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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Author Interview & Contest with Alex Hughes!

Back in September I read an amazing debut called Clean by Alex Hughes.  I loved the thrilling mystery which involves telepathy, addiction, a lack of computers and some flying cars.   It had some really unusual and realistic concepts and I was hooked from the first chapter.

Now book two in the Mindscape Investigation Series is ready to make an appearance and I can't wait to see what happens next.  

I hope you enjoy the interview with Alex and also the excerpt from the new release, Sharp.   Make sure you take the time to find out more about the author and also don't forget to enter the contest!  Five lucky people will win a copy of Alex's new release!

More about Alex :

Alex has written since early childhood, and loves great stories in any form including scifi, fantasy, and mystery. Over the years, she has lived in many neighborhoods of the sprawling metro Atlanta area, including Decatur, the neighborhood on which Clean is centered. Her work is dark, complex, action-filled and a little funny. Her Mindspace Investigations series has been called "A fun blend of Chinatown and Blade Runner" by James Knapp, and Publisher's Weekly called her "a writer to watch."

When not writing you can find Alex in the kitchen cooking gourmet Italian food, watching hours of police procedural dramas, and humming to delightfully obscure music.

Places to find Alex:


Amber - Welcome back to Amberkatze's Book Blog! It is great to have you here again as a guest! Could you start things off by telling us a little about your second book in the Mindspace Investigations Series, Sharp?

Alex - Sharp picks up about six weeks after Clean. Cherabino is avoiding Adam due to what happened in the last book, and he is struggling to recover from an injury which is affecting everything--and which he has not told the police about. He shows up at a crime scene, and the victim is one of his old students from the Guild. Plus Tech parts are disappearing all over the city through a coordinated hijacking ring. It’s a big week.

Amber - How did you come up with the idea for the Mindscape Investigations Series? Was it a long process or did it just come to you?

Alex - The process took about two days for a creative writing class project. It started with a book I had just read, a TV show idea, and the struggle of a friend -- all of the ideas just slowly came together.

Amber - After having the first book, Clean, done and released, was it hard to focus and carry on with the series?

Alex - Surprisingly, yes. I had to figure out how to write a series, how to write on a deadline, and I had a frustrating experience trying to learn how to write to an outline, which is not my strength, all within a few months. It was intense! But I’m very happy with the results and with what I learned along the way.

Amber - How long on average does it take you to write a book? Do you have a process you follow? or do you just start at page one and see what happens?

Alex - This is a really tough question to answer, because I’m in the process of learning how to write faster and more efficiently. Clean took me ten years and seven revisions to get right, whereas I got Sharp to a good place in about four months, after a few months of planning the series. I’ve experimented with outlines and synopses, I’ve borrowed processes from writing teachers, and I continue to learn and to stretch myself. I started out as a pure pantser, someone who writes completely by the seat of my pants, but that doesn’t get me where I want to be without a great deal of extra work. So I’m learning how to plan more, and where to plan, and how. It’s an adventure.

Amber - What kind of research have you had to do for your books? Anything interesting or is it all boring?

Alex - I’ve done a great deal of reading on the brain, behavior, and some on addiction. I spent a lot of time with a decades-long AA sponsor, who was kind enough to read the first book and give feedback as well as share his life and experience with me. He took me to a meeting, and he was endlessly patient in answering questions.

I also went to the Writer’s Police Academy this past year, and have done a great deal of research on forensics and crime scene study on my own. It’s fascinating stuff.

Amber - How do you pick the names for your characters? Do they have any special meanings?

Alex - To be honest, I steal names from people I’ve met and names I see out and about in the real world. If everything else fails and I need a name, I go to the internet and ask for the list of most common US names and choose something that sounds good for the character in question.

Amber - Did you always wanted to be an author? How did you get into writing?

Alex - I’ve always *loved* to read, and I was writing even as a small child. When I came across The Ship Who Searched, however, I was so entranced I must have read the book ten times within a year. I decided I wanted to do that. I wanted to write books that touched people. So I started working on getting better.

Amber - Will there be more books in the series? Do you have a specific amount of books in mind for the series? An end?

Alex - I have nine books blocked out in general terms, with an end in mind. I’m enough of a pantser, however, that in practice this might turn into eight books or ten. There’s also plenty of room for short stories and novellas in the world.

Amber - If the series was going to be made into a TV series or Film, who would you like to see playing the main characters?

