Author Q&A

Author Q&A with Megan Goldin (Author of The Escape Room)

So honored to be part of Megan Goldin’s blog tour and have her stop by today for some Q&A!  Check out my review for The Escape Room here!

Megan Goldin Hi Res.jpg

Ashley: How did you become inspired to write The Escape Room?

Megan: There were a number of inspirations that led to me writing The Escape Room. First of all, I’d had my third baby and, for the first time since my working life began, I’d taken a year or so out of the workforce to be with him. When I started looking to go back to work, I interviewed for a job for which I should have been a serious candidate as my experience closely matched the job description and I’d done something similar before for a similar company. Instead, the interviewer ate snack food throughout the interview with, let’s just say, very bad table manners. He crunched particularly loudly every time that I spoke. I drew on this experience when I wrote about the job interview from hell that Sara Hall went through in The Escape Room. It made me feel powerless. I told friends about what happened and they shared with me their own horror stories in the workplace. It made me want to explore sexism in the workplace in my next novel. It also inspired the idea of a revenge theme. I liked the idea of someone who is beaten down by the system making a comeback.

Around that time I was also stuck in an elevator. I’d gone shopping with my kids. I had a cart full of food. The elevator stopped and the lights went off. It took a couple of minutes until we were able to get out but it was a dark, cold, and frightening couple of minutes in that elevator. I’d been thinking about a setting for this thriller revenge story that I had in mind. It struck me that the elevator was a perfect setting. I was fired up by the challenge of setting a novel in an elevator. It also served my purpose well. I wanted to put my characters in a pressure-cooker atmosphere where animosity would build as they learned each other’s secrets. An elevator was perfect.

Ashley: What was your research process like when writing about the financial industry in the U.S?

Megan: When I research my books, I apply journalism skills acquired over the years. That means immersing myself in whatever information I can get ahold of. I read books, newspaper articles, elevator manuals, and even journal studies on human psychology. I also followed forums for investment bankers and others working in the financial industry and some of their social media feeds. I spoke with people who worked in the world of finance and also drew on material that I’d collected in the past. For example, there were big name investment banks in my previous office building and I’d often overhear bankers and brokers chatting in the elevator about their personal lives and work, or in my condominium building where many of them lived. I tend to write and research at the same time as I don’t plan my novels other than the story arc. As the story evolves on the pages while I write, I’ll stop writing for a few hours and branch out to research whatever might be relevant for the novel. In the case of The Escape Room, that included issues such as ‘game theory’ and things as mundane as technical manuals about elevator safety mechanisms and issues related to guns and ballistics. The research is one of the fun parts of writing a novel. I get to learn new things and it breaks up the intensity of writing.

Ashley: Are there any authors that you most look up to?

Megan: There is an endless list of authors, from crime and thriller writers, to literary fiction, classics, and non-fiction. Now that I am writing myself, I tend to analyze other books as I read. I look at plot, structure, character, voice, and various other writing techniques. Even as a journalist, I always saw writing as a constant process of learning and refining. I think it’s a lifelong endeavor. Among my favorites is John le Carre. I consider his novels master classes in suspense writing and I often reread them. Yuval Noah Harari’s series, starting with Sapiens, was another inspiration behind The Escape Room, as I’d been reading it and watching Yarari’s lectures on Youtube. It made me look at office culture through a prism of evolutionary biology. Offices are a modern-day human habit and the backbiting office politics is really a case of survival of the fittest.

Ashley: If The Escape Room was to become a movie, which actor or actress would you like to play some of the roles?

Megan: Well, a close friend just suggested Bradley Cooper for Vincent! Or perhaps Colin Farrell, Ryan Gosling or Jesse Eisenberg for Sam and Jules. As for actresses, maybe Jennifer Lawrence for Sylvie, or Anne Hathaway or Margot Robbie for Sara Hall. Lucy could be Emily Blunt.

Ashley: Do you have any upcoming projects you’re working on?

