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Harley Quinn Invades San Diego Comic-Con 2014

Creators Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner talk to us about some of their favorite memories from past San Diego Comic-Cons, what they love about it, and their new book, Harley Quinn Invades San Diego Comic-Con. Harleycomiccon

So, we have Harley Quinn invading San Diego Comic Con this year!

Jimmy Palmiotti: She has an actual ticket.

She has to wait in the ticket line?

J: No no, we know people at WB and they can get her past. *laughs*

How long have you two been going to comic conventions?

Amanda Conner: We were just talking about that, and Jimmy says he’s been going since 1991 and I think I started going the year after you, so I’m going to say ’92 for myself.

J: So if you add that up, the answer is… too long *laughs.* But you know, we love the conventions and I mean it’s the event for us every year. It’s one of our big events.

Is there something you look forward to every year at Comic Con?

A: We both look forward to it, and we dread it.

J: The Monday after the con is awesome. We don’t leave until Tuesday so we make sure we have a pool day at the hotel on Monday.

A: And the convention is so fun but it’s so crazy at the same time. So we’re excited and we’re scared at the same time.

J: You know it’s fun to see the people we work for, because they all come out.

Thank you! That’s so nice of you. *laughs*-weird to say that if this is on/from Amazon??

J: It is! And you know then you get to see the other artists who are in the business and we get to meet the fans and they’re great, and look, it’s the best job in the world. You just sit there and people come up and tell us how happy they are. I mean, where else can you have that? Nobody has that. It’s just fantastic and the art collector in me likes to walk around and pick up some art and Amanda buys a lot of weird things there.

 And it’s just great because there’s always great dinners at night.There’s an energy. You guys know. There’s this energy that goes on there. It’s also always fun to wait to cross the street with 8,000 people. I’m kidding.

Through that one narrow crosswalk, it’s like being herded into the ark. It’s horrible.

A: You have to wait in line to cross the street. It’s so weird.

J: I think this year is going to be the year where it’s not only packed inside but I think there’s going to be a billion people who just come to stay outside.

There’s more and more of a presence of people outside who have set up tents.

J: We were thinking about getting like a 6-foot card table and just put it right in the grass across the street and sit there with our names on the table.

A: You know I’ve had this fantasy for like the past 18 years and I’m thinking to myself, one day I’m going to start doing poolside signings. That’s what I want to do.

J: Yes, because I want the fans to see me there. I’ll wear a Speedo. I think it’ll be fun. *laughs* If you wonder, I’ve been ignoring that.

Do you guys have a favorite moment or stand out memories from any convention?

A: Oh man.

J: Uh, like not adult stuff?

A: Is this stuff we’re allowed to talk about? *laughs*

J: I have some horrible stories that involve horrible things. But I can’t say that so something like, well, you know, I gotta say for…hm. Yeah that’s not good either.

A: Jimmy’s actually had more experiences than I have.

Jimmy you seem to be having a tough time coming up with a PG moment.

J: Yeah I’m thinking let’s tell that story…well, no that’s not good.

A: The Thomas Jane story? No, no no.

J: No, not that one either.

A: But you know because I get stuck at the table so Jimmy ends up exploring so he’s always, you know, running into the celebrities.

J: We did harass Conan O’Brien at the Warner Brothers party, that was fun.

A: Conan O’Brien and I talked to poor Johnny Galecki for about five minutes. *laughs*

J: And what’s his name, Henry Cavill, me and Dave Johnson are hanging out and were like “hey we’d like to say hi to him” and they had all this security and he looked over and was like “oh these guys are comic book guys, they can come over!” I thought that was pretty cool. All these other people were trying to get to him and he’s like “oh you know those are the poor comic book bastards, have them come over.” *laughs*

But you know, I think like we said the highlights always been the great dinners we have at night with everybody. The con is such a blend of madness that by the time we get spit out at 8 o’clock these quiet dinners are always kind of fun, we can catch up with everybody. We’ve also done a lot of charity events for the con and all those guys, so there’s no one specific story.

