AOTW- Rory Ridley-Duff

Rory Ridley-Duff

About the Author:
Rory is an educator, writer and composer.

Born in Sussex, England in 1962, Rory graduated from London University in 1986 with a music degree. His postgraduate studies culminated in a PhD from Sheffield Hallam University where he completed research on intimate relationships and democratic governance. He lives in Yorkshire with his wife, Caroline, and his two children, Natasha and Bethany.

Rory developed his early career throughout the 1990s in London, firstly as Data Centre Manager at Procter & Gamble HABC, then as a software developer and worker-director of Computercraft Ltd. He moved to Yorkshire in 1998, and in 2001 became MD of First Contact Software Ltd where he won a DTI Smart Award for contributions to innovation in database design. In 2002, he won a Hallam PhD Studentship that enabled him to establish a new career as a university lecturer/researcher focusing on governance in cooperatives and social enterprises. He is now a Senior Lecturer in Organisation Behaviour and Human Resource Management at Sheffield Hallam University.

Professional Interests

Since 2009, he has been recognised by Marquis's Who's Who in the World in 2009 for his contributions to music and knowledge. He became an UnLtd/HEFCE Ambassador for Social Enterpreneurship in Higher Education in 2010, and also member of the editorial board of the Social Enterprise Journal. His active research interests cover Governance, Gender Relations, Cooperatives and Social Enterprise. In 2010, he established the MSc Co-operative and Social Enterprise Management at Sheffield Business School.

His writing on gender issues is reflected in the book Emotion, Seduction and Intimacy. In November 2010, the third edition will be published by Libertary Editions (based in Seattle, USA). Libertary will also publish Rory's first novel, Friends or Lovers, written to explore aspects of his PhD study that were difficult to discuss openly in a university setting.


Interview with Rory Ridley-Duff 
"Rory Ridley-Duff is an educator, writer and composer."

HP: You have published a novel called Friends or Lovers. But before we get into that, Rory can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Rory Ridley-Duff: At the moment, I’m a university lecturer at Sheffield Business School, but over the course of my life I’ve turned my hand to many things.  I was born in West Wittering, a small seaside resort on the southern coast of England near Chichester (an old Roman town).  I studied music at college and university, but found no easy way to make a career out of this.  It was my 12 years at Computercraft Ltd, a worker co-operative in London, that marked a turning point in my working life.  I became interested in co-operative businesses and human relationships at work, and acted as a consultant to many social sector organisations while they introduced computer technology. That eventually led me into academia where I studied for a PhD, and I am now a researcher and course leader.

HP: Can you tell us a bit about your family?

Rory Ridley-Duff: My mother is Austrian and my father Irish, but I was born and raised in England.  I have four older sisters, one who lives in Australia.  I met my wife, Caroline, through a mutual friend at university and we married in 1989.  We have two children, Natasha (17) and Bethany (13).  When Bethany was conceived, we decided to move north and settled in South Yorkshire, near Sheffield.

HP: What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life?

Rory Ridley-Duff: Having a happy home and family life.  We’ve faced many challenges over the years and found ways through them all.  There are an abundance of distractions and pressures that divide husbands from wives, break up family, and create tension between mothers, fathers and their children.  Somehow, we find ways to remain healthy and happy, and have plenty of laughs along the way.

HP:You have had letters 'in the press' many times such as, Victory for cooperativism? (30th May 2009) and Does feminism discriminate against men? (14th Aug 2008) but more recently, Ending Barclays' tax avoidance (18th February 2011).

Can you tell us a little about these? Do they all focus around a general topic?

Rory Ridley-Duff: I do have an interest in politics, but am not actively involved in political party politics.  My principle commitments are to human dignity, equitable relationships, freedom from oppression (for both women and men). For this reason, I’ve taken to campaigning against the corrupt financial system and bankers, and for co-operative institutions that promote equity and fairness.

HP: You have two other books actually: Silent Revolution: Creating and Managing Social Enterprises and Emotion, Seduction and, Intimacy: Alternative Perspectives on Organisation Behaviour. Can you tell us about these novels? Did you plan on writing them or was it just something that came together on it own?

Rory Ridley-Duff: These books are non-fiction, but still full of stories.  The first is a book for people who want to understand the concept of social enterprise (a more humane way to create businesses that nourish rather than exploit people who work in them).  The second book is closely linked to the novel.  It was written at the same time to explore the same issues, but using the lens of a researcher rather than novelist.  I will always see Emotion, Seduction and Intimacy as the companion book to Friends or Lovers, for those that want to understand the research work that underpins the issues in the novel.

