Sergei Kourdakov, a former KGB agent and Soviet naval intelligence officer, defected from the USSR at the age of twenty. A year later we met at my Federal Government office in Washington DC. We were watched and followed. “Even you could be spy,” Sergei whispered. My book, A Rose for Sergei, is the true story of our time together.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Author Interview | Touching Spirits with Kevin R. Hill - Part 2

Continuing from last week…Welcome to Part 2 of my interview with author Kevin R. Hill.  I mentioned in Part 1 that I had a feeling Mr. Hill was full of surprises.  Little did I know that the title and cover of his book we were discussing would change between my blog posts!  I’d like to think it’s because I had such wonderful questions for him and he was inspired.  All joking aside, one of the best parts of being an Indie Author is having the flexibility to make all the changes you want.  Therefore, I’m honored to announce the title for “Touching Spirits, The Mayan Case” has been officially changed to “The Mayan Case.”  The last part of this interview ran a little long, but I assure you Mr. Hill is a very entertaining writer.

Let me explain why I changed the title and cover.  It was a difficult decision to make, but several readers contacted me and in their email they mentioned they nearly didn’t bother with my book because with the ‘Touching Spirits’ title, they originally thought it a new age book.  That simply wouldn’t do.  I wondered how many had been put off by the title.  So, I had my designer create a cover that left no doubt as to the type of book. With the new badge and gun, it is clearly an action/suspense novel.

Kevin, I enjoyed reading your book, The Mayan Case.  The way you describe main hero Cody’s reactions to the ghosts were insightful and real.  Did you ever have any personal encounters with the supernatural?

So, you’re asking if I want to go on record as having a screw loose.  I laugh.  ‘I think not.’  However,
Kevin R. Hill, Author
I don’t laugh at those who believe in the existence of ghosts, but rather listen with a writer’s ear for good fiction.

Let me relate an example of good listening.  I lived in a Mayan village on the Caribbean in the mid-eighties.  There was one tin roof market in town.  Most of the houses were built of jungle poles and topped with palm fronds.  It was a slow, magical life.  I wore sandals, shorts and a tank top, all day long.  The bank opened at 9am, or closer to 10am if the clerk who opened the doors stayed in bed longer than usual to get a quickie.

If you were at a party and the host ran out of beer at one in the morning, no problem.  He just jumped in his car and drove down the one road to Ramone’s house, and got him out of bed to open the liquor store.

A friend’s mother-in-law ran a small hotel at one end of town.  One of four cabanas that sat on the beach was haunted by the Alux, or so said the mother-in-law.  The Alux are a mythological creature said to reside in the area, and described as fun-loving, black leprechauns.  Although she tried a hundred times to rent the haunted cabana, customers would always come to the front desk the next morning, or during the night, if they dared walk up the dark path along the beach, and ask to change rooms.

She said they never specified why they wanted to change rooms.  Most would mumble something like: ‘It’s just a feeling I get.’  Vacationers could feel something in that room.

So, is there a creature known in Yucatan as Alux, or is it nonsense?  While I was there I was commissioned to write an article for a tourist magazine.  The title was to be, ‘Who were the Ancient Maya.’  So I borrowed a bunch of history books and began reading about the ancient Maya.  At some point, days into the research, I read mention of a text that describes a black dwarf with magical powers that helped build the Mayan city of Uxmal.  That stopped me cold.

I put two and two together.  I had locals telling stories about black leprechauns, and now mention of a black dwarf with magical powers.  Was that dwarf an Alux?  It didn’t matter whether I believed in their existence or not.  What mattered was it was great stuff for a book.

Those stories of the Alux found their way into ‘Touching Spirits, The Mayan Case,’ my most recent book.  I use the Alux to create suspense and intrigue.  So, to answer your question: Where fiction is concerned I’m willing to say, What if….

What part of Cody reflects you?

Cody is dear to my heart.  I lived in the house I describe in the book, with the frog named Ralph in the toilet tank, a feral cat who hunted lizards in the house while I typed, and spiders larger in diameter than a golf ball!  But with the sound of the surf drifting through my window, those things didn’t matter.  Often I awoke in my hammock singing, carrying from a dream the melody.  It was Writer’s Paradise!  I was paying $40 a month for a house on the Caribbean, spear fishing daily and eating free lobster.  I hope the love I have for my special village, for my abandoned house, comes alive in my book.  Part of me does live in Cody.

