Friday, September 23, 2016

Circle of Trust - Spotlight and Q & A

by Jacqueline Simon Gunn
Series: Close Enough To Kill Series
Paperback: 376 pages
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (June 25, 2016)

Why does love turn to murder? Jacqueline Simon Gunn is not your average thriller writer. Simon Gunn received her Doctorate of Psychology in Clinical Psychology backed by years of expertise in psychology began working firsthand with the criminally insane at Bellevue hospital.

Simon Gunn explores catathymia, or passionate homicide, one of the most paradoxical crimes, in Circle of Trust, book two in the Close Enough to Kill Series.

Simon Gunn provides an unflinching look into the mind of a murderer, bringing her expertise in the field of psychology to the mix. Simon Gunn’s interest in the intricacies of the mind and how people unravel makes Circle of Trust a torrid and terrifying thriller.

Radio psychologist Jacob Temple is found murdered in a most gruesome manner.  Soon after, the story of Jacob’s life unfolds as told by those closest to him, particularly his ex-girlfriend Jane Light, who has been stalking Jacob since the day he left her, 19 years ago.
Detectives Poole and Gibbs are assigned to Temple’s murder case with Kadee Carlisle, who happens to be mourning the murder of her boyfriend. As Kadee gets deeper into the case, she struggles with conflicted feelings about her past and present and the disturbing parallels to the Temple case begin to surface.

As the hunt for the killer ensues, a tragic love story and a plan for vengeance unfold. As the fine line between facts and deception and passion and obsession blur, an important lesson is made clear: Sometimes the closer you are to the truth, the harder it is to see.  


Q&A with Jacqueline Simon Gunn, author of CIRCLE OF TRUST

1.)  Can you explain what the psychology term “catathymia” means and why you chose to focus on this in your Close Enough to Kill series?

Catathymia is a psychodynamic process first explained by Frederic Wertham in 1937 to describe otherwise unexplainable explosions of violence, where there is a buildup of psychological tension prior to the murder. Instead of understanding the distress as internal, the individual blames another person. After a period of holding in seething emotions, the individual decides that their only resolve is to eliminate this other person. The tension becomes uncontainable, violent fantasies and obsessions consume him/her; the violent act becomes the only means of reducing the psychic distress. The tension abates following the explosive outburst (murder) and perpetrators report feeling relief.
 The theory was later expanded upon by other forensic theorists. One of the leaders in forensic psychology, J. Reid Meloy, used the cycle of catathymia to explain obsession, stalking and murderous acts toward someone the person has an attachment to. From this perspective, catathymia is a violent act resulting from some sort of rupture (real or perceived) within the relationship, and the victim is someone the perpetrator knows and feels attached to. In many cases, it is someone with whom the perpetrator had an intimate relationship with.
Criminality is a nebulous area. When trying to understand criminal acts, such as stalking and homicide, we need to look at underlying motivations. Murder is an act, nothing more. That is, the action itself really explains nothing psychologically speaking. If we want to understand why people commit murderers, we need to look at motivations. Catathymia explains motivation for intimate kills, murders committed against someone who is Close Enough to Kill, basically. I have been researching this for over twenty years, and remain fascinated. I decided to explore this through fiction to see what I could learn. And learn I did. 

2.)  Who are some of your favorite thriller writers?
Gillian Flynn and Alison Gaylin are my two favorite thriller writers. They both focus on characterization. Although their plots are taut, the characters are multi-dimensional and drive the story. I love that! I also love Stephen King, although he crosses genres. His characterizations are brilliant. I feel like I know each one of them intimately. 

3.) You’ve said that you allowed the characters in this series to drive the story. What was that experience like?
Wanting to better understand motivations for intimate murders, I created characters, got into their respective heads, allowed them to drive the narrative. As I shift character point of view, I hear a different voice, my mannerisms change, and my emotions shift to match what’s going on in their story. In this way, I am often unsure what’s going to happen. As the characters develop and I go deeper into their hearts and minds, their motivations, the story unfolds, surprising me, and sometimes, disturbing me too. It helps me get to the answers I want about motivations: who the killer is, and who the next victim will be feels like a decision made by the characters, not me. This way, I have an intimate experience with a passion-driven killer and a privy look at motivations for murder.

4.) Can you tell us more about your psychology background?

I have master’s degrees in forensic psychology and existential/phenomenological psychology, and my doctorate in clinical psychology with a specialization in forensics. I have over twenty years of clinical experience. I have worked in correctional facilities and have interviewed some high profile criminals, evaluated insanity plea acquittals and worked with inmates in individual therapy and group therapy. But I also work outside of the criminal justice system with psychotherapy patients. I was at the Karen Horney Clinic for ten years. Now I’m in private practice and spend the rest of my time writing, both fiction and non-fiction.

