Monday, December 14, 2009

Author Interview ~ P A Brown

Today at The Menagerie we are pleased to have multi-published author P. A. Brown hanging out with us on the couch. Let’s all give her a warm Menagerie welcome.

Welcome to The Menagerie, make yourself comfy. Why don’t you tell us your latest news?

My most exciting news is that I recently won the Rainbow Award for Best Mystery Thriller for my book L.A. Heat! That same book came in second for Best Overall Book for 2009.

On the publishing front: My latest book, Memory of Darkness just came out from AmberQuill Press and is getting some nice reviews. Unlike most of my books, this one is told from the viewpoint of the guy on the other side of the law. Johnny Wager is an ex-con, burglar and reformed car thief (Well, mostly reformed) who uses his wit and his sexual charms to get him through life. Then he runs afoul of the Armenian Mafia and his wits are tested to the limit.

Also just released is The Bear, my first (and so far only) shapeshifter story. It's short piece released by AmberQuill Press. Coming soon from AmberQuill is Lynx Woods, another gay romance about an ecological engineer who meets a very closeted wildlife artist. Very hot.

And most recently released on November 30 from MLR Press is the third book in the L.A series, featuring LAPD homicide detective David Eric Laine and his lover Chris Bellamere. L.A. Boneyard is about David's search for human traffickers bringing in Ukrainian women and forcing them into prostitution. It’s due to be released in paperback next week.

I just submitted the fifth book in the series, Bermuda Heat to MLR Press. I'm hoping that will be out next year, following book four, L.A. Bytes, about a cyber attack on Los Angeles.

All my books, in print and upcoming, are listed on my website:

WOW, huge congrats on your award! How exciting! And way to go onyou’re your releases. I can only hope to one day be as prolific. When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Probably when my first book was published and I could hold it up and say 'I wrote this.' I have found there are always doubts, and always that nagging suspicion in the back of my mind that I'm not really a writer. But voice or no, it's in me and I couldn't quit if I wanted to. I have, finally, started telling people who ask what I do that I'm a writer. I figure having 5 novels in print and several short stories and novellas, I can use the term.

LOL, I’d say it’s safe to call yourself a writer at this point. :-D Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

That we should respect each other. I'm firmly convinced that if there was more respect in the world, we would have the divisive issues that plague us today. You can't hate someone you respect. You can disagree with them, but you do so in a reasonable fashion. People who attack groups for things like their sex, their sexual orientation, the color of their skin or their place of birth, have no respect for other people. A man who respects his partner, would never think of physically abusing that person. Parents who respect themselves and their children would never hit or abuse them. I think many of the problems in our world come down to a lack of respect. Maybe it sounds simplistic, but that's my opinion. And I try to reflect that in my books, sometimes my characters learn respect, other times they demand it of others.

It might be a simplistic view, but it makes sense to me. How much of your books is realistic?

I strive for a lot of realism in my books. I consciously set them in Los Angeles, both because I lived in the city and loved it, but also because it's a place rife with story ideas. Since I no longer live there, but still set my stories there, I now rely on friends who are there who help me out with local color and will correct errors in my manuscript.

I also write about the LAPD, and to that end have built up several contacts with current officers and retired ones. I do everything I can to make the actions of my police officers true and realistic. Sometimes a plot point will demand that the truth be stretched, but I do this as little as possible. I pride myself on getting the facts right. Right now I'm attending a citizen's police academy where I'm learning some first hand information on police and crimes. I also own a whole library of books on police procedures and things like gangs, which I often use in my stories.

Well, I believe that’s above and beyond the call… I love when authors take the time to make sure they’re as close to the facts as they can be when it comes to “real” life settings. If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Michael Connelly is my favorite writer. I don't copy him, but I do admire his style and find I write something like he does – sparse and clean, without a lot of description. I was told by a reader that I reminded her of James Elroy, which was very flattering.

You have to love those comments from readers. What book are you reading now?

