An Interview with Tiffany McDaniel

Tiffany is the author of more than 20 books. She is an artist, a poet, an animal lover. But today we are here to discuss her motivation for writing her latest book, On the Savage Side.

Tiffany McDaniel:

I have always lived by a river. The mirror of Appalachia, reflecting the hillsides and flowing behind the houses that raised me in Ohio. Those waters I walked in, chasing minnows and frogs, would one day become the same muddy brown waters that would carry the bodies of women in a crime that is now known as the Chillicothe Six. Though the victim count would eventually exceed that number, the name was given for the six women who disappeared first. Tameka Lynch, Tiffany Sayre, Charlotte Trego, Wanda Lemons, Timberly Claytor, and Shasta Himelrick.

Part of my research into this crime was to unearth the photographs of the female victims. One stood out to me. Though she was older than I’d last seen her, and her features had been altered by her drug use, I recognized the face, then the name. She was someone I had known when we were little girls. Having gone to school together, I remember her first day because she cried in class. The teacher had warned us beforehand about the new student. She was coming to our school because her mother had been killed in an automobile accident. The teacher explained that death can happen as suddenly as a car going down the road with a mother and young daughter inside it, and by the end of it, only the daughter survives. But how well?

As the new girl sat crying in the middle of class, I knew losing her mother was something she’d never get over.
After she’d gone missing, I discovered an interview her sister had given in which she spoke about how the loss of their mother had set her sibling on a path of destruction. I understood that, because I have never forgotten how hard and long she had cried in class all those years ago, not knowing then that her face would be among those victims of the still unsolved Chillicothe murders.

I grew up in both central and southern Ohio, in communities affected by drugs. I played with kids who were like Arc and Daff y,
the twin sisters in ON THE SAVAGE SIDE. Kids whose parents were addicts and kids who suffered under not only the strain of that, but the abuses that come with it, including the failures of the system. Kids who, in many cases, went on to have their own addictions like the characters in this book. As I reflected on the real-life victims who were murdered, I wanted to imagine who they might have been as they started out in life. I wanted the readers to age with Arc and Daff y to understand how those early years shaped them and planted the seeds that would eventually root themselves into the savage side.

While the characters in my novel are not based on the real-life victims, the story of violence was inspired by the crime. But more
than these women being victims, I wanted to write a story that captured the spirit of who they might have been.

I have known women like them in not only my community but in generations of my own family. In my previous book, BETTY, I wrote about my aunts Fraya and Flossie, who each struggled with substance abuse throughout their lives following their father Landon’s death. When I was a child, my mother Betty warned me not to drink or smoke because addiction was in my genes. I happened to be wearing a pair of Levis and I stuck my hands in my pockets, trying to find what she was talking about. I was too young to understand the difference between ‘genes’ and ‘jeans’.

In ON THE SAVAGE SIDE, the character of Aunt Clover expresses her desire to one day see the Mona Lisa. That was one of the last conversations I had with my aunt Fraya, when she spoke about wanting to see the painting, and knowing she never would. By that time, she was deep in the throes of an addiction to prescription pills.

I wonder what their lives would have been like had the choices been different?

While I had spent a lot of time in Chillicothe throughout my childhood, part of my research was visiting again the sites like the
paper mill, the motel and the river, where some of the women’s bodies had been recovered.

Chillicothe was the town next door. It was a town my mother did Christmas shopping in and I remember the brown paper bags of
yarn from the craft store, smelling of the cool winter air and road salt. Chillicothe itself smelled of rotten eggs and the fumes from the paper mill. As I was growing up, the notebook paper I wrote my stories on came from that mill. Chillicothe was a thread weaved into our lives. I’d watch the smoke churning up from the mill and imagine the large factory was a dragon, exhaling his smoky breath above all our heads.

The paper mill still sits like an old dragon on the edge of town, still exhaling a smoky breath up into the air. The Chillicothe Inn, a
motel some of the women frequented, is more rundown today than ever before. And then there is the river. When we think of rivers, we think of fish and snapping turtles and the ripples of a dropped rock. But when you know those same waters have carried a body, you can’t help but see the water as something different. As I stood on the overpass where one of the women’s shoes had
been found, neatly placed, before being taken in as evidence, I stared out at the dark brown water and wondered how cold it must have felt to each of them that final time.

It’s important that all victims’ stories are amplified, regardless of race, gender or class. When I first heard about the murders, there was a sense in the community that because the women were linked to addiction and prostitution that they were active participants in their death. In the book, I try to highlight that the women were mothers, sisters and daughters and that they mattered. That’s important to remember.

I think now of the river behind our house in southern Ohio. It flooded several times. Touched the house. Ruined the basement.
Brought the smell of mud and wet rock with it. Eventually, the waters receded and what was left were traces of sand and mud. Maybe a flood is just the ghosts reaching as far as they can toward home. Their voices collecting at the edge of the water. If we’re quiet enough, we will hear their names on the ripples.

Thank you Tiffany for sharing your response.

Introducing: As Swallow’s Fly- L P McMahon

As Swallows Fly

L P McMahon

Ventura Press

ISBN: 9781920727574



When Malika, a young orphan in rural Pakistan, is savagely attacked, her face is left disfigured and her self-esteem destroyed. Haunted by the assault, she hides from the world, finding solace in her mathematical theories. A few years later, her intellectual brilliance is discovered and she leaves conflict-stricken Pakistan for a better education in Melbourne, where she finds herself placed with Kate—a successful plastic surgeon facing emotional insecurities of her own.

Malika and Kate’s lives slowly intertwine as they find within each other what each has lacked alone. At first, Kate’s skills appear to offer a simple solution to Malika’s anguish, but when tragedy strikes, the price of beauty is found to be much higher than either of them could have known.

As Swallows Fly is a poignant portrayal of survival, identity and empowerment in a culture dominated by the pursuit of perfection. In a captivating and unforgettable debut, McMahon asks what might be possible if we have the courage to be flawed.


My View:

This is an amazing 5 star read! This character driven narrative will win your heart and have you staying up way too late to discover how the protagonists, Kate and Malika, resolve their dilemmas and continue their respective lives.

This is a spellbinding read.  Captivating and compelling; the story arcs deftly woven together taking the reader to unfamiliar places and at times harrowing events.  I found it unusual and refreshing that a work of contemporary fiction could be so compelling.

I highly recommend this read.


Let me introduce you to Lawrie McMahon as he discusses A Doctor and writer, a disfigured girl from Pakistan. What’s the story?

My work in Pakistan was in a voluntary capacity, helping out in a small mission hospital in a small town north of Lahore (Gujrat). People of all faiths were always welcome and it was chastening to see the way the villagers lived, what mattered to them, how they dealt with loss (often of their children), and the strictness of the culture. I saw their lives devastated by loss but, in a way beyond my capacity, they were able to continue and even rebuild.  These experiences were all key aspects influencing Malika’s character development. I realise now how the experience and memories have influenced my life too. The memories of that time remain crystal clear. I still find myself wondering what happened to the people I met there – young and old – and how life has changed for them. It remains an ambition to return.”


The progression from short stories to this debut….

The difference between short story writing and writing the novel could not have been more different.  I expect it to be the same for most writers. Complexity in both characters and plot were the main practical differences. My short stories focus on defined situations and experiences—the character is etched clearly and quickly, and the narrative progresses in its limited arc to the finish. It must be contained. The novel depends on the characters changing as the novel progresses. We see a much richer version of the humanity and flaws within the person. As a writer, I hope the difference is clear. In addition, the novel raised a whole series of challenges: subplots, subtleties of character and motive as they developed and were given their due. It remains a continued learning experience. A journey, as they say.


Thanks so much to Dr Lawrie McMahon and Ventura Press for these insights.


Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Lorraine Campbell

Join me in wishing Melbourne author Lorraine Campbell a very warm welcome to my blog and to congratulate her on  the release of her latest book The Butterfly Enigma, a book I enjoyed enormously. Thanks for participating and sharing with us a little of your story Lorraine.

Lorraine Campbell

When I was a child… I absolutely loved to read. Long after lights out, I would pull the bedcovers over my head and read by torch light. All the children’s classics, Enid Blyton, Grimm’s Fairytales, Folktales of Scotland (some of which were really scary!) Then on to my brother’s bookshelf. Boy’s Own Annual – stories with titles like “Rockfist Rogan of the RAF” – and all the Biggles books. I can still name most of the fighter aircraft of WWI and WWII – from the Sopwith Camel to the Messerschmitt 109. Perhaps that’s where the seeds of writing about that time in history were sown!



Lessons I learned as a court reporter…That if you’re lucky enough to have had a normal childhood, with parents who loved you, then never cease to be grateful for that. Working in the courts, you see such terrible things. What can happen to young people who aren’t so lucky. Who suffer all forms of abuse and neglect. I always think, in another life, that could have been me.



My favourite book of 2015… is Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling.) The best by far in the series. This one is much more character driven and less weighed down by too many red herrings and unnecessary detail. As a writer of historical fiction, I also want to mention The Beast’s Garden by Kate Forsyth. A clever blending of fact and fiction and underpinned by meticulous research. This one is a real page turner, full of action and suspense. I won’t spoil the ending – save to say it’s an absolute corker!


Research…is one is one of the best parts of writing historical fiction. I sometimes think I could spend my life doing research. You find yourself going down all sorts of different paths and byways, endlessly fascinated by what you’re discovering. If you want to write authentic historical fiction, you need to be familiar with every aspect of daily life. What your characters wore, what they ate, how they got around. One week you might be researching the medals and uniforms of the German Army. The next week you’re reading up on French fashions of the 1930s and those outrageous creations of Elsa Schiaparelli: gloves that ballooned out to the elbows, hats in the shape of a shoe. And then, of course, the most exciting aspect of research: travelling to all the places I was writing about. Walking in the footsteps of my characters. When I was researching Resisting the Enemy, breaking the budget and splurging on three nights at the Hotel Scribe in Paris. Chatting up the desk clerk, learning all about its history, photos of how it looked during the War. More importantly for my plot, where the exits were located. How they were accessed.



The cover of The Butterfly Enigma… is a painting that was given to me many years ago. We decided to use it because it seemed to fit the story so well. Beautiful… mysterious. Even the little hair ties look like butterflies – an image which is central to Lena’s connection with her past.

Cover The Butterfly Enigma


I love Melbourne because… the opera house and the theatres are always full. I love the beautiful tree-lined boulevards, the trams, the State Library with its iconic dome, the cosmopolitan foodie culture, the quirky outdoor cafés that abound in all the suburbs, the crazy weather: as one visitor said recently, it’s perfectly feasible in Melbourne to get sunstroke and hyperthermia in one day. And no matter what suburb you live in, you’re always within easy driving distance of the beach.




The best thing about being a writer…is being able to inhabit two different worlds. The everyday one and the parallel universe of your imagination. When you become immersed in your writing, you get lost in that alternative world and you start living it. This is where the magic happens. You become your character. Bringing a character to life is one of the most rewarding parts of being a writer.



My favourite car is… a mimosa yellow Triumph TR6 sports car, one of the last series ever made. It had a hard top, soft top, and tonneau cover. I really loved that car. I drove it for about 20 years, and it nearly broke my heart to sell it. My only consolation was that it was going to a good home – a mad Triumph and classic car enthusiast who promised to love and cherish it forever.



A typical day for me…starts with an early morning run – in one of the local parks, or along the beach front. That’s my number one priority before I do anything else. Writing is such a sedentary occupation, and for me maintaining a fit and healthy body is an important part of the whole writing process. Then a hearty breakfast to keep me going during the day. Sometimes when I’m writing I can sit at the computer for six hours straight and suddenly realise I’ve forgotten to have lunch.


My next book is… just in my head. It’s all there, ideas swirling around, a couple of characters taking shape. At the moment I’m caught up with all the pre-release marketing aspects of The Butterfly Enigma. But as soon as I get some free time, I’ll be able to put words down on the page.


Thanks for sharing Lorraine – love the car!



Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Rachael Johns

Rachael Johns

Welcome to my blog Rachael Johns. Rachael is an Australian author (via Newcastle Upon Tyne), living in rural Western Australia. Rachael is an English teacher by trade, a mum, a supermarket owner by day, a chronic arachnophob, and a writer by night. She rarely sleeps. Rachael’s love of rural Australia is clearly evident in her books.


A big congratulations Rachael on the release of your new book, The Patterson Girls.

Cover The Patterson Girls

Ten Things You Don’t Know About Rachael Johns


  • She has four half sisters and brothers and didn’t meet her dad until she was 17.


  • She has a bit of a reputation of being a Diet Coke addict, but drinks no more than two cans a day actually.


  • She won a hundred word short story competition at university but has been struggling at keeping her words to a minimum ever since.


  • The first book she wrote was called A BATTLE WITH FOREVER and based on her own high school romance.


  •  She once appeared on a television ad for a bank but cannot now remember the name of the bank.


  • She was at Parliament House in Canberra in 1992 with her whole year seven class when a man from Adelaide drove his four-wheel drive vehicle through the main doors, stopping in the main hall. Her class never did get to complete their tour.


  • She and her husband first danced to ‘The Birdie Song – with a little bit of this and a little bit of that…’ at their wedding.


  • In year nine she spent a weekend LIVING at the Perth Zoo for forty-hour famine!


  • There is a huge possibility she is related to prolific North-East England author, Catherine Cookson.


  • She has a grouse claw broach (go look it up 🙂 ) and it features in the book she is currently writing!


Interview With Helen Garner: This House of Grief – Melbourne Writers Festival/ABC 2014.


After reading the book This House of Grief by Helen Garner I was directed to this interesting interview with the author which was recorded by the ABC at the Melbourne Writers Festival in 2014. (Thanks Tracey at Carpe Librum  for alerting me to this.)


This was an interesting book, an interesting interview and I can see this come to  life on screen…so many interesting facets…characters and procedures.


In Conversation with Terry Hayes

As most of you know from reading my earlier blogs Terry Hayes is an accomplished journalist, motion picture screen writer and TV/film producer, with so many credits to his name it is simply amazing the levels of excellence he has achieved.

Terry Hayes began his career as a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald, when as foreign correspondent in the US he covered Watergate and President Nixon’s resignation, among many major international stories. He then went on to become a successful screenwriter, having written the screenplays for Mad Max 2, Dead Calm, Bangkok Hilton, Payback and From Hell among many others

Mad Max Beyond ThunderdomeFrom HellDead Calm (1989) Poster

I have been very fortunate to read and review an advanced reader’s copy of Terry’s exciting debut thriller I am Pilgrim and even more fortunate to have the unique experience of interviewing Terry Hayes for my blog. 🙂

I am Pilgrim, Terry Hayes

Reading, Writing and Riesling: Terry, welcome to my blog. Firstly I wish to congratulate you on the success of your debut book. It is a fantastic read! I am sure it will be an award winner and best seller it is so engaging and well written. 

Terry: Thanks so much! I saw your review on GoodReads and can’t thank you enough – to give such an interesting account of the plot, indeed the whole novel, without giving away any spoilers was a triumph! I had been following how you were going with the reading via your blog and I loved the fact that it kept you up to all hours of the night. Your dog must have thought you were crazy. It’s the prospect of that sort of reaction that keeps you going when you’re writing it – so, thank you again.

RWR: Can you tell me a bit about how the book came about, the inspiration for it?

Terry: We were living in Switzerland and two friends of mine – both Swiss – asked if I would like to accompany them on a trip to a little known concentration camp in the Vosges Mountains on the border between France and Germany. I am very interested in the dismal history of Europe through the 30s and 40s so we set off one beautiful summer’s day and, as I think it says in the book, “we walked into darkness”. It was there that I saw a black and white photograph of a solitary woman leading her three kids towards the gas chamber. That started a process of storytelling that led to a modern day story about a covert intelligence agent chasing a very smart terrorist! It’s easier to tell where things start than where they will end, that’s for sure. I’m pleased to say I managed to include the photo of the woman and I like to think that in some small way I have honoured her and her familys memory.

