March 05, 2017
Manybooks.net Featured Author, Matt Leatherwood Jr. –
Creating Intricate, Fast-paced Thrillers
Matt Leatherwood Jr. enjoys taking complicated themes and simplifying it in a fast-paced story. During a writing course, Leatherwood received a photo of an attractive woman with the task to create her backstory. This lead to the birth of Nikki Frank, the main character of Complicity in Heels. As our Author of the Day, Leatherwood chats about who Nikki really is, how his experiences as a U.S. Marine shaped his writing and reveals why he wrote about money laundering.
Please give us a short introduction to what Complicity in Heels is about.
Complicity in Heels is about a woman who has just been released from prison and is trying to put her life back together. Things quickly come to a head when her past and present circumstances collide. Her former criminal associate wants her to take on one last job for the cartel, but all she cares about is looking after her disabled brother.
Tell us a bit more about Nikki Frank. How was her character conceived in your mind?
Nikki Frank is youngest child of the late Nancy Grey (nee) and Thomas Frank. Both of her parents are deceased. She now has conservatorship over her older brother Marty, who has Down syndrome. She is torn between family and profession.
Nikki was conceived from a photo of an attractive woman modeling pearls in a formal white dress. That image was taken and given a general backstory for the novel writing course I was undertaking at the time with Winghill Writing School. Over the course of five years (2010-2015), Nikki continued to evolve until I completed the final manuscript for Complicity in Heels in 2016.
How has your experiences as a U.S. Marine influenced your writing?
The U.S. Marine Corps brings together a diverse group of talented men and women from different backgrounds, cultures, and races to work together for the sole purpose of defending the nation. With such a broad group of people to work and interact with on a daily basis, I tend to take complicated subject matter and simplify it while maintaining a fast pace. Of course being a former Marine, I’m going to keep you on edge, not knowing what to expect.
What inspired you to involve your main character in a money brokering scheme?
An intriguing thought. The impetus for Complicity in Heels was a bad 80’s crime drama in which a big monetary exchange was the climax. During the final meeting for “The Big Deal”, the antagonist shows up with a briefcase that looked like my nephew’s school lunch box. I kept thinking, “There is no way a million dollars can fit in that.” That episodic scene launched me into researching criminal monetary exchanges and how they are conducted. Armed with this knowledge I was able to give birth to my present novel.
Tell us more about the book’s title. Why “Complicity in Heels”?
The initial title for my book was Complicit Ties. I settled on that name because of the web of multiple connections between characters and the intricate storyline. When I finished the manuscript, I shopped it over to Larry Brooks (http://storyfix.com/) to analyze the structure of the story. Larry suggested the title be changed to Complicity in Heels. His reasoning: My lead character was female, it resonated better with readers of the genre, and it maintained a portion of my original message. I took his suggestion and ran with it.
Besides writing, what other cool skills do you have?
I’m a Crossfit enthusiast capable of deadlifting more than 385 lbs., turning a jump rope over my body two times for every single jump, and cranking out and endless amount of burpees at a rate of ten burpees per minute. Some of my best writing ideas have come either during or shortly after an exhaustive WOD (Workout of the day). Writers that say they suffer from “Writer’s Block”, simply have not exercised. We’re in a sedentary profession, a few push-ups and a walk might do you some good.
How do you manage to keep your readers at the edge of their seats, wondering what is going to happen next?
Creating suspense is like playing poker and braiding hair. When you’re at the card table you keep your hand up and extremely close to you. As the game progresses, you slowly reveal to your opponents what cards you have in your hand as you play them.
With braiding, you divide the hair into three sections and cross them over one another in a certain sequence until finished.
When it comes to writing a story, you employ both of those methods mentioned above. You slowly reveal information to your readers while interlacing the plot and subplot throughout the storyline. If done correctly, suspense is automatically created. Of course, you always want to go back latter and tweak things for maximum effect.
What is it about the genre that you enjoy most?
