The Color of Evil grew out of a short story in my first Hellfire & Damnation short story collection entitled “Living in Hell.” I felt guilty leaving Tad McGreevy in such bad psychological shape and made up my mind to write him out of the corner I had written him into, so he jumps forward to his junior year in high school when God’s in his heaven and all’s right with the world. Until it isn’t any more. (www.HellfireAndDamnationTheBook.com).
You new release, Red is for Rage, seems to be crossover of a few genres. Would you consider this work to be a YA thriller or a New Adult novel?
I think it is both. I agree that it is a crossover of a few genres and aimed at both a YA audience aged 18 to 24 and aimed at adults. I do think it is a thriller more than any other genre. I log-line it as “Carrie” meets “The Fury” meets television’s “The Medium.”
What is your favorite genre to write? Is it the same as your preferred reading genre?
As my readers will know, I’ve written nearly “one of everything,” with only a few exceptions. My first book (1989) was written for Performance Learning Systems, Inc., (the nation’s largest teacher training firm) and was a heavily research-based nonfiction look at teaching entitled Training the Teacher As A Champion. I also have written 5 short story collections, 2 humor collections, 1 children’s book, 1 science fiction novel, 1 nonfiction book on movies of the seventies (based on my reviews from the Quad City Times) and the two novels in The Color of Evil series, which, as you have accurately pointed out, is both a YA thriller and a New Adult novel.
According to your Amazon Author Page, you are a college professor who has been writing for fifty-five years. What do you teach, and how did you get your start in publishing?
I started writing (for pay) for my hometown newspaper as a gimmick, ( on the newspaper publisher’s part) when I was ten years old, conducting interviews. I continued writing for our high school newspaper as Editor-in-Chief. I started college intending to write for a living (Journalism major) attending the University of Iowa on a full-ride Ferner/Hearst Scholarship.
I taught at the junior high school level (Silvis Junior High School, Silvis, Illinois) for 17 and ½ years (Chairman of the English Department) and was school newspaper advisor. My student teaching was at high school levels (Iowa City Lab School).
I left full-time teaching to go to work for Performance Learning Systems, Inc., of Emerson, New Jersey, and Nevada City, California as an educational writer. That was my start in publishing. I was working from home by computer for PLS in 1985 using a WANG PC they provided and writing the company Bible. It was not easy, because Al Gore had not yet perfected the Internet (she said, facetiously) and I knew nothing about computers, having learned to type 250 wpm on a manual typewriter with Mae Hanlon in Independence, Iowa in the sixties. I mainly networked (via the Internet) with One Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C.. to secure studies on effective teaching methods to document data used in the book. In those days, you needed to have a screwdriver handy to adjust the “teeth” on your modem so that they were in synch with the modem on the other end, and then the message came across looking like Egyptian hieroglyphics and you had to convert it. There were about 10 steps. It was a far cry from today’s Internet.
During the time I researched and wrote Training the Teacher As A Champion for PLS, (which dubbed me an “educational writer” and flew me around the country on various assignments, having me write their newsletter) I asked for and received permission to teach one class at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa. I wanted the human contact, because writing can be a lonely pursuit and I had been used to teaching as many as 150 twelve and thirteen-year-old students daily for close to 20 years. I was assigned an Advanced Composition class at St. Ambrose and subsequently wrote some recommendations for a few of my students to attend the University of Iowa’s acclaimed Writers’ Workshop.
I had taken one year off in 1979-1980 prior to leaving Silvis permanently in 1985, looking for a permanent position in our area at a higher teaching level (I went back and taught 5 more years before the PLS writing job). I had PhD concentration in Victorian Literature, for example, from my college studies, which wasn’t really doing me much good teaching 12 and 13-year-olds. I felt like a lot of my college program education was being wasted at the junior high school level, although I loved the age of the student(s) and it’s still my favorite from the age of twelve on up.
Since the district I was teaching in was among the least well-paid districts, I thought that I might be able to find a better-paying job in a high school job that needed someone to supervise their school newspaper---the job I started out to do full-time. (I changed my major to straight English in my junior year of college.)
To keep my hand in writing, I wrote for the Quad City Times (Davenport, IA) as Film and Book critic from 1970 until the mid eighties, while teaching school full-time. I also wrote for the Moline Dispatch, interviewing local television and radio celebrities and writing a humor column and for “Metro East” and the “Rock Island Reminder”.
