Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A Conversation with Crime Novelist G. J. Brown

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with G. J. Brown

We are delighted to welcome author G. J. Brown to Omnimystery News today.

G. J.'s debut crime novel, recently published for the first time in the U.S., is Falling (Down & Out Books; March 2016 trade paperback and ebook formats) and we recently had the opportunity to spend some time with him talking about it.

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Omnimystery News: Tell us a little more about Falling.

G. J. Brown
Photo provided courtesy of
G. J. Brown

G. J. Brown: Falling was my first published novel, and with Down & Out bringing it out in the U.S. I had to re read it. I also took the opportunity to edit the book. In doing so I reacquainted myself with Charlie Wiggs, a forty something accountant with a life that would bore a monk. He's the most unlikely of protagonists. That, in itself is not surprising, as he was never intended to be the lead character. Driven by the way I write, I had no characters in mind. I simply wrote the words "Falling was the last thing I wanted to do" and, some seventy odd thousand words later, stopped. The book is written in the first person from six characters' point of view. Charlie was simply one of them. Unfortunately, for him, he became the brunt of the abuse and action. His role was to be the catalyst for the plot of the book. By piling on the pain, Charlie helped me drive out a story that combines humour with action, suspense with surprise and place with character.

As an accountant, Charlie is the perfect patsy turned "hero" — as he comes from a place so far removed from the criminals' world, that he goes through a learning curve of extraordinary proportions. This is where the appeal lies for me. I love the idea of taking characters and placing them in alien situations. It allows for so much discovery along the way. Charlie, along with all the characters in the book, have a faint hint of regret tailing them. A life that could have been better lived. One of lost opportunity. It is this that provides the backdrop upon which they can all launch into somewhere new, and scary. If Charlie had been a Jack Reacher or a well worn detective the story would have stalled. As it is Charlie's naivety brings real revelation to the narrative.

OMN: You've written both stand-alone novels and series books. When starting a new project, how do you decide which it will be?

GJB: To date the two stand-alones are Falling and 59 Minutes, the series is centered around an ex (allbeit very brief ex) US soldier called Craig McIntyre.

In both cases I have a single minded approach to my writing. Start typing — and see where it goes. I do have an outline idea of the plot in my head at the outset, but at a very skeletal level. I have no idea where I will finish. In the case of Falling I only figured out the end with ten pages to go.

Given that Craig is a U.S. citizen with a dark and grave secret, his stories tend to center around Craig on the run. The stand-alones are, so far, set in Glasgow with Scottish based characters. The plots tend to be driven by the characters. I'm a fan of characterization leading the way. I believe that if the reader has some empathy with the protagonists that there is far more enjoyment to be had on their part.

OMN: Into which genre would you place Falling?

GJB: Falling is a crime book. Written from the criminal's point of view, the book is an examination of what happens when the innocent fall into a bad world. I find categorization, increasingly, irrelevant. As one of the founding committee members for the Scottish Crime Writing Festival — Bloody Scotland, the committee frequently debates what is and isn't crime fiction. When pulling the panels together we are often looking to place authors together that have a logical connection. We no longer use any of the well worn terminology. We now look at the issues that lie beneath the books. Trying to identify whether the subject matter, the plot or the sub plots have some form of connection. Are we looking at revenge, dark web, child abduction, kidnap, serial killers — and the list goes on. The attendees at the festival react well to this sort of classification.

I can see the benefit to readers of "traditional" classification where readers have a preference for a particular genre; allowing them to seek out similar authors. But I find it limiting. We seem to want a taxonomy that doesn't exist in many other areas of fiction. By doing so I believe that many brilliant works are tarred with a brush that restricts both their readership and appreciation. It may go a little way to explain why books in the crime fiction world rarely pick up any of the "serious" awards.

OMN: Tell us something about your books that isn't mentioned in the publishers' synopses.

GJB: The locations in the book are all places I've either lived, worked or visited. This ranges from the house that I first lived in, through my grandmothers' home — even down to the roof of a building I used to work in. All my books are written with this in the background. 59 Minutes was set near where my aunt lived and a vacation resort in Majorca, Spain where I had just been to with my wife and children. All of Craig's adventures are in towns and cities in the U.S. that I've visited. Although, sometimes I'm guilty of filling in the odd gap with Google Maps or, more likely, from the map in my head called imagination.

OMN: Where do you most often find yourself writing?

