Win a copy of Fresh Squeezed, the new Juice Verrone novel. Get your choice of either a Print edition (for U.S. addresses only) or an eBook (for everywhere). To enter just visit Fresh Squeezed’s Facebook page, Like the page, and then post “I read James’ and Bonnie’s interview at www.writersparty.com” on Fresh Squeezed’s timeline. Remember, you must both Like Fresh Squeezed’s page AND post to Fresh Squeezed’s timeline to enter the giveaway.
Not on Facebook? No problem. Just leave a comment on this interview and let us know, and we’ll enter you in the contest as well. Be sure to include your email address in the comment so that we can contact you.
The giveaway will end on Friday, November 9, 2012 at 3 PM (EST), and the winners notified soon after via Facebook (or via email if you do not have facebook).
Bonnie Biafore is a project manager and author of 23, er, make that 24 books, numerous training courses, and hundreds of articles on personal finance, project management, technology, and now, stupid criminals. She lives on a mountain in Colorado. Find out more at bonniebiafore.com.
James Ewing writes a weekly blog loosely based on the proposition that life is really much more absurd than we know. Several of his humorous articles based on his seven-year sailing adventure have been published in Latitudes & Attitudes magazine. He currently lives in western Washington State, isolated on an island, because it’s really better for everyone that way.
Hello! What are your names?
What do you write and why?
James: My major writing focus is a weekly humor blog at blog.jamesewing.com and novels. In the past I have had some articles published that were a humorous take on my life aboard a small sailboat. I also write short stories when the mood strikes. My blog allows me to take something of an absurdist look at the happenings in my life and the world around me while novels and short stories provide an opportunity to stretch out the story and develop a narrative unconstrained by my blog’s limited length. Right now my novel writing is sticking with the crime/comedy genre as we’re working on the sequels to Fresh Squeezed.
Bonnie: Almost everything I write is humorous–including most of my technical books. I figure if someone needs to learn about things as mind-numbing as small business accounting and project management, they might enjoy a slightly skewed perspective. Besides, as long as I’m going to be handcuffed to my computer and write about that stuff to pay the bills, I better have some fun doing it. Especially since I don’t have tanned, buff eye-candy doing the handcuffing. After cranking out dozens of books, articles, and training courses, the stupid criminals and incompetent hit men in our novel were a blast. I’m looking forward to diving back into my wacky characters for some short stories and more novels. I’d learn to write a screenplay if Guy Ritchie liked our story and Robert Downey Jr would star.
What is your favorite thing about being co-authors?
James: From my perspective, you immediately gain an insight to the story and how it’s told that you would not have had writing on your own. If I write something that I think works but that Bonnie sees a flaw in we can find it and work out the kinks right away. Plus it stretched my skills to make Fresh Squeezed a nice blend of our individual writing styles. You can see both of us in there, but we were able to find a single voice.
Bonnie: We were able to springboard off each other’s sense of humor to make the final result funnier and better than it would have been if we had worked on our own. For example, we had a scene with one of our incompetent hit men that was going to involve sex. James suggested a woman of questionable taste could knock on Ralphie’s door as the intro. My reply was that the only woman who would have anything to do with Ralphie was a blow up doll. James said “That would work.” I doubt that I would have thought of the blow-up doll if we hadn’t had that exchange of ideas.
The worst thing about being co-authors?
James: It takes a longer time than writing on your own. Pretty much everything needs to be discussed and the work can fall prey to our separate schedules.
Bonnie: It does take longer. Sometimes, we have to compromise. Sometimes, we argue. As James has explained to people, we’re both Capricorns, so we’re opinionated and stubborn. I have used this experience to try to learn to play well with others. I don’t have my diploma yet.
How do you keep things organized? Do you assign chapters, or tasks, or do you both just go at it, and then blend your stories together?
James: Bonnie’s the organized one, I’ll let her explain.