HP: Finally you have a newer book Understanding Social Enterprise: Theory and Practice co-authored with Mike Bull at Manchester Metropolitan University for Sage Publications. From what I understand this is a text book for a class. What was your idea behind writing the novel, why this topic?

Rory Ridley-Duff: This is a student text to learn about co-operative and social enterprises.  We use it in our university.  It went into reprint within 6 months so it must be finding a market throughout the world.  In 1997, I was part of a group of people who established Social Enterprise London, a new agency that supports ‘socialised’ forms of enterprise and a co-operative economy.  The strapline of the social enterprise movement in the UK is ‘trading for people and planet’, so the link with my other work is the focus on human relationships at work.  It is the first book of its kind and seems to be helping to build a worldwide movement in social enterprise education.

HP: You also do consulting / Research Services though not independently anymore. You now can be contacted through Sheffield Hallam University and you arrange work through an appropriate research center.

Can you tell us a little about your work as a consultant and researcher? Can it sometimes be tedious? Do you enjoy it?

Rory Ridley-Duff: Research, particularly the type of research I undertake, is extremely challenging. My largest study I have undertaken is a 3 year anthropological study, working with the people I was studying, and socialising with them outside work to understand all the inter-connections that affect their lives.  Some aspects of research are tedious (such as transcribing audio journals and interviews), but writing research papers, disseminating them at conferences, meeting people from all over the world to discuss research, and introducing it to courses in the university – these are all highly enjoyable activities.

HP: As above, you are an educator and composer. What made you want to be a writer as well?

Rory Ridley-Duff: I’ve always taken enjoyment in writing.  My wife and I were pen friends before we decided to have a closer relationship, and we lived apart for over a year while she completed her university degree.  Letter writing was pivotal to our relationship.  As I got better jobs, I started writing software manuals and study guides.  While not as enjoyable as novel writing, it helped me craft my communication skills.

HP: Do you intend to make writing a career?

Rory Ridley-Duff: My work (as member of an academic faculty) involves constant reading and writing so I see it as integral to my career.  Would I like to be a popular novelist?  It’s possible – writing Friends or Lovers made me realise that some issues cannot be adequately discussed or explored in academic writing.  Exploring relationship issues through art is often the best way to learn about their complexity.

HP: Tell us your latest news?

Rory Ridley-Duff: The last four weeks have been hectic but enjoyable.  We’ve introduced a new course on co-operatives and social enterprises at my university – the first classes took place the week before last.  Last Saturday and Sunday, I was at the Co-operative Congress in Birmingham.  The most interesting news there was the initiation of a project to create a co-operative university.  On Monday and Tuesday, I was in Durham in North England providing support for a new group of social enterprise researchers funded by one the UK’s research councils (ESRC).

HP: Your first fiction novel Friends or Lovers which came out in November 2010. Can you tell us a little about it?

Rory Ridley-Duff: I wrote this at the same time as my PhD, but it took several years to find a publisher.  It was a therapeutic activity, exploring issues that are extremely difficult to talk about in academic work.  There is a taboo when it comes to discussing sexual issues in the study of organisations, so the novel was a good outlet and it just grew and developed.

HP: How did you develop your plot and characters for Friends or Lovers?

Rory Ridley-Duff: The basic plot was straightforward enough – I wanted to write a novel about a woman’s journey toward self-awareness and a deeper understanding of her relationship with men.  I’ve often felt that there are many good films/novels about bad men who learn to become good when they face an extraordinary situation.  It seemed to me there were fewer portrayals of women who go through similar experiences.  I enjoyed films like Born on the Fourth of July (Tom Cruise), about a young man who gradually realises how societal pressures had predisposed him to fight in wars, and who later becomes a campaigner for peace.  I also member Rain Man (Tom Cruise / Dustin Hoffman) where a cocky young man becomes aware of his selfishness, learns to love the brother he never knew, and the role he played in his own past.  I think ‘In Her Shoes’ (Cameron Diaz) was an influence - it explored how a selfish young woman becomes a caring adult.  Friends or Lovers has a similar aim.  It peels back the superficial bullshit we call the ‘real world’ and looks at the nature of the intimate relationships that make life worth living.

HP: Did you learn anything from writing the novel?