5.) What advice would you give to someone who wants to start writing fiction?

My advice is not that original, but it is the truth: sit down and write every day, even if it’s only a page. A book will not write itself, and the practice of sitting down and writing every day is one that not only gets the words down, but also helps someone to become a better writer. The second part of this is to not judge the first draft, just write like no one will ever read it.

6.) Who is the most psychologically misunderstood character in literature?

Willy Loman. He is the epitome of the shattered American Dream. But there is a Willy Loman in all of us. The struggle to balance societal expectations of success versus one’s own, similar to Willy, is something I hear all the time from people. Willy embodies this dilemma, albeit, an extreme example. His inability to reconcile the two, results in a sad deterioration in his sense of self. Most people struggle with this to some degree, in my opinion, not because of individual psychology, but rather because of impositions of a society that values money and status above personal growth and meaning. Willy wasn’t psychologically disturbed, in the traditional sense. Instead, his decline is better understood as symptomatic of problems existing within the larger societal context.

7.) What is the best writing advice that you’ve ever received?
The best advice would have to be to keep writing even when the draft is crappy, which it will be. Changes are made during rewriting once the story is down. This helped me finish my first novel.

8.) Can you tell us about the panel you were on at ThrillerFest this year?

The Thrillerfest panel was called, Caffeine, Chocolate or Wine? Writers' tricks to keep you going. The discussion focused on the various techniques we use to keep ourselves motivated throughout the writing process. Writing book is not easy. Perseverance is vital. As I said before, the book isn’t going to write itself. So we all have to find ways that work of us.
All of us shared the importance of preserving our writers’ time and space, keeping to a schedule. Alcohol seemed to be the ‘flavor’ of choice when dealing with the inner voice of doubt that all writers have. Writing is exposing. Our inner selves are left open for inspection and judgment. This can slow down the process if we think about it too much. When in doubt, have a cocktail to quell the inner voice of uncertainty, it seems. 

I actually use running to help me at all stages of the process. The commitment I learned from training for marathons taught me how to sit down every morning and write, no matter what. And when I feel discouraged, doubtful – wondering if I have a right to write, or anxious about the reviews that are coming, I run. Personally, I found the panel helpful. Hearing other writers, particularly those who have been at it longer than me, talk about the same dilemmas I struggle with, reassured me.

9.)What is the most unexpected thing that you’ve learned after researching passionate homicide?
The most unexpected is also perhaps the most disturbing: When it comes to murders driven by passion, the ability to predict criminality is poor. Meaning, many of these crimes are committed by individuals who have no history of abuse, no history of previous criminal activity, no substance abuse history. When we look for something, anything to make the motivation to kill make sense, it turns out to be complex and internal psychological reasons – things that aren’t obvious or quantifiable, rather than concrete environmental predictors. This begs the question Kadee, my protagonist, asks her professor in Circle of Trust: “Is anyone capable of murder?” His answer is “Yes.”

10.) What are you working on next?

The third book in my Close Enough to Kill series is being edited. When it’s returned to me, I will do a final pass. I’m currently writing a series of novellas. Each one focuses on a character from the series. The first one is a story about Jacob Temple, the murder victim in Circle of Trust, who I fell in love with while writing the second two books in the series. The story takes place before his murder. It’s his side of the story, the story he couldn’t tell in the book because he was already dead – a tragic love story not for the faint of heart. The draft is done and I’ve sent it off for editing. The next one, which I have just started, is about Noah and Belle Donovan. Noah is the murder victim in the first book of the series, Circle of Betrayal. He has a complex and somewhat disturbing relationship with his mother, Belle. Readers have asked to hear more. So this novella will be a sort of prequel, exploring their relationship. The third one is a spinoff from the third book, Circle of Truth, and will be an extension on the murderer’s story. After that, I will return to a book I had started and then set aside to finish the series, another psychological thriller with love triangles and all kinds of twist. I’m more than halfway through, so the draft shouldn’t take too long to finish once I go back to it.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The American Girl - Review and Excerpt Says:
This fascinating story told in three ways: a video recording of Quinn in the hospital as she works to remember what happened; Quinn's earlier blog journals; and First Person Molly  - the investigative reporter.

Quinn's blog journal entries are disturbing as she is wary of a possible stalker and her readers are telling her to be careful.  She has been shipped off for the summer by her absentee parents to a computer matched family in France and while it seemed good on paper, the match is far from perfect for her.

After Molly starts investigating what happened to Quinn, before they even notice the French family is missing, she finds herself sideswiped while driving her car, desk ransacked, etc. Who is going after her when she barely understands what crime, if there is one, has occurred?