Bonnie: Anyone who writes a novel has to keep things organized. I’ve been to workshops that talked about the importance of character bibles, location bibles, bibles, bibles, bibles. So you don’t forget what color your heroine’s eyes are. Well, James and I did that without anyone telling us. We got together for a couple of weeks and brainstormed the story line, drew a map of the fictional town, and wrote descriptions of the characters, cars, boats, and guns. We used those descriptions to make sure things were consistent throughout. Good thing, too, because we referred to those documents a lot. Once we had the story line, we divided up the scenes using a voodoo ritual involving rubber chicken feet and Rhum Agricole. After we wrote the first draft, we traded scenes for the second draft. James got to have his way with anything I wrote and I did the same or worse to what he wrote. By the last editing pass, we would come up with the same edits to the same sentences (which still gives me the creeps, although I don’t know whether James or I should be more worried.)
What is the title you are promoting right now?
Both: Fresh Squeezed.
What is it about?
Both: It’s a story about “Juice” Verrone, a former Mafia enforcer from New Jersey, who testified against the crime family he used to work for and ended up as a guest of the federal witness security program in the small central Washington State town of Wanaduck. The move cost him his identity and his wife, and as he tries to rebuild his life he finds himself thrust into the middle of a cover up by the local utility to hide their failed financial shenanigans. Juice works with the local police chief, Dickie Gordon, and Juice’s client and forensic accountant, Rudy Touchous to sort out the conspiracy. Meanwhile, the utility brings in some hired guns to help clean up their mess and contracts with a local redneck cabal to assist them in qualifying for federal disaster relief funds, by creating their own disaster. Before they can pull it off, their plans are derailed by the entry of a local vegan commune, a feel-good front for VeggieTech, Inc. and the three groups come together at the end in a spectacular conflagration.
What makes this book different from others in your genre?
James: One of the things is our location. Wanaduck is definitely not Florida, Las Vegas, or L.A., so we’ve stepped away from that stereotype. We also took pains not only to make the bad guys the stupid criminals, but to use them to poke at some modern sacred cows, like vegetarianism, organics, and renewable energy, to say that things may not always be what they seem.
Bonnie: Considering that I hold Carl Hiaasen and Tim Dorsey in the highest and most demented esteem, I could only hope that this book is like others in our genre. There could never be enough funny crime stories for me.
What’s the story behind the story?
James: Real life. Bonnie, her husband Pete, and I were sailing in the Bahamas. We started talking about them working in a small town and the discussion morphed into this absurd string of what-ifs. Most of which got tossed but a few stuck around and Bonnie and I wrote up some of them and realized there was a story there.
Bonnie: My husband Pete and I were on contract at a utility in mid-Washington state. One of the employees at the utility gave me a hard time about writing tech books and said the big money was in tawdry novels. So, I wrote a couple of short chapters as a joke. The idea was like one of those coal mines that burns underground for years. Then, a few years after my husband died, writing the novel seemed like the best way to honor (or perhaps sully) his memory.
What are your goals as authors?
James: I really like writing and telling stories. It’s a lot of fun to look at something and then look for the absurd side of it. In my blog I focus that view on things that I’m doing, like building a micro-farm or traveling, as well as the words of politics and economics. For the books, I think it would be great fun to build a small set of continuing characters and bring them along a storyline that shows how they grow as people and friends, as well as being hilariously funny.
Bonnie: I enjoy the craft of writing. I admire a well-written sentence, a well-told story. I’m ecstatic when the well-written sentence and well-told story is my own. However, I never had a real plan for what I wanted to be when I grew up or what I wanted to accomplish. Despite that, things have turned out pretty well for me, so I’ll continue to let whatever wizard is pulling the strings to keep her job.
Do you plan to continue co-authoring, or do you plan to go your own separate ways in the future?
James: Yes. Because of the need to get the sequels out in a timely manner, we’re each writing one of the next two books in the Juice Verrone series. They’ll be a collaborative effort but not strictly coauthored.
Bonnie: We have always been on our own separate ways but we’re still co-authors. The novel is like our misbegotten kid. We didn’t know how things would work on the first book but we figured them out. We don’t really know how our plan for the sequels will work, but we’ll figure that out, too.