Rory Ridley-Duff: A great deal.  At the time – in my research – I would find myself in conflict with other people over issues of gender representation (the caricaturing of men and women that affects the way they are treated during conflicts at work).  I always wondered what it would be like to explore the issue from the perspective of a woman born in the 1970s who grew up with feminist assumptions she had not thought through.  What would happen if she started to question them?  It was a bit like my own journey, but in reverse.  In the 1970s/80s, I was committed to supporting feminism, but a sexual harassment investigation I conducted at my workplace made me question my assumptions.  This novel is, in some ways, is an exploration of that experience but from the point of view of the woman who was my co-investigator.

HP: Where can we purchase Friends or Lovers?

Rory Ridley-Duff: It is available from Booktrope, a new publisher that specialises in digital books and on-demand printing.  They have an online HTML version, a Kindle version (available at Amazon), and take orders from bookstores and distributors on a print on demand basis.  It is possible to order single copies as well at or

HP: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Rory Ridley-Duff: I think the main message of the book comes in the final paragraph, and I would not want to spoil this for readers. The best hint I can give is that this is book seeks to encourage tolerance, sensitivity and forgiveness rather than hostility and prejudice.  I hope it will be regarded as an emancipatory novel – one that frees women, and benefits men, from some distinctly intolerant attitudes embedded in our culture over the last 40 years.

HP: How much of the book is realistic?

Rory Ridley-Duff: It is realistic. I’ve both experienced and studied the way sexual conflicts at work are resolved.  Anthropological research has helped me develop a deep understanding of the motivations that drive human behaviour at work, and the prejudices that pervade Human Resource Management. People can test out this realism by talking to friends and colleagues who work in human resource management.  I hope it is the realism of the novel will stay in the memories of people.  I also hope it will encourage them to question (and change) the way conflicts are both understood and managed in the workplace.

HP: Can we expect any more books from you in the future?

Rory Ridley-Duff: Yes.  I have another idea for a novel called ‘The Smiling Assassin’ about a group of think-tank researchers who become embroiled in a battle to save the soul of the social enterprise movement.  This novel explores the role of finance capital in subverting and destroying social movements that seek social justice at work.  I’ve written several chapters and friends tell me this is the most promising idea for a novel that I’ve pursued.  I’ve also written several chapters of a companion novel to Friends or Lovers that tells the story from Dave’s perspective (a different character in Friends or Lovers).

HP: Do you have any advice for writers?

Rory Ridley-Duff: Keep going, keep writing, craft your works as best you can, make sure your friends read it and that you respond to any criticisms they have.  Don’t be too quick to publish - let the manuscript mature by making many revisions (and leave time each round of revisions so you have time to reflect on each draft).  When ready, waste no time in trying to find someone to publish it, and be prepared to do so yourself if nobody else will.  With each writing project, you will improve and success – however modest and in whatever form it comes – is always satisfying.

HP: You seem to have a pretty busy schedule, what do you do when you get down time?

Rory Ridley-Duff: The summer (August) and Christmas.  I have several weeks of holiday coming up which I am looking forward to immensely.  Christmas is always great.  From the moment our extended family arrives in Yorkshire, we all switch off from work and have two weeks of food, fun and festivities.

HP: Thank you ever so for having this interview with me Rory. I know you have been very busy so it means so much more.


Books by Rory Ridley-Duff
Friends or Lovers
Emotion, Seduction and Intimacy: Alternative Perspectives on Human Behaviour
Understanding Social Enterprise: Theory and Practice

Coming Soon
The Smiling Assassin-- To read the first three chapters, click here.

Awards and Recognitions 
*In 2001 he won a DTI Smart Award for contributions to innovation in database design.
*In 2002, he won a Hallam PhD Studentship that enabled him to establish a new career as a university lecturer/researcher focussing on governance in cooperatives and social enterprises.
*Since 2009, he has been recognised by Marquis's Who's Who in the World in 2009 for his contributions to music and knowledge.  
*He became an UnLtd/HEFCE Ambassador for Social Enterpreneurship in Higher Education in 2010.

Also find Rory at:
His Website

AOTW- Michael LaRocca

Michael LaRocca

About the Author:
I left North Carolina in December 1999 and moved to Asia, where I've lived ever since. I've been married to a lovely Australian lady for over ten years, and to a lovely Calico cat for about a month longer than that. I spent five years teaching English in China, four years lecturing to the doctors at Chiang Mai University in Thailand, and a few months (and counting) in Hanoi. I have edited at home through it all, part-time for the first half and full-time for the second half. I've written 9 published novels and edited over 300 novels. And that's my life in one page or less. Your turn.


Interview with Michael LaRocca
Michael LaRocca is the author of seven distinct works, more recently, Skull Dance and Conundrum.

HP: Michael, can you tell us a little about yourself?

Michael LaRocca: I left North Carolina in December 1999 and moved to Asia, where I've lived ever since. I've been married to a lovely Australian lady for over ten years, and to a lovely Calico cat for about a month longer than that.  I spent five years teaching English in China, four years lecturing to the doctors at Chiang Mai University in Thailand, and a few months (and counting) in Hanoi. I’ve edited at home through it all, part-time for the first half and full-time for the second half. I’ve edited over 300 novels. As an author, I’ve been an EPPIE finalist three times and called myself the Susan Lucci of the EPPIEs. I intend to win it next year.

HP: You have lived in a lot of different places-- North Carolina, Florida, Hong Kong, mainland China, Thailand, Vietnam, and are planning a move to Burgaw this year. Whew! That's a lot of moving!

I have to ask: What’s your favorite place in the entire world? Also, do you think you will ever move back to the US?

Michael LaRocca: My favorite place might be Roxboro, North Carolina, but a Roxboro that no longer exists. I grew up there before there was a Research Triangle Park.

An alternate answer would be Mallard Roost, which is over 100 acres on the Northeast Cape Fear River. Daddy owns it. It’s on the edge of Burgaw, about seven miles outside the “city” limits. City in quotes because Burgaw’s a bit small and off the beaten path. We’re going to Mallard Roost in September, but we don’t know if it’s to live or just to visit.

Or perhaps Perth, in Western Australia, which I haven’t actually visited yet, because my lovely Australian bride has told me so much about it. It’s a long-term goal.

HP: The point of this interview was to focus on your books, mostly the novel Skull Dance. But first let’s talk a little about how you began writing. On your blog you mention editing writings but never really when you started writing, so, do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

Michael LaRocca: When I was nine years old, I made up comic books and told them to neighborhood kids, but I believe I was creating and telling stories even before then. I “got serious” about writing as a teenager. My first short story won second prize at the National Honor Society’s 1981 Florida State Convention and led to my inclusion in the 1982 Who’s Who in American Writing. Then I collected a few hundred rejection letters and fell off the radar for about 20 years. I’m back now.

HP: What inspires you to write and why?

Michael LaRocca: I cannot remember a time in my life when I wasn’t reading, voraciously. Every time I read a story that really grabs me and moves me, I always think, “I wish I could do that.” That’s why I write.

HP: Can you tell us about the novel, Skull Dance?

Michael LaRocca: Gerd Balke wrote it. I simply “took up the baton” after he died and ensured that his book didn’t die with him. Gerd was the first novelist to ever hire me as his editor. I’m American, he was German, and this all happened in Hong Kong.

In December 1999, I found myself living in Hong Kong on a tourist visa. This meant I couldn’t legally work there. My lovely wife-to-be supported me. That might sound wonderful to some folks, but it was hell on me. I got my first full-time job at age 15, and I’ve never taken a sick day in my life. If I was given vacations or holidays, I spent them doing second or third jobs. And now, after 21 workaholic years, I was supposed to just stop.

I mentioned the rejection letters. I had a big “slush pile” of short stories, novels, and partial novels that I’d written over the years. A lot of crap, to be honest. Good stories told very badly. From our little Hong Kong apartment, I joined all the free online creative writing workshops I could find, and I learned how to self-edit. This led to me writing four books in 2000 which were all published in the US in 2001. This is also how I met Gerd Balke.

Gerd was a founding member of the Hong Kong Writers Circle, which still thrives today. Of all the online workshops I joined, their members were the most insightful. Also, we met from time to time at various Hong Kong restaurants. What usually happened in person is that we didn’t let the writing get in the way of the drinking, but Gerd and I had many long discussions over the years, either at Hong Kong Writers Circle functions or at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club. Gerd told me that he felt like he was always the mentor, but that with me he felt like he was with an equal. I’d like to think that would be true if he were still alive now, but back then his skills definitely exceeded mine despite working in his second language.

I edited six of his novels. Four are probably still trapped on his hard drive or perhaps lost forever. One, Paradise Fermenting, was published by Trafford because Gerd paid them before he died. I helped the process along a little bit.

When Gerd died, Skull Dance was sitting on my hard drive. I edited it, I found a paying publisher, I set up everything so Gerd’s widow would receive the royalties, and I played the role of author throughout the rest of the editing and publication process. That’s Gerd’s voice in Skull Dance, not mine. It’s a voice I love, so I did all I could to make it come through clearly.

HP: Can you tell us about the main character(s) in the novel?

Michael LaRocca: You will read the novel and you will think that protagonist Christian Ramsdorf is speaking in the voice of Gerd Balke. I made that mistake too. I’ve read six of his novels, all with very difference main characters, and every time I thought that was Gerd. I finally told him that he is a chameleon. He laughed.

Anyway, Christian Ramsdorf is an East German haunted by the collective guilt of a people who grew up in the aftermath of Nazism. He grew up cold and hard, a Volksarmee officer who later joins MI5 as an expert in Eastern bloc weapons. He stumbles into a plot to sell Russian plutonium after the fall of the USSR. This novel was also quite prescient politically. He looks at escalating border tensions between India and Pakistan, nuclear terrorism, and much that actually happened after he died. The character development in Christian Ramsdorf, to bring this discussion back to your actual question, is accurate and insightful and remarkable. You will live in this novel when you read it. I do, every time.

I’ll tell you what I know of this character’s creation. Gerd sat down with Lawrence Gray, co-founder of the Hong Kong Writers Circle, and said words to the effect that he’d written many great books and was ready to write something that would make him rich. They plotted Skull Dance together, and the creation of main character Christian Ramsdorf had to be a major part of that. Then when Gerd actually wrote the book, the deep thinker and literary genius in him insisted on being heard as well. How could it not? That’s not something an author can just turn off, nor should he. The world has more than enough shallow writing. Skull Dance has everything that I think of as the hallmarks of Gerd’s writing, plus a ripping good plot.

A bit of trivia for you. When I first edited this book, Chapter Eight introduced the character of Lawrence Wilchford, and I knew where the name “Lawrence” came from. After Gerd died, and I read the most recent revision of Skull Dance, that character’s name had been changed to Lawrence Michael Wilchford.

HP: Who designed the cover?

Michael LaRocca: The fine folks at Libertary Editions. I don’t have a name. I had a cover from the original publisher which emphasized the political thriller aspects of Skull Dance quite nicely, but we thought it best to do something a little different with the new cover, which I love. After all, Skull Dance is a political thriller, but it’s also much more. The cover portrays an integral scene that occurs roughly halfway through the book, the “skull dance.”

HP: How do you promote this book?

Michael LaRocca: Thank you, Holly, for this interview. :)

Publicizing my own work feels like a full-time job sometimes. It certainly can become one if you let it. To complicate matters, I live in Hanoi, so I can only promote my writing by Internet. In the case of Skull Dance, it’s even harder because the author is dead.

However, I have thousands of fans and followers through my blog, other blogs, and various social media sites. I’m constantly trying to build “Michael LaRocca” as a “brand,” which should help Skull Dance. The book reviewers have all been very positive about Skull Dance. Finally, Libertary Editions is taking a much more active role in promotion than I’ve come to expect of a publisher. I certainly appreciate that.
Beyond that, I’m still learning. Ten years as a published author isn’t long enough to learn all I need about promoting my titles. Is that why I called one of my white papers “Writing Your Novel Is The Easy Part”?

HP: Where can we purchase Skull Dance?

Michael LaRocca: Booktrope’s official page is at . You can also find it at Amazon, or probably any other online or bricks-and-mortar bookstore you prefer. I’m a big fan of Better World Books because they ship free to anywhere in the world.

HP: Your newest novel Conundrum, which came out March 16th this year, is set in the year 2123. Can you tell us a little about this book and what inspired you to write a novel set in that time?

Michael LaRocca: That’s the novel I’m going to win my EPPIE with. Well, I hope I am. It is my best published work.

As a teenager, I wrote many novels and partial novels that I threw in the trash, either before or after the rejection letters piled up. By trashing them, I did the world a great favor. But there was one, a science fiction novel that I wrote immediately after writing my short story anthology, back in 1985 or thereabouts. It had potential. Maybe. Twenty-five years later, I could remember bits of it. The good bits, which equaled a 2000-word outline.

My little brother was a cop who killed himself when he was 20. My first published novel, Vigilante Justice, began with “what would he be like if he were alive today?” That was published in 2001. Then I quit writing novels for almost ten years.

