Friday, December 28, 2012

R. J. McDonnell, The Classic Rockers Reunion with Death, #giveaway

AUTHOR:  RJ McDonnell
BOOK TITLE: The Classic Rockers Reunion with Death
PUBLISHER: Killeena Publishing
A free download of each of the four novels in the series (one per entrant)

Please tell us about yourself.

I am the son of a Pennsylvania State Police Detective, who received several decorations for solving complex and high-profile crimes. In addition to a traditional education, I also had the benefit of seeing every police detective drama on television and in the movies. My father would frequently critique these stories for believability of characters and police procedures.

I earned a Bachelor’s Degree at Penn State University and a Masters at Marywood University. During his college years I was a rhythm guitarist and vocalist in two bands. Shortly thereafter, I moved to San Diego where I went to work for a professional writing service. In addition, I wrote a monthly column for the Military Press, and another for a San Diego publication, providing advice to job seekers.

In the 90s, I got into comedy writing. I wrote for a local San Diego cable television show that had a Saturday Night Live-type format. Over its two seasons on the air, 34 of my skits were produced. Rock & Roll Homicide was the first novel in my Rock & Roll Mystery Series. The second novel, Rock & Roll Rip-Off, was selected 2010 Mystery/Thriller of the Year by Premier Book Awards. Third novel, The Concert Killer, features an original book trailer song that serves as a prequel to this serial killer novel. I did my first network television interview the week my 4th novel, The Classic Rockers Reunion with Death, was launched.

Tell us your latest news.

I recently completed  2nd editions of Rock & Roll Homicide  and  Rock & Roll Rip-Off, making them available in paperback for the first time. This cuts the cost in half for non-ebook readers.

What inspired you to write your first book?

I got a taste for writing fiction after six years as a full time non-fiction writer. A coworker went to work on a new cable comedy television show with a Saturday Night Live format. He asked if I’d like to submit a script on spec and the job snowballed.  A total of 34 of my scripts were produced and aired over the show’s two seasons, and I was hooked on fiction. But I didn’t care for the way producers, associate producers, directors, and occasionally top actors all felt the need to put their own spin on scripts. I transitioned over to books to enable creative control and ensure writing about subjects that interest me.

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

I approach my first edit by identifying themes that will be memorable to my readers. I then try to pare them down to a central theme, and make cuts and additions based on their relevance to the theme.

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?  (Has anyone ever realized it?)

I’m a big believer in “write what you know.” Most of my characters are composites of several people. A recurrent comment that I see in my reader reviews is that my characters act and talk like real people. I’m fine with making situations and obstacles in my stories larger than life, but I need my characters to be genuine and consistent. My protagonist is a PI who worked at an outpatient mental health center for two years before entering his PI apprenticeship. His full-time and part-time employees are all former patients. Having worked in a similar setting for the same length of time, I mix and match character traits and idiosyncrasies to develop a genuine feel.

What book are you reading now? What do you like, or not, about it?

I’m reading The Panther by Nelson DeMille. It’s the latest installment of one of the John Corey Series, one of my all-time favorites. It’s quite a bit slower than the other novels in the series. In chapter 2, John and his FRI agent wife are assigned a mission in Yemen. Their plane doesn’t actually land in that country until Chapter 16, and not much takes place in the interim to justify the slow pacing. On the other hand, I find John Corey to be one of the wittiest characters in the mystery/thriller genre, and he has some great lines in this book. If it could have been edited down from 640 pages to 400 pages it would have been great.

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I thoroughly enjoy indie novelist, Darcia Helle. Her Michael Sykora series is a must read for thriller fans. Her stand-alones consistently demonstrate wide ranging talent.

What are your current projects?

I just finished second editions of my first two novels and am releasing them for the first time ever as paperbacks. The hardbound 1st editions were well received and still available (signed and inscribed) for collectors. But with the economy continuing to slog along, it was time for a lower price alternative for those who don’t use an eReader.  I just released a package of the four novels in the series at a special price through the holidays.

What do you do when you’re not writing/editing or thinking about writing/editing?

First and foremost, I love to read. I try to achieve an even mix of indie novels and best sellers/old favorites. I meet many interesting indie authors in the course of my everyday life, and try to sample their work whenever possible. But I also try to learn from the best. This frequently means reading with a notebook at my side. I like to track techniques that favorite authors use to pique my interest, build tension, and endear me to their characters.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

My favorite author is Lawrence Sanders. His early work is riveting. The protagonist in his Deadly Sins series reminds me of my police detective father in many ways. When Sanders reached retirement age, he moved from NY to FL and initiated his McNally series, which replaced frequent tension with light humor while preserving Sanders unique voice and interesting plots. The McNally series was so popular that another author (Vincent Lardo) picked up where Sanders left off, after his death, and wrote six more McNally novels. It reminded me of seeing skillful tribute bands imitate favorite musicians.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

The hardest part is always the amount of marketing time it takes after the book is published to get it in the hands of the many. I believe there would be far fewer authors if they had a realistic understanding of the amount of marketing time necessary to successfully launch a novel.