Alex - Without any question, I’d like Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock in BBC’s Sherlock) to play Adam. He can do flawed and interesting and still make me like him. For Cherabino, I’d like someone with a tough edge I can really see being a cop but who can still be vulnerable on-screen. The actress who plays Jo in Eureka (I believe her name is Erica Cerra) is not what I physically picture for the character, but she has the right energy in the early seasons of the role and grew in the later seasons. I’d love to see her audition. For Paulsen, I think Alfre Woodard, the commander from Memphis Beat, would do an amazing job. I wrote Paulsen before I saw that show, but the energy she had in the role made me think of my character very strongly.

Amber - How much say do you have in the book publishing process? Eg. Do you get to pick the cover?

Alex - I have been extremely fortunate in that my editor has asked my opinion about many things during the process. I worked in marketing for many years, so when she asked for my input on the cover, I sent a packet that included reference images and sketches like I would have for the graphic designer back in the day. I was extremely fortunate in that the final cover of both books ended up a lot like my original concept, only better. The art department at Roc is incredible.

Amber - What are the good times and bad times of being an author?

Alex - The good times are, without a doubt, the emails from fans who’ve enjoyed the book. That makes it all worthwhile. Bad times include deadlines, juggling multiple priorities, and figuring out the industry as it’s changing. But the readers have been incredible, and I am extremely grateful to each and every one.

Amber - What books do you enjoy reading? Do you have any favourite authors/series?

Alex - This answer changes depending on the day you ask me, because I love to read so many different things. Some recent authors I’ve loved include Kylie Chan, Jennifer Estep, and Janice Hardy. I’ve also loved the nonfiction writings of Oliver Sacks and Atul Gawande.

Amber - What are you listening and watching lately? Is there any music or other media that influences your writing?

Alex - I like obscure music that has some complexity to it. Lately Lindsey Stirling and The Piano Guys make me happy. I loved seeing The Civil Wars in concert on TV; their harmonies are amazing. I’m a long term Gutan Project fan, and Two Steps from Hell are amazing composers.

On the TV side, I’m really into Face Off lately. The movie makeup they do on that show is jaw-dropping. I was hugely into Eureka before they cancelled it. I love Burn Notice and The Closer. TV is really doing amazing things these days with story and character, and with creative people being creative. I love both.

Amber - If you could be any paranormal creature, what would you be and why?

Alex - Hmm. I had to pick only one? Only one? Tough choice. I guess I’d be Faerie, old and strong, living in the outskirts of the human world near a state park full of trees. All the benefits of both worlds, and enough resources to outrun trouble from either direction.

Amber - Thank you for stopping by again! Good luck with the new release!

Alex - Thank you for having me!


An excerpt from SharpMindspace Investigations Book #2
By Alex Hughes

I pulled the door closed, suddenly wary, and took a seat in her battered guest chair. The seat squeaked as I sat down. A feeling of oppression filled the room, but I couldn’t tell if it was Mindspace or my own panicky mind. With the increased stress of the morning, I was starting to see floating lines of light go in and out of my vision. I took a deep breath and tried to calm, to slow my heart rate. Whatever was going on with Paulsen, I’d need to be at my best to handle it, not struggling to keep my attention.

Paulsen pushed some papers into a folder and set it aside. Pulled another folder toward her. Then she looked up. I expected her to speak, but she only cleared her throat. For the first time ever, I could see every year of her sixty-mumble age written on her face, wrinkles cutting deep, her warm brown skin ashen.

“Are you okay?” I said.

“I’m fine,” she said firmly, the phrase imbued with all the weight of decades as a cop trained to show no weakness. Then she paused again.

Paulsen was a decisive woman, a strong woman. A cop who got things done and constantly held me to her high standards. If she was pausing, this would be bad.

Had she found out my telepathy wasn’t working? It was better now, healing slowly in dribs and drabs more or less at the pace I was expecting, but I’d been keeping it a secret. Cops didn’t like secrets.

“Am I being fired?” I asked, and tried with everything in me to stay calm.

“No,” she said, then amended: “It’s possible.” She cleared her throat. “DeKalb County and the City of Decatur have decided to cut police funding again. By millions. Every department is being hit, across the board. Not just equipment budgets. Not just training this time. We’re being forced to let people go. And the damn politicians are going after what they call wasteful practices. Things like vacation time, recovery time from injuries, and most of all and especially . . .”  She paused here again and met my eyes.

