Interview of Greg Jolley, author of Murder in a Very Small Town

Author w: Ray credit

Author Interviews

Fiona McVie

Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?

I’m Greg Jolley and I’m older than I’ll admit to and approach life with the delight of a twelve-year old.

Fiona: Where are you from?

Lived most of my life in California (US), and currently live in Michigan and Florida (US).

Fiona: A little about yourself (i.e., your education, family life, etc.).

I am the author of sixteen suspense novels and a collection of short stories about the fictional Danser family. I received a Master of Arts in Writing from the University of San Francisco. Outside of the writing and out in the Real World, I enjoy surfing, exploring new towns, haunting book stores and coffee shops. I have two amazing sons, who are the spark plugs for my life.

Fiona: Tell us your latest news.

On August 10th, the new Danser novel was launched: Murder in a Very Small Town. The book is getting a good amount of positive buzz and it pleases me to have the first of five Wiki Danser novels off into reader’s hands. I’m also researching a novel based, again, on the movie industry, spending many good long days on the movie sets of “Memoirs of Wroth City,” being filmed in different locations in Michigan.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?

A few thousand moons ago, being an avid, passionate reader, I had they errant, but compelling thought, “Why not try to write a novel?” That question had a dare in it and I liked that. I spent three weeks tossing the question around which led to the real question that still guides my days and decisions, “If not now, when?” The manuscript box from that first novel, Distractions, is filled with the tools of the day: the book itself on legal pads in Number Two pencil, a tower of index cards and the second draft off a typewriter.

Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Typing “The End” on the last page of Distractions did it for me. I still delight in typing those two fine words.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?

The craft and worlds of W. Somerset Maugham, John Cheever, Richard Brautigan, Nathanael West, Truman capote, Peter S. Beagle. It wasn’t really that far of a leap to say, “I want to play, too.”

Fiona: How did you come up with the title?

For the latest work, I knew I was going to run with …In a very small town and that was the working title through the first three drafts. Murder was later appended as a natural choice, a nod to genre.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?

I admire and am comfortable with the Elmore Leonard “school” of nonstop story being the focus of the write. The economy of his novels, as well as his ear and touch for dialogue are a constant inspiration. I am a student of people’s thinking and motivations and language. My on-going challenge is to give voice to character emotion, which I believe are a temporal, fleeting experience, not nearly as interesting, to me, as decisions and thoughts and action.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Outside of my researched and experienced very small town of Whitmore Lake, MI, on which this novel is based, the characters and their story are from that wonderful play land of imagination.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?

Yes, and that is another invaluable part of being a novelist. For various Danser novels, I’ve been to Mexico and the Caribbean, as well as Northern California, Florida and many small towns in Michigan. Travelling with notebooks and pens and a camera is always a delight, as the seeing, smelling and tasting of the “real world” gives so much.

Fiona: Who designed the covers?

My amazing publisher, Blue Harvest Press, does my cover and interior designs. They generously let me have a vote on both and for the cover art, send me three options. An admitted dunce at what cover design is most effective for marketing, I nonetheless love having the opportunity to provide my two cents.

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

Each Danser novel explores the various heartbeats, themes, if you prefer, of good and evil motivations. For Murder in a Very Small Town, I chose to delve into the mental poison of revenge. In other works, I’ve taken on greed, madness, and that most common of evil in these times, the sick desire to control others.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?  Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?

During the past two years, I’ve been reading and learning from (and enjoying) James Ellroy, David J. Bell, Erik Larson, Mardi Link, historical works of the 1800’s and the magical South American novelists. I have no favorite writer, but cherish those mentioned and others who open up and share their knowledge, intelligence and wit.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.

Wasn’t my parents (laughter). As far as entities, it’s the mind. Where imagination and creating and a passion for words reside, as well as a love of story. This same entity is where I get the motivation to continually learn about people and improve my craft and challenge it.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?