Do you hear from your readers much?  What kinds of things do they have to say?

I found getting email from readers to be a scary experience.  Although my magazine articles are highly commercial, my fiction has always been a rather private endeavor.  But suddenly, after I published ‘Touching Spirits, The Mayan Case,’ readers were contacting me and I didn’t know what to do.  I had fans!  Who were these people?  It took time for me to adjust to being read and liked for my fiction.  Some readers loved the cooking I described, and wanted recipes from Yucatan.  Others loved Cody’s pet cats.  Most, however, went on about the village, the quaint little village I lived in and loved.

Of all the books you’ve written, which is your favorite?  Why?

I guess my favorite was my first, about a group of people I call travelers, who gather on a farm in Switzerland to harvest apples.  It is dear to me because for many years I was a traveler and roamed Europe, Africa, and the Middle-East.  I harvested apples in Switzerland, hay in Denmark, and taught English to German businessmen while living in a tent beside the Rhine.

Travel is education.  It frees the mind of social constraints imposed by society.  We all know what is expected of us to be good Americans, how to act, what to do.  But take any American and plop them down in Cairo, Egypt, and suddenly their sense of self is shaken.  How should they act?  They are liberated to try new things, thrilled by new ideas.  Haven’t you felt that thrill of being in a new place when you go on vacation?  It affects a person deeply.  Now imagine traveling with only a back pack, hitch hiking from country to country for years!  I experienced that exuberance.  That is why the first book, which I am now rewriting and preparing to publish, is dear to me.  I lived it.  “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”—St Augustine

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give to your younger self?

‘Stop being so serious!’  Life is great, even when it’s shitty.

Any advice you would like to give to aspiring writers?

Writing is craft.  Study it.  Practice makes perfect; practice and about forty rewrites.  I’d also like to add something a bit controversial: Writers, study plot and the formula for genre fiction.  Then, decide what you want to be as a writer.  Do you want to add to the world’s collection of a million mysteries, or another genre novel, or, heaven forbid, do you want to write art?  Do you want to write fiction that people stay up all night reading, frantically turning pages, racing through action or suspense or romantic scenes, and forget your name by the end of the week?  Or, do you want to try to write that rare book that readers lovingly brush with fingertips as they pass it on the shelf, or don’t want to finish because they feel as though reading it is like being with a good friend?  You decide.

If you choose the latter, remember that above all else, writers are entertainers.  If you don’t entertain, no one will read you!  So, I repeat, know plot, know the genre formula, the three act structure, because even if you want to be the modern Faulkner, you have to capture the reader, and that is done with time-proven plot structure, and masterful literary devices.  Take for example Arthur Conan Doyle, and his Sherlock Holmes series.  Watson, when you think about him, is there as a literary device.  Because Holmes has to tell Watson how he reaches his conclusions, the reader is informed.  Know the tricks.  Know the game.  Entertain.

Then, take the reader to that deep dark secret you don’t want anyone to know about.  That is not something to hide.  It is the writer’s gift.  Illuminate it with fiction, unless it will get you arrested!  Good luck.—Kevin R. Hill

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The questions Mr. Hill asked me can be found on his July 14, 2016 blog post titled:

Monday, July 18, 2016

Author Interview | Touching Spirits with Kevin R. Hill - Part 1

Kevin R. Hill, Author
I caught up with Indie Author Kevin R. Hill on Goodreads recently, and we discussed doing interview/blog exchanges.  Knowing that readers’ interests and book choices vary, we both readily agreed.  Thus said, our books couldn’t be more opposite.  A Rose for Sergei is Non-Fiction—it chronicles my real-life relationship with Soviet KGB defector Sergei Kourdakov.  Mr. Hill’s book, Touching Spirits, is Fiction—mystery, thriller, suspense.  Not only am I a fan of his books and blog…I’m looking forward to asking the questions that readers really want to know.  For some reason, I have a feeling that he will be shockingly honest and full of surprises in his responses.