Megan: I am working on my next book. It’s also a thriller and it addresses contemporary themes but it’s quite different from The Escape Room. I’m a little hesitant about how much to divulge at this point until it’s done.

Ashley: Anything else you’d like to add?

Megan: I’m extremely touched by all the support and feedback that I’ve been getting from so many bloggers and reviewers who are passionate about The Escape Room and who love the characters. Thank you all so much.


Author Q&A

Author Q&A with Erica Bauermeister (Author of The Scent Keeper)

Big welcome to Erica Bauermeister who stopped by to talk to us about her upcoming book, The Scent Keeperout May 21st!  The book is incredible, so please check out my review to learn more!

Ashley: What was the easiest part of writing this book?  What was the most challenging?

Erica: Emmeline’s character was the easiest part. She was such a strong presence in my imagination. The hardest part, ironically, was realizing that the book should be written in her voice. It took me three years and four different points of view before I woke up one morning with her voice in my head. Once that happened the rest came easily.

Ashley: The cover of this book is beautiful.  What was the process like for designing it?

Erica: I was so impressed by the artist who designed this cover.  Usually creating a book cover is a difficult process, with several completely different concepts before we settle on one. This cover was pretty much perfect right from the start. While Emmeline’s island is actually rain-soaked and covered with evergreens, the cover captures the feeling of the book, which is the more important and trickier challenge.

Ashley: When you’re on tour, what is the one thing you cannot live without?

Erica: I have a fragrance I always bring along—Atelier’s Orange Sanguine. It smells like sunshine and comfort and imagination. I put on just a little bit before I do book events, and it is like taking a friend with me on stage.


Big thank you to Erica Bauermeister for stopping by Home Sweet Houser on her blog tour.  If you’re interested in purchasing The Scent Keeper, check out any of the retailers below to snag your copy now.

Author Q&A

Author Q&A With Jason Allen (Author of The East End)

Look who stopped by to answer some questions about his upcoming book!  Jason Allen, author of The East End, which comes out May 7th!  Definitely check out my book review for details on this dark look into the Hamptons and the secrets people keep from each other.  I got a chance to pick his brain on his experience writing this novel and what his plans are for the future!

Jason Allen author photo 2_c Jim Glasgow

Ashley: What physical settings do you find most conducive to writing?  Where did you write the bulk of this novel?

Jason: I wrote a lot of the early draft of The East End while living in Upstate New York, mostly while on my old couch, looking out the window throughout a few full cycles of the seasons and many days while snow was falling. I revised it while living in Atlanta and renting a first floor apartment in an old decrepit house that had a porch. I usually brought my laptop outside to the couch that was on the porch. During the hottest, most humid, most mosquito-thick parts of the year in Atlanta, I worked way more at night when it was cooler and less buggy and quieter.

Ashley: How did writing a novel compare to your previous experience writing poetry?

Jason: Writing poems is much more spontaneous for me than the novel writing process. The scale is also so dramatically different. A poem is a distillation of image and emotion, sort of like carving and polishing a figurine of a baby elephant from a palm-size piece of limestone, while writing a novel takes years of chiseling marble slabs, and then rearranging and questioning how all the animals in an acre of the African savannah should be positioned to tell their larger interconnected story. Most of the poems in my collection A Meditation on Fire connect to personal experience, the initial drafts written with a sense of urgency. The East End was a constant process of exploration, until the characters felt so real to me that I truly cared about each of them.

What I love about writing poetry is that I can spend one day on a first draft and feel I have something that is at least close to finished. What I love about novel writing is that I can only plan so much, and at a certain point during the years it takes to reach the end, there is sure to be at least a hundred ah-ha moments, so many surprises, and overall it’s so satisfying to complete a work that took hundreds of days, sometimes thousands of hours, and to discover something about the characters’ journeys that makes me think more deeply about my own experience in this world. Whether it’s through the short form with poems or essays or short stories, or the long form with novels, I can’t consider a piece finished in any form until I feel the same sense of emptiness—and I mean that in a good way. Each medium allows me to empty my consciousness to a certain extent, to empty out the static of daily life that we all cope with in our own ways.

