Author Interview: Taylor Stevens

© Alyssa Skyes

Last week I posted my review of THE INNOCENT, the second novel by New York Times best selling author Taylor Stevens. And this week, as promised, here is my interview with this most intriguing author.

HB: In my first interview with you, you mentioned initially writing THE INFORMATIONIST as a way to bring the exotic worlds of Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon to life for readers. What was your impetus for writing THE INNOCENT?

TS: It was pretty much the same impetus, just a different exotic world. I am so often asked if I’d be willing to talk a little about my life growing up in the Children of God, but it was such a bizarre and often-changing environment that it’s impossible to accurately summarize in even a couple of paragraphs or even one article. So basically, in THE INNOCENT, my intent was to do what I did in THE INFORMATIONIST, which was to take the readers hand and say, come let me show you a world you’ll hopefully never experience, and I will try to do it in a way that is also thrilling and entertaining.

HB: I know you were able to rely somewhat on memory and personal experience while writing THE INNOCENT. But when research is required, how do you handle it?

TS: Much of what I write involves foreign locations and although I can get a general idea of what I’m working with by utilizing the Internet, mostly what I get is anxiety while I wonder how much I’m getting wrong. My solution so far has been to visit the places in question and to interview and talk to people who are experts in subjects with which I’m unfamiliar, but considering the ideas that I have for Munroe number four, I may soon have to cross my fingers and settle for the anxiety.

HB: It’s totally awesome the way Munroe kicks butt! How do you go about crafting those page-turning action scenes? Are you trained in martial arts or fighting techniques?

TS: One day I’d like to learn Krav Maga (which is the closest to the way Munroe fights) but I’m still very much a scaredy-cat in real life. Many readers do comment on the vividness and intensity of the action sequences, but I think the credit is theirs, not mine. I try to avoid over-explaining every single move that each character makes, instead focusing on what they are thinking/ feeling while the action is occurring, and I believe this allows the readers’ own imagination to fill in the blanks and create the intensity and visual sharpness.

HB: How big a factor do you feel social media has played in your success?

TS: I spend a lot of time on Facebook and a little bit on Twitter, but I do it for the purpose of interacting with my readers and fans, not necessarily to promote my books. I’ve never really put a lot of effort into social media for the purpose of promotion as that feels so much like screaming into the wind. I do think that social media has played a role, but more as a byproduct of how people communicate in this day and age—one person to the next in a word-of-mouth sort of way. I’m very grateful that my readers have felt this series is worth talking about!

HB: I understand you're in the process of editing your third Vanessa Michael Munroe novel, THE DOLL. Can you give us any hints as to what it’s about?

TS: In THE DOLL, Vanessa Michael Munroe is thrust into a world of human trafficking and sexual slavery, forced to deliver a missing Hollywood starlet to a client in order to protect the ones she loves. If she succeeds, she'll guarantee the young girl's demise, and if she fails, seal the fate of others. Win or lose, Munroe will pay her dues in the only currency she values: innocent life, and so must choose who lives, who dies, or find a way to outthink and outsmart a man who holds all the cards.

HB: Is there a question which no interviewer ever asks that you wish they did?

TS: Only once have I ever been asked by an interviewer how much of what’s already in print about me is accurate. I wish people would ask that more because I have rarely read an article or interview about me or my work that is 100% factual. I have been lied to, and about, and deliberately misquoted, but most of the time the errors aren’t malicious—just mistakes and/or misunderstandings on the part of the interviewer. But the thing is, when people read stuff in print they assume that a quote is something I really said, in context, word for word. Half the time, it’s not.

Thanks so very much, Taylor! (Uh…hopefully, I didn’t get any quotes wrong, but please let me know if I did!)

Quote of the Week

“For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.”

~ Rudyard Kipling ~

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Book Review: The Innocent

Title: The Innocent: A Vanessa Michael Munroe Novel
Author: Taylor Stevens
Genre: Thriller
Publisher: Crown Publishers, 2011


     Vanessa Munroe gasped. Curtains in the room rustled lightly. The call to prayer sounded from minarets across the city and her hand was still gripping the handle of a knife plunged into the other side of the king-size mattress.

     Awareness settled, and she let go of the knife as if scalded, rolling off the bed in the same movement.