If we’re drinking in a bar one night, I’ll have plenty stories for you. *laughs* I’ve got great stories for you. But, these people are still alive and they have careers, I don’t really want to ruin them. Like we said, the highlights are always meeting the fans and getting feedback from them, even if they tell us we suck it’s still kind of fun.

On the flipside of that, do you guys have any memories of Comic Con that were just an absolute nightmare?

A: I mean, you know, absolute nightmare? We’ve been fortunate, and I’m knocking on wood when I say that, we’ve never lost anything. I’ve never gotten any art stolen or lost or anything like that.

J: We had like six people in our room once. They couldn’t get rooms, and we kept on telling everybody “hey, if you really get stuck you can stay with us.” Everybody got stuck. It looked like a wasteland of people in our room for the con. And we only had one rule, if Amanda and I needed to use the bathroom, everyone else had to wait since we paid for the room.

But no, it’s been good. There are always those silly things like waiting 8 hours across the street.

A: I think that’s the biggest nightmare for me, is when it’s Saturday evening and you’re so exhausted you’re seeing stars, and you’re like “oh I can leave now!” But you can’t really leave now, because you have to wait 20 minutes to get to the little entrance way to wait another 20 minutes to cross the street.

J: I’ve been part of other people’s nightmare stories. A couple of years ago I found a comic book writer laying in the street, passed out sleeping. He obviously had a bit too much to drink. So I put him on one of those luggage racks and wheeled him into the hotel, and I paid a pedicab guy 40 bucks to take this passed out guy to his hotel, I found the key in his pocket. I met the guy later on and he was alive so that’s good. *laughs*

There’s always those kinds of crazy stories. Weird stuff happens though. People bring Amanda artwork that she drew to get it signed and then it’s not drawn by Amanda, actually.

A: Yeah, that’s kind of bizarre.

J: Yeah, somebody else drew it and signed her name and sold it to them as Amanda’s artwork.

A: And then I feel so bad!

J: But for the most part it’s always fun.

A: Yeah, it is. I love the energy and the madness.

So what’s it like to get in the mindset to create the Harley Quinn comic?

A: You know what, it’s getting easier and easier and I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I don’t know if that’s going to be like thousands of dollars of therapy later on. But it’s just the craziest thing we can come up with when we’re eating dinner and we’re exhausted and just talking crazy to each other. We’re like “well, that doesn’t sound too crazy for Harley, we can do that!”

J: Yeah I have a thing that if we go through the whole issue and we both look back at it and we didn’t kill anyone, we gotta go back.

A: We have to step up our game.

J: We have to step up our game and have her get upset at somebody.

A: We try and guarantee at least one maiming and/or killing per issue.

J: Yeah, we could almost say they could be returnable if that isn’t going on somewhere in there. The book is fun because we write the book all day long. Meaning everywhere we go. Because we’re husband and wife we go to lunch together, we go to dinner together, it’s exhausting *laughs*. We’re always talking about what if this and what if that. Amanda has on her iPad a list of a billion ideas that we keep coming up with, you know, if we get a chance let’s do this, and let’s do that, because we see stuff in the street, we get inspired by people and stories. So at the end of the day we come back and say alright, now how do we put this together and work it in with Harley. And it’s true, it’s been getting easier and easier because there’s a beat to Harley. There’s a certain amount of sweetness and a certain amount of killer that we’re finding a comfort zone for it and the cool thing about the book is we can get these secondary characters introduced in her life that are completely off the wall. And get away with it in this book, because it all seems normal in her world.

This series has been a total smash-hit. What is it about this series that you think people are connecting to and absolutely loving?

