Lisa Regan is the Amazon best-selling author of Finding Claire Fletcher, Hold Still, Cold-Blooded, Vanishing Girls, and soon-to-be-released The Girl With No Name. She has both self-published her work and been published by London-based Bookouture, now a division of Hachette Livre, and Amazon’s own Thomas & Mercer. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter. Watch out, because she knows Japanese karate.
TJB: So it seems like you’ve always wanted to be a writer. Your parents bought you a typewriter when you were eleven years old – was your family always supportive of your dream? Did they think of it as something which could be a nice hobby for you or could they see you doing it as a career?
LR: My family has always been wildly supportive of me and my writing dream. There were times when I thought a career in writing was out of reach but they always encouraged me to keep trying. When I turned fifteen, my stepdad was away on a job site and he drove all through the night to be home for my birthday so he could give me a complete set of books on writing from Writer’s Digest. I will never forget that. Later, when I was in college, I really put writing on the back burner. My dad asked me what I was doing with it and I said, “Dad, I have to work a real job and make actual money to live” and he simply said, “So you'll write in your spare time then.” My mom and stepmom, too, followed every step of the way, learning the nitty gritty of the industry so they could keep up with my ups and downs. All of my parents have consistently offered encouragement and continue to do so. They are some of my biggest marketing powerhouses because they are constantly spreading the word about my books. My stepdad and his wife (my other stepmom who is incredibly supportive) even have a skate and surf store in Astoria, Oregon where they stock my books! I am really lucky that they always took it so seriously and never doubted me for a moment. My extended family and all of my friends as well as my husband and daughter have also always been incredibly supportive. I don’t think there has been anyone in my personal life who didn't support this dream one-hundred percent and treat it as a foregone conclusion that one day I’d be a published author. I’ve got some pretty special people in my life.
Clearly you’ve done your share of querying literary agents – your Amazon bio says more than 150 agents passed on Finding Claire Fletcher! What’s your feeling there? I gave up on agents a while ago. Are they outmoded?
I’m not sure that they’re outmoded, I just think it depends on what you’re trying to accomplish as an author. Agents still act as gatekeepers to many of the larger publishing houses, so if you’re an aspiring author who isn’t going to be satisfied unless you’ve got a deal from a really big publishing house, then an agent is the way to go. Certainly, agents, especially experienced ones, have many contacts in the industry that can be helpful to budding authors. For me, I have been lucky enough to find two fabulous publishers who are author-centered and offer exactly what I want, and I didn’t need an agent to secure those deals. I used a literary attorney to review the proposed contracts and paid her for her time, and I felt confident going forward without an agent at that point. I’ve also had a great experience self-publishing a couple of my titles. For me, my goal is simple: I want my books to get into the hands of readers and I’ve been able to do that now without an agent for a few years. Again, I think it depends on what your intentions are career-wise.
Are all of your books in the same sub-genre?
I would say no. Hold Still was about a series of sexual assaults and Cold-Blooded was about a cold case murder of a teenage track star. Although yes I am drawn to abduction and serial killer stories.
So you’re comfortable in that overall crime-fiction genre. Do you think you’ll ever branch out? If it was guaranteed you’d get published and sell a million copies – is there any other genre you’d write in? Do you have a dream genre?
I have to say it's definitely the stuff I’m writing now. Maybe the only thing I’d like to do is spend more time delving into characters’ heads to show really deeply and intimately why people do the things they do and make the choices they make. But I really enjoy what I write. I just wish they’d sell a million copies!
I have no plans to branch out. I always talk with my ten-year-old daughter about writing a fantasy novel--possibly together--but it’s not something I have any hard or fast plans for. I love writing crime fiction. Right now I’m just working on the third book in the Josie Quinn series. I have several things started and outlined for afterward but I’m not sure which direction I’m headed after Josie. But there will be books. Many more books!
Do you outline your stories or are you a “panster,” finding things out as you go along?
I used to be a devout panster but found it was a massively inefficient way to write. I tried doing the outline thing with Cold-Blooded and it sucked all the joy out of writing. So now I’m a bit of a hybrid. I have an outline but it changes as I move through the story. When I don’t try so hard to stick with the outline, then I enjoy the writing. So it’s a vague road map. Kind of like saying to myself, “Okay, I’m going to drive from Philadelphia to Los Angeles and although I plan on taking Route A, I might make several detours along the way.” I have to be flexible--it satisfies my inner panster but makes writing more efficient.
How much do you write that doesn't wind up on the published page?
Usually my books are between 85,000 and 100,000 words. I would say that during the revision and editing process there are at least 10,000 to 20,000 words that get cut that never make it back into the book. Every time. With my first published novel, 40,000 words didn’t make it into the final published product.
Have you ever shelved a project or changed directions on something to make it more “commercial”? Or, have you ever wished you could pack a book with more of something you decided would be better left out?
