cannot leave her alone in the dangerous Wood Between. One waking kiss later, Eanrin suddenly finds his story entangled with that of young Starflower. A strange link exists between this mortal girl and the dragon-witch. Will Starflower prove the key to Lady Gleamdren’s rescue? Or will the dark power from which she flees destroy both her and her rescuer?

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Q & A with author David Carnoy

The Book Diva’s Reads is pleased to present a little “Q & A” with author David Carnoy.

1. Have you always known that you wanted to be an author or is this something that you only realized as an adult? 

I knew it from a pretty early age. I think after I read The Phantom Tollbooth I wanted to write a book. I did the whole high-school newspaper thing and wrote a couple of novels in my twenties that were never published.

2. Why write suspense thrillers? 

I don’t really think of my books as suspense thrillers, although The Big Exit is more action oriented than my first book, Knife Music. I would describe them as unconventional mysteries or offbeat crime novels (that hopefully keep readers turning pages). They’re a little more literary than I think they get credit for. I would say they’re tweeners in the sense that they’re a cross between literary and commercial. I think the books may disappoint someone who’s expecting the typical action thriller.  

3. Your bio states that you have a MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University. Have you ever written in any other genres or seriously considered writing in any other genre?  

My thesis for my MFA was also a crime novel (never published). Every once in a while I’m tempted to try a Nick Hornby/High Fidelity type book. I always loved Brave New World and had a sci-fi streak as a kid, so something set in the future would also be fun. But as I try to build an audience I’m going to probably stick to plots that have a strong mystery element.

4. You’re obviously a busy man with a full-time career at CNET, a family and your writing. Do you have a writing routine, even if it’s only a few minutes a day or week or do you squeeze your writing in whenever you can?    

Though I publish stuff on the Internet almost every day for my day job, I actually stop writing fiction for several months until the urge to write a new story builds and I formulate a set of characters and a plot. I’m also a deadline writer, so it helps to have a contract that says I have to turn something in on a certain day. When I’m writing fiction, I get up at 4 AM and write till about 9 AM (or longer on the weekends). I’m a morning writer as far as fiction goes. For CNET, I’m 24/7. 

5. Although The Big Exit isn’t considered a sequel to Knife Music there are recurring characters. Will we see any of these characters return in a third book? 

Some will, but I’ll have a new protagonist. My first two books were a little unusual in that the detective (Madden, who continued on) isn’t the main character. He’s an important character, but not the protagonist.  

6. What authors do you consider to be your inspiration? 

Truman Capote, Joseph Heller, George Orwell, Agatha Christie, Paul Auster, Philip Roth, Mario Vargas Llosa, Kurt Vonnegut, Milan Kundera, Harlan Coben,  Michael Connelly, to name a few. 

7. What are some of your favorite reads from 2012?  

I thought Defending Jacob was well done. And Jo Nesbo’s Phantom.

8. What are you currently reading?   

Dennis Lehane’s Live by Night. I’ve also been dipping in and out of Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Lincoln book. I tend to read a few books at the same time. I’ll read The Racketeer because my books usually have a bit of legal thriller to them, so it’s good to see what Grisham is up to. 

About the author:

While David Carnoy lives in New York City with his wife and children, his novels take place in Silicon Valley, where he grew up and went to high school (Palo Alto). His debut novel, Knife Music (2010), was a Top-10 bestseller on the Kindle and also a bestseller on the Nook. More medical thriller than high-tech thriller, to research the novel Carnoy spent a lot of time talking with doctors, visiting trauma centers, and trailed a surgeon at a hospital in Northern California to help create the book’s protagonist, Dr. Ted Cogan.

The Big Exit (2012) isn’t a sequel to Knife Music per se. However, a few of the characters from Knife Music figure prominently in the story. His second novel has more of a high-tech slant and reflects Carnoy’s experiences as an executive editor at, where he currently works and is trying resolve his obsession with consumer electronics products. He went to college at Wesleyan University and has an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University.

Website     |     Facebook     |     Twitter     |     Goodreads     |     Amazon

About the book:

By the acclaimed author of the remarkable debut novel, Knife Music, The Big Exit is a suspenseful crime novel that keeps the surprises coming right up to the end. Richie Forman is freshly out of prison. By night, he makes a living impersonating Frank Sinatra in San Francisco’s lounges and corporate parties. But then his ex-best friend—the man who stole his fiancée while he was in prison—is found hacked to death in his garage, and Richie is the prime suspect. In a murder mystery with the twists and turns of a microchip, Carnoy weaves his characters like a master. He has written an authentic, unputdownable thriller that is sure to chill and delight.

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