Do you wonder how someone with twelve distinct published books can go ten years between novels? Those four books published in 2001 were a short story anthology, Vigilante Justice, mom’s biography, and a collection of travel humor. I try to be versatile because I have a short attention span.

I’ve noted more than once that I can’t remember the US well enough to set a novel there, and I don’t understand China or Thailand well enough to set a novel here. So, I went into space and invented a world. Problem solved. I managed to lay my hands on a 25-year-old printout of my science fiction thing, paid someone to type it for me, threw out 90% of it, and totally reinvented the whole thing. I plugged in that “little brother guy” from Vigilante Justice. It took me three years to turn all those threads into Conundrum.

HP: Now, that is two novels that are wholly different in genre and setting. Can you tell us, will you be writing more books from both genre or will you be fixating on one?

Michael LaRocca: I’ve noted that I never write in the same genre twice, although I have to admit that Conundrum does have a sequel now. Every time I write a book, I know it’s my last and I’m empty and that I’m done with writing. Then I write another. Right now I have a two-page text file that might turn into a book unlike any of my others.

I do know that I’m not capable of writing anything like Skull Dance. Gerd lived in all of its settings, knew them intimately, and recreated them flawlessly. He loved living in the moment, feeling and thinking, engaging all his senses, using his powerful intellect. As a teenager, I enjoyed reading the great European authors from afar. Gerd was older, wiser, and he grew up right there, in Germany, in the heart of that great European literary tradition. He enjoyed writing well, the beauty of language, and long literary passages of the sort that we love to read but often bemoan modern society for discouraging. I’m very comfortable on Twitter, but I can’t imagine Gerd restraining himself to 140 characters or less.

HP: Did you do any research for Skull Dance and Conundrum for that matter?

Michael LaRocca: Gerd left me a completed manuscript for Skull Dance. I was able to just read, learn, and enjoy. He wrote it over 10 years ago, and much of what he predicted politically has happened. It can’t go out of date. That tells me he did a lot of research. His life was a constant work of research.

For Conundrum, I spent at least a year on the research. I absolutely wanted the science to drive the plot, not vice versa. I want people to read this book and applaud its scientific realism as being on par with Arthur C. Clarke. Back in “the good old days,” I loved haunting every single library in Tampa, Florida, which has an excellent library system. But for Conundrum, I have to admit that the Internet is quite convenient.

HP: Can we expect any more books from you in the future? Do you have any works in progress right now?

Michael LaRocca: Last month I signed the contract to publish that aforementioned sequel to Conundrum. It’s called Enigma. When I wrote Conundrum, just to remind you, I knew I was done with writing forever. I’d actually deleted all my research notes and celebrated their death. Fortunately, I was able to get them all back a few months later. And as I say, I’ve got a two-page text file that may or may not turn into something. Its working title is Displacement. It may be about reverse culture shock, the meaning of life, and American football, or I might just throw it out. It’s too soon to say.

HP: Are you reading any interesting books at the moment?

Michael LaRocca: There was a time, years ago, in China, when I discovered the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. I read over 30 of the novels in a row – all that he’d written. Last month, in a second-hand bookstore in Hanoi, I found two that he wrote after that. By the time this interview is published, I will have read them both and moved on to something else. Probably Bill Bryson’s book about my favorite author, William Shakespeare.

HP: Do you have anything you would like to say to your readers?

Michael LaRocca: I’m Author of the Week and you’re not? Nah, I can’t stay that. So I’ll say, read my blog at . It’s where I help authors and editors improve, except when I’m creating lame jokes or spouting my opinion in small easily digested doses.

HP: Looking back on your life now, is there anything you would change?

Michael LaRocca: I was about halfway through writing Enigma when I realized that all four of my novels, my short story anthology, and probably most of my biographical work touch on a common theme, regrets and second chances. You’ve read in this interview that my little brother killed himself, and people who read my biography of my mother ask me “How did you ever survive?” There is much I wish I could change about the past, but I’ll have to settle for doing more good than bad, adding worth, and leaving the place better than I found it.

HP: Thank you, Michael, for taking the time to sit down and do this interview with me. I wish you great success with your novels.

Michael LaRocca: Thank you, Holly.


