Tag: interview

Blog Tour: A Conversation with Jason Hershey

Today is my stop for the blog tour for The Chosen Path by Jason Hershey.  Today I will be interviewing him!

JRR (Jessica’s Reading Room):  Tell us a little about yourself.

I am originally from Phoenix, Arizona and currently reside in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. I graduated from Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas where I received my BS in Elementary Education while playing football. I have been a teacher for the last 15 years. I am currently a lead teacher at Color Our Rainbow Academy where I work with k-2nd grade children.

 JRR:  Did you always want to write?

I have always wrote. In elementary school I was always writing poems and short stories. Then when I got out of college, I wrote 2 screenplays, a horror type one and a coming of age one. I have always tried to put myself into other people’s shoes and write and imagine how others would feel, speak and react in certain situations. One I can remember vividly was a poem from the point of view of a Vietnam Soldier who returns home and ostracized for being a soldier. It’s that empathy that I think allows me to write characters that people identify with and want to go on a journey with.

JRR:  That poem intrigues me!  What inspires you to write? 

I have stories that need to be told. I have this burning inside of me to captivate people and bring them with me on a journey, to help them forget about their everyday life and just get lost in the story. I went so long without writing in college and high school, that now I need to write. It’s as natural as breathing and eating.

JRR:  Let’s hope you continue to get those stories out there! Now where did the idea of To Die To Live come from?  Is Theo based on a particular person? You are a teacher so did your students influence your writing?

The story was something that has always been in me. Theo is based on a culmination of people I grew up with, myself and some fiction thrown in. I purposely left his features and what he looks like vague. I want the reader to envision him as they want, to personalize the story and relate to his situation. My students didn’t influence it as much as it was reflective of things I experienced and lived growing up.

JRR:  The Chosen Path is the sequel to To Die To Live. What made you want to continue Theo’s story? Will there be another in the series?

The short answer is that Theo still has stories to tell. I never set out to create a certain amount of books. Instead, I just wanted to write a book that people liked. The fact that they continue through book two and eventually to three, is a testament to Theo and his life and the fact that so many people really connect with him. As for the last part of your question, yes there will be another. I put the first chapter in the back of The Chosen Path. It’s tentatively titled “The Purpose of Life” and will find Theo still trying to figure out his next move while also having to deal with life.

JRR:  Such a tease including that first chapter at the end of The Chosen Path!  I love that with books, but also hate it to as it makes you want the next book right now!  Lol  

What age range are your books intended for?  They are YA (Young Adult) which can appeal to a wide range of ages.

I envision junior high through high school students reading this, but I have had 40 year olds tell me they connected with him and his story made them cry. I think the story itself is universal and is relatable to just about anyone.

JRR:  What was your favorite book as a child, and now as an adult?

My all-time favorite book is still The Giver. I have read it at least a dozen times and it never loses its effect on me. As I’ve gotten older I’ve also come to love the other books in the series, but nothing quite beats the original.

JRR:  I have actually never read The Giver. I guess I should!  Who was your favorite author as a child and who is your favorite author as an adult? 

Lois Lowry without a doubt when I was little. Now as an adult, I love James Patterson’s “Alex Cross” series.

JRR:  Which book have you always meant to get around to reading, but still not read?

Not really. I love the library, so I always try to find time to explore and check out the new books. I have started to read The Walking Dead graphic novels as well as more biographies and history books.

JRR:  My husband and I are huge Walking Dead fans! In fact I gave him the first compendium of The Walking Dead as a wedding present. I keep meaning to pick it up to begin it.  There are just too many books and never enough time! 

Now, what’s the best advice you have ever received?

My dad told me a long time ago, that once work becomes a job, it was time to leave. I am grateful that I get to do two things that I absolutely love to do, teach and write. The fact that I get paid for them just makes it all the more sweeter. Too many people punch a time clock and absolutely hate what they’re doing. I have made a promise to myself to never allow that to happen to me.

 JRR:  You are actually very lucky to love what you do. If I could find some way to do this blog full time and get paid then I would be in Heaven! 

Now, If you could have dinner with three people (living or dead) who would they be and why?