“Especially contractors. Unlicensed contractors are at the top of the list of cuts.”

I sat back, the chair squeaking again. I was numb. Wait, this wasn’t about my secret? That almost made it worse.

“How long?” I asked. I liked this job. I needed this job.

“Not yet,” she said firmly. “Not quite yet. We have a couple of months before things go into full effect. I’d suggest—in strong terms—you go out and find yourself a license. A certification. Something on paper, in the next six weeks.”

I took a breath. “Six weeks? Wait, my Guild certification doesn’t count?” That was half a million ROCs in training, more, even if the Guild had gotten far more out of me in labor afterward. Before they kicked me out for the drug problem that had landed me on the streets, years ago.

“It’s suspended, has been for a decade according to the information you gave us.” She put her hand on the folder in front of her, what had to be my file.

“I have the training! I thought you guys liked that I was an independent. There aren’t that many people outside the Guild, much less at my level. Even they say my training’s still good. It’s not like I can’t do the job.” And with the normals hating the Guild and fearing telepaths, well, I’d thought my lack of certification (of affiliation) was a plus. Apparently not.

“I know,” she said, and sighed. “I know. But the commissioner’s under pressure to make cuts. A lot of pressure. And politically, well, it doesn’t look good for you. Don’t be an easy target.”

“This isn’t fair.” I tried to reach out, to peek into her head, but all I got was a sense of mourning, and determination. No matter how I tried to push, that was all the information I could get, and even that moved away like sand through my fingers. Paulsen was familiar, which helped, but we were right after lunch, approaching my afternoon cutoff for reliable telepathy,, and my heart was beating a hundred miles an hour.

I pulled back and focused on what she was saying in the here and now, “—work in the interview room will be critical. Cherabino’s cases too. Give them a reason to keep you. Give me ammunition.”

I took a breath. “Right before Christmas. You’re telling me I could be laid off right before Christmas.” I felt like I was in free fall, like I was standing at the top of a cliff looking down at my life on the streets again. And to make it over Christmas—Christmas still made me think of my mom before she died. Did we have to add another heartbreak on top of that one?

She paused. “This is the worst-case scenario for everyone. I’m sorry.”

“I know,” I said, and stood. I clenched my hands together so she wouldn’t see them shaking. So I wouldn’t be tempted to lash out. So I wouldn’t burn whatever bridges I had left. But I wanted to.

Three years clean, and none of it mattered in that moment. I wanted my drug, I wanted to fall off the earth and run away. But I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. I’d come too far, I’d built too much to give up now. No matter how much I wanted to.

So instead of being stupid, I did what any sane Narcotics Anonymous member did—I called my sponsor. And then I went outside to the smoking porch and I chain-smoked, six cigarettes in a row while outside the awning it rained, a nasty hard rain that suited my mood perfectly.

I had to keep this job. Whatever it took, whatever I had to pay—I’d pay in blood, if I had to. I couldn’t fall back down that cliff to the streets. I just didn’t have it in me, not a second time


Contest Time!

There are FIVE copies of SHARP up for grabs!  Will you be one of the lucky five?  Make sure you enter (US ONLY!)

How To Enter        

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Entrants should check back to see if they have won. I do not hunt down winners you must claim your prize within 7 days of the winner being announced!

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Barbara E. said...

I have a very large list, but at the top is Ann Aguirre's Agave Kiss, Kevin Hearne's Trapped, and Jeaniene Frost's Twice Tempted.

Barbara E. said...

Sorry, I forgot the email for the newsletter entry:

Mardel said...

I'm very excited about this particular contest. I just finished reading Clean a while ago, I've downloaded Payoff and I'm very much looking forward to reading Sharp.

Next up on my reading is Hex Hall - which I've just started - then it's Midnight Bluelight Special by Seanan McGuire. But I would love for it to be Sharp! ;)


clynsg said...

I have over 100 books on by TBR pile--these are just the ones I actually have in the house, which do not include the ones I find in the New Books section of the library! Next up will be Children of Kings (Bradley/Ross), one of the Darkover series.


Stephanie said...

At the top of my tbr list is Danger in Cat World by Nina Post.


Lisa Richards/alterlisa said...

Infernal Devices is next on my list


donnas said...

Next on my list is Last Kiss Goodnight. At least thats the plan.