Monkey Man by Steve Brewer, a funny PI novel. It's the first book by Brewer I've read and I really like it. I'm also reading Next by Michael Crichton. It's fascinating, and a little bit scary, like a lot of Crichton's book. I just finished Fair Game by Rochelle Majer Krich. I picked it up mostly because the protagonist is an LAPD cop, but it was a very good book and I'll look for more of her books.

They all sound fascinating. Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

Will Beall, a veteran LAPD officer who wrote L.A. Rex a tight, gritty book about a part of L.A few people ever see, or want to see – the gang ridden streets of South Central Los Angeles.

Again, sounds very interesting. What are your current projects?

I'm doing a final polish on a novel I call barrio boyz, about a young man trying to protect his family from the local gangs of Cypress Park in L.A. Not only does he have to deal with gang problems, but he also has to come to terms with his attraction to a gay LAPD cop.

I'm also at work on a sequel to Geography of Murder, which was released in July of this year from MLR Press.

Well, good luck with those. You’ll have to tell us how they turn out. Do you have any advice for other writers?

Ignore 90% of what other writers tell you. Especially the ones who say 'this is a rule'. There are no rules in writing. If it works, then it's good. The best thing writers can do for themselves is experiment. Try different things. This is where writing courses and books can come in very handy. They let you do this. I would also suggest you find a good critique group and learn not only to critique others, but to accept it and listen to it in regard to your own work.

LOL, I always think it’s funny when another author says that… Good advice, but funny. How long does it take you to write a book?

It varies a lot. It took me over 2 years to write L.A. Heat. I wrote Geography of Murder in 3 weeks. Some books just fly out of my head onto the page. Others I have to work a bit harder for. Right now I'm stalled on the sequel to Geography, but I know it will come. They always do, usually better for the forced break.

I can understand that. It depends on the story and how “easy” it is to write how quickly you get it out onto… paper. When did you write your first book and how old were you?

I wrote my first book at 17. It was an angst-ridden story about a young teenage girl who got messed up with a rock star who got her into sex and drugs and sent her spiraling down into the dark abyss of drug addiction. Pure melodrama, and pure drivel. All I can say is, it was a book and it was the first one I finished. Enough said.

LOL… we’re ALL about melodrama at that age, no matter what we say. What does your family think of your writing?

For the most part they support me. No one has any negative issues with the subject matter I write about. My daughter thinks I'm weird for what I write, but she doesn't have a problem with it. Then again, she works in a XXX video store and rents and sells the stuff I write about. Must be something genetic.

*snort* Must be. Gotta love when that happens, though. How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

Published or all together? I wrote around 7-8 books before I was published, mostly science fiction, with one romance in the bunch. Then I started writing mysteries and since then I have written 11 books, 1 novella and several short stories. My favorite? Has to be my latest, barrio boyz, but then my latest is always my favorite. Still, I do think it's the best thing I've written yet.

Wow… Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?

My biggest suggestion, aside from ignoring advice about rules, is to read voraciously. In my opinion if you read a lot you will absorb not only ideas, but techniques, and even the kind of rhythms other writers use. Don't be afraid to write a bad first draft – sometimes people get hung up on finding the best line or the perfect word and never reach the end. Too many books have perfect openings, because the author kept polishing it, at the expense of the novel as a whole. Finish it. You can fix it then. When you finish a book, write another one. When that's done, write some more. Then learn to edit. Critique groups can be good for this. They can teach you how to see flaws in your own work as well as seeing, again, how other writers do things. Sometimes you can learn as much from reading a bad book as reading a great one. Finally, experiment.

Good advice. As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

I wanted to be a naturalist. I loved the books of Ernest Thompson Seton and Farley Mowat and Gerald Durrell. I was crazy about animals and nature and thought that could be my life. But I was basically told by my teachers that those weren't 'jobs' and I couldn't pursue a passion for animals – apparently they had never heard of biology. I think it was the time – back in the 60 and early 70s – women weren't encouraged to go to university for science degrees. We were supposed to be teachers, or secretaries or nurses, none of which I wanted to be. So I dropped out of school and spent the next 40 years drifting from one job to another. All good fodder for my writing now, but it didn't make me a very stable person when I was growing up.