Ashley: Your author bio says you grew up in the Hamptons and worked a variety of blue-collar jobs for wealthy estate owners.  How much did you draw from personal experience when writing this book?

Jason: I mined lots of lived experience for both the setting of the novel and the characters. My mother worked for a millionaire family at their summer estate in Southampton for more than a decade, and while the plot and characters are fictional, the setting is closely based on the estate where she worked (and where I worked with her for one summer). I also worked for the mega-rich in the Hamptons as a pool guy, a carpenter’s helper, lots of labor jobs in my teens and twenties.

Ashley: What is your favorite genre to read?  Have any authors you’ve read influenced your work?

Jason: Literary fiction is definitely my favorite, but all of the best genre fiction always transcends its genre, so I love discovering an especially strange novel with magical realism elements, or one that introduces a dystopian world in a new and fascinating way (think the original Twilight Zone episodes, Rod Serling’s brilliant social commentary through sci-fi). Whatever the genre, the characters will always matter most to me, but also I find that I’m most grateful when an author obviously took the time to pull me through the story with relatively constant plot complications and tension—all the books I love, all the ones I just couldn’t down, have so much character complexity and tension throughout. I’m sure that every author I’ve read has influenced my work to varying degrees, and I’m always looking for that next book that will trick me into forgetting that I’m reading—the best novels always achieve this seemingly impossible magic trick.

Ashley: Do you have plans to write more novels in the future?

Jason: Yes, absolutely. I plan to finish my second novel this summer. It’s a story set mostly in Portland, Oregon, where I also lived for ten years. It takes place during the winter of 2008, during the start of the Great Recession and the Housing Crisis, also during an especially cold winter. The characters are all down-and-outers, with addiction and family and desperation as the central themes. I’m also looking forward to revising my first memoir manuscript, as well as my first feature-length screenplay, and in the next year or so I will begin fleshing out my third novel. I have the novel-writing bug, and realize now that I always have. I’m not hoping for a cure, either.


Huge thank you to Jason Allen for stopping by and giving us a glimpse into his writing process.  And best of luck on publication day!

Purchase from any of these retailers now!

Harlequin    Amazon    Barnes & Noble    Books-A-Million    Powell’s

Blog Tour Banner -640x247


Author Q&A

Author Q&A With Laura Trentham (Author of The Military Wife)

Have you read my review for The Military Wife yet?  If you have, you know that I thought it was superb!  And look who dropped by to chat with us about it!  I had a chance to interview author Laura Trentham about her experience writing The Military Wife.  Check it out below!

Trentham                             39863232

AH: Do you have any personal ties to the military?  Did any of your personal relationships inspire characters in the book?

LT: My best friend from college is a military wife. She has a degree in chemical engineering (like me), but was never able to find a job in that area because of where they lived and how often they moved. I also visited her on different bases around the country, so I got a feel for how they lived. Of course, this was all years and years before this book was even a kernel in my imagination! But I can go to her with questions about how things work on bases with the wives (and husbands.)

AH: How was your experience writing your first women’s fiction novel?  How did it differ from writing a romance novel?

LT: I loved writing The Military Wife and the follow up, An Everyday Hero. I tend to explore family/friend ties in my romances as well, so it was really a matter of strengthening those story lines and making sure they converged. Honestly, the biggest difference is that my romances are fairly hot in the bedroom, and I closed the door on any intimate scenes in the WF books.

AH: How long did it take you to write The Military Wife?

LT: It took around three and a half months. That’s pretty standard for a full-length book for me working “full-time” which is really just when my kids are at school.

AH: What was the easiest part of the book to write?  What was the most challenging?

LT: The hardest part to write was Darren and Allison’s story revolving around PTSD. That is something I don’t have direct experience with and I wanted to make sure I took care to present it with a raw honesty that rang true. The easiest part (although the most emotional for me to write) was the chapter where Harper gives birth to Ben. I could draw on personal experience, being a mother myself and dealing with post-partum emotions.

