I recently had the pleasure of reviewing Rashawnda Ungerer’s debut novel in advance of its release. It is rare that a book is so compelling to me that I cannot put it down (especially with how hectic life can get), but such was the case with “The Hard Way.” I am pleased to share that it is now available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I believe it’s important to provide a platform to authors who work independently, as is the case with Rashawnda Ungerer. Take some time to get to know her, in her own words:
Rashawnda, the reader
Tell us about yourself. You’re more than just your books, so help us get to know the woman behind “The Hard Way.”
I primarily identify myself as a mother and wife because those roles are incredibly important to me and tend to take up most of my time and energy. I’m originally from West Baltimore, but although I’m a city girl I do enjoy the outdoors occasionally.
Apart from reading and writing I love sports as both a participant and a spectator. I played lacrosse in college, but my favorite sports to play now are soccer and flag football. I also like to spend time at the gun range. I am not a very good shot yet, but I have a lot of fun practicing and pretending to be a badass.
Rashawnda, the reader
You can only read 5 books for the rest of your life. Which 5 would you select?
First and foremost I’d choose the Bible. “The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou” got me through my teenage years, so I’d definitely choose that if for nothing more than nostalgia. “Transfer of Power” by Vince Flynn is one of my favorites. “Leaves of Grass” by Walt Whitman would be my next choice. The last one might be cheating a little, but I’m going to go with “The Complete Novels of Jane Austen” by Jane Austen.
What authors do you most admire?
There are so many, but those who come to mind are Toni Morrison, Vince Flynn, William Faulkner, Zora Neale Hurston, Elmore Leonard, James Baldwin and Neil Cross.
Rashawnda, the author
What made you decide to pursue a career as an author? Is this a lifelong dream or a recent passion?
I’ve been writing since I was a child, so it’s always been a passion of mine. However, I didn’t focus writing into a career until recently. I’ve been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work as a stay-at-home-mom for many years, but once my youngest child started grade school I needed to figure out what I was going to do with the rest of my life. I had already been writing as a hobby, becoming a novelist just seemed like a natural progression.
Describe your creative process. What puts you in the best space to write?
I don’t have a set regiment since my days revolve around my family’s activities. But, I am constantly thinking about writing. There is not much that doesn’t inspire me. I tend to use my smartphone to email myself ideas (for plots, character descriptions or dialogues) that pop in my head when I’m not in a position to work. I’ve developed quite a collection of little ideas over the years. So when I’m preparing to write, I usually choose one that appeals to me at the time and build on that.
My ideal space to write would be somewhere aesthetically pleasing, comfortable and quiet. Just my laptop and me. But with three kids, a husband and a dog I rarely have the pleasure.
How do you handle writer’s block?
Not very well. I am not good company at all when I’m experiencing writer’s block.
You are an independent author. Do you think this has worked to your advantage, or do you still aspire to have a publishing machine behind you?
As a self-proclaimed control freak I enjoy the freedom of full autonomy to a degree. But having to do everything on your own can be incredibly overwhelming. During the editorial and promotional processes I definitely missed the guidance, feedback and collaboration that come with having the support of a team.
If a publisher desired to work with me, I’d consider that a great privilege.
You have a very dynamic Facebook page and Twitter feed. How has your social media presence impacted you as an independent author? (Marketing, building a fan-base, etc).
Social media has definitely helped me to promote this book. But it’s funny because I originally created profiles on Twitter and Facebook to get the word out about “The Hard Way”, however I began connecting with other authors and really started to learn a lot from their experiences. I don’t know how much of a fan-base I have, but I’ve definitely benefitted from a lot of thoughtful advice. And I’ve also discovered that the author community is comprised of a very generous and fun group of introverts.
The Hard Way
Tell us about “The Hard Way.” What inspired this story? Are the characters and plot lines pulled from your own life at all?
“The Hard Way” is a thriller that follows the evolution from a morally conscious, law-abiding citizen to a well-trained, coldblooded killer. I was inspired to write this story after reading a handful of books from Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp series. Flynn often touched on Rapp’s desire to kill in contrast to his sense of morality and it got me thinking about the sort of circumstances that could lead a seemingly normal person to take a life. My story focuses on conditions of self-preservation, honor, money, power, obsession and good, old fashion vengeance.
The plot is based on a combination of overly exaggerated situations that I’ve either read about or heard of in the media and personal stories of mine or people that I know. The characters are all some elaborate version of me or the people in my life. I am highly influenced by the disagreements between my children. Even the most subtle sibling rivalries have all of the raw ingredients for a great conflict.
What was it like to finally complete “The Hard Way” and prep it for release?
I will never forget the day I finished the manuscript. It was June 19, 2013 and it was an incredibly emotional experience for me. I had typed the last line in the middle of the night and I remember feeling a sense of confusion. I was almost in disbelief that I was done. When I’d finally accepted the fact that it was complete I was both relieved and sad. Later that morning I discovered that the author whose work inspired me to write “The Hard Way” had passed away and I immediately fell into a bit of a funk.
I procrastinated for a few months on the release after that. My birthday came around on October 1st and I found out that Tom Clancy passed away on the same day. His book “The Hunt for Red October” was the first thriller novel I’d ever read as a kid and I couldn’t believe that he was now gone too. Eventually the support of my good friends and close relatives motivated me to proceed with the book release and I am glad that I finally went through with the launch.
What do you want readers to take away from “The Hard Way”?
Essentially I’d like readers to be entertained. My goal is that they find the book diverting, so that they are able to vacate their lives for a few hours, forget about their careers and to-do lists for a little while and relax into their own imaginings of the story. That’s what I’d like my contribution to be.
We’re seeing recently released books jump to film more quickly and frequently these days. Imagine “The Hard Way” is coming to the big screen. Who do you see portraying your two leading characters?
It’s interesting that you ask that question because I often use actors who I admire to build my characters’ physical descriptions. But I’d rather not say who I would prefer to portray Gordon Hale and Cecelia Clark so as not to ruin it for the readers. As a bookworm myself, I’m always just a bit disappointed when the actors don’t physically match the character I’d imagined in my head.
Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?
I’d just like to add that I am currently working on a spin-off of “The Hard Way” with some of the minor characters and a few new characters that I plan to work into “The Hard Way” sequel.
How can readers discover more about you and your work?
You can visit my website at http://rashawndaungerer.com and sign up for my mailing list to receive the latest news about “The Hard Way” and my upcoming projects. Or you can like my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/rashawndaungerer to receive updates in your newsfeed. You can also follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/R_Ungerer or @R_Ungerer.