J: I’ll say the first credit goes to DC because what they’ve been doing is they keep everything from the #0 to the newest book in circulation. So there’s 3rd printings, 4th printings, and I deal with a couple of retailers in our area and they say because DC keeps issue 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 in circulation they can constantly have all the issues on the shelf. And they said that’s been the biggest draw for the books that people can come in because they’ve heard about it for issue #5, and they can actually buy the past issues. Where, in a lot of comics, as you guys know, that’s not always the case with a lot of books. If you’re in issue 8 and you want 7, 6, and 5, you have to go hunting for them. So DC has been pretty brilliant in keeping the books in circulation and I think that is the biggest thing for us, because we gain a new reader with every issue and they’re able to catch up and it doesn’t intimidate them.

The other part, and I think Amanda will agree, is that we are hitting a female audience that a lot of the comics don’t. And we’re getting younger people, we’re getting a female audience, we’re getting people who want to try something different. We’re also not alienating people with a ton of continuity.

A: Yeah, and I think a lot of it also is that people enjoy reading it because Harley gets to do the things that sometimes you want to do to people but are highly illegal *laughs*.  If somebody is just driving you insane and it’s like “my god, I would just love to pitch that guy out of a window!” And then it’s like okay, I really can’t do that. But Harley can! So it’s sort of cathartic to read it.

With Harley Quinn heading to San Diego Comic Con, how do you think she’s going to react to all the Harley Quinn cosplay?

A: She’s very flattered and is “you want to dress like me?! That’s so cool!” And they’re all like “what do you mean dress like you?”  *laughs*

J: We do have a limousine full of Harleys pick up Harley in the street in the Gaslight district and they go and have a night out. So it’s Harley with like 12 other Harleys, and they get in a lot of trouble. It’s a lot of fun. We tried to sit there and we did our wish list of “If Harley was in San Diego, what kind of trouble would she get into?” And we pretty much hit everything on the list within the double sized issue.

A: Although occasionally we’ll keep coming up with things like “oh, we should have had her do this” but we can always save that for a future issue.

J: It kind of wrote itself. We’ve been going to the con for so long it’s sort of like there’s so many experiences, we’re kind of just working a lot of them into the book. It’s been a real fun job to work on.

Frightening Science Fiction­ – Or a Cautionary Tale?

51LZd6PoQcLThomas Waite, author of the newly released Lethal Code, shares with us that while his novel about a massive cyber war against the United States is fiction, the scariest part is that it could actually happen.

Unknown terrorists launch a cyber attack of unimaginable proportions on the United States. They take over the nation’s most vital computer systems, shutting down the country’s power grid, but not before the cyber terrorists infiltrate top-secret networks at the Pentagon and White House, along with scores of others. Unprecedented death and destruction follow. These cowards with codes produce a horrifying death toll, take control of the nation’s nuclear arsenal, and place another nuclear bomb in a backpack on a bus full of children headed to New York City. The race is on, with both professionals and everyday citizens risking everything they hold dear to defend themselves and fight this invisible invasion.

Sounds like dystopian science fiction, right? Don’t be so sure.

I’ve spent most of my life in the technology field. My first novel, Terminal Value, was a cyber sleuthing, murder mystery about a start-up mobile computing company and a large information technology services firm about to go public. In recent years, I’ve been involved with cyber security companies, which naturally had me researching and reading a lot about cyber attacks and cyber warfare. What I found was frightening.

The truth is that most of the technologies, cyber attack vulnerabilities, and cyber war scenarios in Lethal Code are based on facts. There are well-documented examples of cyber attacks by China, Russia, North Korea, Israel, the U.S., and other countries. Power, water, fuel, communications, and transportation infrastructure are all vulnerable to disruption. Not only has our federal government admitted that the electric power grid is susceptible to cyber warfare, but even the non-profit North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), which oversees all of the interconnected power systems of the contiguous United States, Canada and a portion of Mexico, has issued a public notice that the grid is not adequately protected.

One of the most seminal books I read was Richard Clarke’s non-fiction book, Cyber War (written with Robert Knake). Clarke has served in the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton, who appointed him as National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counterterrorism. Citing numerous examples, the book makes a very convincing case that although the U.S. pioneered the technology behind cyber warfare, our outdated thinking, policies, and strategies make us vulnerable to losing any cyber contest with a hostile nation.