Well, good fodder is something we all need. And now for our “absolutely-nothing-to-do-with-writing” questions: What animal do you think makes the best pet and why?

Dogs make the best pets. They bond so closely with you that they are often closer than your own family. I've had the pleasure of owning 2 gorgeous and wonderful Dobermans. They are truly velcro dogs and want nothing more than to be by your side, no matter where that is. That kind of devotion and love will never come from another human being. Only dogs can give that to you.

As a dog person, myself, I have to agree… but don’t tell the other pets I have had. What were you doing at midnight last night?

Vegging out in front of the TV, jotting notes down for myself to work on the next day. I never go to bed before 1 or 2 am, even though most mornings I'm up by 6 am.

Ahh… a kindred non-sleeping spirit. It’s not unusual to drive by my house at 2 am and see the living room lights on. Have you ever cried during a movie? If yes, which one and why?

I cry at a lot of movies. I cried at the end of Brokeback Mountain. But then I also cried at the end of Titanic (and not because the boat sank – that was cool) I tear up easily at the end of movies. I watched And The Band Played On again recently and I was bawling at the end. I haven't seen Milk yet, but I expect I'll be going through some Kleenexes when I do.

LOL, nothing wrong with the waterworks. It lets you know you’re still human. What is your favorite pizza?

Thin crust, mushroom with extra sauce and lots of cheese. Sometimes I'll toss in green pepper and bacon, but I like my pizzas fairly plain. I flat out refuse to put chicken or spinach or octopus or any of the weird things they put on these days. Oh, and forget pineapple AND anchovies.

Okay, so we won’t be sharing a pizza anytime soon… To each their own, I just really don’t like mushrooms. My hubby would eat it with you. LOL Do you like thunderstorms?

I love thunderstorms. I will pull the curtains open on our patio doors and watch it come in and blow over. The sheer power of the lightning always awes me and the thunder is mind blowing. I lived through a hurricane in Bermuda and it was awe inspiring too. Blizzards will do similar things to me – as long as I can watch them from the safety of my own home, and not from inside a car!

Oh, me too… except… I really don’t like snow. Must be why I live in Las Vegas… it only snows here every fifteen years. Thunderstorms, though, I love ‘em, even when the dog is trying to crawl under my covers. And if you’ve ever had a large shepherd mix try to muscle his way into your bed… you know my pain. Do you sleep with the light on? Why or why not?

Off. I like it dark. In fact, I sleep with a pillow over my head to block out light. I can sleep during the day if I'm tired. The one thing I can't do is sleep on anything that moves. Long plane trips leave me a basket case. When I went to L.A when I was 22, I took a Greyhound bus and it was basically non-stop. I don't think I did more than doze during the 3 day trip. I was not a pretty picture when I arrived in L.A at 11:00 pm

Can you taste the difference between Pepsi and Coke? If so, which do you prefer?

I can't stand either. The only sodas I like are root beer, cream soda and Fresca.

LOL, at least you know what you like. Thank you so much for hanging out with us today. It was great getting to know you. Be sure to keep us updated on all your new happenings, and good luck with your current projects.

If you’d like to keep up with P A Brown online you can do so at her website and on her blog. She’s also on Facebook and you can follow her on Twitter.

L.A. Boneyard by PA Brown

From a shallow grave in Griffith Park, to the bucolic streets of West Hollywood into the dark heart of the gang-infested streets of East L.A, evil is pursued in this dark story of passion and redemption.

Detective David Eric Laine is no stranger to violence and brutality, but even he is taken aback at the sheer viciousness of the murder of two pregnant Ukrainian women. This is just the beginning of a baffling case which leads from their shallow grave to a bungalow community in West Hollywood, tree-lined and tranquil, on to the heart of the gang-infested streets of East Los Angeles, and points in between.

And what of Jairo Hernandez, David's new, young partner? The attraction between them was immediate and intense and growing by the day. Would this be a threat to David's settled life?

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