Molly and Quinn begin to work together to find the truth of why she ran out of the woods screaming and injured and where the missing French family are.

This is a twisty story, what's the truth?  Is Quinn hiding something from the world...or from herself?

Click HERE for Excerpt

The American Girl
Kate Horsley
William Morrow
August 2016

About the Book

From a bright new talent comes a riveting psychological thriller about an American exchange student in France involved in a suspicious accident, and the journalist determined to break the story and uncover the dark secrets a small town is hiding.
On a quiet summer morning, seventeen-year-old American exchange student Quinn Perkins stumbles out of the woods near the small French town of St. Roch. Barefoot, bloodied, and unable to say what has happened to her, Quinn’s appearance creates quite a stir, especially since the Blavettes—the French family with whom she’s been staying—have mysteriously disappeared. Now the media, and everyone in the idyllic village, are wondering if the American girl had anything to do with her host family’s disappearance.
Though she is cynical about the media circus that suddenly forms around the girl, Boston journalist Molly Swift cannot deny she is also drawn to the mystery and travels to St. Roch. She is prepared to do anything to learn the truth, including lying so she can get close to Quinn. But when a shocking discovery turns the town against Quinn and she is arrested for the murders of the Blavette family, she finds an unlikely ally in Molly.
As a trial by media ensues, Molly must unravel the disturbing secrets of the town’s past in an effort to clear Quinn’s name, but even she is forced to admit that the American Girl makes a very compelling murder suspect. Is Quinn truly innocent and as much a victim as the Blavettes—or is she a cunning, diabolical killer intent on getting away with murder…?
Told from the alternating perspectives of Molly, as she’s drawn inexorably closer to the truth, and Quinn’s blog entries tracing the events that led to her accident, The American Girl is a deliciously creepy, contemporary, twisting mystery leading to a shocking conclusion.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Last Road Home - Review and Trailer

Book cover of The Last Road Home by Danny JohnsonIdgie Says:
Anna Jean Mayhew, who I think very highly of, told Danny to contact me for a possible review.  If Anna Jean wants Danny and I to meet via book, I pay attention!

This slice of life Southern story tells about Junebug Hurley.  He loses his family young and after moving in with his grandparents, slowly begins to learn the meaning of friendship and love.  Unfortunately, he also has to learn about bigotry, race, and wars that will not be won.  

This leads him to also learn about retribution. 

This is not a happy book.  There are no simple solutions and pleasant endings.  Some of the pages include horrific descriptive images of war.  Junebug's choices that he makes, and the ones that are made for him, lead him through a life that is fraught with difficulty and regret.  

A fascinating story that left me feeling frustrated at the end.  But if a book provides you emotions, it has done the job properly. 


The Last Road Home
Danny Johnson
Kensington Fiction
August 2016

 "This novel is sure to join the rich canon of Southern literature." --Anna Jean Mayhew, author of The Dry Grass of August

From Pushcart Prize nominee Danny Johnson comes a powerful, lyrical debut novel that explores race relations, first love, and coming-of-age in North Carolina in the 1950s and '60s.

At eight years old, Raeford "Junebug" Hurley has known more than his share of hard lessons. After the sudden death of his parents, he goes to live with his grandparents on a farm surrounded by tobacco fields and lonesome woods. There he meets Fancy Stroud and her twin brother, Lightning, the children of black sharecroppers on a neighboring farm. As years pass, the friendship between Junebug and bright, compassionate Fancy takes on a deeper intensity. Junebug, aware of all the ways in which he and Fancy are more alike than different, habitually bucks against the casual bigotry that surrounds them--dangerous in a community ruled by the Klan.

On the brink of adulthood, Junebug is drawn into a moneymaking scheme that goes awry--and leaves him with a dark secret he must keep from those he loves. And as Fancy, tired of saying yes'um and living scared, tries to find her place in the world, Junebug embarks on a journey that will take him through loss and war toward a hard-won understanding.

At once tender and unflinching, The Last Road Home delves deep into the gritty, violent realities of the South's turbulent past, yet evokes the universal hunger for belonging.

The Shattered Tree - A Spotlight Todd
The Shattered Tree
A Bess Crawford Mystery
William Morrow
August 30, 2016

Click HERE to read an excerpt

About the Book

World War I battlefield nurse Bess Crawford goes to dangerous lengths to investigate a wounded soldier’s background—and uncover his true loyalties—in this thrilling and atmospheric entry in the bestselling “vivid period mystery series” (New York Times Book Review).

