Thursday, January 26, 2012

Interview: William F. Brown, author of Amongst My Enemies and The Undertaker

Author Bio: "Bill Brown is the author of six mystery and suspense novels. The Undertaker, is a domestic thriller published last February. It’s garnered 18 Five-Star and 17 Four-Star reviews of 37 posted on Amazon. Amongst My Enemies, his newest, is a Cold War thriller dealing with espionage, revenge, and missing gold. Both are available on all the usual e-book sites. An earlier novel, Thursday at Noon, a Joan Kahn Book from St. Martin’s in hardback and various paperback and foreign editions, will be out in e-book this spring. He has also written four award-winning screenplays. A native of Chicago, he attended the University of Illinois. He and his wife live in Ohio,where he writes, paints, and plays bad golf."

What inspires your stories?

I was always a reader, and I read one too many bad books – bad plot, unrealistic action, and cardboard characters. I turned to my wife and said, “I can do something this awful.” (It happened to be an unusually bad Clive Cussler) So I went to the library, got some books on writing, did my research, and gave it a shot. That was 6 books, 4 screenplays, and a lot of years ago.

What genre do you gravitate toward and why?

Suspense thrillers, both domestic and international, because that’s what I always read and enjoyed. As they say, we should write what we like and what we know.

What are your work habits like?

Not as regular as I would like. We travel a lot, and I play golf and paint from time to time. I use a computer, do my best work in the evening and at night, hate being disturbed, and like an orderly desk and work area around me; provided I can keep my wife from putting STUFF on my desk!

What do you consider your best work?

What? Pick one of my babies? Is this ‘Sophie’s Choice?’

Actually, and to be fair, my newer work is better than my very early work. As in everything, we learn. I wrote 4 novels, and then tried screenplays for a number of years. I won and placed in a number of contests, and actually had one briefly optioned, but Hollywood is largely an insider game. I think the only people who win are the ones who host the contests. But, screenplays are an interesting discipline. They teach tighter writing, dramatic pacing, dialogue, and character arcing. I then went back to novels, re-writing two and writing two new ones and they were much better. I think The Undertaker, a snarky, funny, contemporary thriller which came out in e-book last year, and Amongst My Enemies, a more dramatic period piece set in the late 1940’s and 1950’s which just came out, are my best to date.

Do you plot out your novels in advance or do you write on the fly?

I am a tight constructionist. If you don’t know where you are going, you can’t build the road to get you there. It’s the characters who drive the story, and to properly weave and arc them together, you need to know where you want them to be in the end.

What experience do you want for your readers?

I call my novels ‘beach’ or ‘pool’ books, with no apologies. No matter how pretentious we try to be, writers are in the entertainment business. If not, why would Sony, Time Warner, and the other media companies own all the publishing companies? My novels are fun, exciting reads, but ones which I hope are well crafted.

Are any of your character traits or settings based on real life?

Some of my novels are in current settings, but some are set in the 1940’s, 1950’s, and 1960’s. I had a double-major in history in college, so most of my plots flow out of real events and involve historic figures. The fictional characters, however, are carefully structured to fit the dramatic needs of the story; but I’m sure I have used observation to flesh them out. My wife and I have traveled quite a bit, and I think I have been to most of the locales I use. That helps, but so can an issue of National Geographic.

What are your most significant challenges when you write?

As far as the actual writing goes, it is finding enough long blocks of ‘leave me the Hell alone’ time to completely focus on the text. But . . . in recent years we are in a brave new ‘upside down’ world where the publishers, agents, and bookstores (the former Gatekeepers and Key Masters) who chose the winners and then did all the packaging and promoting, haven’t got a clue and aren’t buying. Now, anyone with an internet connection can by-pass all that, and about 800,000 have. That’s great, except of the minor problem of getting noticed. So, we now spend all our time Face Booking and blogging and tweeting instead of writing, which is what every other ‘writer’ is doing, wondering why nothing is selling and very little is getting written.

What are you currently working on?

I spent last year putting two ‘new’ books I had written out as e-books with all that entails -- working up the learning curve of e-book marketing. I am now updating and converting two of my very successful previously published hardbacks to e-books. Thursday at Noon will be up in March or so. I then hope to get back into a new-new suspense novel I had about one-third written before I decided to see what this e-book thing was all about.

Do you have any writing advice you would like to share with aspiring authors?

There’s an old saying in business management, “Don’t mistake activity for progress.” I’m afraid much if not all of the Face Booking, Tweeting, and blogging we do is simply writers posting to other writers (the rest of that 800,000), none of whom have the slightest interest in buying one of our books. So, don’t forget to keep writing and improving your writing, as you try harder and harder to be a ‘writer.’ And, eventually, the vampires, zombies, fairies, girls with almost-bare chests and guys with no shirts and oiled lats will fade into fad history . . . I hope.

Amongst My Enemies is available in the Amazon Kindle Store.

William F. Brown's website is HERE.

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