AH: How do you celebrate finishing a novel?

LT: I order take-out for the family and get ready to dive straight into the next book! I don’t like to take time off between projects, because I have more books outlined to write than I have time!

AH: Who is your favorite author to read and why?

LT: I have the classic gothic romances on my keeper shelves, Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, Jane Aiken Hodge. It might be surprising to learn that I don’t like to read in the genre I write in because I’m either too critical and can’t get immersed in the story or I’m afraid I’m going to subconsciously pick up another author’s plot or turn of phrase. So, I’ve been reading lots of historical mysteries from CS Harris and Deanna Raybourn and fantasy romances from Sarah Maas and Katherine Arden.

AH: What should readers expect from the next A Heart of a Hero novel?

LT: The next book, An Everyday Hero (the title was picked yesterday so you’re the first to hear it!) is not connected to The Military Wife. It’s a standalone novel set in Tennessee about a failed country musician who has returned home broke and heartbroken and is thrown together with an old classmate who has lost a leg in combat and hasn’t decided whether he wants to rejoin the world or not. It’s a little sassier and funnier, but still has a lot of heart.


A big thank you to Laura Trentham for chatting with me and to publisher St. Martin’s Press as always for being so fantastic to work with!  Pick up The Military Wife here now and experience this incredible story for yourself!

Author Q&A

Author Q&A With Michael Stephenson (Author of The Man on the Roof)

I recently chatted with Michael Stephenson, author of The Man on the Roof to discuss his recent book release.  As of June 22nd, The Man on the Roof is available on Amazon Kindle.


Ashley: Of all the characters in the book, who was your favorite AND LEAST FAVORITE to write and why?

Michael: My favorite character to write was the Old Man. He has a certain don’t-give-a-damn quality to him that I find intriguing and endearing at the same time. My least favorite? Hm? I don’t know if anyone’s asked me that. I think my least favorite to write had to be Martin. I had to straddle the line with his “sin” for two reasons. For starters, it’s not a subject that I fantasize about writing. Even though novels are filled with bad people doing bad things, I don’t think any author grows up wanting to write about evil people. The second reason speaks to my last sentence: evil’s surety. I think that the first time a reader reads through the book, they automatically assume that he is this evil man and has done terrible things. However, if you go back and re-read his passages a second time, readers are supposed to see that he never actually takes the actions he fantasizes about. Yes, the assumption exists in the minds of other characters, however that one character that does know his secret has been mentally compromised and may not be telling the truth. I wanted readers to have a grain of doubt of, “Well, maybe he isn’t actually doing these things.” And in that case, the question becomes: Is the sin committed when there is action or when there is thought? In my attempt to not spoil the book, I probably just did. Oh, well! But I think that trying to impress that idea on the reader’s mind for most of the book felt like a chore. The worst part afterward was realizing that probably a good amount of readers wouldn’t even pick up on all of this weaving and webbing that I did for him. As a complete aside, I seem to be battling a terrible bout of pretentiousness and I have no idea from whence it came.


Ashley: Did the book turn out how you originally envisioned?  If not, how did it evolve throughout the writing process?

Michael: It turned out the way I envisioned it from my secondary envisioning. I got frustrated with the sameness of plot and structure I see so often in both film and literature now. My first instinct was to join this reclamation of old ideas and reach back some years to make something old new. That’s a wordy way of saying that the original The Man On The Roof was a short story suspense-thriller (no psychological aspect to it) that was an updated play on that old William Shatner-led Twilight Zone episode in which he sees a monster/creature/man on the wing of his airplane. Old Man would sub as Shatner’s character, and he would see a man on his neighbor’s roof. I still might release that short story if this novel does well, so people might have a chance to read it sometime in the future. Somehow, that idea got scrapped in my mind as I went to write the character bios for the story. It morphed without much prodding or agonizing. The story itself came out and said, “Nope, we’re goin’ this direction.” And I said, “Okay. I guess it’s a little more original than the standard ‘someone has seen something’ idea.” And the rest is fiction.


