Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Author Interview: R.Thomas Brown

Tell us about your novel Hill Country

Gabriel Hill stumbles home to find a mutilated corpse on his porch. A man who had beat him earlier. After puking, he finds a makeshift animal sacrifice behind his house. The next day, his life got complicated.

His home is broken into. He's beaten by a stranger. Seduced by another. Threatened unless he can find the valuables his dead brother supposedly sent to him.

Ignoring advice to run, Gabe searches for answers. He finds a brother unlike the drug addicted young man he forgot. He finds new threats, new enemies, more dead bodies, a courage he didn't think existed, a love that he didn't expect and a truth that he feared.

What inspired you to write it?

It was a strange path to this novel. It started as what became my horror novella, Merciless Pact. But there were elements that weren’t working and the story evolved. In the end, I tried to tell a high octane story that held some of the charm of the Maltese Falcon. Not the story style, but the notion of people who would give anything, and betray anyone for a prize.

You seem to enjoy writing about the frailties and flaws in the human condition. Why do you think this is?

I try to create characters that feel real to me. I don’t much care to write the Jason Bourne’s of the world. I like that stuff sometimes, but it’s not what’s in my head. I am drawn to stories about normal people who are forced to deal with things that don’t make sense. Be it a gun to the head or a voice that no one else hears, it’s the reaction that I care about.

If you had to pick a soundtrack to your novel what songs would you pick?

I listened to several Texas artists while writing the book to keep my head in the place I was when I lived in San Antonio and my cousins had property in the Hill Country. Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keene, Pat Green, Stevie Ray Vaughan, some old ZZ Top, others as well.

Where can our readers find you online?

I blog about various fiction things, including my writing at Criminal Thoughts, I’m also the flash fiction editor at Spinetingler and occasionally do a review at Crime Fiction. I tweet as @rthomasbrown and you can find me on facebook and Google +. That seems like a bit much, but I pick and choose where I post and my activity on each of those can be sporadic. Twitter is most reliable.

What do you most like about writing?

It’s damn fun. I love creating characters from my imagination, doing horrible things to them, and crafting ways for them to succeed, or fail. It really is fun. I love telling stories.

What do you dislike about writing?

It’s isolated. Even doing writing at home means that I’m not doing something with someone else. That’s hard and is a tough balance for me to keep with a wife and three kids. I want to write, but it can feel like a selfish pursuit. And there’s so little feedback though much of the process that, at times, I doubt if the time is worth it.

What is the best piece of writing craft advice you have been given?

Do what works best for you, but try it all to be sure. Outline or don’t, but try it to see. Revise as you go, or blast through a draft, but be sure you’ve made the right choice. Chuch Wendig blogged about this once in one of his 25 things that are really important but I’m going to curse up a fucking swarm while I tell you lists. Others have as well.

Which author(s) would you say have most influenced your writing?

It’s common to say, but certainly Stephen King is one of the reasons I write, and there is so much I admire, and used to ape, in his writing. I find I am more influenced now by Joe Lansdale. His characters, and his setting for the Hap and Leonard stories are a nice mix of generally nice place, where some not so nice stuff still happens.

What are your strengths as a writer? What do you feel you do well?

I think I plot well. I think my longer works tend to move well and follow and arc that makes sense. That’s partly because that’s how I envision a story. First is what happens, second is what do the characters do about it, which leads to another what happens. I also generally have a feel for how the climax will work out, so I have that in mind.

What are your weaknesses? Where do you feel you could improve?

Oh gosh, everything else. And plotting. Seriously, I need to get better at all aspects of storytelling. Hill Country is a better story that what I had written before. Both because of good editorial work and my improvements as a writer. The book I am writing now, feels better as well. I think we always get better, and need to.

Describe for our readers the genre(s) you write in and why they appeal to you as a writer.

I describe myself as a thriller writer. Sometimes that’s noir. Sometimes crime. Sometimes horror. The uniting thread is that the stories are about characters who are forced into a situation that presents danger, and they must through their own actions find a way out. They won’t always succeed, and they’ll need help, but that is always the driving force behind a story I write.

This can be a subtle in short fiction, where at times I am just writing a scene or character. The short form allows that. But for the most part, that’s a constant in my writing.

What are you reading at the moment?

Far too many things. With reviews and story submissions, it can get a bit backed up.  I just finished The Dispatcher by Ryan David Jahn. Good stuff. I’m just starting Carpathia by Matt Forbeck. I’m also going through the stories in Julie Madeleine’s Stick a Needle in My Eye.

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