     She stared.

     The blade had struck twice and stood in silent witness to the increasing ferocity of the nightmares. The sheets were soaked with sweat. She glanced at her tank top and boxers. Drenched. And Noah, had he not left for work early this morning, would have been dead.

The Story

This is the second novel by New York Times bestselling author Taylor Stevens. In her first book, The Informationist, we’re introduced to Vanessa Michael Munroe. A woman with an unusual set of skills, in an unusual line of work. In The Innocent, we journey with Munroe into the secret world of a cult known as The Chosen. Several childhood survivors of the cult have banded together and hired Munroe to rescue Hannah, a child who was abducted eight years ago by the cult.

Faced with a world unlike anything she’s encountered before, Munroe must infiltrate this closed community. And struggling against her own increasingly violent nature, she must navigate her way among unpredictable cult members, their dangerous associates, and the impatient team who hired her, in her effort to save the child before the window of opportunity closes and Hannah is lost forever.

My Thoughts

I have to say, author Taylor Stevens has won me over to the thriller genre. This book rocked!

Although I read a wide variety of writing, I hadn’t read many (if any!) thrillers before reading her debut novel last year, The Informationist. In this second book featuring the intriguing and powerful Vanessa Michael Munroe, Stevens balances plenty of gripping action and suspense with in-depth glimpses of Munroe’s more vulnerable side.

We also get to witness plenty of Munroe’s skills and chameleon-like abilities as she blends into the world of the religious cult. According to Stevens, this story contains autobiographical hints drawn from her personal experiences as a child growing up within the Children of God cult. Munroe is brilliant, tough and fearless with the gratifying abilities of a real-life superhero, able to extricate herself from the most impossible and life-threatening situations. Some may say she’s over the top, but I think she’s cool! I read books for escape, and this is an escape! I found The Innocent a true “thriller” in all that the word implies.

You can purchase a copy of The Innocent here.

About the Author

Raised in communes across the globe and denied an education beyond the sixth grade, author Taylor Stevens broke free from the Children of God cult and now lives in Texas. She is at work on a third Munroe novel, The Doll.

Stay tuned for my interview with
author Taylor Stevens in my next post!

*I purchased my own copy of this book and receive no compensation for my review besides the gratification that I'm helping a great author promote a great book.

Author Photograph © Alyssa Skyes

Quote of the Week

"One of the greatest things about being a writer
is that I can get paid for getting
answers to my own questions!"

~ Jenna Glatzer ~

Three Secrets of a Successful Juror

Hey, I’m no expert, but I did complete a week-plus of jury duty. So, I figured I’d share my three successful juror secrets which you can use when it’s your turn.

SECRET #1 - How to stay alert during endless hours of tedious testimony.

Darn those T.V. shows! They make it seem as if jury life will be a LOT more interesting than it actually is. That first day, there were times I literally could have nodded off. I couldn’t drink gallons of tea or coffee because when jurors have to use the bathroom, the entire court has to wait for them. Talk about motivation NOT to drink anything! This situation called for drastic measures.

I’ve never been an advocate of energy drinks, but in desperation I bought some 2-oz. bottles of 5-hour Energy. Let me just say…


I was fully alert the entire next day! Even when we were forced to watch a mind-numbing two-hour movie of a suspect being interrogated, featuring thrilling footage of a lone table and chair, when the interrogators left the room and the bored suspect wandered out of view. Sure, maybe I was a little hyper at times. But at least I didn’t fall asleep during crucial testimony or anything.

SECRET #2 - How to balance your life while on jury duty.

Serving on a jury can be gratifying, but it also throws your entire life out of whack! After a couple of stressful days I figured out this helpful secret. Use jury duty as an excuse to get out of as much stuff as possible, and put your family to work!


Me: Hey guys, I’m just leaving court. What’s for dinner?
Son & Hubs: Uh…
Me: It’ll take me an hour to get home and I’m exhausted from jury duty. Whatever you decide to feed us will be fine. Gotta run!

Me: Have you guys finished folding the laundry yet?
Son & Hubs: Uh…
Me: Finish soon, please! I need my dress shirt for court tomorrow. I’d help, but I’m exhausted from jury duty.