Yes. I write seven days a week, 5AM to 11AM, and after an extended midday break to get out and enjoy, I spend two to three hours with editing, correspondence and research. Makes for a pleasurable life.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

No. If left to my own designs, I could possibly still be editing the first novel, Distractions, at draft number two hundred and forty-seven (laughter). I’m not a proponent of perfection in books or in anything else that humans build. I do have a strong belief in the importance of giving our best effort and aiming for meaningful, relevant ideals, but there comes that moment in each book’s life where, like an adored daughter, I need to nudge her off the front porch – well dressed, good shoes and a pleasantly odd hat – to have a life of her own (and allowing me to focus on the next write).
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?

Tons. I love to research and learn and challenge and surprise my thinking and assumptions. Research is one of the finest pleasures, even when it’s maddening. For Murder in a Very Small Town, I fired a few new types of handguns, explored ice fishing huts, drove the unpaved roads during a snow storm, haunted pawn shops, interviewed a local sheriff, surfed Lake Michigan and ate (half of) a fried pickle.


Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?

A twenty-something Meg Ryan for Wiki Danser and a forty-something Tommy Lee Jones for the crazed ex-sheriff, Welsey Lorenzo.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?

Don’t talk about, don’t discuss it, and for a few years, avoid writer’s groups. Instead, like that brilliant Nike advertisement states, “Just do it.” Also, while inspiration is vital and one of the best parts of having a writer’s mind, it is the craft that matters if you want to complete a write. By craft I don’t mean the mechanics so much (they are extremely important), but making story telling a daily effort rather than waiting and hoping for the mood to strike you. Also, work with a professional editor. No exceptions. Finally, “Yes, the bad news is that there are rules about writing. The good news? Each of us gets to make up our own.”
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?

Yes, the reason the Danser novels exist and continue to be written is for you, the reader. My relationship with my readers is a large part of my daily motivation. Not the sales, not the PR side of this curious business. I am constantly encouraging my readers to let me know what they think of the books and ideally, why. And if they get to page four and the book is tossed out the window, hearing about that is just as important to me.


Fiona: What book are you reading now?

The South American novelists, research of historical events and crimes of the 1800’s, Lapham’s Quarterly, true crime, and other non-fiction about: the US Marshals Service, WITSEC, Café Motorbike racing, and criminal psychology.


Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?

I was a library ghoul as a child, the kind of tyke who found it normal to read the Webster’s Collegiate dictionary from front to back. That and, of course, one of the finest literary works ever published, “Go, Dog! Go” by P.D. Eastman.


Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?

Only harm to my sons could make me cry. I live a decidedly low emotional life, seeing them as little more than waves that approach, pass over us and wash to shore. I’m working on my degree of empathy, both for my novels and to be a more companionate human.

Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?

I would like to hang out with James Ellroy for a lunch spilling into dinner. That is a mind I would love to experience.

Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?

Hanging out on film sets and during movie production, surfing, guitars, book stores, espresso bars and Jeep dealerships.

Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?

Noir. Anything by Justin Diemert, Tarentino, Kubrick, and documentaries, as well as the occasional Horror film (I’d watch more of these for the study of suspense, but really, most are just dreadfully bad).


Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?

Food: diners and taverns. Music: Nickel Creek. Alison Krauss, Jack and the Bear, The Allman Brothers and movie soundtracks. Colors: My favorite pallets are: summer and winter. I’m exploring fall and enjoying that learning for the current and planned next Danser novels. Yet to find an affinity with the colors of spring.


Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?

 Eat, Sleep, Surf.


Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?

“Well, that was interesting.”


Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?




FB – author page:

Twitter: @gfjolle




All the Danser novels are available at select bookstores and:


September 19th, 2017


Thank you, sincerely, for letting me go on (and on) during this interview. When I first realized that there were thirty-one questions, I was feeling a bit daunted, but once I wadded in, I had a wonderful time.

All the best,

Greg Jolley – The Danser Novels




The Art and Craft


What are the mechanics of suspense?

Let’s start with a decent, formal definition:

Pleasurable excitement and anticipation regarding an outcome, such as the ending of a (mystery) novel.”

Source: iThesaurus (brackets are mine)

Not bad.

