Interview: Kim McMahill, Author of A Dose of Danger

McMahillADoseOfDangerFolks, please give a warm welcome to Kim McMahill.We chat about Wyoming, snakes, how to win at an obstacle course, and plenty more! Enjoy!

How does modern pop culture influence your work? Do modern cultural references date a piece or add touchstones for the reader?

My stories are generally set in the present and several are even futuristic, so it’s impossible not to be influenced by modern pop culture in order to write realistic stories. In my latest novel, A Dose of Danger, a researcher believes she’s found a miracle weight loss supplement. In the U.S. the diet product industry is a 40 to 100 billion dollar a year industry, driven by the need of many to conform to social pressures to be thin or strive for a trendy look. We’re constantly deluged by what the perfect body image should be and the latest fad promising to deliver. But what if we were all thin and fit? Those invested in the diet product industry might not be too excited to see their profits disappear.

Modern cultural references definitely date books. Ten years from now that diet supplement might actually exist, so the plot no longer delves into a “what if” scenario. But hopefully the overall story is strong enough that it really doesn’t matter and the reader will see it as a touchstone, not an outdated story. Sometimes when I read an older book I get those nostalgic, “oh I remember that” feelings, and the memories evoked only make the story more enjoyable.

What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

During summer breaks throughout high school I cleaned motel rooms. There’s no comparison. Writing novels can take me on any grand adventure I can dream up and I get to share those stories with the world. The only thing I dreamed of when cleaning motel rooms was being done, and I seldom wanted to share any of those adventures with anyone.

McMahillMarkedInMexicoDo you have any phobias?

I can’t even look at snakes when I go to the zoo or I’ll likely have nightmares. We didn’t have a lot of snakes where I grew up in Wyoming, but we did have rattlesnakes. The up side was that my dad let my sister and I have all the cats we wanted since keeping the rodents (common snake prey) away from the house and barn also kept the snakes away.

When trekking through Khao Yai National Park in Thailand every time our guide stopped to show us a flower or mushroom, my heart nearly stopped. They have some seriously poisonous snakes in Thailand. Finally my husband asked the guide to quit pointing excitedly at the ground, because every time he did I was sure it was a cobra.

What reboots (or retellings) of classics have you enjoyed? Are there ones that haven’t worked for you?

I absolutely loved The Lord of the Rings Trilogy based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic novels. I re-watch my DVDs at least once a year, sometimes more. I wasn’t quite as excited about The Hobbit, and it was definitely a bad idea to mess with The Wizard of Oz.

What were you like as a kid? Did your kid-self see you being a writer?

Kids that grow up in the country tend to be self-entertaining and often very creative, and I was no different. We only had about four channels of antenna television, so sitting around the house wasn’t an option. I had a pony, but no tricycle since those aren’t conducive to dirt roads, and dogs and cats for companions. When I got a little older I had a mini-bike. My sister and I would ride around the hills behind the house exploring all the gullies and rises all day. I loved to downhill ski, which I find ironic now since I’ve grown to dislike the cold. How did I stay out all day, seldom stopping for lunch, not wanting to miss a moment on the slopes?

I never thought about being a writer, but I should have known that’s where I’d end up. I had an active imagination as a kid, and I guess I still do. I love adventure and discovering new places. Now, whenever I can’t get out on the road, I can always read a book or write one and uncover something new and exciting.

McMahillShroudedInSecretsWhat do you do when you are not writing?

I enjoy gardening and spending time outdoors in the summers, reading and jigsaw puzzles in the winter, and traveling as much as I can whenever I can. I also enjoy tennis, playing and watching professional matches, and following my Wyoming Cowboys!

What is the first book you remember reading on your own?

I don’t remember which specific story was first or my favorite, but I do remember a book of fairy tales that I absolutely loved. I read each story over and over until I wore the book out.

You have to run an obstacle course. Who do you invite along (living or dead, real or fictional)? Will there be a tasty libation involved?

That’s a tough one. Jack, in Marked In Mexico, is full of surprising skills which came in handy while eluding drug dealers in the Mexican jungle, and Logan in A Dose of Danger is not only smoking hot, but he will do whatever it takes to get the job done, against the odds and a host of professional assassins. But, Dirk Pitt has been part of my reading life for decades. He can get out of any situation, anywhere. I can’t tell you how many times he’s saved the world. Regardless of who participates in the obstacle course there would likely be libations. Dirk loves a fine tequila, Jack has also been known to dabble in the drink, and Logan will go with whatever the situation calls for.