During my one-year sabbatical from regular junior high school classroom duties (1979-1980), I taught at Augustana College, Marycrest College (now closed), and Blackhawk Junior College. I was assigned incoming Freshman Rhetoric or Composition . At St. Ambrose I taught Advanced Composition. At Marycrest I taught American Literature: 1865 to the Present. At Augustana I was in charge of the Reading and Writing Lab, a Learning Center, filling in for a woman who was getting her PhD at Iowa and had to take her comprehensive exams. One summer I taught a film class at Blackhawk Junior College.
After I sold the two businesses I founded (Sylvan Learning Center #3301 in 1986 and Prometric Testing Center in1995), I taught at the two remaining colleges in our IA/IL area, Kaplan College, where I mainly did Public Relations, because I had owned, operated and marketed a Sylvan for close to 20 years and at Eastern Iowa Community College.
My “start” in publishing was the PLS writing job. The book was published in 1989; the founder of the company, Joseph K. Hasenstab (now retired) is listed as the co-author. I guess you could say I was their “ghost writer,” although I insisted on equal credit if I were going to quit my tenured junior high school teaching job. PLS was starting its own book publishing concern.
After I finished writing the book, I founded my Sylvan Learning Center (second in the state of Iowa, across the I74 bridge from where I live, in Bettendorf, Iowa) and, nine years later, Prometric Testing Center, which, at that time, licensed all nurses in North America, among 250 other groups.
That would be William F. Nolan, a wonderfully encouraging mentor who wrote “Logan’s Run” (along with George Clayton Johnson) and was also once an artist for Hallmark and worked for “Dark Shadows” guru Dan Curtiss. He wrote the script for “Burnt Offerings,” episodes of “The Twilight Zone” and is a great writer and a living legend in dark fantasy. Bill was friends with all the greats, like Ray Bradbury. He is a tremendous writer and also a great oral reader and still as busy as ever in his 80s, working on ten projects at once, he told me.
There are many other writers whose works I read and admire. Some, like David Morrell and Jon Land and Kurt Vonnegut and Joe Hill and Anne Perry and Frederik Pohl, I have interviewed for print or online publications. Jon Land was very encouraging and we were both in Hawaii presenting at the Spellbinders’ Writers’ Conference last Labor Day. Jonathan Maberry was kind enough to provide a blurb for THE COLOR OF EVIL and Lisa Manetti and Gary Braunbeck have provided them for HELLFIRE & DAMNATION books.
I read a fair amount of genre fiction (Stephen King, John Grisham, Scott Turow, Jonathan Maberry, David Morrell) as well as literary fiction (AWP member) and I would categorize what I write as suspenseful thrillers, sometimes with some horrific real-life twists. I’ve had reviewers say my writing reminds them of Stephen King or Dean Koontz or Philip K. Dick or E.C. Comics. I’m not a very good judge of who else I might write like; I try to write like I write, as I have been writing for over half a century now, just not writing fiction until 2003.
THE COLOR OF EVIL series, as you have pointed out, has crossover appeal to adults and is suitable for older teens (YA), plus it is a paranormal thriller, like “Carrie,” with teenage romances, etc. The themes I write about could really happen in the world , so it’s not as much paranormal fantasy as it is paranormal romance or paranormal thriller and, to a lesser extent horror, [although it was discovered by enough open-minded horror writers to make the preliminary Stoker ® ballot when I know precious few folk within that group, one of many to which I belong.]
I’m sure all the genre novels I have read (and enjoy reading) over the years have shaped what I prefer writing, but the one person who has been most instrumental in keeping me at it and who has been unfailingly generous and supportive and kind,--- that person is Bill Nolan. (Thanks, Bill!).
Your author bio says you play four instruments. What do you play? Do you see a creative correlation between playing music and writing?
(I didn’t say I played them all WELL!) I had 22 years of classical piano training and I used to accompany my daughter and her friends for annual music contests. My parents insisted I take lessons and learn to play the accordion (which I did my best to conceal from one and all for years.) Now, I don’t mind if people know of this hidden talent, but back then, I was humiliated by having to play the accordion. About the most interesting thing I can say about my accordion lessons is that Mary Beth Koob had her lesson right before me (in Jesup, Iowa, a town we had to drive to for lessons) and she later was one of the Iranian civilian hostages. [She wasn’t one of those rescued by the likes of Ben Affleck in “Argo,” but she was held prisoner with the others for days, and I remember watching that play out and being very concerned for Mary Beth.]