The definition that I work within is from a good and interesting conversation with Vern, my brilliant and wise publisher at BHC Press, who said:

When you know who the protagonist and antagonist are (paraphrase).

For the Danser novels, I’ve been working with my interpretation of Vern’s great definition of suspense:

When you know the devil and who its perusing.”

Unlike the mystery genre, where the villain or devil are often not known until the cliff hanging, who-dun-it reveal, my spin on the suspense genre is to structure the books to share both faces and minds of good and bad. In effect, make their light and dark paths viable for my readers. It is also a helluva lot more enjoyable for this writer. And this reader.

So, what is the attraction to books of suspense?

The dance.

Good and evil out on the floor, under the soft lights, the music varying.
Who will lead? Who will follow? Or will they embrace?
The Danser novels are about individuals and their choices, as well as their instincts, passions, goals and compulsions. 
But always there is the dance, the suspense: Good or Evil?


Murder in a Very Small Town


The write of this novel was marked by the dance.

Wiki Danser is used to living a wild, free life up until she finds herself stranded in snowbound Dent, Michigan. Initially taking shelter from the storm in the local Quickee Mart, she is quickly swept up in the chaos and madness of a madman with a long rifle.

That same night, ex sheriff Wesley Lorenzo has snapped and is on rampage, working a list of names of those who have done him wrong, but not above taking down anyone who crosses his path.

And so the dance tune begins.

Who will be left standing when the snow melts and the blood dries?

Here’s wishing you all the best of reads,



Listen to Murder!

The DT’s (Dancer Team) have let me behind the helm for this letter, so here goes:

Didja know that Good Reads is kicking off a contest for a free signed copy of Murder in a Very Small Town?

Your copy might be only a couple of clicks away.

The Dt’s are also letting me play a round of “Cook the Books” by offering you a free Audible version of Murder.

All you have to do is post (here or anywhere) your answer to:

Which Danser family member do you like the most? __________________

It looks like I’m being allowed to giveaway ten copes of the code you can use to download a free copy from So get your pens or pencils out and let me know.


If I don’t dash this newsletter on the rocks and they let me play again, I’m scheming on future free signed copies of the other Danser novels in upcoming newsletters.


2017 Danser Novel Tour!

I’ll be at Kerrytown BookFest on September 10th. My publisher doesn’t have room for me at their table, so I’ll be wandering around, mixing it up and having fun. Come play. Its free and a fine event.

My final signing of this year will be:

The Northfield Township Library

125 Barker Road

Whitmore Lake, MI, 48189

Saturday, October 7th, from 1 to 3 PM

On a personal note,  I’ve grown a pair of sunbird wings and will be living in Ormond Beach, Florida for the winter. I’m jazzed about this new home and adventure and change, propelled by the constant mantra, “If not now, when?” Packing three surfboards, the studio and storing my fat snow boots in the boatshed. Hoping that this move, like any, will be a delight and also the cause of sparks and ingredients for the current and future Danser novels.


That’s all for now. They’ve got the stage hook out and are glaring at me.

All the best,


Nine Questions with Mackenzie Flohr

Today we’re interviewing Mackenzie Flohr, author of the excellent YA novel, The Rite of Hands, a vibrant story of magical human challenges.

Please describe your current work?

My novel is titled The Rite of Wands. It is the first in a YA Fantasy series.

Blurb: One boy…one Rite… And a world of deadly secrets that could change the course of history—forever.

And so begins the tale of Mierta McKinnon. When a horrible fate reveals itself during his Rite of Wands ceremony, he must find a way to change not only his destiny but also the land of Iverna’s.

 Forbidden from revealing the future he foresees to anyone, he is granted a wand and his magical powers, but still must master the realm of magic in order to save himself and those he loves.

 But Mierta is not the only one with secrets…especially when it’s impossible to know who to trust.

What is your genre (if that matters to you)?
YA Fantasy

Who are your audience?

My audience are those who love sci-fi fantasy, specifically if they are a fan of Doctor Who and/or Harry Potter.