Similarly, Leon Panetta, the former Secretary of Defense and Director of the CIA who oversaw the U.S. military operation that led to Osama bin Laden’s death, said in a speech in 2012 that our current situation has left us open to “an attack that would paralyze and shock the nation…” He then added his most chilling note of all: “Before September 11, 2001, the warning signs were there. We weren’t organized. We weren’t ready and we suffered terribly for that lack of attention. We cannot let that happen again. This is a pre-9/11 moment.”

As much as I want to entertain my readers, it’s important to note that Lethal Code is not just a fast-paced cyber thriller; it is a cautionary tale for a public largely unaware of a potential cyber war of cataclysmic proportions from an unseen enemy.



Meet George R.R. Martin at Comic-Con International: San Diego

51t3ZoRpTBLOn Sunday, July 27, 12:30pm – 1:30pm, author George R.R. Martin will be at the ComiXology booth #2547 to promote and sign copies of The Hedge Knight: The Graphic Novel (A Game of Thrones), published by Jet City Comics. Signing is limited to 200 copies, given away free, first-come, first-serve. Guests may bring up to one additional copy of The Hedge Knight or its sequel, The Sworn Sword (please note that Mr. Martin will not be signing any other books). The Hedge Knight and The Sworn Sword will also be available for purchase in limited supply at Forbidden Planet’s Titan Booth #5537.

Alison Kent on RITA Nominations

Romance author Alison Kent discusses the honor of receiving a 2014 RITA award nomination for her book, "The Second Chance Café." The official RITA award winners will be announced July 26.

Interested in RITA nominees? Read more from romance author Nancy Kerkness on her RITA nomination experience.

My name is Alison Kent, and I'm going to tell you all about the RITA experience. For those of you unfamiliar with this particular writing award, it's the highest peer-judged honor given every year to published romance novels and novellas by the Romance Writers of America.

This is how the RITA contest works. For every author I know.

  • Early autumn, when the RITA registration opens, we rush to send our entry fee to RWA before the contest reaches its entry cap and we're left looking in from the outside. Through our tears.
  • Late autumn, when the deadline for receipt of RITA books approaches, we rush to send the copies to the RWA office before it's too late. Since I now live less than five miles from the national headquarters, I get to skip the postage and the post office lines and motor over!
  • Early winter, when the RITA judging packets hit our front doors, we rush to rip into the boxes, wanting to see what has arrived. It's like a late Christmas gift. Free books! New authors! Free books!
  • Late winter, when the RITA scores are due, we rush to the RWA website to submit them. Or at least I do. I'm sure there are some out there who are much more organized!
  • Early spring, when the RITA finalists are announced, we rush to get out of bed so we can then wait by the phone. The calls go out early. Twitter explodes with congratulations. Those whose categories have not yet been called try not to weep.

Funny how much rushing is involved when publishing is all about "hurry up and wait."

This year when the calls began, I was sitting in my kitchen coffee shop with my husband pretending the day was no different from any other. This is our morning routine. Coffee and Twitter for me. Coffee and Fark for him. I was reading the tweeted call announcements and cheering on friends. Then our house phone rang. The only unit we have is upstairs.

SecondChanceCafe_"That's my RITA call," I said, and didn't even move. My feet were propped up. I had my phone in one hand, my coffee mug in the other. There was no way I would be able to pry myself out of my cushy chair and get to the phone before it stopped ringing. My husband felt differently. He sprinted to my office and caught the call in time. I had entered three books in two different categories, but in my heart of hearts knew which had finaled.

How did I know it was a RITA call? For one thing, no one who knows us to talk to us uses the house phone, but it is the number attached to my official RWA membership. The real reason I was so sure, however, is because The Second Chance Cafe has been a magic book since the moment it became a Montlake Romance - and I can't even explain why. I did nothing differently while writing it than I did while writing any of the forty-plus books that came before. It was a matter of the right book and the right publisher at the right time.

