I’d like to welcome my guest-blogger, Larry Brooks, to the Child Finder Trilogy blog. Larry is a novelist, screenwriter and writing instructor. He has published six critically-acclaimed thrillers, one of which was a USA Today bestseller and another named to Publishers Weekly “Best Books of 2004″ list after a starred review. In addition to leading writing workshops, he runs an instructional writing website, www.storyfix.com.
MA: Please tell us a little bit about you and your writing.
LB: I began my writing life as a novelist, but was clueless and completely not ready for it. Then I began to study screenwriting, which taught me why my novels weren’t going anywhere, not to mention all about the infrastructure of storytelling, which is hard to come by in the collective wisdom of books about writing novels, even workshops.
My first published novel was an adaptation of a screenplay that has been optioned twice and a finalist in the Nicholl Screenwriting competition. It sold first draft, and I credit that to the screenwriting bones that inspired it.
MA: What did you do before writing, and did your life’s experiences serve to inspire your fiction?
LB: All of my novels have a hero with a job that I’ve held: stockbroker, ad agency exec, corporate exec, model, pro baseball player, etc. That’s not because of the “write what you know” advice, more because I understand the emotional context of those avocations better than I do, say, being a mortician.
MA: That’s refreshing to hear because I’ve never been much of a fan of the “write what you know” adage. I find it too limiting…writers need to stretch and grow. What was your debut novel about?
LB: My first novel, “Darkness Bound,” is a psychological thriller in the vein of Basic Instinct or Fatal Attraction. When the editor at the time at Penguin Putnam, Dan Slater, first read it, he loved it but wasn’t sure what box (his word; meaning, genre) to put it into. When he showed it to the publisher, Louise Burke, she fell for it because of the intimate nature of the relationships between two game playing lovers, and didn’t care about genre, she put it out as mainstream adult contemporary.
Then, unbeknownst to me, some MBA in the marketing department decided to picture a woman with her hands bound on the cover, which prompted the book clubs (Doubleday, Book of the Month, Literary Guild) to classify it as “erotica.” Totally not erotica. In the Publishers Weekly review of the book, the reviewer cited this as a shame, since many readers missed something he thought was pretty good.
MA: Wow! That’s an interesting journey for a debut novel to make. How did you develop the character of your protagonist?
LB: He was a stockbroker, he liked women wearing black, he was vulnerable and easy. In other words, me in past life. It was easy to develop the guy. When the editor asked for a backstory, that was easy, too. Again, me. They say most of us write ourselves into our first novels… and then, to some degree, every novel after. I’d have to say this is true.
MA: Tell us more about your hero. What makes him tick?
LB: He’s nobody’s fool, yet he’s not a cynic. He’s willing to take risks, then takes responsibility for the consequences. He’s passionate, open, vulnerable, yet tough as hell.
MA: And the bad guy(s)?
LB: My bad guys seem to always be bad girls. Strong theme in my work. I suppose a shrink could have a field day with it, I know my readers do. I write about the games lovers play, dark and light, and all the intricate psychology that makes those games both titillating and dangerous.
MA: I know you said you don’t adhere to the “write what you know” notion, but did any of your real-life experiences factor in to the plot at all?
LB: The backstory of the hero’s childhood with an alcoholic mother and a beaten-down father, that was real. The world of a stockbroker who didn’t like what he did, that was real. An understanding of my hero’s fascination with “the Dark Lady,” gotta say that was real, too.
MA: So what’s next for you now that you’ve got some very successful publishing credentials under your belt?
LB: I’m publishing a new novel in February called “Whisper of the Seventh Thunder,” an apocalyptic thriller, through a small publisher, which means a very challenging marketing process. My instructional website, Storyfix.com, is one of the fastest growing and best reviews writing sites out there, and it keeps me busy and energized. I’ve written two ebooks in that realm, and I have a new novel in the works. One with — you guessed it — a very beautiful and very dangerous woman in the mix.
MA: Since you’re new book is a different genre, the whole apocalyptic angle and all, I suspect you won’t migrate any of your previous characters over to it?
LB: No, I haven’t brought a character back yet. Doesn’t mean I wouldn’t consider it, it’s just that each book leaves the hero fully resolved. Unless it’s a detective or a spy, it’s hard to bring back a regular Joe and keep it interesting. Just like Jack Bauer from “24” has lost his credibility… nobody has days like that.
MA: <chuckling> Well, I rather like Jack Bauer! He still has a lot of shine in my book. Any advice for aspiring authors out there?
LB: For all the writers reading this, I’d like to say that writing from an understanding of story architecture, rather than “pantsing” (seat of the pants story-creation as you draft) is the key to both success and sanity. Story structure, or the lack thereof, is the number one cause of rejection, it’ll kill even the most elegant of prose and compelling of characters if it’s not right. That’s the drum I beat as a writing instructor, and I practice what I preach.
MA: That’s some great advice! I want to thank you for stopping by my site today and chatting with me about your writing. Ladies and gentlemen, please visit Larry Brooks’ website for more information about him and his work: www.storyfix.com