I enjoy writing in the crime thriller genre because of its wide latitude from which to work. Every day, the evening news percolates with new story ideas. Yesterday, it was city officials from major metropolitan areas conspiring to bus mentally ill patients to various locations around the country to compensate for slashed mental health services funding. Today, its border patrol agents participating in sex trafficking and running low key prostitution rings— who knows what tomorrow may bring. With criminal activity always evolving, there is no shortage of ideas from which to draw and develop an engaging story.
Which character did you find the most challenging to create?
Marty Frank, because he has Down syndrome and you have to try and put yourself in the mindset of a mentally disabled person, make sense to the reader and come off as authentic. That’s a difficult recipe, no matter how you fix it.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What does an average writing day look like for you?
An average writing day for me starts at 5:00 AM and concludes at 7:00 AM. During that time, I usually try to get in as many writing sprints as possible before leaving for work. Factoring in fatigue, I usually manage to complete two to three thirty-minute sprints.
January 22, 2017
The Story Behind Marty Frank
[*Client names changed for privacy.]
One of the characters in my novel, Complicity in Heels, is Marty Frank. He is the older brother of the main character, Nikki Frank. Of all the characters who inhabit the world of Parkbridge, Georgia, Marty is unique. He has Down syndrome.
What is Down Syndrome?
In every cell in the human body there is a nucleus, where genetic material is stored in genes. Genes carry the codes responsible for all of our inherited traits and are grouped along rod-like structures called chromosomes. The nucleus of each cell contains 23 pairs of chromosomes, half of which are inherited from each parent.
Down syndrome is a genetic disorder that occurs when an additional copy of the pair of chromosomes at marker 21 is created. Another name for this disorder is Trisomy 21. The additional chromosome can cause mental and physical delays as well as the development of disabilities as the child grows into adults. Some of the most common traits are low muscle tone, small stature, an upward slant to the eyes, and a single deep crease across the center of the palm.
How Common is Down Syndrome?
Approximately one in every 700 babies in the Unites States is born with Down syndrome, making it the most common genetic condition. This equates to about 6,000 babies in the United States a year.
My Experience with Down Syndrome.
When I left the Marines, most of the jobs I was offered in the civilian sector were related to security. Hiring managers saw the word “Marines” on my resume and automatically assumed I would be good at loss prevention. Once you step on the security field track, it’s hard to get off. Every job involved watching someone or something for a certain period of time.
One such job I held was for a secure residential facility for wayward youth. The residents had serious behavioral and substance abuse issues. They required 24-hour supervision in a secure perimeter setting with a minimum of 10 staff members on hand to run things. From there, I was recruited to work with mentally disabled men between the ages of 24 and 60 in personal care homes throughout the city. My job was to provide watchful oversight to ensure safety in the home, drive clients to appointments, and help them manage their prescription drugs. Occasionally, I was also expected to teach life skills such as budgeting, purchasing groceries and exchanging money for goods and services.
At first, I was apprehensive about taking on this type of work. I was concerned about my ability to communicate clearly with clients. I was also worried about sudden violent outbursts or other forms of uncontrollable behavior my clients might exhibit.
During my 90-day training period, I quickly learned that my concerns reflected common stereotypes about the mentally disabled community. Other commonly held misconceptions include the belief that the mentally disabled are incapable and cannot provide for themselves and that those without mental disabilities should feel sorry for them.
Once I graduated from training, I was assigned the evening shift at a residence that housed three men. My clients’ names were *Clay, *Eddie, and *Jerry. *Jerry was the senior, at 50 years of age, and required the most supervision. He had Down syndrome in addition to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). I prepared his meals and cleaned the kitchen, looked over his clothing selection for the next day, and made sure he showered and shaved before he went to bed. During the remainder of my shift, I recorded my observations about *Jerry in several log books and remained awake until staff members on the next shift relieved me.
I recall one evening when the four of us returned home from basketball practice. It was late and we had a lot to do before bedtime. The previous shift had already prepared dinner, so I decided to feed Jerry first, have Eddie pick out his clothes for the morning, and tell Clay to shower and shave. While all that was going on, I was in the back room counting the medication and bouncing the number of pills and the dosages off the guidelines in the medication log book. Jerry finished his meal and brought me his dishes. Busy, I told him to place them in the sink. Clay was still in the shower and Eddie hadn’t quite figured out what he wanted to wear in the morning.