First, a little background information—Kevin R. Hill began his writing career by selling travel articles during a decade he spent roaming Europe, Africa, and Mexico.  While completing his first novel he wrote a column for a national magazine.  All his work, from Action/Adventure novels to children's books and automotive how-to books, can be found on Amazon Kindle, and CreateSpace for hard cover editions.

What is the one thing you want readers to know about you?

I think the blog exchange is a great idea.  The one thing I want readers to know about me? Ah, um, well, that for many years I traveled Europe, Africa, and Mexico, and lived in Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Yucatan, and Israel, until they asked me to leave. Travel, I believe, is a great teacher. It is from those experiences, from picking apples in Switzerland, to living in an abandoned house on the Caribbean, and spear fishing for meat, that I draw on for my fiction.

Kevin, you can’t leave us hanging with “I traveled…Israel…until they asked me to leave.”  Sooo…exactly why were you asked to leave? 

You would ask me that question. Please edit the following how you like.  I’m off to work and will have to get to you tomorrow.  (Note to Readers from K. Kidd – I did correct typos in his hastily written email, but this was so funny I couldn’t leave anything out!)

Well, there was a time when I was very wild.  I was working on a kibbutz (a community farm).  There I turned a potter’s shack into a bar that rocked The Police [English rock band) loud enough to be heard in Lebanon, four kilometers away!  Then I met a Danish woman with hair of spun silver and green eyes that touched my soul.  I mean she looked at me across the hopping dance floor and it felt like somebody dumped a wheel barrel of rocks on my chest.  I was so in love I could hardly stand up!

But when Christmas rolled around I wanted to throw a party for the volunteers.  We needed a tree, so I cut one down.  The Danes danced around it.  Someone pinched beer tops onto wire and strung it around the branches.  An Italian woman covered the base with a sheet, and we had quite a party before the gardener burst in like a madman, his face beet red with anger, and knocked the stereo to the ground.

Every dancer stood still as he dragged the tree outside.  I was told that the tree had been a diplomatic gift to Israel, and that it would be a good idea for me to leave the kibbutz.  So that blond and I left.  About a year later we were married.

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Part 2 of Interview with Kevin R. Hill next week!  After reading this book I want to know if he's had encounters with spirits or ghosts.
To be continued . . .

Touching Spirits Synopsis:  Police Sergeant Cody Brannon has killers chasing him and a ghost that grabs him at night. What is going on?  Cody’s quest for answers drives him—one step ahead of the killers—to a crazy Grandmother in California, and to a Cancun village.  In the sandy village the Maya follow him everywhere.  A friend is murdered, and as Cody investigates he discovers the Maya are hiding a secret that will shake the world.  Now he just has to get out alive.

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The questions Mr. Hill asked me can be found on his July 14, 2016 blog post titled:

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Virginia Authors Book Sampler | A Rose for Sergei

My copy of the Virginia Authors Book Sampler finally arrived!  I’m beyond happy to be one of fourteen State of Virginia authors featured in the Summer 2016 issue.  You would think I might be used to seeing my name in print.  It’s on my book…front, side and back cover.  But it’s still new to me, and I do a double-take when I see my name on something so public.

The first chapters of each featured book and author bios are spread over a few pages in this magazine.  These writing samples give readers a glimpse of some very interesting and entertaining stories.  Information concerning where to purchase featured books is also included.

The book sampler, a Rook Communications Publication, was created by Victor Rook.  Mr. Rook is an Author, Filmmaker, Photographer, Web Designer and an Editor/Publisher.  He also happens to be the kind of person who gives 100% back to the writing community.

So yes, that’s my name on the cover.  Column one.  Fourth name down.  I thank you, Mr. Rook, for this opportunity to showcase my book, A Rose for Sergei.

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Thank you “Nurmi” for the heartfelt review on Amazon and for contacting me!!

“Five Star” Review for A Rose for Sergei:

“This was such a beautiful love story!  When others wrote there was laughter and tears, I had to find out.  All the nuances from the 70s rang a bell with me as well.  I'm very glad Miss Kidd decided to write this book.  No plans to look behind my shower curtain though.”
—Nurmi Hendrikson