UNMASKED a novel by EM Kaplan – Author Interview

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UNMASKED – by Independent Author EM Kaplan

Review and Interview

I recently committed to downloading and reading self-published authors with a goal of reviewing their works on Amazon.  I realized that I had been focusing upon well-known authors only.  As an author myself, I reasoned, if I don’t choose independent authors how can I expect other readers to pick up my novels, and read them?

I chose my first novel from my Twitter contacts, and found a wonderful fantasy novel by EM Kaplan, UNMASKED.  I was intrigued by the novel from the beginning and found her style of writing very attractive.  The world in this novel is very close to our world, but just enough different to keep the reader engaged.  EM Kaplan brings her characters to life in the mind of the reader.  UNMASKED contains action and  love interest between the principle characters.  We see fantastical powers displayed by the most unlikely people as well.  I could not predict the ending from the beginning, an important trait of any novel, to me.  Thank you EM Kaplan for your wonderful story.  Check out her website here.

I recently had the opportunity to connect with the author and she graciously agreed to an interview.  I always want to know what makes an author “tick.”  Everyone has a unique story and EM Kaplan’s is a great read.

Q.    How long have you been a writer?

A.    When I was a kid, I wanted to be a bus driver, a ballerina, or a writer. No lie. While each of those career options comes with its own unique brand of mental quirkiness, I am barely tall enough to reach the gas pedal in an import, never mind a bus. I’m too interested in food to wear a tutu. But oddly, I’ve always pretty good at putting words together. So, writing it is.

I remember taking one of those military career assessment tests early in high school and thinking it was a load of baloney. My test results said I needed to be either an architect or a technical writer. At the time, I already wanted to be a novelist, so I loudly poo-pooed the idea, which must have tipped the scales of fate against me. Less than a decade later, I dropped out of architecture school to take my first job as a tech writer in Silicon Valley. I still work as a tech writer to this day, so I try not to mess with fate anymore.

Q.   What prompted you to write a novel?

A.   None of the three books I have out so far is the first novel I wrote. That monstrosity is under lock and key in a vault in my basement. I hope it never sees the light of day. It’s painful to read, endless, and overly layered with symbolism. I wrote it directly after graduating college, when I was unemployed and unhealthy. It’s my Great American Novel before I switched goals to aim for writing a Great American Best-Seller. In my opinion, it’s not consumable. Why did I write it? I think I had to. It was a compulsion.

Later, when I was getting my Master’s in Creative Writing at Arizona, I mainly wrote short fiction because that’s all we had time for to critique in our workshops. Writing short, Carveresque (Raymond Carver style) stories over and over made me want to stretch my legs and go for a longer run, so to speak. I feel like I can hit a better stride in a novel.

Q.   Have you tried the traditional publishing method? If so what was your experience?

A.   I tried for about a decade to get an agent to respond to my query letters. During that time, admittedly, I was distracted by having kids, pets, and all the sleep deprivation, chaos, and lowered I.Q. points that come with the territory. In all those years, I don’t think I ever received a personal response from anyone. Truly depressing and a waste of postage. But since then, self-publishing has really evolved. I count myself lucky to be able to take part in it.

Q.   Do you do all the work yourself or do you have a panel of readers, editors, artists?

A.   I have a lot of support. My husband is JD Kaplan, a contemporary fantasy writer  http://www.thedreamside.com/. My mother-in-law is editor Esther Kaplan http://www.out-basket.com/. My sister is a graphic designer who did the cover for my book, Unmasked, which was a finalist in a cover competition. I’m also lucky to have a group of friends who are great proofreaders, librarians, and teachers. I try to rotate through them and not to ask the same people to be early readers every time so I don’t wear out my welcome. I did the covers for my mysteries myself, which was fun.

Q.   What is/are the source(s) for your writing ideas?

A.   For The Bride Wore Dead, I had heard a story about a friend of a friend in Arizona. You know how stories go, so I don’t know how much of this actually happened, but this is the kernel, the pivotal scene of that book.

Spoiler alert here. 