Who is your publisher and how did you connect with them?
After owning a non-fiction writing service for ten years prior to becoming a novelist, I founded Killeena Publishing to publish my fiction.

How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc. - please share your public links.


Rock & Roll Homicide (#1)
Just as the rock band, Doberman's Stub, was about to reach stadium tour status, its leader was brutally murdered when his headphones exploded during a recording session. The widow, who inherits $5 million, is the San Diego Police Department's number one suspect. She hires Jason Duffy, a 27-year-old PI and former musician, in his first year of private practice. Jason learns that the victim was in the middle of an acrimonious renegotiation with the record company at the time of his death. He also finds that the record company has a very unhealthy tie to the Russian Mafia. As an inexperienced detective, Jason does not yet have the contacts within the police department to gather vital information. He is forced to mend fences with his estranged father, an opinionated ex-SDPD detective. While Jason investigates the record company, he also takes a close look at the three surviving members of the victim's band. One is an alcoholic/drug addict drummer, on the verge of being kicked out of the group. The second is a bass player who camouflages his rock star status by living in an ordinary house in a lower middle-class neighborhood. Third is a lead guitarist and writer of half of the band's songs, who lives well beyond his means. Jason has not yet become hardened to the very real dangers of his new profession. We experience his inner conflict as his girlfriend, staff, and family are drawn into the danger zone. After Jason's part-time employee is severely beaten during a stakeout, he sells the story of the Russian Mafia's involvement in the record business to a tabloid journalism TV show in a misguided effort to protect his employer and coworker. This serves to drive the case to new heights of danger and suspense. Jason goes behind the industry veneer of sex & drugs & hedonistic lifestyles. He shows us how the 21st Century world of downloads, file sharing, and image demographics need to be considered in a case of Rock & Roll Homicide.

Rock & Roll Rip-Off (#2)
Jason Duffy thought he had accepted a routine burglary case when a career studio musician hired him to recover a memorabilia collection featuring unusual treasures from some of the top performers in the music industry. But Jason quickly finds himself at the top of a hit list that has nothing to do with The Top 40 and everything to do with a table for one at the San Diego Coroner's Office. While the facts of the case point to an emo band that the victim was helping at the time of the theft, the lethal force that Jason encounters in his investigation feels more like death metal. He finds himself imperiled by a hitman known as The Heartbreaker, due to his signature of shooting his victims through the heart at close range. With danger also threatening his staff and girlfriend, Jason must continue to mend fences with his retired police detective father, in spite of a recent riff that caused a setback to their relationship. Everyone thought The Tactile Tattoo was a "can't miss" band. The pre-release buzz for their first CD was tremendous. But a bad review from a key industry critic, who didn't care for their lyrics, left the album stillborn at record stores across the country. The group soon learned that second chances in the current state of the music business are practically nonexistent. One band member discovered that money talks in an industry strapped for cash, and a bribe was entirely possible. However, funding that bribe meant getting involved with all of the wrong people. The reader is treated to an insider's view of the music industry that captures the new obstacles that today's bands must overcome in order to succeed. Rock & Roll Rip-Off is the second novel in RJ McDonnell's Rock & Roll Mystery Series. Like the critically acclaimed Rock & Roll Homicide, McDonnell once again mixes humor, music, and a cast of unique characters to unfold a memorable mystery that shows Jason and a loved one "knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door."

The Concert Killer (#3)
A religious fanatic serial killer, who hates rock music, tries to shut down the concert industry. A group of independent concert promoters hire private investigator Jason Duffy and his staff of former outpatient mental health clients to catch him. The killer believes that God rewards His favorites with the most money, and keeps score of his victims on the back of a dollar bill. Jason uses his background as a counselor and club musician to battle his cleverest and most twisted adversary ever. The author of the 2010 Mystery/Thriller of the Year, Rock & Roll Rip-Off, once again adds LOL humor in between compelling action scenes. Besides offering readers a backstage pass to the music industry, The Concert Killer brings to light a potentially catastrophic danger that few have ever considered.

The Classic Rockers Reunion with Death (#4)
San Diego private investigator Jason Duffy is literally taken out of his comfort zone when he travels to Scranton, PA in January after his uncle’s best friend is murdered. Jason knows very little about Uncle Patrick because of a feud between his father and uncle that caused an estrangement over 40 years ago. He learns that his uncle and the victim were members of a rock band that nearly made it to the national scene in the late 60s, and were about to play a reunion concert in their hometown when the murder occurred. The investigation leads Jason back to an “almost anything goes” era that is exacting a huge price many years later. To mix & master this musical mystery, Jason fills in for the murdered guitarist and soon finds himself struggling to avoid filling in a cemetery plot. Someone doesn’t want that reunion concert to happen and is willing to do anything to cancel it forever. The case teaches Jason how easy it is for all of us to fall victim to our assumptions.


  1. It was very nice getting to know you, RJ. You've had some kewl adventures. Your books sound right up my alley. I like how you incorporated the military, music and suspense into your novels. Best of success in 2013~!

    Happy New Year, Penny!

  2. These sound like great books to read...great interview!!!