Me: Did you finish cleaning the house, Josh?
Josh: Uh…
Me: Gee, I had a long day in court. If you still want friends over, you’ll need to clean the bathroom, vacuum, sweep and bake some cookies. Allrighty? Thanks!

SECRET #3 - How to bond with your fellow jurors.

On our first day of jury duty, all 14 of us were crammed around one table in a tiny jury room, where we waited for well over an hour. Some people read books or magazines. Nobody spoke. Mostly, we sat together in this incredibly awkward silence.

The next morning at 8:30 a.m., it was even worse. The coffeemaker wasn’t working and everyone seemed barely awake, sipping from water bottles, staring into space and trying not to look at each other.

Suddenly, I had a brainstorm. Clearing my throat, I said brightly, “Do you guys wanna play a game?”

Thirteen pairs of uncaffeinated eyes swiveled in my direction. Nobody responded.

Undeterred I pressed on. “My son’s drama class played this game where everybody said their name and however many syllables their name was, they shared something about themselves that contained the same number of syllables.”

Silence. Then a slow rumble spread across the room.

“Noooooo, way!”

“I can’t think that much this early in the morning!”

“Me neither!”

Unwilling to give up I said, “Well how about a simple name game then?”

Sounds of grudging acquiescence filled the room.

“I’ll start. I’m Holly!”

“I’m Valerie, she’s Holly.”

“I’m Matt, she’s Valerie, she’s Holly.”

And so we proceeded around the room.

For some reason, when I shared this story with my girlfriends, they laughed so hard there were tears coming out of their eyes. But seriously, it worked! From that moment on our jury was totally bonded. Conversations flowed. We learned about each others’ jobs, family lives, six degrees of separation, travel plans, pets and more!

“I’ll bring in bagels and cream cheese for everybody tomorrow!” Juror Laura called out.

“Great! I’ll bring in my homemade cinnamon rolls the day after that,” said Juror Kristin.

Our case had two juries, because there were two defendants. Whenever the judge and attorneys left the room for private conferences, our jury would whisper together amiably. The other jury sat staring straight ahead, stifling yawns.

My new friend, Juror Valerie commented on how great our jury got along compared with the other jury, and smiling at me said, “I think it was because of the Name Game!”


Image by: Mom the Barbarian

Juror #14

I reported for my first day of jury duty and, per my usual custom driving anywhere new, got lost. So I arrived a tad late. I caught the tail end of a video explaining how serving on a jury was the best thing we could do for our country next to military service. Hmmm…

Once it ended, a nicely dressed woman stood at the front of the room and using the exaggerated enunciation techniques of an elementary school teacher, explained to us how the day would go, and how soon they’d begin assigning us to different courtrooms.

Five-and-a-half hours later, all 150+ of us were still waiting. Ugh!

Finally, around 2:00 p.m. they rounded up 45 potential jurors, me among them. We were counted, re-counted, then marched into a courtroom to be “voir dire-d.” Okay, maybe it’s voir dit? But whatever. (It essentially means “they wanted to get the truth out of us.”) We were questioned by the judge and attorneys for 2-1/2 hours, and during that time I became aware of several distinct potential juror personalities.


The life situations of these potential jurors are simply too traumatic, rendering them incapable of ever delivering a fair verdict.

“I take care of a police officer’s daughter at my daycare, and even though I only see the mother, if there were any police involved in this case, I can’t possibly be objective.”

“My cousin’s aunt’s friend’s sister was in an accident three weeks ago and I need to spend my days visiting her in the hospital.”


These people can summon tears--real tears--at any given moment. They can barely hold them back as they explain why they cannot possibly serve on a jury. A real estate agent sitting next to me dabbed at her eyes with a tissue while divulging the fact that she might have potential clients, whom she’d never met, coming in from Europe. And they might possibly want to buy a house, but now she’ll miss them because she’s here! *Sniff, sniff*. I noticed that the Weepers often went hand-in-hand with those exhibiting Drama Queen qualities.


To put it bluntly, these people are simply way more important than the rest of us ordinary citizens. Their jobs, income, families and lives would be way more affected by their absence during the day than the rest of ours would be.

