Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Becoming a writer was the last thing I thought I would ever do, but I was an avid reader. One day I read an horrendous newspaper article about a child that was born with a brain impairment and the father refused to take him home from the hospital. I immediately wondered, Who was this man? What happened to the child? Where was the mother?
I began answering my questions with notes. The notes turned into paragraphs and the paragraphs into chapters. In 1994 my first book, The Nurse Wore Black, was born.
I tried to find an agent and publisher to no avail. Then a friend told me about a micro publisher that publishes books about nurses. Since the victim in my murder mystery was a nurse I dropped in cold. Two weeks later they agreed to publish my book. I was hooked.
Are you a plotter or a punster? Do you have a specific writing style?
I am a rather haphazard writer. First I devise a plot. Second I come up with an ending. I have to have something to write toward.
With the plot and the ending figured out I create my protagonist, antagonist and the protagonist’s girlfriend. Every hero needs a girlfriend.
Then I write an exciting opening chapter putting the protagonist in jeopardy immediately.
I do not outline the whole book. I only make quick notes for a couple of chapters at a time. This happens, that happens and what conflicts my character will face in those chapters. One chapter leads to the next and also leads to minor characters.
As to minor characters, this is where my haphazard writing comes in. I don’t know who the minor characters will be until I come to the part in the book where I need one. However I do not want them to come out of the blue. I go back and introduce the minor character innocuously in a conversation between two other characters. Then when he is fully on scene the reader will know a little about him or her.
I do not write directly to the ending. I try to take the reader on a journey like a gyrating stock market. There are many ups, downs and setbacks.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? What are the most important elements in good writing?
Creating characters and scenes: To me characters and scenes are two parts of the same thought process. The first thing I think about when creating characters and scenes is conflict. Characters in conflict and how they resolve their conflicts keep the readers turning the pages. So when creating a scene I ask what will be the conflict of the scene’s feature character.
For example, this is what one reviewer said about my latest book Love’s Sweet Sorrow: “I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to see if they were able to resolve their differences or if they would split up.”
Conversely, this is what can happen if your characters are not conflicted: My wife was having a weekly Mah Jongg game at our house. I overheard the ladies talking about a book. One said the characters bored me so I stopped reading after 100 pages.
The more conflicts a character has and how the character gets out of those conflicts, the more depth the character will have.
Conflicts can be anything from mild all the way up to knock-down drag-out fights. They can be scolding, bickering, differences of opinion, veiled threats, hurt feelings, sarcasm, warnings, silently questioning a person’s veracity, loyalty, truthfulness, and inner torment. Conversations can start congenially and end up in confrontations. Once you expand your plot your imagination will automatically create conflicts.
Do you see writing as a career?
Not if you mean career by making money. However that is not the only criteria for becoming a successful writer. To me success is getting excellent reviews from readers. My novel, “The Nano Experiment,” has received 71 reviews on Amazon with a 4+ rating.
“Silk Legacy” was praised by experts of the historical era it takes place and recommended to students studying the era of the tumultuous silk industry in the early 20th century.
Besides money what more can an author ask for than giving readers a good story.
What can you tell us about your upcoming novel Love’s Sweet Sorrow?
Book Jacket: It is said opposites attract. There can’t be two people more opposite than Ariel and Jason. Ariel is a traditional Quaker with an absolute aversion to war. Jason is the lead council for America’s largest weapons manufacturer.
Their budding romance is thrown into turmoil when Jason uncovers evidence linking his employer to international arms deals that could devastate America. His determination to stop the treason puts Ariel in the middle of dangerous territory.
As the chases to retrieve the evidence intensify Ariel is forced to kill to save Jason’s life. She withdraws into a battle raging inside her, unable to reconcile whom she has been to whom she has become. Delving deeply into hers and Jason’s long-held opposing convictions she questions whether they are truly meant to be together.
What attracted you to the suspense genre?
I found with the suspense genre I can write a more thrilling story with more chases, harrowing escapes and killings than I could put in a mystery. Not that all those things can’t be in a mystery, but for me I was able to include more of them in my suspense novels.
What were the challenges in bringing Love’s Sweet Sorrow to life? Do you ever experience writer’s block? How do you get through it?
Finding a love interest for my protagonist. All my novels have a strong female to challenge my protagonist. In Love’s Sweet Sorrow I was having trouble finding that female character. Until I did I couldn’t continue writing.
I put the book aside and went to explore one of my favorite past times, local history. Shrewsbury, NJ, a town twenty minutes north of mine, was having an Octoberfest. Shrewsbury was founded in the 1660s and one section of the town is on the National Historical Register.
In the historical district is a Society of Friends meeting (commonly known as Quakers) also founded in the 1660s. The Quakers were giving tours of their building and passing out brochures on their religion.
That’s when it hit me to use a Quaker woman who is a pacifist as a counter to my protagonist who works in the weapons business.
That thought was the easy part. Researching the Society of Friends was difficult because I had to make sure I presented my female character and her ideals correctly.
One reviewer said: “I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to see if they were able to resolve their differences or if they would split up. An enjoyable read from beginning to end.”
Did you learn anything from writing your book? How much of Love’s Sweet Sorrow is realistic?
I learned two things. I found the Quaker religion quite interesting. Also I learned about the native American Ghost Dance which I have portrayed in a section of the book. Those two things are realistic. The rest of the book is fictional.
What does your desk look like? Messy, notes everywhere.
How do you come up with your titles? I try to make the title explain the novel. As you can see by the book jacket the relationship between Jason and Ariel could end “sorrowfully” for both of them.
How do you react to a bad review? I don’t. You can’t please everyone. It’s best not to interact with reviewers.
Why do you think what you do matters? It doesn’t.
Name one entity that you feel supported you outside your family members. My writing group.
You are a published author! What made you succeed where others failed? What advice do you have for someone who is just starting out?
Perseverance and practice, practice, practice. I didn’t give up. Writing like everything else comes from doing. If you are thinking of becoming a writer you can read books about writing, but I think the best thing you can do is read books by major authors. Once you have decided you want to write, while you read you will analyze how the authors create characters, scenes and conflicts.
Find a critique group that will give you honest feedback on character development, dialogue, voice, plot, conflict and setting. But don’t automatically take anyone’s critique as gospel. Remember, it’s your story. Analyze the critiques to see if they have merit. Say you have a six person group. If one person criticizes something then it may or may not be valid. But if three or four in the group say the same thing about a segment then you should take it under serious consideration.
Have a lawyer go over your contract. If you or he finds something you don’t like try to get it changed. If the publisher or agent will not change that section, then you have two choices, sign or pass.
Hire an editor, or the very least, a proof reader. It is difficult for the author to proof read his own book. He knows it too well and will begin skimming.
A couple of the more popular links to Love’s Sweet Sorrow:
B & N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1119960392?ean=2940149824779
Also can be ordered from any bookstore by title or ISBN: 978-0-9890632-7-2
Trade Paperback: $11.99
What readers have said about Love’s Sweet Sorrow:
“Exciting thriller and love story extraordinaire!” Mortimer
“Excellent writing, impeccable plotting, and nicely developed characters” Shoshana Hathaway
“Your writing is very strong, and you have developed a gripping story.” The Writer’s Edge
“The characters and the plot were both extremely well-crafted.” S. Lynn
Read the full reviews at Richard’s website: www.silklegacy.com or the Amazon page for this book.
Richard Brawer writes mystery, suspense and historical fiction novels. When not writing, he spends his time sailing and exploring local history. He has two married daughters and lives in New Jersey with his wife.