Are you working on anything new? Give us a preview of what’s to come!
James: The second book in the Juice Verrone series introduces a whole new set of bad guys in the form of a Mexican drug cartel. Juice’s brother Mikey breaks out of jail and goes on the hunt for Juice while Juice tries to find and protect his ex-wife. Dickie Gordon is trying to find the last felon from the Utility debacle, a fugitive who ends up, thanks to the feds, squarely in the sights of the Mexican drug cartel.
Bonnie: what James said.
Who is your favorite author and what is your favorite book?
James: I suppose if I had to narrow it down to one it would be Mark Helprin and his book A Winter’s Tale.
Bonnie: In our genre it’s Tim Dorsey and Hammerhead Ranch Motel. Sneaking in a second, Robert Crais and L.A. Requiem. I have a somewhat out of date list of books I like at http://www.bonniebiafore.com/BJB_RecommendedBooks.htm.
Where can readers find you and your work?
Both: Everywhere! Excerpts of Fresh Squeezed can be found at our website, www.bonnie-james.com, along with other fun stuff on Facebook and Twitter under @freshsqueezednovel. Bonnie’s online at www.BonnieBiafore.com @Bonnie.Biafore on Facebook and @BBiafore on Twitter. James’s blog and website is at www.JamesEwing.com and lurks as @jamesewingwords on Facebook and Twitter.
Fresh Squeezed is available from us, online at all the usual places, and at your local bookstore (find it at www.IndieBound.org.)
What’s your view on the self-publishing/traditional publishing thing? Ideally, which one would you prefer and why?
James: As everybody knows publishing is going through some major changes right now. The margins are so slim for traditional publishers that they are very reluctant to take a chance on new authors. There’s just no money in it for the risk. On the flip side, self-publishing is an unbelievable amount of work and expense to do right. I started a publishing company (Slow Toast Press, www.slowtoastpress.com) to allow us to get Fresh Squeezed into traditional channels as well as the DIY channels like KDP and CreateSpace. In either case the author, particularly new authors, are going to be responsible for most of the marketing tasks.
Bonnie: At this point, I’m both self-published and traditionally published. I prefer traditionally published because I work with some great publishing companies. However, I’m impatient and getting older every day so I didn’t want to slog through the traditional process for the novel. Either way, it’s a lot of work; a lot of time; and no guarantee of success.
Do you have a favorite quote?
James: From the old comedy troupe, Firesign Theatre: “Living in the future is a lot like living with bees in your head. But there they are.” This speaks eloquently to the current state of getting your book produced and in front of potential readers.
Bonnie: Yogi Berra — “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.” I don’t know where I’m going, so I guess this is why I am so annoyingly careful.
What is the most important advice you have for aspiring authors?
James: Don’t stop writing. The important part is the story and if you have a good, entertaining story it will fall out of all the words. For Fresh Squeezed, we threw away – just pitched it – almost forty thousand words from the first draft and then ended up completely rewriting another 25% of the final book. Stick with it!
Bonnie: Write. Write some more. And then write even more. Take classes. Learn what the rules are. Then break them, but break them in breathtaking ways. Meet other writers. (They’re fun and supportive, which is key because writing is a lonely life.) Join a critique group. Figure out when to listen to others’ criticism and when to consider it a bunch of hooey. Think positively, but don’t quit your day job.
Is there anything else you’d like to say before we finish up?
Both: Thanks so much for the interview. We’d like to invite your readers to visit us online. Post snarky comments, ask embarrassing questions. It would be great to get to know our audience better. We’re also doing a promotion on Facebook right now and are giving away an eReader and free print books to the fans who come up with the most popular Stupid Criminal stories. Just go to www.facebook.com/freshsqueezednovel and tell us about your favorite stupid criminal.
Awesome, thanks for allowing me to interview you!
Don’t forget to pay Bonnie and James a visit at the links below!