McMahillADoseOfDangerBlurb for A Dose of Danger:

When researcher Grace Talbot and her team discover a possible solution for weight loss they are targeted by a group dedicated to controlling the multi-billion dollar a year diet-product industry. Her unsanctioned testing methods bring tragedy to the family ranch and the attention of the local sheriff’s deputy. With her colleagues either dead, missing, or on the run she soon realizes she must trust the deputy with her life, but can she trust him with her heart?

McMahillMarkedInMexicoBlurb for Marked in Mexico:

An idyllic Caribbean vacation turns deadly when hostages are taken at one of Mexico’s most popular Mayan ruins. The kidnappers believe the abduction will be a simple way to negotiate the release of a colleague from a Texas prison, but the stakes become much higher when they realize one of their hostages is the daughter of a powerful U.S. Senator and another, an ex-Army Ranger who has no intention of playing by the rules. After a daring escape the Senator’s daughter, Jessica, and the ex-Ranger, Jack, must endure a terrifying manhunt and a desperate fight for survival. While trying to stay alive in the unforgiving jungle they forge a bond that will last a lifetime and find love neither wanted, but were unable to avoid.

Places to Find Kim McMahill

GoodReads

Amazon

Author Website

Author Blog

Twitter

Guest Post: Sex! Perversion! Nudity!

JameDiBiasioAuthorPicFolks, please welcome Jame DiBiasio back today. If you have been around this week, you know I reviewed his debut novel, Gaijin Cowgirl. Jame was cool enough to provide us with some entertainment for today’s guest post. If you haven’t heard of Gaijin Cowgirl yet, let Jame give a tantalizing view of what his novel entails.

Sex! Perversion! Nudity!

Gaijin Cowgirl somehow lives, secretes, oozes sex – hostesses, prostitutes, lovers, S&M, cruelty, erotica – without a sex scene.

The cover features a silhouetted female wearing boots and a cowboy hat (and nothing else). The first pages open with a moody bird’s eye view of Tokyo and zoom in on some dodgy businessmen entering a private club filled with clad and semi-clad hostesses – one of whom, American Val Benson, is our protagonist.

Her top client pays his favorite girls to paint them in the nude. And he’s not interested in their elbows or knees. Val’s friend Suki got her start in life letting men molest her in crowded subway cars.

And so it goes. Until it stops.

DiBiasioGaijinCowgirlI’m not against sex scenes in fiction. Where would we be without Philip Roth and John Updike filling us in on the juicy bits? Writing a sex scene is not that far off from writing an action sequence. Both involve intensely physical, fleshy confrontations that can be rendered visually, emotionally, internally, in many styles.

For this novel, though, I made a deliberate decision not to do sex scenes. Context is important too, and in this context, I am a foreign male writing about Japan and Thailand – specifically about issues around prostitution, human trafficking, titillation, weirdness and even love.

To get around the obvious perception problem of a person like me writing about perversion in Asia required one big decision and one little decision.

The little one was that I did not want to drag down a novel laden with important themes to the level of a cheap thrill. There’s enough sex in the story already; I didn’t think it needed to be made explicit. Instead I focused the narrative on violence and action scenes.

The big decision was to portray the story and its themes from a female perspective. I could have told this story from a man’s point of view. That would have been easier and in some ways more fun. There would have been a much closer review of straying hands and other body parts. That’s how guys think.

Putting a woman at the center of action, though, made Gaijin Cowgirl a good novel. Once I had created the character of Val, I had to let her loose. She was definitely in charge. From there I saw the whole deal through her eyes, understood her motives from her first principles.

It allowed me as the (male) author the luxury of being risqué without turning the book into one of those cheesy exposés about white guys banging Asian babes. (Those are, unfortunately, a staple in many of the region’s remaining bookshops; avoid).

That’s important to me because, firstly, I don’t want to be cast as a pervy creep. I live in Asia and I want to portray things here as accurately and sympathetically as I can. I have tremendous respect for the region’s cultures, its histories, its people, so if I’m going to dive into the darker corners, my motives need to be defensible.

Secondly, I want my work to be liked by women as well as men, with the broadest appeal possible. Call me bourgeois, but I’d like to sell more copies of the book.

It’s not a guy’s fantasy tale, and it’s not a feminist manifesto. Gaijin Cowgirl, with its James Bond-like cover, is a thriller: fun, entertaining, maybe a bit of an eye-opener, and a little over the top. And definitely sexy!

This guest post is part of Jame DiBiasio’s blog tour with Premier Virtual Author Book Tours. If you would like to see further reviews, guest posts, interviews, and giveaways, check out the SCHEDULE.

Gaijin Cowgirl by Jame DiBiasio

DiBiasioGaijinCowgirlWhy I Read It: I like nitty gritty stories that throw me into a foreign culture.

Where I Got It: A review copy from the publisher via Premier Virtual Author Book Tours (thanks!)

Who I Recommend This To: Those who like an action-driven plot, a bit of history, a treasure hunt, and don’t mind a bit of sex and violence would enjoy this novel.

Publisher: Crime Wave Press (2013)

Length: 393 pages

Set in the early 2000s, Valerie Benson is a young lady, more than a little spoiled, on the run from her own failings and a closet of family secrets. She ends up in Japan, crashing at her old boyfriend’s place. After several weeks, she ends up working for the nightclub Cowboy as a hostess. Charlie Kwok, a lawyer trying to bring down Japanese business men who benefited from WWII brothels, is at first bemused by her job, which is questionable, but doesn’t entail sex. In short, Val is paid to look good, flirt and dance with the customers, who spend lots on liquor and leave big tips for the ladies and the club. Val’s biggest tipper of all is known as The Painter, and he likes to paint ladies in the nude. Specifically, he likes to paint women’s genitalia. That’s his addiction. He is willing to pay lots of money, and that is Val’s addiction. Val finds herself in the middle of something bigger than anything she has ever tackled before, and this time running won’t get her out of trouble. Essentially, she finds herself the owner of a treasure map, WWII treasure buried somewhere in Asia, most likely Thailand, and long forgotten. Enter Muddy, an Australian with decades of experience treasure hunting.

Initially, Valerie is a character that I didn’t have much connection with. She lacks responsibility for herself, often leaving others who care about her abruptly. She comes from a wealthy, and highly disfunctional, family, her father being a US Congressman. She’s use to having money and someone to take care of her, always willing to rescue her or give her a place to stay. She detests her father, but can’t give up the trustfund, which is how he always tracks her down (whenever she pulls funds from it). And poor Charlie. He was once head over heels in love with her, begged her for months in every way he could for her to come back to him. But no, she gave him no hope. But ran straight to him in far off Japan when she needed a place to hide away from her troubles.

Then Jame DiBiasio takes us into the seedier side if Japanese culture, but he tells it from the view point of Val, an outsider, and Suki, soon-to-be Val’s best friend. Sure, these ladies could make some better choices in their life, but so could all of us. They are very human, with hopes, dreams, needs, mistakes. They both hostess at this bar, and while no sex happens for money, all the ladies are expected to dress up, flirt, dance, and generally let the customers believe there is always a chance some sexytimes may happen.

I also enjoyed the little history lessons DiBiasio built into the story line. First, charlie Kwok and his firm are filing lawsuits on behave of surviving comfort women, women who were enslaved and forced to work in brothels in WWII for the ‘comfort’ of Japanese soldiers. I had not heard the term ‘comfort women’ before this book, and I do enjoy a fiction that can teach me a little bit about history or science.

So, the first quarter of the book is Val’s night life and Charlie’s lawsuits. Then Val and Suki have a near-death experience at the house of The Painter that throws the plot in a new direction. Val discovers a treasure map, and she and Suki both flee, intending to go to the police with their story. However, it quickly becomes apparent they can’t and must leave the country. This option is cemented when Val looses something precious to her, forcing her resolution to follow the treasure map. Val grows as a character, and I like that in my lead characters.

DiBiasio could have built in more sex than there was, but he leaves much hinted at, or merely stated as facts, without going into lots of description. Prostitution, enslaved women, hostessing…. you would think sexytimes would be happening left, right, and center. But the author restrained himself, putting in enough to make it realistic, to move the plot forward, to show us a point, and not so much as to make me think I wandered onto an Adam & Eve film production. I applaud him for that.

Definitely fast-paced, with action happening at every intersection, this book is full of memorable characters and interesting historical tidbits. Pick it up for the treasure hunting and walk away with some historical trivia. My small criticisms weren’t enough to detract me from enjoying this book. If you are interested, my small criticisms included such things as: occasionally moving a little to abruptly from one scene to the next; Suki appears to need a man for a future; and why did it take Suki and Val so long to figure out that the bad guys would check for them at their apartments?

What I Liked: Val grows from a snot-nosed irresponsible main character, to a woman on the hunt to forge her own life; the book captured the seedier side of life without being risque; lots of Japanese cultural references, vocabulary, poetry built into the story line; historical tidbits tucked in here and there.

What I Disliked: Would have liked Suki to be a little more independent; occasionally moved a little abruptly from one scene to the next.

Jame DiBiasio and Gaijin Cowgirl are on tour. If you would like see more reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways, check out the schedule at Premier Virtual Author Book Tours.