I think that's called luck. And mine was twenty years in the making.

My first book was released in 1993, years before social media was a thing. It took days to find out who had finaled. Some years I didn't see the full list until the Romance Writers Report (RWA's official magazine) arrived with the announcement weeks later. There was no hearing the news as the calls were made, no getting to celebrate with friends on the spot.

I'm so glad it took this long (no, really!) because of that experience. Congratulations from readers and authors alike chirping on my phone made "call day" the best ever. Flowers arriving from my publisher brightened my kitchen coffee shop for days. Wearing a RITA pin and ribbon during the RWA conference will make the week fun beyond words.

I've enjoyed every minute of being a finalist and will do so even after the winner is announced. It's an incredible honor to have my book selected by my peers as one of the year's best romances. I'm thrilled to death to be able to share it with Amazon Montlake.

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When RITA Calls...

Romance author Nancy Herkness discusses her experience receiving a 2014 RITA award nomination for her book, "Country Roads." The official RITA award winners will be announced July 26.

On Wednesday morning, March 26, I received a voice mail from Claudia Dain, asking me to call her back. Now I know who Claudia Dain is—a fabulous writer of historical romance - but I’ve never met her in person and she certainly wouldn’t call me out of the blue. 

Then I remembered that it was the day the RITA finalists were notified. You may not have heard of the RITA awards, but to a romance writer, they are the equivalent of the Oscars. There’s a huge ceremony at the national Romance Writers of America conference in July, attended by over a thousand people.  The nominees get dressed up in long elegant evening gowns and are treated like visiting royalty.  Your editor sits at the table with you while your head shot and book cover are flashed up on giant screens as they read the nominations.  If you win, you make an acceptance speech and receive a gleaming golden statuette.

CountryRoads_Claudia’s message lit a little flicker of excitement in my chest, although I told myself her call had to be about something else. I had just signed up for a new marketing program sponsored by RWA.  Perhaps they wanted to discuss some aspect of that.

However, I ran downstairs and told my husband about the message. It was a delaying tactic because I was afraid to call Claudia back, afraid it would douse that tiny flame of thrilling anticipation. Of course, my husband told me to call her back immediately!

I did and that tiny flame of hope turned into a raging bonfire of stunned joy as Claudia, in her role as an RWA board member, told me that my second Whisper Horse novel, Country Roads, had been nominated for a RITA award in contemporary romance. She patiently listened to me hyperventilate in her ear before she congratulated me and told me I’d be getting more details soon.

As soon as I hung up, I raced back downstairs to my waiting husband where I shrieked, kissed him, and began dancing around the room like a lunatic.

I’ve been dancing off and on ever since.

As soon as the list of RITA finalists was made public, a flood of congratulations poured into my email inbox, onto my Facebook page, and into my voice mail.  My publisher sent me a beautiful bouquet of red roses. In fact, I was stunned by how much attention and good wishes came my way. It warmed the cockles of my heart.

Next was a mad scramble to secure hotel and airplane reservations to San Antonio, Texas, for the conference and ceremony.  My proud husband decided I should travel like a movie star, so he used all our frequent flier miles to upgrade me to first class.

Then there was the shopping. Being Queen for a Day means you have to attempt to look like one.  My daughter and I set off on a tour of all the bridal salons in the area—and this is northern New Jersey, so there are a lot of them—and found the perfect evening dress, one that makes me feel like a star of the silver screen. We added sparkly shoes and glittering rhinestone jewels to make the ensemble even more glamorous.  (I considered a tiara but decided that was a little too over-the-top.) Nothing is more fun than shopping for a fancy outfit with your daughter!

Kindleblog-RITApic-Herkness_750A few days ago, the mailman delivered a little white box from RWA. I opened it to find my RITA finalist pin, a small silver replica of the figurine the winner receives, as well as the official invitation to the RITA reception. The dancing commenced again, because this was the first physical manifestation of my nomination.

