Monday, October 17, 2011
Steve Brewer's In The House!
I posted a couple weeks ago HERE about how I discovered today's guest, mystery/crime/ heist writer Steve Brewer. Man, can this guy write AND tell a story. So, I was more than stoked when he agreed to do a Q&A. I have read his three latest novels LOST VEGAS, THE BIG WINK, and CALABAMA since then, and loved everyone of them. On Steve's blog, it says he "writes books about crooks" and he does it so well.
I am both pleased and honored to present you with the below Q&A with Steve.
How long does it typically take you to finish a novel?
SB: Usually around nine months. Takes about three months to write the first draft, and another three months to do the many, many rewrites. I take lots of "cooling off periods" during the rewrites, which is why it usually stretches to nine months.
In your latest novel, LOST VEGAS, of the three central characters, Nick, Tony, and Big Jim Kelton, which one did you come up with first?
SB: I initially thought Nick and Tony were future characters in two different books when I first came up with them years ago. The opening sequence, with the movie theater robbery, was going to be part of a book featuring Tony's crew. Then I started playing around Nick, this former button man who needs to hire some robbers, and it clicked together. Big Jim came later, as I started the first draft.
Big Jim Kelton is a tremendous antagonist. The sections with him in it had me cracking up the most. I’m not taking about smirks and smiles, but full blown laughter. Where did your inspiration for him come from?
SB: Glad you enjoyed Big Jim. I've met a lot of men like him over the years -- local backslappers and gladhanders who'll cut you off at the knees, given half the chance. Big Jim's also got a sadistic streak, which he exercises through his giant Samoan bodyguard, Shamu. They're a scary couple of dudes, in my mind, but good for a lot of laughs, too. I still crack up every time I read that passage where Shamu's on fire and Big Jim is casually putting him out....
THE BIG WINK is centered around the medical marijuana industry. It is a very hot and controversial topic in California, especially lately. How much research did you have to do?
SB: Quite a lot. At the time, we were living in Redding, where THE BIG WINK is mostly set, next to the Emerald Triangle, the most famous marijuana-growing area in the U.S. Dispensaries were springing up all over town, and I talked to some of the local owners and growers and patients while I was researching the industry. I also followed the media coverage, good and bad, for years. I think THE BIG WINK is a succinct snapshot of a place and time, as the Green Rush swamped Northern California a few years ago. But it could all change if the feds follow through on their recently announced crackdown.
After a ten year hiatus, you are getting into teaching again next spring at the University of New Mexico. The class is called “Hard-boiled Fiction and Film Noir" Almost all the followers of this blog and the ones I frequent, are huge fans of these genres. What are you going to be covering with your class?
SB: I'm really looking forward to getting back into the classroom. I teach in UNM Honors, which is like a small liberal arts college within the larger university. Small classes full of really bright students. I taught there for three or four years before we moved to California in 2003, and they always said they'd love to have me back. I offered this class there before, and it was a lot of fun. The main texts are "Hard-Boiled," an Oxford Press anthology edited by Pronzini/Adrian, and Eddie Muller's "Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir." Students also watch a sampling of noir classics such as "Double Indemnity" and "Out of the Past." It's a fun class.
You also offer manuscript editing and polishing services. What are some of the common things you find that need editing and polishing when reviewing a manuscript?
SB: Point-of-view wobbles, overblown description, too many words devoted to the wrong things (the weather, driving directions, reams of backstory), clunky dialogue, poor sentence structure. Too many writers, especially new ones, believe they can just spew word salad everywhere and the rest of us will understand what they mean. If your story isn't clear and easy to read, it doesn't matter how wonderful the ending is. The reader will never get there. For more info about my editing services, your readers can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You novels have some great covers. Do you create them yourself, or does someone create them for you?