“My daughter is signing her letter to play sports in college and I must be there. She won’t know what to do if I’m not.” (Now, that’s a scary thought. She’s planning to attend college yet can’t manage to sign her name without Daddy’s presence. Hmmm…)


These folks have cruises, airline flights, and other trips planned and they’re leaving in a month, so they can’t possibly serve on a jury now (on a case that might last a week). When would they have time to pack?!

Not everybody tried to get out of jury duty though…


These people have watched every episode of the old T.V. show, Lie To Me and they’re anxious to put all those micro-expression and body language reading skills to work.

“Oh Judge, I am very good at studying people and reading their body language cues to see whether they’re telling the truth or not. When I watch this stuff on T.V., I can always tell who’s lying!”

When all was said and done, I officially became known as Juror #14. Next week I’ll share my three secrets of success every juror should know about.

Courtroom Humor Side Note: After hours of exhaustive questioning and playing musical juror chairs, the defense attorney consulted his notes, then asked a potential juror, “It says here you work in construction. So, what do you do?” The judge said, “He builds things.” Everyone cracked up, and I just KNEW he was holding back the line, “But that’s not important right now. And please don’t call me Shirley.” Bah, ha, ha!

Image by: Steakpinball

Quote of the Week

"It’s not the hours you put in your work that count, it’s the work you put in the hours."

~ Sam Ewing ~

Image by: meddygarnet

Disorder in the Court!

I finished up my first round of jury duty last week. It was interesting, tedious, time-consuming, entertaining and frustrating in turns. It also sucked up an entire week+ of my life and I’m behind in everything! I’ll be blogging on a couple of the more interesting aspects of court life in future posts. But for now, I thought you all might enjoy this court-related excerpt from a book my mother-in-law gave my son Josh for Christmas. The book is titled, Anguished English: An Anthology of Accidental Assaults Upon Our Language by Richard Lederer, ©1987.

The book contains loads of hilarious things people have actually said and written. My son, who did NOT inherit my avid-reader gene, has been cracking us all up by reading sections of the book aloud. The following Q & A’s were taken from actual courtroom transquips. So, in honor of my recent stint as a juror, I give you…

Disorder in the Court!

Q. James stood back and shot Tommy Lee?
A. Yes.
Q. And then Tommy Lee pulled out his gun and shot James in the fracas?
A. (After a hesitation) No sir, just above it.

Q. What is your name?
A. Ernestine McDowell.
Q. And what is your marital status?
A. Fair.

Q. Are you married?
A. No, I’m divorced.
Q. What did your husband do before you divorced him?
A. A lot of things that I didn’t know about.

Q. Do you know how far pregnant you are right now?
A. I will be three months November 8th.
Q. Apparently then, the date of conception was August 8th?
A. Yes.
Q. What were you and your husband doing at that time?

Q. Did he pick the dog up by the ears?
A. No.
Q. What was he doing with the dog’s ears?
A. Picking them up in the air.
Q. Where was the dog at the time?
A. Attached to the ears.

Q. Doctor, how many autopsies have you performed on dead people?
A. All my autopsies have been on dead people.

Q. Were you acquainted with the decedent?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Before or after he died?

Q. What happened then?
A. He told me, he says, “I have to kill you because you can identify me.”
Q. Did he kill you?
A. No.

Q. Mrs. Jones, is your appearance this morning pursuant to a deposition notice which I sent to your attorney?
A. No. This is how I dress when I go to work.

Q. You say you’re innocent, yet five people swore they saw you steal a watch.
A. Your Honor, I can produce 500 people who didn’t see me steal it.

Q. When he went, had you gone and had she, if she wanted to and were able, for the time being excluding all the restraints on her not to go also, would he have brought you, meaning you and she, with him to the station?
A. MR. BROOKS. Objection. That question should be taken out and shot.

Q. Please state the location of your right foot immediately prior to impact.
A. Immediately before impact, my right foot was located at the immediate end of my right leg.

Q. Just what did you do to prevent the accident?
A. I closed my eyes and screamed as loud as I could.

Before we recess, let’s listen in on one last exchange involving a child:

Q. And lastly, Gary, all your responses must be oral.
A. Oral.
Q. How old are you?
A. Oral.

Click the title to purchase your own copy of Anguished English. For more of author Richard Lederer’s work visit or his Facebook Fan page.

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