Roberto Clemente, Pat Tillman, and Martin Luther King Jr. They all gave more of themselves than they asked for in return and strived to make the world better for those less fortunate and looked down upon. The fact that Roberto Clemente died delivering supplies to earthquake victims speaks highly of his character and empathy for the world. Everyone knows MLK and his accomplishments. Pat Tillman is a modern day Clemente. He left the NFL and joined the military after 9/11 and said it was his duty to serve. He ended up getting killed by friendly fire in battle, but the fact that I’m an Arizona State fan and he’s one of the best to ever play there makes his story a bit more personal for me.

JRR: Good answers and reasons!  If you could go anywhere in the world without worrying about time or money, where would it be?

I really want to work with more at risk youth, so if time and money were no object, I’d start a bunch of social programs and organizations to give inner city kids more choices and access to more positive male role models. I was fortunate that my parents were able to be involved in my life growing up and to lead me down the right path, but growing up in South Phoenix, there was lots of opportunity to fall off track. Sports and my parent’s constant parenting allowed me to be successful.

 JRR:  Are you working on anything else currently or ‘taking a break’ with this new release?

I am working on a children’s book at the moment, Harry the Hippo, as well as the third book in the Theo series.

JRR:  Is there anything else you would like to tell us? 

I am so honored and appreciative of the support and feedback from readers and bloggers alike. I hope that everyone who reads the books is able to take something personal from it and that it touches a nerve of some sort. Thank you very much for this amazing opportunity.

Thank you for your time Jason!  It was great to get to know you!

Buy To Die To Live Now!

Thelonious “Theo” Mitchell is a down on his luck teenager, wandering aimlessly through life with no desire or focus. When tragedy strikes, he is taken in by his aunt and uncle. Thrown into a new school with unfamiliar surroundings, he befriends the class “troublemaker”. After yet another tragedy, will Theo fall victim to life, or use the tragedy as a spark and motivation to embrace all that life has to offer?

Pre-order The Chosen Path(Out May 3rd)

From the author of the emotional “To Die To Live”, comes the next riveting chapter of one man’s search to find his purpose in life.

Thelonious “Theo” Mitchell, now a college freshman, is eager to put the death of his friend, Draven, behind him. Devoting himself to school and sports, he meets Sabrinna, a beautiful co-ed who sweeps him off his feet. Untrusting and hidden behind a wall, he allows himself to fall for her.

Will he find his soulmate and someone who can restore his faith and trust in people? Or will she leave him reeling and continuing his search for a purpose in life?
Contact Jason:

Twitter @therealjhershey
Amazon UK

A Conversation with John David Bethel

Courtesy of John David Bethel

He has traveled to many places that most of us can only dream of going, and also had a 30 year career in politics, now John David Bethel is a published author.  He has written his second book, Blood Moon which was released December 4, 2016.

Buy on Amazon

Book Description:

On a hot, steamy afternoon in Miami, Cuban-American businessman Recidio Suarez is brutally beaten and abducted. Handcuffed, shackled and blindfolded, he has no idea why he has been targeted. What he discovers is heart-stopping. What he endures during almost a month of captivity compares only to the most horrendous stories of prisoners of war. He is tortured, and under the threat of death, and worse – the rape of his wife and torture of his children – Suarez is forced to hand over his multi-million dollar holdings to his captors.

Suarez survives and then spends the next few months staying one step ahead of the murderous pack. During this time, he and his lawyer, Nolan Stevens – a former Special Agent in Charge of the Miami Office of the FBI – are having difficulties convincing the Miami-Dade Police Department that a crime has been committed. Their efforts are complicated by Steven’s difficult history with the head of the MDPD Special Investigations Division, who is not interested in pursuing the case.

JRR (Jessica’s Reading Room): Tell us a little about yourself.

Abridged version. I grew up overseas as my father was with the Foreign Service. After stops in Germany, Japan and Cuba (we also had six month stints stateside in Honolulu, Norfolk and New York City), we settled in Miami where I went to high school. Following graduation from Tulane University, I worked in Washington, DC for 30 years. I served as a speechwriter and press secretary to various members of Congress and the Senate. I also served in the same capacity for the Secretaries of Commerce and Education. After a stint as Associate Administrator with the U.S. General Services Administration, I retired and returned to Miami. I have written and had published two novels; Evil Town, a political thriller and Blood Moon, a suspense thriller based on a true crime.

JRR: That is quite a life you have lived so far! You had an interesting career before you became an author. Does your previous experience in politics influence what you write?

The years I spent in politics probably influenced how I write more than what I write about.

I learned to fully appreciate the power and consequences of words and language. Legislators and/or candidates often have one opportunity to represent themselves and their vision to constituents and voters. Without the correct words that opportunity could be squandered. With them, ideals can be explained, people inspired, and personalities defined.

JRR: That is very true! They must come up with the correct words or they may not get their point across or even have the changes they want see fruition. Now, did you always want to become an author?

I always enjoyed writing and that might have come from being an avid reader.

As noted, we spent a lot of time traveling, which meant I missed large chunks of formal education. Whenever I wasn’t in school, my parents insisted that I read. I was fascinated by the fact that no matter where I was – Europe, Japan, the Caribbean (or on an ocean liner or airplane between posts) – a book could transport me to a different place entirely. This fascination compelled me to try my hand at writing and I found that I enjoyed it…and it gave free reign to an active imagination.

JRR: What inspires you to write?

A story will come to me and gnaw away until I sit down and weave through it. I’m not sure if that qualifies as “inspiration” or is more akin to an “itch”.

JRR: Whether it is an inspiration or an itch, go for it and write! What does your writing process consist of? Do you research for your novels, do you handwriting or type, do you listen to music or not?

I have the kernel of a storyline which builds as I write. I don’t work from an outline nor do I have backstories for my characters. I have no idea where the story is going to take me, and the characters mature and develop with the storyline. Like the reader, I am drawn along as I write and am often surprised where the plot takes me.

I use a PC and if I listen to music, which is a “how do I feel today” kind of choice, it’s classical. Beethoven, Rachmaninoff and Bach are among my favorites.

JRR: Even if you outline and ‘plan’ what’s going to happen with your characters, sometimes they will ‘do what they want’ and take a ‘life of their own’ and change your plans! What kind of advice can you give to aspiring authors? The journey to become published and can be long and hard.

First and foremost one must have a compelling desire to write for no other reward than the product itself. “I write therefore I am” kind of thing. The prospect of publication should not be foremost in mind as, unfortunately, getting published today is very, very challenging.

Second, an aspiring writer must have the discipline to sit down every single day and spend hours over the keyboard. That can be the toughest part of the process…dedication to the task and the discipline to complete that task.

I also think writers must have healthy egos to endure the rejection that comes to all of us from publishers, agents, literary critics and readers. If one has a fragile sense of self, writing is definitely going to be a destructive career choice.

JRR: Great advice! Who was your favorite author as a child?

My father used to read to me from American folk tales. Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill are two I remember well. Those got me started and from there I’d read stories about other bigger than life figures like John Henry Johnson, Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, Jim Bridger, and finally graduated to Mark Twain.

JRR: Who is your favorite author as an adult?

I have a few. The novels of Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald entranced me and demonstrated how brilliantly-written fiction could gobble readers up and transport them to another place and time. The storytelling ability of Stephen King showed me that a good tale could pull the reader into the story, increase their heartbeat, cause them to perspire with fear and anticipation, and come out the other end invigorated. Also, the novels of Aldous Huxley and Sinclair Lewis taught me that fiction could have a social conscience while also being entertaining.

JRR: Which book have you always meant to get around to reading, but still not read?

The Magic Mountain and Finnegan’s Wake.

JRR: What’s the best advice you have ever received?

Though an aphorism more so than advice, I’ve benefited from knowing that: There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

JRR: I like that! Your newest book, Blood Moon is based off of a true story. What made you want to tell this story?

First a little background. The details of the story came to me from Ed DuBois. Ed runs a security firm, Investigators, Inc., and had been brought into the case by a mutual friend of Marc Schiller, the victim. Ed read my novel Evil Town and enjoyed it, and when he wanted to explore the possibilities of having a book written about the crime, he contacted me.

Initially, Ed wanted a true crime book written to counter the treatment the real story was getting in a movie that was being made of the crime, “Pain and Gain.” Ed was serving as a consultant on the movie and grew disenchanted with the “black comedy” slant being applied to the script. I wrote a treatment of the book but when it became apparent a true crime book could not be written and published in time to provide a balance to the movie, that project was abandoned.

