Stories have arcs. Characters have arcs. Writers have arcs. We write, we get better at our craft. We read, we get better at our craft. We interact with other writers and our readers, we get better at our craft. Whether you are a professional writer or just starting out. Hobby or career. We are all in this together. Welcome.

Contact: Elena Hartwell - elenahartwell@gmail.com and visit me on the web at www.elenahartwell.com

Steven T. Callan - Game Warden, Author, and Defender of the Natural World

Steven T. Callan is the award-winning author of Badges,Bears, and Eagles—The True-Life Adventures of a California Fish and Game Warden, a 2013 “Book of the Year” award finalist (ForeWord Reviews). He is the recipient of the 2014, 2015, and 2016 “Best Outdoor Magazine Column” awards from the Outdoor Writers Association of California. Steve’s sequel, The Game Warden’s Son, was released March 1, 2016, by Coffeetown Press of Seattle, and is the focus of his 2016 book tour.

Jane Manaster, writing for the Manhattan Book Review, had this to say in her five- star review of Callan’s latest offering: "A witty and enlightening memoir, The Game Warden’s Son brims over with tales of stake-outs using disguises and subterfuge to trap transgressors. . . . The book’s slang or jargon related to wildlife is a fun bonus and makes the timely account of environmental protection even more enjoyable." Click here to read the full review.

Steven T Callan has led an extraordinary life. Connected to the land and sea and the flora and fauna, in ways many of us will never know. Luckily for the rest of us, he's written about his experiences and we can get a glimpse into his stunning world through his excellent prose.

The Interview - Part I

Your memoir The Game Warden's Son is part coming of age, part environmental awareness and protection, and part honoring of your father. How did you decide on the shape and format you were going to take for this beautiful book? 

My first book, Badges, Bears, and Eagles, was a collection of true stories, beginning in the early seventies when I began my career as a warden with the California Department of Fish and Game. In The Game Warden’s Son, I went further back in time, but kept the same basic format: a collection of individual true stories. This time around, I added an additional, more personal element—the lifelong relationship between a boy and his father.

I try to educate and weave a conservation message into every story I write. In the case of The Game Warden’s Son, I wanted to show how my storybook childhood and close relationship with my father helped mold me into the wildlife officer I would later become. In the last chapter, my intention was to bring a half century of wildlife enforcement work full circle and, in a small way, thank my father for all he’d done for me.  

The physical, active, hands-on experience of being a warden and the internal, intellectual pursuit of writing feel like such different skill sets. How do these two disciplines compliment each other for you? 

Conserving our precious natural resources and writing have always been two of my passions. Being able to write well is essential if you’re going to be an effective wildlife officer, or any kind of enforcement officer, for that matter. Catching violators is only half of the job; convincing a DA, judge, and/or jury that your case is worth pursuing and will likely result in a conviction is the other half. As a patrol lieutenant, I constantly stressed the importance of writing to the officers I supervised. Over the years, I’ve written hundreds of extensive and complicated arrest reports, search warrant affidavits, and search warrants. 

My intensity of purpose absolutely drives my writing, as it did my performance as a wildlife officer. As an officer, I saved wildlife by arresting outlaws and working to conserve habitat. As a writer, I try to save wildlife by educating readers with compelling stories.

In your opinion, is there one overarching societal problem that threatens wildlife or is every instance different? What do we, as a society, need to do to have a positive impact on our relationship with the natural world?

It would probably take a master’s thesis to adequately answer the first part of this question. I will cut to the chase and say the overarching societal problem that threatens wildlife is elimination or destruction of habitat—on land and under the water. In this country and all over the world, wildlife numbers are diminishing directly or indirectly because of human actions: burning fossil fuels, land development, mining, agricultural practices, dam building, overfishing, poaching, commercial exploitation, deforestation, . . . The list goes on.
            Teaching our children to obey laws, recycle, conserve energy, and appreciate nature is a given. As a society, we need to decide if we want our grandchildren to be able to enjoy the natural world as we knew it or leave them with nothing but photographs of the way it once was. Do we elect people who will make decisions for the long-term good of the earth and its inhabitants or continue on our present course like a runaway train headed for the cliff?

            I do believe there’s hope—that’s what drives me to include a conservation message in my books, columns, and presentations. We need to act quickly, however.

Check back for Part II of the Interview

ThrillerFest 2016: Heather Graham, More Lee Child, and John Sandford mentions Peter Clines....

The rest of day three at ThrillerFest 2016 was a blur. After hearing Karin Slaughter's great interview with Gillian Flynn, I went off to listen to Lawrence Block, Lee Child, Tess Gerritsen, Peter James, Arvam Ludwig, and John Sandford. Even if you don't recognize the author names, you probably recognize some of their titles, including: A Walk Among The Tombstones, The Jack Reacher Series, the Rizzoli & Isles Series, the Superintendent Roy Grace Series, and the Prey Series.

If that wasn't enough, the panel moderator was David Morrell, author of numerous best-selling novels including a book called First Blood, with a little-known protagonist named Rambo.