Of course, winning an award is not what drives me to write. I do it for the joy of putting my stories into words and sharing them with readers. I find happiness sitting in my attic room in front of the word processor, conjuring up vibrant characters, taut dialogue, and gut-wrenching emotions. Nothing gives me more pleasure than hearing from a reader that my books have touched her heart in some way.  But it’s fun to have an unexpected reason to put on a pretty dress and high heels. 

The truth is: I don’t expect to win the RITA. Equally true is the fact that I’m totally fine with that. Just being nominated is such an amazing honor and validation. It means my peers consider my book among the absolute best of the best when it comes to a romance novel. Knowing this is more than enough to send me twirling into a pirouette whenever I think about it.

Now I have to go write my acceptance speech...

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Guest Blogger: "Blightborn" Author Chuck Wendig

BlightbornChuck Wendig, author of Under the Empyrean Sky and its new follow-up, Blightborn, reflects on memorable worldbuilding in teen and YA literature.

Worldbuilding. Such a tricky thing. Epic fantasy worldbuilds with a heavy hand (How many times do I have to read about a half  dozen family crests or the mating rituals of the Bonebreak Goblin or which fork you’re supposed to use at what meal when dining at the table of a red-bellied Copper Dragon and all his cantankerous dragon pals?).

For me, the real power is when worldbuilding follows the story—when it starts slow, goes bigger as needed. When readers get just enough to move them to the next page, each small spoonful of the world act as a tantalizing mystery—a bite that keeps you eating instead of filling you up from the first word.

A book that does this particularly well? The first two books in John Hornor Jacobs’s Incarcerado trilogy. In the first book, The Twelve-Fingered Boy, we meet two boys sentenced to an Arkansas juvenile detention center who happen to have psychic powers. And at first, the world is small. It’s just them and the other boys and workers of the facility. That’s it. But slowly, the world shows its cracks, and you start to get the sense of a larger picture—factions and forces beyond them and beyond the walls. And by the time you get to the second book, The Shibboleth, the world grows much larger—but still not so much that you’re overwhelmed by it. The book still preserves mystery while parceling out all the crucial details of a secret world laid over our own. That’s when, for me, worldbuilding is successful—when it doesn’t overwhelm, when it works to show more than it tells, and when it serves the story instead of forcing the story to serve it.  

In book two of the Heartland Trilogy, Blightborn, my goal was twofold: first, to open up the world, and second, to dig deeper into the characters. So, in effect, that means readers get to go out into the world but also go within the characters—and so, we learn more about Gwennie and we get to spend a lot of time on one of the Empyrean flotillas. We visit a lot of new locations and chalk up a lot of unseen characters—some we’ve only heard about before but never glimpsed. That’s part of the fun of a second book: you get all this other stuff out of the way and more time for sweet, sweet worldbuilding.

Guest Post by Blake Crouch, Author of the Wayward Pines Series

Blake_crouch_author_photo_2013Blake Crouch, author of The Wayward Pines Series, talks about his favorite thrillers set in remote locations and small towns:

I’m definitely more of a thriller than a mystery guy. I love huge, high-concept ideas, supported by a breathless pace. There is something uniquely terrifying and claustrophobic about taking a huge story and placing it in a small town, in the middle of the forest, or a post-apocalyptic wasteland.  When you can’t just call for help and have the entire might of the NYC police force rush to your aid, the stakes somehow feel higher, and hope is suddenly in short supply. Here’s my top 6 list for these kinds of thrillers that have set the bar for everything else I read:

Testament – David Morrell

If you think James Dickey’s Deliverance is the ultimate man against nature/survivalist thriller, check out Morrell’s second novel about a family on the run in the mountains of Wyoming. Unrelenting and not afraid to delve into the darkest of places.

Vertical Run – Joseph Garber

What if you went to work one day and everyone you saw tried to kill you? I’m such a sucker for setups like that and this thriller pays it off in spades. Also, the book’s framing device, which takes place in the remote, High Sierra, is some of my favorite writing of all time.