One night, as this guy was sleeping, a man broke into the house. Supposedly, it was a man from another city who had been sent to kill him, either for revenge for stealing a woman or money. The usual motivators. The guy jumped out of bed, overpowered, and disarmed the hired killer. They went out into the desert where the guy made the hitman dig his own shallow grave. The guy then shot the hired killer with his own gun and buried him. When it was done, he returned home and went back to bed.

Whether it’s true or not, it’s a pretty good story.

Q.   What are you working on now?

A.   I’m working on the follow-up novel to Unmasked. This book has Mel again, but I have some new characters, too. It’ll be action-packed and take readers to unseen parts of their world. Monsters. Forces of nature. Supernatural talents. And possibly gadgets. Is that crazy enough?

In the summer, I plan to write another Josie Tucker mystery. Earlier, I hinted she might take a BBQ tour of central Texas. But suddenly, I have something else in mind for her first. I’ll have to wait and see what pans out.

Q.   What advice can you give to a burgeoning author about writing and publishing?

A.   Read and write often. Try writing exercises. It’s OK to emulate people or styles that you like until you find your own voice. Find people who write well and listen to their criticism, even if it hits you in the gut. Later, you might find out they were full of baloney, but then it’s just a lesson learned. Just keep trying.

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About smcpherson58

Aside from loving chocolate and coffee (not necessarily in that order) Scott McPherson has learned that he loves to write. He writes fiction and, so far, has published two novels. Scott has many varied interests, though he tries to focus on one at a time. He has worked for nearly thirty-five years as a family physician, a pass-time that gives him great pleasure and pays the bills. He has five daughters and dotes upon three grandchildren. Recently married, he really loves life. Scott writes from his life experiences and from travel. His career in the active Air Force was brief, but he has been a member of the Nebraska Air National Guard since just before 9/11 in 2001. The aftermath of that great disaster changed the face of the Guard and led to missions in far-away lands. He has spent time in Turkey, Iraq, Spain, Crete and Guam in missions related to support for Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. He has been to Iceland and Antarctica as well. Scott has no personal experience with violent death or murder, but has gained knowledge from experts. In his first novel, “A Step Ahead of Death,” his character, Jack Sharp MD, becomes embroiled in a murder mystery. First as suspect, then as amateur sleuth, Jack tries to make a difference. He finds himself right in the middle of an investigation well beyond the scope of a local murder. A man of faith, Scott traveled to Africa with his small family in the 1980s and served as a medical missionary in Zaire (known as Congo today) with a church organization. The vast difference in what it takes to exist in such an environment served as a basis for much of his second novel, a thriller, “Congo Mission.” His character, Jack, is twenty years younger than in the first novel. In “Congo Mission” Jack serves as a physician in a missionary hospital in the jungles of northwestern Zaire. There he is not only captivated by a young woman visiting the region, but falls victim to his nemesis Jacques Levant. His motivations and faith are tested and his resolve to do God’s work gets pushed to the limit. When he is not writing Scott enjoys walking, a practice that actually led to his first attempt at writing a novel. He began making notes and writing prose about the mundane things around him. He tried to make the details sound interesting, even though it was just for his own pleasure. Eventually he found that he could expand his prose to “what if?” “What if I just kept walking?” “What if I, or my character, found a dead body in the ditch along the side of the path?” That was the premise for the first novel, “A Step Ahead of Death.” Scott McPherson is an avid trombone player and has played since he was nine years old. He marched in the Cornhusker Marching Band at the University of Nebraska and now takes advantage of one free football game a year by playing in the half-time show with the UNL Alumni Marching Band. He plays in the Lincoln Civic Orchestra and a community band from the nearby town of Waverly, Nebraska. Scott loves to sing as well, though his range seems to have diminished in recent years. He has sung in college and church choirs and remembers performing parts of Handel’s Messiah as a highlight of his singing experience. One little-known fact about Scott is that he once sang soprano in a boys choir. Scott plans to keep writing as long as the ideas flow and others show interest in his stories. He loves to interact with other writers or readers about what has become a passion in his life. Reviews are always welcome as are questions and comments.
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