The panel was about books and movies. Everyone on the dais had written several novels, (with the exception of Arvam Ludwig, who I'm proud to say is a fellow ITW Debut Author) which have been  translated into TV and film. Arvam came to the table with several years' experience making movies prior to writing his first novel, Shooting the Sphinx.

As interesting as it was to hear what everyone had to say about their work and careers, the highlight of the panel for me was when John Sandford complimented my friend Peter Clines' writing. Sandford starting talking about "this guy in Los Angeles" writing superhero/cross genre... and I thought, he's talking about Peter! That is so cool! When he said the name Peter Clines I almost applauded. When I went up to say hello to Mr. Sandford I think I may have come across as a slightly crazy name-dropper, but it was still a lot of fun. Thank you Mr. Sandford, for being so gracious.

The last event I attended was ThrillerMaster Heather Graham, interviewed by Lee Child. And yes, that's author Heather Graham, not the actor. The writer Heather Graham has written over 150 novels and novellas with over 75 million books in print.

The interview was a hoot - these two authors are very funny people. I was especially interested to learn Heather Graham started her career as an actor, earning her degree in theater from the University of South Florida and working in dinner theater and as a backup singer.

Once the interview ended I decided I couldn't top the experiences I'd had throughout the day. It felt like the perfect note to end on for a fantastic conference. I headed back out onto 42nd Street and made my way home to The Jane Hotel.

New York is always exciting - and this trip was no exception. I loved every moment of ThrillerFest and I'm already looking forward to next year.


Thrillerfest Continued: Day Three, Debut Author Breakfast and Gillian Flynn

Day three of Thrillerfest was so jam packed with events it's going to require two different posts to cover it all.

The day started early. The Jane Hotel is charming and cheap - and way down south in the West Village, so I had a trek to get up to the Grand Hyatt. I didn't want to be late, or be a hot sweaty mess in the NYC summer humidity, so I got a cab.

I love NYC cabs. Hailing one makes me feel like a grownup.

Debut Author Breakfast

Since it was Saturday, I zipped up and across town in record time, arriving well before our early morning event.

                                                                            So many great new authors! Click this link here for a complete list of the 2015/2016 Debut authors.

We started at 7:55. My fellow debut authors and I were curious about how many people would come out to support a bunch of lesser known writers first thing in the morning - especially after the cocktail party the night before - but the room was packed.

Sitting up on our dais felt like being a part of the biggest bridal party reception ever.

After introductions by Steve Berry, we all got to pitch our books to the room. It was a blur, but my fellow debuts told me I was coherent, so there's that to be thankful for.

After finishing our breakfast event, I went to Drugs, Bombs or Weapon Detection: K-9 Dogs in Thriller Novels. Cat Warren is one of my favorite speakers, so I was excited to hear what she had to say. And there's nothing better than seeing an active duty K-9. I had the chance to speak to Special Agent Ryan J Christie and meet his dog before the event, but he asked that we not post photos of them. I will just report that the dog and his handler were both adorable.

Next up Two Ladies Having An Adult Conversation: 
Spotlight Guest Gillian Flynn Interviewed by Karin Slaughter.

"We root for bad men and hope bad women get murdered." 
Karin Slaughter

Fantastic interview. Who knew these two ladies were so funny! They've been friends for several years, so it felt like we were listening in on a gossip session over cocktails. They were also very gracious about posing for a picture. Here are some highlights from this marvelous event.

Gillian Flynn, world renowned for her book Gone Girl, appears publicly on a regular basis. In addition to seeing her at Thrillerfest, I'd seen her in person at a sold out Town Hall meeting in Seattle. It turns out she was cripplingly shy as a child. She's still "situationally shy" as an adult. Some types of public appearances bring that social anxiety back for her. I get this. I'm very outgoing, and most people think I never suffer social anxiety, but certain kinds of events are difficult for me too.

I'm also pleased to know that Gillian is not an outliner, she starts with a character or an image. I write this way, so that's two things I have in common with her. I love that!

Karin asked Gillian what it was like to have to follow Gone Girl with another book. She said she had to consciously think about how she wanted to write a great book - but not rewrite Gone Girl. "Never try to replicate that," she said about her breakout novel. She feels her biggest mistake would be to try to write that book again. She said she "didn't want to write a book because it's what (she) was supposed to write" to follow her wildly successful third novel.

Discussing her influences, Gillian mentioned her dad taught film and she was exposed to a variety of grownup movies very young in life. This included Alien, Psycho, and Bonnie and Clyde, viewed at the age of seven. Add in a mother who taught reading and Gillian's desire to write and success at writing dark stories, makes a lot of sense.

One of Gillian's favorite books as a child was The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin,  which made her want to write mysteries. I wasn't familiar with this book, so now it's on my list of books to read.

Gillian spent ten years writing for Entertainment Weekly Magazine. When asked about her writing process, she said "I was covering the Lord of The Rings, then I'd come back to the hotel and kill a child, then write - so that's part of my process." (Laughs).

One of the things that struck me both times I've seen Gillian speak, is how down-to-earth and funny she is. Warm, thoughtful, and charming, it's fascinating to think about the dark places her mind can go. But we're all very glad it does.

Check back for Part II of Day Three