Books by Michael LaRocca
Skull Dance by Gerd Balke and Michael LaRocca
How Red Is My Neck? – FREE, but not for long
The Chronicles of a Lost Soul
Rising From The Ashes
Vigilante Justice

Awards and Recognitions
*How Red Is My Neck? -- 2005 EPPIE finalists
*The Chronicles of a Lost Soul -- 2004 EPPIE finalists
*Vigilante Justice -- 2002 EPPIE finalists

Also find Michael at:
Linked In

AOTW- Kit Iwasaki

Kit Iwasaki

About the Author:
Kit was midway through premed when she realized she loved the heart, but hated blood. It took her a few more years to figure out what to do with her freewheeling life, most of which is not fit to print in a bio. She decided to get back to what she was always doing anyway, and had been as long as she could remember: telling stories. Now she furiously scribbles out books for the Vampire General series, as well as other projects that will jump out at you when you least expect it.


Interview with Kit Iwasaki

HP: Kit Iwasaki, you have recently published your first novel in your series Vampire General. From your blog I see that you were once a premed, but now mostly tell stories. Can you tell us a little more about yourself?

Kit Iwasaki: A long time ago, I thought I was going to be a doctor. Well, it wasn't so long ago, but it feels like an eternity now. I used to perform surgery on my dolls like any well-adjusted kid would do, idolized doctors and all they did for people, but when it came time for me to take that step myself, I realized I wasn't so much in love with medicine so much as the people who did it. And that's when I started writing stories like Vampire General. Because the only thing more exciting than cardiothoracic surgery is a hot cardiothoracic surgeon who can't concentrate on his work because of a broken heart.

HP: What is your favorite quote, by whom, and why?

Kit Iwasaki: “We are all a little weird and life's a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love." – Dr Seuss

I love quotes about love, and funny quotes, too. Even better when someone can combine the two. So many people take love really seriously, but if you think about it hard enough, love is a pretty strange thing. After all, love isn’t only about huge sacrifices or devotion or all-enduring emotion, it’s also about being able to be silly together.

HP: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

Kit Iwasaki: Writing has always been something I’ve done on the side, scribbling little stories in my notebooks in high school, daydreaming about the ‘what ifs’. I guess I’ve always been into story-telling, from way back when I was a toddler and inventing stories about why my teddy bear needed a heart transplant, and how the surgery would make him fall out with his step-cousin. As I grew older it just seemed natural to start writing everything down.

HP: What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general?

Kit Iwasaki: In my case? Consistency and medical accuracy! The character drama pretty much writes itself, and it’s great fun to invent transhuman diseases and patients and cultures. The problem is that I try to make all the science as realistic as possible, which takes a lot of research! For example, I spent ages reading about fish and dolphin anatomy for Intern With The Vampire, because one of the patients is a mermaid.

HP: Your book Intern With the Vampire came out April 12th 2011. Can you tell us a little about the world you have created and the two main characters Aline Harman and William Rocque?

Kit Iwasaki: The world of Vampire General is really our own world, but where transhuman creatures (vampires, zombies, mermaids etc) roam around freely. Not that they're seen often, because they take great pains to stay out of sight. Generations of persecution drilled that into them.

Aline is a human doctor with most things under control in life. She's at a great hospital, has a great boyfriend and looks to be climbing the ladder to a spectacular career when things are derailed by Rocque, who ends up getting her fired. He invites her to come work at Grace General, a special hospital set up for transhumans. And it's a bit of a shock for her, to say the least. Even worse, she has to pretend to be a vampire herself, because humans aren't allowed inside Grace General.

Rocque is a kind of mentor for her, but not the useful kind. He makes things harder for her than they need to be, except in situations where her secret might be exposed. And even then, it's almost like he's looking out for himself more than her. He's a tough nut to crack that way.

HP: Where did you get the idea for this book/series?

Kit Iwasaki: From a friend of mine, actually! He’s allergic to garlic, so we always joke that he’s like a vampire. It got me thinking about what it would be like if vampires were simply suffering from bizarre medical conditions. How would a doctor help a patient who’s highly photosensitive, allergic to garlic, and dependent on blood?

As soon as you start thinking about the supernatural in medical terms, it becomes really fascinating. There’s so much potential for really weird medicine, and the fact that most of the doctors in Vampire General are transhumans too only adds to the fun, because they all have their own problems to deal with.

HP: Who designed the cover for your book Intern With the Vampire?

Kit Iwasaki: I wish I could claim the credit! It’s the handiwork of MCM. On top of being my publisher and the founder of 1889 Labs, he’s an author, an illustrator, a script-writer, and all sorts of things. I don’t know how he manages to do so much all the time. The man is seriously insane!

HP: How do you promote your book?