RWR: This scene in the book was very memorable and so moving.

RWR: Tell me more about your writing process, do you plan out all the important events, or just write and see where it takes you? Do you write a “Bible”, or something similar to what is commonly used in screenwriting for profiling and establishing the identity of your characters?

Terry: I don’t write a Bible but I definitely have a beginning and, more importantly, an end. I also work out clearly what the characters’ journeys will be and what wounds they are carrying or labouring under. I find you have to know where you are going but not be so rigid that you are not open to whole new ideas opening up as you get deeper into the terrain.

RWR: Can you tell me about how you researched the material for this book? Did you travel to all the countries featured? Your descriptions are so visual I could place myself in the scene, on the roads, in the cafes… Do you have contacts in the agencies /government departments mentioned in your book that provide you with specialist knowledge/advice?

Terry: My wife and I have been lucky enough to live [in] and visit a lot of different countries and before that, as a journalist and foreign correspondent, I travelled extensively for work. I have been to nearly all of the countries mentioned – not Saudi Arabia or Syria, primarily because I can’t say I like really autocratic regimes much. I have been to quite a number of other countries in the Arab world so I felt I had enough of a feel for the culture and the places to make it live on the page. I think having written and made movies gives me an appreciation for the visual aspects of various locations and perhaps I have been lucky enough to draw on that. As far as the research is concerned, I read voraciously and am a very good researcher – sort of dogged, I suppose (I was once an investigative reporter) – so I sort of keep digging. I didn’t have a deep throat in any intelligence agency but I certainly couldn’t have done it without the internet. If you can find the smallpox genome on it, you can certainly find a good indication of how covert agencies operate. I had also been a political correspondent so I have seen at firsthand how politicians think and work, how bureaucracies operate, so that gave me a good leg up. A good imagination and a belief in making things credible also helped!

RWR: Can you talk to me about the publishing process? Was it easier to get a publishers attention because of the success of your screen writing? How long did it take from inspiration to being published?

Terry: I don’t think it would have been possible to have it published – or it certainly would have been incredibly difficult – without the screenwriting. The success of those movies and having that career meant that I was represented in LA by one of the world’s two leading talent agencies.

When I told my motion picture agent that I had written the first 150 pages of a novel, it was just a phone call to the head of the agency’s department which represents books and authors. She asked to read it, called me up and said on the strength of it “you can have a career as an international author if you want it”. Of course, there was the small matter of writing another 550p pages making it all hang together and then honing and rewriting it until it was as good as I could make it! Even so, I was blessed and please don’t think for a moment I am not aware of it. With the agency behind it, it was able to be brought to the attention of publishers at a high level. Those 150 pages and an outline I wrote meant that it sold to the UK and Commonwealth, the USA, Holland and Germany immediately. That gave me enough encouragement to forge ahead and once it was finished it the rest of the foreign rights sold to virtually every other major territory. It is published in Italy as the major release for Christmas, in Holland early in the New Year, in springtime in Germany, in the USA for spring as Simon&Schuster’s major book, then in France, Japan, Czech Republic, Scandinavia, Turkey and on and on. From inspiration to publication took over five years but I did nothing but keep developing the story in my head for a long time and then I also had several really big movies I had to work on so it was hard to get a straight run at it. I think over a three year period it took me two years to write.

RWR: Is there anything else you would like to share with me about your writing habits, your process and finally what comes next?

Terry: My writing habits are pretty disciplined – though they may not always look like it. I lead a very quiet, family-oriented life. My wife and I have four quite young kids so we hardly ever go out which is fine – more time for reading, thinking and, finally, getting words on paper. I don’t set targets for pages or words – but I do set them for quality. Next is a book called “The Year of the Locust” – a REALLY intense thriller. Then I have the outlines for the next two Pilgrim books already done – I did them long before I finished this one so that I knew where I was going. That will complete his epic journey – a sort of Lord of the Rings of the espionage/ thriller genre! At least in its scope, if not in my abilities!

RWR: Terry thanks for giving me your time for this interview. It has been a  pleasure getting to  know a little about the man behind the book and your writing process. I really look forward to reading your next books…