Which writers inspire / inspired you?

J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, and Michael Ende

What are your common themes?

Changing fate, and things are not always as they appear

How often do you write and where?

Not as much as I’d like to. When I can, I usually write in my bedroom at night.

What are you reading now?

The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands

Most interesting reviewer / reader feedback?

From R. Heebner:
This is a good read for MG and YA readers. I found the story intriguing and full of both mystery and fantasy that serves as a real page-turner. We see the events progress, mainly through the eyes of two similarly aged warlocks Mierta and Orlynd, and how they come to fill their roles in this realm.

I liked the jumping between the POV of the two characters, and although there seemed to be sporadic leaps back and forth between places and time, I was able to follow along quite well without any feelings of disconnect. The author also does a wonderful job supplying the reader with the pronunciations of spells, and with Orlynd’s Celtic dialect. You can tell she really put forth a lot of time and effort into the creation of this work.

One thing that I think needs improving however, is the fact that there were specific actions or behaviors of some of the characters that seemed off to me. There were a few moments when a main character performed an action that seemed unlikely of him because the information or knowledge that he had of a situation should have prompted him to act differently. I don’t want to get into details for the sake of preventing spoilers, so I’ll leave it there. But I did notice a few instances like this that caused either an inconsistency or a slight plot hole.

One thing that I think is very promising: I noticed, especially in Part II of this book, when the main characters who were teens in Part I are now adults. There seems to have been events in the gap of time between Parts I and II that may have changed these characters for the better or the worse, but we’re unsure as they show signs of both cruelty and kindness (except for Orlynd, who seems steady and unchanging in morals and loyalty throughout), so it’s difficult to tell who are the protagonists and the antagonists. At first this bothered me as I felt character development was inconsistent, but the more I reflected on the reading, I got the sense that the author intended to develop this theme that not everything is as it seems, which is very clever and unique if played out right. Perhaps that there is much that has happened in the twenty-four year gap between Part I and Part II, that will be later explained in future novels. I have a feeling that, when we read the series as a whole, we’ll look back on those instances in this first book and go, “Aha! Now I get it! You tricky author who tormented me so! All this time I thought…but it turns out that… How wicked of you…but oh, so brilliant! Well played, ma’am!” The ability to cause long, drawn out surprises for the readers is what I call true storytelling talent, so I’d keep a close lookout for the upcoming books in this series!

All in all, this appears to be an excellent start to a new YA fantasy series, with solid writing skills and promising character dynamics, and I am anxious to see how it all progresses. Looking forward to being kept on my toes!

What question do you wish I had asked? (please ask and answer it).

What upcoming projects can you expect to see from me next?

A special hardcopy edition of The Rite of Wands will be coming out in November along with an audiobook being produced by Jake Dudman.


Mackenzie’s Social Media Links:


Twitter: http://www.twitter/MackenzieFlohr
Publisher’s Page:
Amazon Author Page:


Host by Greg Jolley

Author of the Danser Novels




The Danser Novels: Crime and Suspense — Jessica_thebookaddict

Greg Jolley is the author of fifteen Danser novels, suspenseful tales about different members of the eccentric and passionate Danser family, most of who work in the film industry and just can’t keep themselves from getting entangled in crime and murders. Not a series, each Danser Novel is a stand along dance through the shadows […]

via The Danser Novels: Crime and Suspense — Jessica_thebookaddict

Author Interview: Greg Jolley

Recent interview about the Danser novels, suspense, and “Murder in a Very Small Town.”

Mackenzie Flohr's Author Blog

Today I’m fortunate to present Greg Jolley author of Murder in a Very Small Town.

Hi Greg, thanks for agreeing to this interview.

IMG_1319Greg Jolley (left) and Mackenzie Flohr (right)

Question 1) What part of the world do you come from?

Originally that oddest part of the world, California. These days, I’m enjoying the relative calm and sanity of Michigan.

Question 2) What do you think makes a good story?