Ashley: How long did it take you to write The Man on the Roof?  What is your writing routine?

Michael: I know I am going to get so much flack for this, especially because I am a self-published writer and people look for reasons not to like them or think they’re unprofessional, but it took me a month to write the first draft. That came in around 118,000 words. I parsed that down to about 111,000 words (curiously, this number was the same amount of words that my first mystery novel ended up being after its editing process). Then, I left it to sit. Part of my routine is that I never edit right away because you miss too much stuff. The Man On The Roof sat on my computer for a little under two years and I sent it out to the first editor late last fall. She told me that it’s good but that I should round out the children so that at least the teenagers don’t feel like they’re cardboard cut-outs in an adult world. So I added another 35,000 words and then edited that down, which took about another week and a half. Some reviewers have said that the book is long, so it might have been better to keep the children flat. Then I had another editor in January tell me that the first editor—a content and proofreader—did a terrible job and that I need to make a bunch more changes. That took another three days. And I sent it in for a final edit in May. So the entire process took about two months of time, but the initial writing only took one month. As far as the process, I sit down and write long snippets or full chapters. If I can’t write up to a definitive break in the story, then I will sit back and meditate on whether I really know where I want a scene to go or not. If I don’t know where it’s going before I start full-steam, then I’ll jot down some notes about it but I won’t write it. I don’t often use outlines, except for my two serials.


Ashley: Which books or resources did you use as research when writing The Man on the Roof?

Michael: Nothing with a name comes to mind right now, except for maybe WebMD, American Journal of Psychiatry and, well, one I don’t want to say because it might be a spoiler for the book. But I also read a lot of high-class journalism that actually focused on real facts and evidence (sometimes seems rare these days) surrounding the various crimes that are mimicked in the book. I read about cases like Freddie Gray, which was raw and still current at the time I wrote the book, and the Russell/Williams case (a local Cleveland case). These might also be spoilers, but I also looked at Mary Kay and LaFave. In the end it all came together rather quickly because the story wanted to tell itself and simply used me as its proxy.


Ashley: What do you read for pleasure?

Michael: If I’m not reading some non-fiction that will help me to build a new skill, then I mostly read thrillers, horror (especially bizarre elements) and sci-fi. I love Dean Koontz and Stephen King. I take a lot of book recs from my mom. She loves Koontz. I remember one of his stories (a short story, I believe) featured a dimension-hopping bear where famous people were totally different on his version of earth. Steven Spielberg was an inventor or something like that. It’s been a while since I read it, so I can’t remember the details or the title, but I enjoyed the wackiness. Gillian Flynn is also one of my favorites because she doesn’t hold the reader’s hand through the insanity. I’m not even sure she cares if you like the characters or not, but she presents them as real people who are flawed for real reasons. I also enjoyed reading Andy Weir back when he was a lowly self-pub author, too. The Martian was cool from a geeky technical standpoint. And yes, I also have dabbled in reading the Fifty Shades books, except for the fourth one that is from Christian’s perspective. I still, to this day, have no idea how I found my way onto a Twilight fanfic forum because I didn’t much care for those books (the movies were okay), but I remember reading it long before it became THE Fifty Shades and thinking, “How should I react to this as a man?” I kept thinking that if I were ever in a room with some young single women who happened to have read this they would judge me if I said that I enjoyed it. Even years later, after it became a big hit and the first film came out and I had written my own erotica novel, I remember seeing an entertainment segment on one of those Hollywood reporting shows where they were interviewing moviegoers pre-screening. And as they interviewed this woman, in the background a man who was all alone started to walk into the viewing only to stop when he saw the cameras and try to hide his face. And I had never identified with someone more.

I would like to thank Michael Stephenson for taking the time to discuss his latest book with me.  If you are interested in reading The Man on the Roof, please check it out on Amazon Kindle, and feel free to leave your review on Goodreads, Amazon, or any other social media sites on which you post reviews.  Happy reading!


You can find my review of The Man on the Roof here: