Monday, February 29, 2016

A Conversation with Mystery Author Ronnie Allen

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with Ronnie Allen

We are delighted to welcome author Ronnie Allen to Omnimystery News today.

Ronnie's second Sign Behind the Crime mystery is Aries (Black Opal Books; January 2016 trade paperback and ebook formats) and we recently had the chance to spend some time with her talking about the series.

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Omnimystery News: Tell us the backstory to the series.

Ronnie Allen
Photo provided courtesy of
Ronnie Allen

Ronnie Allen: The first novel in The Sign Behind the Crime Series, Gemini, was released in June 2015. The second, Aries, was released on January 23rd of this year. Even though it's a series the main characters in each book are different. The protagonist in Gemini is forensic psychiatrist, Dr. John Trenton, a classy Armani suit kind of guy who wears his Rolex to work in a Manhattan hospital for the criminally insane — not when he's with patients, though. Going against hospital or police protocol doesn't faze him in the least and he nearly gets killed in his last attempt. Most thriller and romance authors, myself included, write alpha males. That's not only their physicality, but assertiveness to go beyond the norm or what's expected. For a character to carry a series, they have to go against what other characters tell them to do. In Gemini, Trenton fights the NYPD to solve the case. His colleagues aren't supporting him in the investigation and it's up to him to probe deeper on his own. The results of their non cooperation are disastrous. More murders. On a personal note, for me as a writer, I like characters the opposite of me in their physicality. Because I had a very frail childhood and young adulthood, I admire strong physicality in others. So I create very physically fit characters. I also put a lot of me in my characters. I practice alternative therapies, so my characters do. Dr. Trenton is both psychic and clairvoyant and his use of these skills add to his dimensionality.

The antagonist in Gemini is a psychopathic female who gets dumped into Dr. Trenton's lap for a seventy-two hour observation. She's major and I break the rule of the antagonist having ten percent of page space. I do so because I like to get into the psychopathic mentality. I like the reader to see their dysfunctional behavior and 'why.' Barbara Montgomery is one hot, smart chick. Stripper by night, school psychologist by day. I like her because she had the job I did, not the stripper.

In Aries, I still kept with the forensic psychiatrist, but this time, a 'rough around the edges' type who lives in T-shirts, skinny jeans, and leather jackets. Dr. Frank Khaos is former Special Forces, a BJJ fighter, and he rehabs NYC gang members who were just released from prison, training them in his MMA gym in Harlem. He's tatted, whereas Dr. Trenton is sans tattoos.

Again, I went with an Alpha Male. But even though Dr. Khaos is tougher, he's the gentle giant. I write deep emotionality, because I went through many traumas in my life. So much so, I wrote the dedication of Aries to read: To survivors of life's greatest challenges who picked themselves up and flourished. You'll read more about this in a later question.

Khaos' partner, rookie detective, Samantha Wright is an assertive, bubbly, state her mind kind of gal. She's more excitable than Khaos and the two of them are polar opposites. But they do develop a romantic relationship where they set the sheets on fire. I love forensics and police work. I may have been a detective in a previous life. The crime genre is what I read and write.

The reader will meet Dr. Trenton in Aries, as a consultant. I started Aries before I received my contract on Gemini, so I was undecided about continuing with the same character. So in came Dr. Khaos. I had Dr. Trenton in Aries, to catch up to where he is now.

Presently, I'm writing Scorpio, where Dr. Trenton, his wife, his children, and Dr. Khaos and Det. Sam Wright are in it. It's working well with the two forensic psychiatrists being different types in every way.

OMN: How do you see these characters developing over the course of the series?

RA: I believe a character needs to change. It's part of the plot structure. In Gemini, Dr. Trenton changes his view toward himself about what makes him a worthy man. He recognizes the different points of view across the county and even within his family.

In Aries, Dr. Khaos is a widower with a seven year old son. His wife was murdered in what he thought was a gang initiation in retaliation for him getting members to leave the hood. He closed himself off to relationships. When Det. Sam solves the case of the murder, he questions himself if he's ready for a relationship. Aries ends, happy for now. It will take another book, Scorpio, for Khaos to evolve, and there'll be more emotional issues for both him and Sam to resolve. These new issues were not even alluded to in Aries.

OMN: Into which fiction genre would you place your books?

RA: I definitely write cross genre. Gemini, because my protagonist is both psychic and clairvoyant and uses the psychic sciences, has a lot of paranormal elements. Even though it's a psychological thriller and I delve deep into the mind of the psychopath, the book can also be classified as a Paranormal Thriller. In Gemini there is romance and very high heat romance but that's not the prime focus, so I bill Gemini as having romantic elements. I believe that genre labeling should be correct. Mainly because, I do not like to toy with reader's emotions. Readers have to know what they are getting.

Aries is also cross-genre. In this book, the romance is a main plot. There are a few plots in Aries. One plot pushes the romance and for the second plot, romance pushes it. The first plot forms the relationship between Khaos and Wright, and because they want the relationship, they are pushed to solve the second plot. It's classified as steamy romance with erotic elements, because there's BDSM in the plot. Readers who like inspirational or sweet romance will not like Aries.

OMN: How would you tweet a summary of Aries?

RA: In solving a serial murder, a forensic psychiatrist & rookie detective go on a wild ride thru NYC w/ their relationship going beyond hot. #thriller #romance #paranormal

OMN: Have you included any of your own personal or professional experience in your books?

RA: Okay, this is a loaded question for me. The answer is a resounding "yes!" There's a lot of me in both the protagonist and antagonist in Gemini. Dr. John Trenton uses the alternative healing modalities that I teach. In fact, readers could probably learn how to contact and communicate with their spirit guides, if they want to. The antagonist, Barbara Montgomery, is set up in a classroom situation and another with a disgruntled teacher in the same capacity I was when I taught in NYC. Her point of view is the same as I have toward children and learning. I'm truly an advocate for children and the teachers who work with them. I dedicated Gemini to: Teachers who every day in their classrooms protect and rescue children from the abuse they endure in their lives.

Barbara also uses the Tarot, which I teach on a professional level. So does Dr. Trenton.

Dr. Trenton and I have the same birthday, on a more mundane level.

I'm also in Aries. But not the strong Ronnie who most people know. I suffered with asthma during my childhood and adulthood, as well, and still do, though stabilized. The antagonist, AriellaRose Larcon is a pathetic young woman. I wanted to set her up as the killer the reader would beg me not to kill. I write in very deep point of view. And I wanted the emotionality within AriellaRose to come through. I'm not going to put it out here, but the torment she lets out to Dr. Frank Khaos, I have personally experienced. It's also a testament to the damage smoking can cause during pregnancy.

OMN: Tell us a little more about your writing process.

RA: For sections in my notebook, I hand write first plot notes with diagrams, characterizations, chapter outline with 1-2 sentences that can transform into any amount that I brainstorm, synopsis of each chapter, written chapters. I know my setting ahead of time. Most often it's NYC where I was born and raised. Gemini takes place in NYC and in Central Florida, where I now live. Aries takes place completely in NYC. Some people ask whether setting or characters come first. For me, the setting is a given.

I usually start with my bad girl, first. I write a circle, with her name in it. I'll address creating a name. I don't use a name dictionary. I sit with my eyes closed and let my mind go blank, and focus on what I want my character to look like. Then her name appears. I don't belabor it. The first name that pops into my head is it. Unless, it's a duplicate. You do not want two characters with the same name. Especially if they're in the same field. If you write multi-layered plots like I do, you don't want to confuse your reader, further.

Then I brainstorm, "what can she do to be bad?" In my genre, it's "kill." I draw spokes coming from the circle and I go nuts as ideas flow. People told me about Gemini, that I'd have a hard time finding a killer badder than Barbara Montgomery. In writing Gemini, I had the plot from start to finish in my brain before I hit the laptop. Then I had to research, a lot. When you're writing medical, law, police, weaponry, you have to know the facts, so you can stretch them for the sake of fiction.

So in plotting the antagonist in Aries, to be "badder" than Barbara Montgomery, I decided to create a band of killers whom AriellaRose Larcon calls her "beholden." I brainstorm plot ideas with an open mind. If I get to something I like, I create another layer of spokes and go with it. This takes a lot of time, so be patient.

Re character profiling. This is must. Notice, I said must. No option. You need to know your character on every level, not only their physicality. You need to flush them out so you'd know how they'd react in any situation. There are character profiling sheets you can find online. I have many characters and in Aries, my characters have aliases. You can't imagine how many times I referred to my sheets to check eye color, what they did, who they previously killed. Readers will be quick to find these errors or mis-matches. And, knowing every aspect of your characters will help you avoid the dreaded writer's block.

My next section, chapter outlines. I pretty much go through a least twelve chapters before I hit the laptop. But I know what's going to happen in each chapter after twelve. Now, I have to mention, that even though I'm a plotter, I do let my characters take over. In Gemini, the love interest, Vicki, gave herself more of a role than I had intended. She turned out to be a character that added plot twists that changed the direction of the plot. It works when you allow your characters to take over. In Aries, AriellaRose and her beholden each have their own stories. That makes them empathetic which the reader wants to see.

Now, to how I create my first draft. This may be different from what you've heard — write the first draft without editing from start to "the end." This doesn't work for me. Because I write multi-layered plots and subplots, I need to stop and take a look back so I can see my flow and pacing. I write long. Many novels end around the 65K mark. Mine go twice as long. I print out through chapter twelve. Then I edit those and check to see plot flow, pacing and timing. This is close to the middle and I don't want that "sagging middle." I also count the pages each character appears on so I can balance them.

All I can say is that my system works. I plotted Aries for five months before I sat down at the laptop to type. I typed 122K words in three months and ten days. Then came my critique partners and beta readers. Aries was accepted by my publisher the first time out with a contract coming two weeks later. The manuscript was in such good shape, I need only one round of edits instead of three.

OMN: Where do you most often find yourself writing?

RA: I live in the woods so my writing environment is peaceful. If I'm in my office, I'm surrounded by my huge stacks of research folders. My favorite place to write is by a body of water, manmade or natural. When I was living in NYC, I wrote at the beach. Now, in Florida, I write poolside on my ipad. People know not to come over when they see me engrossed. My startle response is enough to make them jump backward into the pool.

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Ronnie Allen is a NYC native who moved to rural Central Florida eight years ago. In addition to being an educator in the NYC Dept. of Education for 33 years, she holds NYS Licensure as a School Psychologist. In the mid-90s Ronnie began a journey into holistic healing and alternative therapies. She picked up certifications in Reiki, Crystal Therapy, Dream Interpretation, Tarot, and a Ph.D. in Parapsychic Sciences. Ronnie utilizes all of her real life skills in her novels which is perfect for her cross-genre writing.

For more information about the author, please visit her website at RonnieAllenNovel.com and her author page on Goodreads, or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Aries by Ronnie Allen

Aries by Ronnie Allen

The Sign Behind the Crime

Publisher: Black Opal Books

Amazon.com Print/Kindle Format(s)BN.com Print/Nook Format(s)iTunes iBook FormatKobo eBook Format

Lying. Deception. Cover-ups. Anger. Revenge. Death. That's what happens when an Aries-obsessed killer combines black magick rituals, knives … and murder.

Samantha Wright, a rookie NYPD detective, gets her first case, a big one, by stumbling over the body while jogging in the park. Sam has a lot to prove, both to herself and to her new precinct, on this serial murder case involving fashion icons in NYC. Together with a rough around the edges BJJ fighter, forensic psychiatrist, Frank Khaos, Sam chases down leads through the five boroughs of NYC.

As the bodies pile up, sparks fly and Sam and Frank, polar opposites, go from their dislike for each other to setting the sheets on fire. But their main suspect is hooked up to an IV in a hospital bed, so how has she pulled off five murders in seven days? And can Sam and Frank stop her before even more innocent lives are lost?

Aries by Ronnie Allen. Click here to take a Look Inside the book.

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