I also played percussion instruments (tenor drum, snare drum, cymbals) in marching band, and I played oboe and English horn in the school band.
But my folks never bought me an oboe. We rented it from the school. So I pretty much just went with vocal music after that, in college, participating in Old Gold Singers for 3 and ½ years, Oratorio Chorus and University Choir while at the University of Iowa for 4 and ½ years.
Many of the creative people I personally know, if they write creative fiction, also are musical or artistic.
If you had to choose one of your works as your favorite, which one would you name?
If fiction, it would be a toss-up between THE COLOR OF EVIL series (novels)---i.e., the first and second new book RED IS FOR RAGE--- and the HELLFIRE & DAMNATION series (short stories), which also has two books, HELLFIRE & DAMNATION and HELLFIRE & DAMNATION II.
If nonfiction, I spent 8 years writing IT CAME FROM THE 70s: FROM THE GODFATHER TO APOCALYPSE NOW. It was a labor of love and is a very fun book with reviews from the day (50 of them), 76 photos and interactive trivia. It won quite a few awards, including a NABE Pinnacle award.
Some writers meticulously plan out their stories, while others simply write and see where it takes them. Under which category do you fall?
More the former than the latter, but I spend quite a bit of time trying to figure out where the plot MIGHT take me and figuring out the time-line. The characters lead me the rest of the way and sometimes surprise me.
What do you find to be the easiest aspect to your writing? What’s the hardest?
I agree with Jon Land (“Pandora’s Temple”) that “finishing” is the hardest part. It’s also hard if you go away from the work for a while remembering where you are in the story and keeping the characters and time line organized.
I asked Jonathan Maberry for some tips on writing books in a series in New Orleans at Writers for New Orleans in December----i.e., how much of the FIRST book do you have to repeat for readers of the SECOND book, etc.
I have had editors or Beta readers tell me that I’m using too many names that start with the same letters. So, I changed the names, but I miss one or two “changes” from the first name I started with; that has happened more than once. I’m actually going to have to stop paying that much attention to my Beta readers. I think it’s a bogus complaint, in some ways. At my house, everybody’s name starts with the letter “S” (Scott and Stacey) or “C” (Connie and Craig.) At my brother-in-law’s house, all the children have names that start with the letter “M.” So what? I have tried to please everybody, and ended up pleasing o one and confusing myself. I’m going to try to please myself in the future and stick with the original names I select.
As for the easiest aspect, when the creative juices are flowing, it’s a pleasure getting the rough draft down on paper, but there’s so much polishing that has to take place after that.
The flippant answer would be to say: “Don’t give up your day job.”
My helpful answer is to say that, IF those writers have thoroughly mastered the basics of writing (some have not), they should learn all they can about self-publishing, join and attend relevant writing groups (network, in other words), learn to market what they write, and be very, very persistent and tough-skinned. I used to be very thin-skinned. I would give up at the first sign of rejection. Now, I know that is just one person’s opinion. Everyone goes through having someone reject their work (even Stephen King). You cannot let it defeat you. Be a bigger and kinder person than those people have been, to you. Rise above the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Soar like an eagle! (Smile)
I have a feeling that very few authors are making mega-bucks. It’s a little like music or art or the entertainment business, in general. Many good writers combine their writing with a separate job, like teaching or working in a library. I write because I always have written; that’s what I do. That’s who I am. I know I have certain skill sets, and I am working to add to those skill sets and expand them to include the fiction I “saved” to write until I could devote all my time to doing it.
I am not teaching at any level, at the moment. I’m not saying I’d never teach again (“never say never”) but I want to concentrate on writing, right now. I have written for 11 blogs and am a Featured Contributor to Yahoo, which has 600,000 members. I was Content Producer of the Year (2008). It is probable that writing of that sort will make you more money than writing fiction---important if supporting yourself by writing is your goal.
I honestly don’t know how most writers make ends meet if they don’t have a day job; I know that I am fortunate to have turned to writing fiction only in 2003, after years spent running businesses that did well. I saved my pennies to pursue the dream of writing, full-time, that first came to me when I was in 6th grade. Now, I am happy to be able to write what I want to write. I truly like the idea of self-publishing, although I may change my mind for the promotional benefits that a large house could provide. I just try to do the very best job I can do with everything I do in life, and I try to forgive, although I seldom forget.