GJB: My standard answer to this is "Planes, trains and automobiles". I have no special writing room or desk. No secret café or bar. I write where and when I can. In the main my books have been written while in the air. So much so that I'm thinking of dedicating my next book to United Airlines. To write all I need is my Mac and a set of headphones. Plug me into music (I love Trance Dance) and I'm away. Even if I manage just fifty words, it's fifty words closer to the end of the book.

I've written in every conceivable place — a non-exhaustive list would include … the beach, the pub, the train, the plane, the bus, the hotel room, the hotel lobby, on a mountain, in the car (not while I'm driving), in bed, the local library, offices, park benches, the kitchen, the bathroom, ferries, cruise ships, motorway service stations, museums, the subway, music festivals, dentist waiting rooms, hospitals, the tax office, the garden, forests — the only place I don't write is … (he pauses). Do you know I'm not sure there is anywhere that I've not written.

OMN: How do you go about researching the plot points of your stories?

GJB: OK, so I'm a massive believer in the power of imagination. I understand the need for some authors to adhere to reality as close as possible. Police procedurals can require a sizeable amount of study. I tend to avoid this. It feels limiting to me. I will use landscapes that I know to write on. From there I'll occasionally check in with the lord Google when I feel the need. I also tend to "steal" from those around me. I hear a snippet of a conversation, meet someone with an interesting job or read about a new fad, discovery or amazing fact — then bury that in my head to be extracted at some point during the writing process.

OMN: What are some of your outside interests?

GJB: I'm a DJ on local radio. A friend of mine, Scott, and I have been talking nonsense and playing the world's most chilled music for five years. We broadcast from a High School — the studio is the janitor's old house. It's a community radio station called Pulse 98.4, set up to help young people to learn and develop. The station's remit is diversity. Our show is called "Laid Back with Gordon and Scott" and, in five years, every track we have played has come from our own music collection. One week I choose the music, the next it's Scott's turn. Sometimes we are let loose on the drive time show — which is just manic — and massive fun.

This has a decided impact on my books. I lace music tracks into my stories and, more importantly, write with music on. My wife will tell you that without music I'd be the most miserable person on the face of this planet.

OMN: Have any specific authors influenced how and what you write today?

GJB: When I was young I was a fan of Franklin W. Dixon (the pseudonym for a range of authors) and The Hardy Boys series. Then one day, being a lazy teenager — lying in one morning, my grandmother offered to go to the library to get me some books. She returned saying that there were no Hardy Boys books to be had, but she had been recommended The Fog by James Herbert. For those unfamiliar with Mr Herbert's work — think horror. What an eye opener that was — sex, murder, mutilation — it was all very new, and interesting to an impressionable young lad. This led, in an evitable way, to Stephen King — my literary hero. His book On Writing informed how I now write. I'm also a bit of a mainstream author addict — James Patterson, Clive Cussler, Andy McNabb, Lee Child — maybe, subconsciously, I seek their level of success.

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G. J. Brown lives in Scotland but splits his time between the UK, the U.S.A. and Spain. He's married with two children. Gordon once quit his job in London to fly across the Atlantic to be with his future wife. He has also delivered pizzas in Toronto, sold non-alcoholic beer in the Middle East, launched a creativity training business called Brain Juice and floated a high tech company on the London Stock Exchange. He almost had a toy launched by a major toy company, has an MBA, loves music, is a DJ on local radio, compered the main stage at a two-day music festival and was once booed by 49,000 people while on the pitch at a major football Cup Final. Gordon has been writing since his teens and helped found Bloody Scotland — Scotland's International Crime Writing Festival.

For more information about the author, please visit his website at GordonJBrown.com and his author page on Goodreads, or find him on Twitter.

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Falling by G. J. Brown

Falling by G. J. Brown

A Crime Novel

Publisher: Down & Out Books

Amazon.com Print/Kindle Format(s)BN.com Print/Nook Format(s)Kobo eBook Format

Charlie Wiggs is a quiet, unassuming accountant who has worked in a Glasgow firm for thirty years.

When he agreed to look after a package for a work colleague, he didn't expect to be flung from the roof of a forty-story building. He didn't intend to be caught up in a world of money laundering and blackmail. Nor did he ever think he would find himself being hunted by a vicious criminal gang.

Forced to flee for his life Charlie is reluctantly joined by George, a maintenance man, and Tina, George's girlfriend.

The trio find themselves falling into a world they are ill-equipped to deal with. A world populated by criminals and death. A world that gives them three choices: run, die or fight back …

Falling by G. J. Brown. Click here to take a Look Inside the book.

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