Kit Iwasaki: I talk about it on my Facebook page and on my blog, but honestly, most of the heavy lifting is being done by 1889 Labs. I'm happiest when I'm writing about surgery and make-out sessions, so I leave the promotion to the experts!

HP: Where can we purchase Intern With the Vampire?

Kit Iwasaki: You can grab a copy from either Amazon or Smashwords.

HP: You have a second book coming out in June 2011, Slash and Burn. Can you tell us a little of what this book is going to be about?

Kit Iwasaki: Slash and Burn picks up exactly where Intern With The Vampire leaves off, and follows Aline Harman’s adventures during her second shift at Grace General. She’ll have new patients to handle and even more difficulties with her colleagues—expect some jealousy, unrequited love, and near-ruined friendships! And yes, there’ll be more of sexy Dr Scott.

Can you share a little of your current work with us?

Kit Iwasaki: Here’s a teaser from Slash and Burn:

“It’s easy for you to criticize,” Aline said, defensive. “You’re an immortal. You’re one of them, a transhuman. You belong here and I don’t!” She turned away, wrapped her arms around herself. “I don’t,” she repeated, quietly now.

Wolls grabbed her shoulders, spun her around to face him. “Don’t you get it? It should be the other way around. You’re normal, healthy. You should be happy!” He searched her eyes as if he could read into her expression, his grip on her shoulders tightening. “You don’t have to worry about outliving a loved one, or passing on your disease to your kids.”

“Yeah, because immortality is such a hardship,” she snapped back.

He let go of her as if her words had burned. “Ask the vampire doctors what they used to drink before synthetic hema was invented,” he said flatly. “Ask them how many men they killed.”

HP: Though your book is supernatural fiction, have you included any of your life experiences, even friends, in the plot?

Kit Iwasaki: There's a tiny bit of my friends in the story, but I try to keep that to a minimum, or they'll come after me with scalpels. "Do no harm" is such a subjective concept, really. But seriously, most of the stuff I write about medically is extremely speculative, and even though I've had moments in private with dangerously attractive men here and there, none of them have ever tried to suck my blood. At least not yet. Wink wink.

HP: Where do you see yourself in five years?

Kit Iwasaki: Rich and famous! No, wait, that’s not me I’m seeing, it’s someone else. Let me get my binoculars and look again. Looking, looking.... Nope, can’t find myself. So I’ll do my best to guess: in five years’ time, I’ll have finished writing all nine of the planned Vampire General books. I may or may not be alive after that, depending on how readers react to the killer ending.

HP: What do you think are some of the best tools available today for writers, especially those just starting out?

Kit Iwasaki: I don’t know that I would recommend any actual tools per se. The best ‘tools’ for a writer are patience, motivation, dedication, and sheer stubbornness. Those four will get you the farthest. Fancy dictionaries, notebooks and word programs are all just trimmings. Get your novel written first, and then you can worry about the other stuff.

HP: Do you have anything you would like to say to your readers?

Kit Iwasaki: Other than thank you, thank you, and thank you? How about: “I love you, but I still won’t give away any spoilers because I’m secretly kinda evil.”

HP:  What dreams have been realized as a result of your writing?

Kit Iwasaki:
Seeing my name on a book cover! That has to be the greatest feeling ever, even though a part of me is still convinced someone is going to run up and snatch it all away, and tell me it was all just a dream.


Books by Kit Iwasaki
Vampire General Series
#1: Intern With The Vampire

The Simple Truth-- Free short story, here.

Coming Soon
Slash and Burn (Vampire General #2)-- Expected publication: June 2011 by 1889 Labs

Also find Kit at:
Her Wordpress



Kit Iwasaki has offered to giveaway TWO Ebook copy's of her debut novel Intern With The Vampire!!!

Book Description:

"Human medicine is easy. On her first day at Grace General Hospital, new intern Aline Harman risks vampire infection, demonic possession, and having her heart torn out of her chest... and this from her colleagues.

Juggling transhuman politics only becomes more difficult when a patient's life is at stake. With a zombie to resuscitate and a mermaid in critical care, Aline has her hands full. At least the doctors are good-looking."

Giveaway Details:
  • Giveaway is open to US & Canada and International.
  • Giveaway will run from June 6th 2011 - June 19th 2011.
  • The winner will be chosen on June 20th 2011. The winners will have 48 hours to contact back before another will be chosen.
  • One entry per-person please!
  • Giveaway is provided by the author.

To Enter:


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