No matter the genre, it’s the mystery and suspense; the what will the characters decide to do? It’s the dance of the characters, caught up in the conflicts between good and evil.

Question 3) What inspired you to write your first book?

Through childhood, I was an avid and compulsive reader. Somewhere in my mid-twenties, I asked myself, “Why not write one? Contribute to the world of stories.” As is almost a requirement of first novels, Distractions (1984)…

View original post 1,385 more words


Yesterday evening, I joined another reading group, this one in my very small home town. I delight in these, no matter the genre or the group’s temperament or lack of cake and coffee.

The book being discussed was Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things (which I hadn’t read, being new to the gaggle). I held my singular, almost standard question until the end (manners for once keeping me leashed).

“As you wadded into this novel, assuming you didn’t toss it across the room, what drew you through, what compelled you to engage with the story and read on to the end?”

I won’t summarize, but simply share what I scribbled as these kind and sincere folks spoke:

“I cared for the her (the main character).”

“It was a puzzle that I wanted to complete.”

“The first few pages snagged me, I want to see what would happen.”

“There were these interesting twists. Even when some confused me, I pressed on.”

“It was so real.”

“I had to know what happened in her life.”

“I was learning so much about moss.”

It’s for others, likely the East Coast Literati, to construe a single learning or insight from such comments. Not my job. But for my work, I am encouraged yet again to remember on a daily basis (I write seven days a week), that I write for myself and others and offering a hand whenever I can, feels right and caring. I’ve also decided to not research and work at length in moss – it’s now be done by one of the finest.

All the best,

Greg Jolley

The Danser Novels

A Merry Danser Christmas

xmas tree5

There haven’t been many Christmases for the Dansers. In general, they seem to prefer holidays in their minds. There is one that I like from the 1988 novel Cream of the Wheat.

Jared A Danser’s death off the shore of la Diana:

 The orange burning fuel lay on the surface of the water, delivering up solid black columns of smoke. Pierce surfaced and swam through the hot flotsam over to Jared, just beyond where the skiff was going under. He rolled Jared onto his back and got his head above the surface, raising his younger brother’s jerking chin and chomping teeth.


Later, there was nothing more than a moonlit sea sparkling around the two bloodied men; one unconscious and the other holding him in a fireman’s grip, treading water with his one free arm and one functional leg. Pierce struggled to keep both of their heads above the surface. When his body began to shake, he did all he could do, deciding that he’d do it until he couldn’t any longer. The shore, a stretch of white sand below the black sky, was too far away.

He didn’t know how much time had passed when he saw the Christmas tree lying onto its side. It was much prettier and more moving that any he and his brother had ever seen. The tree was bumping across the metallic blue carpet toward them. The star atop the tree was waving at them; at him and his younger brother.

Pierce shook Jared, wanting him to see too. Wanting him to wave for them. He deserved the honor. “C’mon!” Pierce pleaded, “Wave!”

He watched the tree slide closer.

It was absolutely beautiful.

Pierce realized from somewhere way distant that he was crying with both happiness and surprise.

“Jared, look!” he laughed, no longer embarrassed by his tears. He couldn’t focus on the alchemy of tears and happiness mixed with salt water and blood.


Excerpt from Cream of the Wheat (1988):

© Greg Jolley, 1988.


Crop Dusting and Movie Making

Refuge Photo 9CCF-8F09E4002D5B

The second best part of writing the Danser novels is the research. Most of the time that means haunting odd stores and books and films and the web.

Then there’s the other tactile research:

Going up in the crop duster at Shady Lawns farm (thank you again, Jim Swanson)

Wandering Buick (new and used) dealerships

A week stumbling around Mismaloya with a soggy notebook

And this past Friday, wearing faux dirt on my hands in face, pretending to be a befuddled refugee on a film set (the befuddled part wasn’t much of a stretch). Thank you again, Ryan Hill.

The Danser novels use an elastic sense of realism (it is fiction). That said, quite often if a book comes in at, say 56,000 words, there will be and additional 90,000 words of ingredients. Its not all just getting out the crayons and making stuff up. Well, err, um