At the foot of a tree shattered by shelling and gunfire, stretcher-bearers find an exhausted officer, shivering with cold and a loss of blood from several wounds. The soldier is brought to battlefield nurse Bess Crawford’s aid station, where she stabilizes him and treats his injuries before he is sent to a rear hospital. The odd thing is, the officer isn’t British—he’s French. But in a moment of anger and stress, he shouts at Bess in German.
When Bess reports the incident to Matron, her superior offers a ready explanation. The soldier is from Alsace-Lorraine, a province in the west where the tenuous border between France and Germany has continually shifted through history, most recently in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, won by the Germans. But is the wounded man Alsatian? And if he is, on which side of the war do his sympathies really lie?

Of course, Matron could be right, but Bess remains uneasy—and unconvinced. If he was a French soldier, what was he doing so far from his own lines . . . and so close to where the Germans are putting up a fierce, last-ditch fight?

When the French officer disappears in Paris, it’s up to Bess—a soldier’s daughter as well as a nurse—to find out why, even at the risk of her own life.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break - Review

Idgie Says:
This book was originally published in 2000, but is back in print as a follow up will be available this month (Info on that below).

I found this to be  a surreal story in that the entire book is pretty much about every day events, trying to muddle through life,  it just happens to have these events happening to a very old Minotaur who can barely speak and works as a line cook in a run down restaurant.  He deals with the everyday issues of working in a restaurant, along with odd special issues such as he has to look sideways to make crepes because his snout blocks his view. 

The descriptive writing is excellent in this novel and you really feel the sense of place.  

Oddly enough, what with the mythical creature and such, it's a very human story. 


Book Description

Original Hardback Publication 2000
Trade Paperback: 2016
John F. Blair, Publisher

In this debut novel, Steven Sherrill follows the minotaur -- a mythological creature with the body of a man and the head of a bull -- through two weeks of his life as a cook at a steakhouse in the contemporary American South. Once a devourer of virgins and lads, time and circumstances have diminished his power considerably.

Through the Minotaur's experiences, Sherrill spotlights the alienation and loneliness that are part of our society. During the two-week period we follow the Minotaur, we meet memorable characters along the way from his co-workers at the restaurant to his neighbors at the trailer park. Sherrill also manages to make mundane doings -- kitchen work, car repair, personal grooming -- interesting and even exciting. By the end of the novel, the reader is pulling for the Minotaur to find the brief moment of happiness that he has sought for so many centuries.

 Five thousand years out of the Labyrinth that held him captive, and as many years beyond the dubious bargain that set him free, the Minotaur finds himself struggling to negotiate the American South with the body of a man and the head of a bull.

The Minotaur tries to balance the past, the present, and a looming future from behind the cooks' line at Grub's Rib, where his coworkers know both his skill with a chef's knife and the sometimes dangerous nature of his horns. At Lucky-U Mobile Estates, the Minotaur lives in a boat-shaped trailer and shares with his neighbors an appreciation for a quiet lifestyle and a respect for auto repairs.

Over the duration of his life, the Minotaur has roamed the earth and seen much, yet he has reaped little wisdom to help him navigate the complex geography of human relationships. Inarticulate, socially inept, tolerated at best by modern folk, he has been reduced from a monster with an appetite for human flesh to a broken creature with very human needs.

During the two weeks covered by the novel, the delicate balance tips, and the Minotaur finds his life dissolving into chaos while he simultaneously awakens to the possibility of love.

Among the characters peopling the Minotaur's world are Kelly, whose own debilitating flaw allows her affinity for the Minotaur; Sweeny, the rough-hewn but kindly proprietor of the mobile-home park; and Buddy, Sweeny's unforgettable, unlucky, randy bulldog.

The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break is an effortless blend of the mundane and the mythic, a unique world in which kitchen work becomes high drama and meetings between legendary creatures almost pass notice. But strangest of all in Steven Sherrill's debut novel, everything seems to make perfect sense.


The Minotaur Takes His Own Sweet Time
John F. Blair
Sept. 2016

 Sixteen years have passed since Steven Sherrill first introduced us to “M,” the selfsame Minotaur from Greek mythology, transplanted to the modern American South, in the critically acclaimed The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break.  M has moved north now, from a life of kitchens and trailer parks, to that of Civil War re-enactor at a run-down living history park in the dying blue-collar rustbelt of central Pennsylvania. Though he dies now, in uniform, on a regular basis, M's world, his daily struggles, remain unchanged. Isolation. Loneliness. Other-ness.

Shepherded, cared for, by the Guptas, the immigrant family who runs the motel where he lives, outsiders in their own right, and tolerated by his neighbors, by most of his coworkers at Old Scald Village, but tormented by a few, M wants only to find love and understanding. The serendipitous arrival of Holly and her damaged brother, halted on their own journey of loss, stirs hope in the Minotaur’s life. As their paths overlap we find ourselves rooting for the old bull as he stumbles toward a real live human relationship.