Bonus question: Why is a raven like a writing desk?
I’m answering these questions at 4:00 a.m. the morning after the Academy Awards. I haven’t been to bed yet. We just had our Annual Oscar party (complete with predictions in all 24 categories) with our best friends, Pam and Dr. John Rhodes in Des Moines, Iowa. My husband won. You can see his “Chicken Dance” (victory dance tradition) on my YouTube page (Connie Corcoran Wilson) where he thanks “the Economy” for reasons no one can figure out.
Everyone but me has gone to bed, as I’m answering these questions---and none too well.
I’m exhausted after traveling 40 hours straight (17 hours flying from a month’s trip to Australia/New Zealand, where I had a book signing at the Galaxy Book Store at 131 York Street in Sydney). Then, I hostessed and cooked for my son, four-year-old twins, my daughter-in-law, who were already in my house when I got home from a month spent “Down Under.” I also took the little ones to the newly revamped Children’s Museum for several hours.
We added into the weekend mix my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, brother-in-law and niece. As soon as the weekend was over and my son’s family had departed, we left for a 3 and ½ hour drive to Des Moines, Iowa on Interstate 80 heading west during a small blizzard, to be present at the annual Oscar party.
We got to bed very late every night and then we drove home today (Monday after the Oscars), another 3 and ½ hours to the east, this time. We are supposed to go pick up our 25-year-old daughter in Chicago tomorrow (another 3 and ½ hours) further east on I80, and drive back (make that 7 hours in the same day). But Blizzard Rocky is now threatening, so maybe the daughter will have to stay put till the storm blows over. I’m really, really tired.
All this is by way of saying that I cannot think of a “clever” response when I’m too tired to make a fist. So, I asked the 3 others (also tired) for help interpreting this riddle. Nada. Zip. Zero. Lots of, “I have a hangover” looks.
Here’s what I’d say about that question, (which I ran by all the assembled Oscar Party participants, in the hopes that they’d have something intelligent to add): we have no clue, nor do we care.
But here’s my “clever” response, such as it is, and it does not answer the question, (which is what a good politician always does, so I’m stealing a page out of that book).
We know that, in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” the line is, “Quoth the raven, nevermore.”
The raven simply had the word wrong, in my case.
For me, the raven should have been saying, “Forevermore.”
I will always write, till the day I die.
I hope you’ll READ what I write and thank you for reading this.
About the novel:
RED IS FOR RAGE is the second book in the award-winning THE COLOR OF EVIL series by Connie Wilson. THE COLOR OF EVIL won the E-Lit Gold Medal for Horror (Jenkins Group) and the Silver Feather (IWPA). Three evil-doers rise up to wreak havoc on a small, mid-western town in this hot follow up.
When Stevie Scranton goes missing, best friend Tad vows to do everything he can to find him. Even if Stevie is dead, his family craves closure. Tad enlists the help of retired policeman Charlie Chandler and a team of volunteers, including Charlie’s old partner, Evelyn Hoeflinger. This rag-tag team of detectives continues searching for Stevie Scranton, the runty misfit of Cedar Falls’ Sky High. In their search, they discover a monster every bit as dangerous as Pogo the Killer Clown.
Michael Clay (the serial killer Pogo) escapes custody. On the loose again, Pogo’s actions restart a vicious cycle of violent nightmares for Tad McGreevy. Pogo has one main goal: kill Tad McGreevy so that Tad cannot disclose Clay’s location. Pogo doesn’t realize that, up until now, Tad has been unable to harness the paranormal ability he possesses. Now, Tad McGreevy must try to learn to use his unique gift. Stevie Scranton’s fate hangs in the balance. Tad’s power, if precognitive, could save everyone he loves.
Connie Corcoran Wilson is a University of Iowa grad and college professor with 55 years of writing experience. She's written for 5 newspapers and 7 blogs, founded 2 businesses, play 4 musical instruments, and has 2 children (born 20 years apart). She followed the '04 and '08 presidential campaigns "live," writes for Yahoo, and is sometimes referred to as T.Q. (Trivia Queen). She also has 2-year-old twin granddaughters who are great fun.