Once I had completed the med count, I returned to the kitchen. To my amazement, Jerry had wiped down the dining room table, loaded the dishwasher, swept the floor, and cleaned the countertops. The kitchen was spotless, yet I was furious. Why? Because I had been doing all those chores for him for the past 30 days. It had never occurred to me that Jerry was fully capable of doing them himself. I had bought in to the stereotype that he was incapable because of his mental deficiency. I later found Jerry in the den, stretched out on his La-Z-Boy with the widest grin on his face, staring back at me. I just shook my head.
“You got me,” I said. “Congratulations.” It was a truly humbling experience.
I spent two years at that residence with those guys while I worked my way through school.
Drawing on My Exposure.
As a student at Winghill Writing School, I enrolled in the novel writing course. For one of the teaching modules, Writing What You Know #8, we students had to create a list of our life experiences, analyze it, and determine whether we could use any of that background for characters, plots, or settings.
In the areas of character and setting, I chose to use my experience caring for the mentally disabled.
When I was constructing my lead character, Nikki Frank, my instructor told me that she was “too plain” and that I needed to “spice up” her life. I thought about it, but nothing came to mind. I glanced at her bio sheet. Family structure, father’s name, mother’s name. Then it hit me. Siblings. The word leapt right off the paper. Nikki needed a brother, and not just any brother, but one with special needs. It was then that Martin Sullivan Frank was born.
December 21, 2016
21 Things You Don’t Know About – Nikki Frank
- Nikki was born at the Naval Medical Center, San Diego, California on July 10th.
- She is biracial.
- Nikki grew up as a military brat, making her home in such places as Camp Pendleton, California; Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan; and Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Her father, Master Sergeant Thomas Sullivan Frank, served twenty-nine years in the Marine Corps before being killed in action during the invasion of Afghanistan (2001).
- She attended high school in Jacksonville, North Carolina.
- Nikki tutored elementary school students and played competitive soccer from her freshmen to senior years of high school.
- She earned a partial athletic scholarship to the University of North Carolina, Wilmington.
- Nikki played the position of midfielder throughout her collegiate athletic career.
- She was selected for the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Women’s First Team, with nine goals and seven assists her senior year. The Colonial Athletic Association is an institution comprised of ten colleges from DE, MA, MD, NC, NY, PA, SC and VA that unite to form an athletic conference to compete in various collegiate sports.
- Her jersey number was 15.
- Wrightsville Beach, just east of Wilmington, North Carolina, was Nikki’s favorite hangout during her undergraduate years. During her downtime, she spent numerous hours walking along the shore. The serene environment tended to ground her and bring peace. Nikki would often say, “While I can’t always go on vacation, I can go to the beach.”
- She pledged Alpha Gamma Delta sorority her sophomore year.
- Nikki earned a B.S. in finance from the Cameron School of Business at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington.
- She graduated summa cum laude.
- Nikki’s favorite Girl Scout cookies are Samoas.
- Her favorite color is red.
- Nikki earned her master’s degree in economics from North Carolina State.
- She is an active CrossFit enthusiast, participating in the fitness regimen at her local gym.
- To relax, Nikki enjoys a warm bath with Japanese Cherry Blossom bubble bath.
- Her guilty food pleasure is smoked barbeque macaroni and cheese smothered in Dijon mustard.
- Nikki is a classic workaholic. She is often stressed by being away from work (sick, suspension, vacation…) not knowing what’s going on in her absence. In addition, she involuntarily loses track of time. Often, Nikki will tell herself that she is just going to spend 30 minutes on a project only to witness those minutes morphing into hours.
- Her favorite book is Kindred by Octavia E. Butler. The first person account of a young, California woman who shifts back and forth through time from her suburban residence to a pre-Civil War, Maryland plantation to meet her ancestors, resonates with Nikki because of the story’s degree of authenticity and seriousness of subject matter.