I had become intrigued by the crime, especially by the courage of the victim, Marc Schiller, and Ed’s determination to get the “bad guys.” Schiller’s survival of 30 days in captivity during which he was brutally tortured, and had every single penny of his substantial estate extorted, was a story that was too compelling to ignore. My wheelhouse is fiction so I went to Ed and Marc and asked if they’d mind if I treated the story as fiction, hewing closely enough to the real events to convey the true horror of what Marc endured and how Ed worked skillfully to solve the crime.

JRR: I find that hard to believe that they gave the movie a ‘black comedy’ slant on something that actually happened to someone! Especially where someone survived 30 days of pure torture. How much research was involved in writing Blood Moon?

Blood Moon required a great deal of research. I studied hundreds of pages of trial transcripts to fully understand details of the crime and to get a “feel” for the perpetrators and their victims. I also studied police crime reports. The depositions conducted by attorneys for the defense and prosecution were another source of information. Most helpful were hours of discussions with the Ed and Marc.

JRR: How accurate is it to the ‘real life story’? It sounds truly terrifying.

Two passages from Marc Schiller’s Foreword to the novel answer this question best:

After reading this novel, most readers will be hard-pressed to accept that anything as written in these pages could happen. That assumption would be very wrong. I know because I am the one who experienced and survived many of the traumatic events described in Bloodmoon.

My month long stay in what I called “Hotel Hell” – which the author of Bloodmoon captures with chilling accuracy – was filled with physical and mental torture, humiliation and starvation.

JRR: He must have been a strong person to survive his ordeal. It had to have changed him as well.

If you could have dinner with three people (living or dead) who would they be and why?

  1.  My late father so we could discuss my novels.
  2. Ernest Hemingway for the same reason. Presumptuous I know, but I’d love to get his critique, and also pick his brain on writing.
  3. Beethoven because he is a fascinating personality as well as a genius in his field.

JRR: Those are some good choices!

**Thank you for your time with this interview!

Contact John David Bethel:
Twitter @betheljd


A Conversation with K.S. Villoso







Originally from Manila, and now living in Canada, K.S. Villoso always wanted to write. She writes in the Fantasy genre. Book One of her trilogy The Agartes Epilogues is out now and the next two books will be released in April!

Purchase on Amazon

Book Description:

It has been years since his brother’s accident. Kefier was only just beginning to live a normal life–at least, as normal as it could get for a mercenary from a run-down town. And then an errand goes wrong and he finds himself holding his friend’s bloody corpse.

Already once branded a murderer, he is pursued by men he once considered friends and stumbles into the midst of a war between two mages. One bears a name long forgotten in legend; the other is young, arrogant Ylir, who takes special interest in making sure Kefier is not killed by his associates. The apex of their rivalry: a terrible creature with one eye, cast from the womb of a witch, with powers so immense whoever possesses it holds the power to bring the continent to its knees.

Now begins a tale with roots reaching beyond the end of another. Here, a father swears vengeance for his slain children; there, a peasant girl struggles to feed her family. A wayward prince finds his way home and a continent is about to be torn asunder. And Kefier is only beginning to understand how it all began the moment he stood on that cliff and watched his brother fall…

JRR (Jessica’s Reading Room): Tell us a little about yourself.

I had a colourful childhood, most of which I spent in the slums in Manila, up until we immigrated to Canada in my early teens. The only daughter of two civil engineers, I followed my parents’ footsteps and pursued an education in civil engineering myself; however, I’ve always been a writer first. I now live in a village near Vancouver, Canada, where I can walk out of my backyard straight into the forest. I share my life with my husband, children, dogs, and the occasional garbage-stealing bear.

JRR: Children, dogs, and bears: Oh my! 😉 It does sound like you have had an interesting life. Did you always want to become an author?

Yes. It was one of my first answers to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” When we lived in the slums, I was not really allowed to go and play outside with the other kids, and there was no Internet or cable TV or libraries, so I spent a lot of time re-reading the same old classic novels and writing on a 1 gb hard drive computer my dad built for me out of old/spare parts.

JRR: A 1 gb hard drive computer! Wow! But you had to work with what you had. What inspires you to write?

All of my writing revolves around character exploration, no matter what the genre. I like digging deep, discovering complex relationships, motivations, backgrounds, all of which culminate into character growth.

I also really like world-building, and have a large world in which most of my epic fantasy stories are set in. I love creating new cities and then exploring them; I also like getting my characters to travel through all sorts of natural and magic-made wonders.

JRR: What does your writing process consist of?