Jurassic Park – Michael Crichton

Will this high-concept thriller about dinosaurs brought to life in our time ever be topped? I’m not holding my breath. Intelligent, scary, lightning-paced, and all in support of the coolest idea ever put to page. This is the thriller all other thrillers want to be when they grow up.

The Road – Cormac McCarthy

So unbelievably sad and so gorgeously written. Much of it is just a father and son wandering through a post-apocalyptic wasteland, covered in ash, but when McCarthy turns up the juice, your heart won’t be able to stand the tension.

Shutter Island – Dennis Lehane

A paranoid, WTF-is-happening thriller if ever there was one, and the reveal at the end, so rare in novels like this, will leave your jaw on the floor.

The Girl Next Door – Jack Ketchum

I hesitate to even put this novel on the list. You shouldn’t read it. It’s dark, dark, dark, upsetting, and did I mention dark? But something about this story of a young girl who’s being kept in a basement in an otherwise quintessential American neighborhood is the most compelling thing I’ve read in a decade.


Guest Post by Karen Harper: Small Towns Are Scary

91rRsF9%2B8KL.__AA300_[1]New York Times bestselling author Karen Harper walks us through the twist and turns of her romantic suspense novels that take place in small towns where eccentric characters abound and the enemy is too often “us.”  It’s someone the heroine knows and trusts, someone who is keeping deadly secrets.  What a great contrast:  a charming Americana ambience vs. fear and terror.  And often, with a small police force, average citizens must help solve crimes which seem worse in a rural than an urban setting.

In my new Appalachian suspense novels, small town, rural settings really up the ante for an average woman facing fear and crime.  When a murder or kidnapping occurs in such a charming place, the shock is magnified over that of urban crime, where we almost expect something to go wrong.  A long-deserted, picturesque barn can provide a setting more scary than an empty urban apartment building.  Many Americans long to escape to the country, but danger lurks there too, the kind that seems more dreadful set amidst fields and forests, quaint stores and down home restaurants.    

In Shattered Secrets, the first book in The Cold Creek trilogy, (with Forbidden Ground and Broken Bonds to follow at two-month intervals) danger hides in the tall cornfield surrounding a charming, old farmhouse.  Appalachian foothills loom over the rural area and small town of Cold Creek where young girls have been disappearing for decades. 

I love setting terrifying events in lovely settings because being pushed into a grain silo can be as deadly as a bullet in my suspense novels.  Fear is much more primitive and unsettling.  In a way, this is Stephen King territory, but in my books, there is a dangerous love story also woven throughout and an uplifting ending.

 Although strange people and unique criminals can certainly abound in the big, bad city, I have found small town and rural characters to be more eccentric, unique and therefore, fascinating.  Often the villain is someone known to the main characters, which means betrayal and treachery on an intimate, personal level.  Sadly—tragically—the enemy is too often “us,” someone trusted and perhaps loved. 

I’m always thrilled when readers tell me they had no clue who the murderer or kidnapper was until the last chapter.  One of my favorite reviews said it best: “Harper, a master of suspense, keeps readers guessing about crime and love until the very end.”  (Booklist, starred review, on Fall From Pride.)

The isolation of people in small towns and the surrounding rural fields and forests means help is not just a quick phone call away as in the city.  In some rural areas with rolling hills, especially in the Appalachians, cell phones don’t work.  Even with moonlight and starlight, it can be intensely dark in the country at night, and, of course, really dark scenes work well too.  I’ve also written two trilogies set among the Ohio Amish, who only use lanterns and don’t want to call the police, even if they have a public phone nearby.  And getting help in a horse and buggy can mean a long ride on a dark road.

 Police in rural areas can be a great distance away, even if someone in danger can get through to them.  In my Maple Creek trilogy, my Dark Road Home trilogy, and now in the new Cold Creek trilogy, the small police force tries its best, but danger seems much more terrifying in what should be a safe setting, especially if the heroine, with the hero’s help, must save her own life. 