November 11, 2016
My Open Call Experience – Atlanta 2016
By K. Parmeley
If you were to run into me on the street, you might think that you know me or recognize me from somewhere. Well, you do. You’ve seen me in a few notable films. I was flight attendant number four in Sully. If you blinked too fast you might have missed the close-up of me prepping the food cart before departure. In Gone Girl, I portrayed a concerned neighbor at the candlelight vigil and in The Wolf of Wall Street I was one of the bathing suit beauties strategically placed on the yacht.
My name is Kat and I’m a “C-list” actress. I’m known by face, not by name. I’m still good at my craft, but I receive less recognition. As such, I’m always looking to boost my profile within the industry. The more you work, the more exposure you get.
Early this year, my agent brought to my attention a straight-to-Netflix production that was casting for several lead roles. A Money Launderer’s Tale is based on the Matt Leatherwood novel Complicity in Heels and is set to begin filming at the beginning of the year.
I was given a street address where the open call was to be held, along with a tentative script. I looked over the dialogue and identified Nikki Frank as the role I wanted to audition for.
The Night Before
My friend Trevor had already booked a room at the hotel where the open call was being held. When I arrived, he was waiting for me with dinner in hand, a freshly typed script and a gallon of water so that I could properly hydrate. We ran lines together for a few hours, did some yoga to relax and then retired for the evening.
Day of the Audition
The casting crew for A Money Launderer’s Tale emerged from the hotel ballroom at precisely 9 a.m. Along with fifty other women, I was directed to an adjacent meeting room to read for the role of Nikki. There were fifteen people ahead of me. I continued to run lines, utilizing the Rehearsal App on my phone. Trevor had taken the liberty of highlighting the script and recording the dialogue so I could use the automation feature to interact with the scene over and over. I broke periodically to visualize myself entering the room and performing the scene with confidence.
A Brief Encounter with Matt Leatherwood
The auditions began around 10 a.m. and the line started to move forward. Before I knew it, I had rounded the corner and was right behind the door. Next to me stood Complicity in Heels author Matt Leatherwood. He smiled and handed me a printed copy of the scene to be read. I glanced over it to make sure nothing had changed. It hadn’t. Seconds later, I heard my name called. The door opened. Matt wished me good luck and I stepped inside the room.
I found my mark on the floor so the casting director and everyone in the room could see me clearly.
“From the top,” he announced. “Complicity in Heels, chapter twenty-five, page 196.”
I took a deep breath.
“Head over to the dollar store,” a fellow actor began.
“A dollar store?”
“Just do it. Got it?”
I flashed a twisted grin.
“Keep it running.”
“Oh, no!” I responded, placing my hands on my hips for emphasis. “You are not about to turn this into a Lifetime movie. Too many women are sitting in the pen right now because somebody said, ‘Keep it running.’”
“I most certainly will.”
A bell instantly chimed, letting me know my time was up. “Thank you,” the director said. “Please exit to the left.”
A week later I was notified that I would not be receiving a role in A Money Launderer’s Tale. Yes, I’m disappointed. I felt I was totally on my game and had lit up the room with my acting skill. However, more often than not this just isn’t enough. In an industry where you can be cut for being too short or too pretty, or for reminding the producer of the sister he hates, it’s the nature of the business.
I’ll continue going on auditions and striving to perfect my craft. And who knows? You may even see me back on the big screen in next summer’s blockbuster. Until then.
Below is a list of the final cast.
Nikki Frank K.D. Aubert
Spence Taylor Owen Wilson
Gemini Cordoza George Clooney
Willard Adam Godley
Lacey Johnson Abby Brammell
Harlan Fisk Michael Emerson
Victor Patrone Joaquim de Almeida
Tony Chen Russell Wong
Quinn Joseph Antonio Cartagena
Lieutenant Bosky Steve Buscemi
Detective J.T. Mallorca Terry Crews
Sergeant Twine Dennis Franz
Officer Hardy Will Estes
Emma Daniel Meghan Markle
Special Agent K. Bolston Kelly Hu