Once I have an idea, I type a lot of outlines or summaries for it. I want to have a clear picture in my head of what this story is going to be about and what facets of the main characters I want to explore. I also want to have a clear picture of the main scenes—particularly the beginning, turning points, and the end. This means it may take years for a novel (or series) to “bake” in my mind. Afterwards, I’ll generally write a deeper outline (lately I’ve been doing chapter-by-chapter outline) before I start writing.

I follow an organic process when I write: a lot of things change during the actual writing process, and I allow my outlines to evolve. This means I could be creating new outlines for every change that happens in the manuscript itself, which is labour-intensive, but I love the results so far. Characters I’ve doomed to die in the outlines may end up living after all, or the other way around; actions change as the manuscript delves deeper into their motivations.

JRR: You have quite the process! Things can always change while you are writing and characters could ‘take over’ with what you plan to do for them. What kind of advice can you give to aspiring authors?

Always question the quality of your writing, and always aspire to do better than you did yesterday. Keep writing and don’t compare yourself to other writers. Everyone had a unique voice, and you can only be “better” than yourself, not better than anyone else. Also, writing is hard—it’s supposed to be hard. It’s one of the most worthwhile things in the world you can do, so don’t let thoughts of money or fame distract you from what’s truly important, which is to give life to stories that only you can tell.

JRR: That is great advice! Who was your favorite author as a child and who is your favorite author as an adult?

I loved Jack London when I was little. I still do, but I’ve added to the list: Guy Gavriel Kay, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Ursula Le Guin, Robin Hobb, G.R.R. Martin, and I’m sure there’s others I’ve missed.

JRR: What can you tell us about your series The Agartes Epilogues? Book one is out now and the other two will be out soon.

The Agartes Epilogues is an epic fantasy series brought down to a “human level”. It consists of an epic plotline that is told from the point-of-view of three minor characters, who have their own selfish motivations. These POVs are contrasted with Interludes from both side characters and the actual “heroes” of the stories (people who carry out heroic deeds and represent traits like duty, everlasting love, honour, and sacrifice). In the series, I explore themes of love, redemption, legacy (specifically as it pertains to children), and purpose.

The entire series spans a whole ten years or so, but the books themselves are actually fairly light and quick reads (for this genre). There is a lot of focus on character interactions and dialogue, as opposed to descriptions.

Jaeth’s Eye, which is Book One, is currently out now, while the last two books, Aina’s Breath and Sapphire’s Flight will be out this April 2017.

JRR: Good luck with the upcoming releases! Who is the target audience for The Agartes Epilogues?

The Agartes Epilogues is for fantasy lovers who enjoy characters, particularly those who enjoy full immersion in characters’ lives, their problems, and their eventual growth. You don’t even have to necessarily like the “epic” aspect of fantasy (or even like fantasy at all—I’ve had a few of these readers), although that will certainly help you appreciate the politics, wars, and the scale of the worldbuilding.

JRR: Where did you get the idea for The Agartes Epilogues? Was there anything that influenced you to write it?

It actually started out as a JRPG my boyfriend and I were designing back in high school, using RPG Maker (I forgot which version). I had the main plot consisting of a disgruntled hero and what he did to the world and an entire cast of characters all ready, and ended up getting to the second town before I realized I wanted to do more than the medium allowed. I ended up writing the first novel right after high school graduation, but I did it from the point of view of a side character, one who wasn’t featured in the game, and instead pushed the heroes (the main cast) to the background.

I would later rewrite that same novel several times before it finally became Jaeth’s Eye.

JRPG stands for “Japanese Role Playing Game”, which is a genre of video game that usually involves linear gameplay, a party of characters, and levelling up by defeating enemies through random encounters while walking around dungeons. RPG Maker is a software for developing video games–you can find out more here.

JRR: If you could have dinner with three people (living or dead) who would they be and why?

Also supposing I don’t have social anxiety…probably Ursula K. Le Guin, Guy Gavriel Kay, and Robin Hobb, who are some of my most admired authors in the fantasy genre. And I just want to sit there and listen to what they say to each other and absorb that information.

JRR: Maybe they could give you ideas on future novels! 😉 Is there anything else you would like to tell us?

Thank you for this opportunity for an interview, and don’t forget to visit my website at http://www.ksvilloso.com.

***Thank you for your time K.S.!

Contact K.S.:
Twitter @k_villoso