SB: I've had mixed luck with cover art over the past 17 years, depending on the publisher and book, but the ones you're referring to are my latest novels, which are published as e-books. Those covers are done by my wife, Kelly Brewer. Kelly is a former newspaper editor who's my first reader as well. The covers she's created recently for LOST VEGAS, THE BIG WINK and CALABAMA have been top-notch.
Heists are by far my favorite genre, especially when they focus on the bad guys, not the cops. I also like a few laughs, along with the suspense, tension, and action. Can you recommend any authors who write these types of stories that I and readers of this blog might not know about, but should take a look at?
SB: Surely, you've read all the Dortmunder novels by Donald E. Westlake. Those are the best. Hell, just go watch "The Asphalt Jungle" over and over. That's all you need.
What are you working on now?
SB: I just started writing a new Bubba Mabry novel (working title PARTY DOLL) in which the Albuquerque private eye is hired to find a missing stripper named Joy Forever. Typical screwy Bubba story. Assuming I finish it, this will be the ninth tale in the Bubba series. One of the great things about e-books is that I can write about a character like Bubba, who has bounced around a lot of publishing houses, and I can be certain someone will publish it. ;-)
I have been trying to spread the good word about you, because that’s the kind of guy I am. If I discover something good, whether it’s a new band, a tune, novel, or a writer, I’m going to tell anyone who I think may have similar tastes. Social media is a great tool for this. How do these types of applications help you as both a writer, and with promoting your various endeavors?
SB: Again, thanks to my wife, I'm very active on Facebook and Twitter. I'm typically a technology foot-dragger, but she'll get me all set up with an account and show me the basics and, next thing you know, I'm a Facebook junkie. But I've always been an enthusiastic promoter of others' work. I used to review mysteries in magazines and newspapers, until I got to know so many mystery writers, I couldn't be objective anymore. I've been a member of DorothyL for more than a decade, talking up books, and I get hard-boiled reading suggestions from rara-avis. I'm fairly new to Twitter, but I'm trying to do that retweet thing whenever I see mentions of books/authors I enjoy.
I love music, have since I can remember. How about you? What’s playing in the car, or the Casa de Brewer?
SB: I'm a big blues fan, my wife less so. When we recently moved back to New Mexico from California, we were in separate vehicles for two days, and I listened to Chicago blues the whole time -- Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Jimmy Reed, Etta James, Junior Wells. Just the thing to keep me blasting across the Mojave desert. I also listen to lots of jazz, and the bluesier side of rock: Stones, Allmans, Clapton, JJ Cale. Not many people notice, but all the titles in the Bubba series come from old songs: LONELY STREET, BABY FACE, WITCHY WOMAN, SHAKY GROUND, DIRTY POOL, etc. The exception is the novella SANITY CLAUSE, which is a Christmas story.
Your first published novel Lonely Street, featuring what you have called your franchise player, bumbling Albuquerque private eye Bubba Mabry, was made into film starring Jay Mohr, Joe Mantegna, and Robert Patrick. Can you tell us a little bit about that experience?
SB: It was a lot of fun and a nice payday, though the movie went straight to DVD after a few film festival screenings. I spent two days on the set back when they were shooting in late 2006, and that was a blast. Then we got to attend a premiere at the Newport Beach Film Festival in '09. I formed a tight friendship with Peter Ettinger, who wrote the screenplay and directed the movie, and he and I still bounce around screenplay ideas together.
Where can readers and fans find you online?
SB: www.stevebrewer.us.com takes you to my Amazon page, where there's a bio, my books and my Twitter feed. www.stevebrewer.blogspot.com
is my blog, Home Front, which includes a lot of humor, personal/book news and the weekly humor columns I wrote for newspapers for a decade.
I'm also widely available on Facebook, where I post my silly "Rules for Successful Living" everyday, and on Twitter as @BrewerRules.
Where can we find your novels?
SB: Most of my 20-plus books are still available in paper form through your favorite bookstore, and they're all available as e-books via Kindle, Smashwords and other e-book stores. Thanks so much for asking!