An old, abandoned insane asylum, a defunct coal mine, an Indian burial mound—you may never look at small town and rural life the same way again if you read a Karen Harper romantic suspense novel!  Keep the lights on at night and your window locked.  Enjoy!

Exclusive Q&A with Tom Taylor

Tom Taylor is the man behind DC's hit alternate universe books, Injustice: Gods Among Us and Earth 2. Check out what Tom has to tell us about the joys of writing outside continuity and where these two books are headed. 6192R7rQB7L

How do you think Injustice characters would fare against their Earth 2 counterparts?

Tom Taylor: Earth 2 is a very new world and, for the most part, our heroes are very inexperienced and still learning what it is to be a hero. Generally, the Injustice heroes would kick the ass of their Earth 2 counterparts.

However, for those who don’t know, (SPOILER INCOMING - highlight the text to continue reading) Batman of Earth 2 is actually Bruce Wayne’s father, Thomas Wayne, so it would be very interesting if those two came face-to-face. They’d probably fight a bit. Then try to out-stubborn each other. And then, finally, just go and hunt down the Joker together for some good old-fashioned violent, cathartic, father-son bonding time.

Interestingly, I think Green Lantern of Earth 2 may be the clear winner between the two. Alan Scott is about to demonstrate some absolutely astonishing power. I’m not sure how Hal Jordan would go standing up to that.

When it comes to the Supermen, our new Superman of Earth 2, Val, is a really pure soul and a pacifist, so he wouldn’t fight Injustice Superman. He’d try to talk to him… which probably wouldn’t end well because Injustice Superman is not so great with ‘talking’ anymore. He’s, sadly, more of a “heat-vision and ask questions later”-type of guy.

Val-Zod is taking over the mantle of the Man of Steel, what can readers expect from this new character? What's the main difference you see between him and a young Kal-El? 

Tom Taylor: Clark’s powers developed slowly and he had time to learn how to use them. He also had Ma and Pa Kent supporting him his whole life.

Val is a recently arrived refugee. He lost his parents when he was young and he’s spent most of his life in a capsule. He’s been thrust into a world he’s working quickly to understand, and his powers are coming faster than he could possibly deal with by himself. Fortunately he’s had Lois Lane to help him through this.

Val is a very innocent young man and he’s a pacifist. While Superman grew up knowing that sometimes conflict is necessary, Val believes violence is the single most stupid response to anything.

The characters in Earth 2 and Injustice have to be different and distinct, how do you distinguish the characters in these two series?

Tom Taylor: They really are just completely different people, so it’s not too hard to distinguish them. The only hard bit is living inside all of their heads every day while I write them.

You’re working on two titles that give you a lot of free reign; can you talk a little about what that’s like?

Tom Taylor: It’s a different freedom on each book but there’s still a great amount of freedom in both worlds. A lot of writers like notes and structure and always knowing where a story is going. I am most definitely not one of these writers.

For me, there’s nothing worse than a great idea coming from nowhere but being stuck in an unbreakable mould. I revel in being able to change a story when a character comes along and changes it.

You can’t write Harley Quinn and know what she’s going to say or do ahead of time.

Earth 2 is building toward the upcoming weekly comic Earth 2: World’s End, are you laying the groundwork for that now?

Tom Taylor: Some of the groundwork is being laid, definitely, but we really want to finish the story we’ve been telling for the last year first. Our heroes have been fighting without joy for too long. It’s time to give them some hope.

Tom Taylor can be followed on twitter @TomTaylorMade


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Who is the Shadow Hero? An Exclusive Interview with Gene Luen Yang

Go back in time and listen to an interview recorded last year with Gene Luen Yang where he talks to us about who The Shadow Hero is and where he comes from.

Click to Listen: Gene Yang Interview on The Shadow Hero


 Interested in comics and graphic novels? Sign up for Comics Delivers, a weekly email featuring the best in comics each week - from weekly booklists to deals and exclusive content from creators.