I’ve had so many things taken out of my books by publishers for so many different reasons. The reasoning is always sound, in my mind. I've never come up against anything that I truly disagreed with. Even if I had, that’s the beauty of being able to self-publish these days is that if you have a project where you want to leave all that stuff in, you can do it on your own. So yes, I’ve changed directions, changed plots, changed characters, just about everything to make a work more commercial at a publisher’s direction. There are often things I wish I could leave in or leave as-is. There was a bit of a different ending to Vanishing Girls--well, not a different ending but I had wrapped up a certain element of the ending quite differently than it came out in the final book. I thought it was brilliant and loved it, and part of me would have loved to see it stay in, but I definitely understood that doing so would make the book far less commercial so ultimately I was fine with changing it. I think it was the right decision overall for the narrative and made it a better book.
Sometimes as authors, we fall in love with our own quirkiness, I think. For me, I am always willing to put that aside if I think doing so will make the book better. It would be great fun to take all the strange things that have been removed from all my books and smoosh them together into some kind of story and self-publish. But I doubt anyone would read it!
Can you describe one of your favorite moments in your writing career so far? A day or even a few minutes where you felt really, really good about writing?
My favorite moment will always be the first time I held Finding Claire Fletcher in my hands. There is nothing quite like that feeling of holding the actual, physical book in your hands with all of your words inside of it after so many years of struggle. When that book first came out, it was published by a small press that is now out of business. I knew they were sending me copies pre-publication, and I knew the approximate time the books would arrive but not exactly. Then one day while I was at work, my husband called me to tell me they had just been delivered. I still had a half day to work. It was the longest half work day ever. After an hour or two, my boss sort of realized that I was acting strangely and asked me if everything was okay, and I said yes, but my first novel is waiting at home and I can’t wait to see it! He let me leave early so I could go see it. It was just an incredible feeling. That one meant so much because it was six years between the time I started querying and the time I finally got to hold it.
Would you be willing to share one of your low moments? What happened and what was it like?
My lowest moments were really the ones that came before I was published because it was rejection after rejection, and I wasn’t sure if I would ever get anything published. I think the hardest one for me was waiting four years to get a rejection from an agent who really spent a lot of time helping me with Finding Claire Fletcher. I queried him in 2006. I actually sent my query to an agent who was no longer at his agency which was a huge faux pas, but he plucked my query out of the trash and emailed me. He loved the book. Over the next year or so he asked me to do many rounds of revisions which I did. Then he moved to a different agency and asked me to come with him as a “potential client,” which I did. Years passed. I did query other agents because exclusivity was never part of the agreement between us. Finally, four years later, he passed on the book. I was devastated. I think in part because he had invested a lot of time and energy into helping me make the book so much better, and he had opened his own agency and asked me to come along and after all that, it was a no. He was really lovely about all of it, and I don’t regret the work I did on the book because his suggestions were spot-on, but it was quite the blow to be rejected after all of that. That was really hard. That was one of those moments where I seriously considered throwing in the towel, not just on Finding Claire Fletcher, but on my entire writing dream. But my daughter was young and I kept looking at her thinking that one day everyone in my family would be telling her stories about how I used to write, and she would ask me, “Why did you give up?” and that was a conversation I never wanted to have with her, so I kept going. A few months later, I signed with a woman who would be my agent from 2010 through 2016 and she sold my first two books to a small press that did a really good job with them. Post-publication, the lowest moment was probably finding out that that small press was closing its doors and having to scramble to figure out what to do with my books. But it all worked out.
This might be the perfect place to end our chat but I have to ask – what are you reading right now, who are your favorite authors, and was there any book or author that made you want to write?
I just downloaded a copy of Jennifer Hillier’s Jar of Hearts from NetGalley. I actually pre-ordered the book awhile back but when I saw that it was available on NetGalley, I requested it. I love her work so much, and this one sounds so exciting, I simply couldn't wait. I’ve just started it and as always, Hillier is brilliant.
Karin Slaughter is my all-time favorite author and my favorite titles of her are Blindsighted and Pretty Girls. I also love Dennis Lehane's Kenzie/Gennaro series, Chelsea Cain’s Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell series, Angela Marsons’ Kim Stone Series, anything by Nancy S. Thompson, Michael Infinito, Dana Mason, Katie Mettner, Carrie Butler, Jennifer Hillier, Gregg Hurwitz, Greg Iles and John Hart. There are so many. I’m sure I’m forgetting several! I also have a friend who is one of the most brilliant writers I’ve ever read and his work isn’t published yet. (He’s on submissions). So look out for works by Jeff O’Handley. I can't wait for the rest of the world to read his stuff. Any one of these authors gets me excited about writing and makes me want to get to the page!
The Girl With No Name is set for release on April 19, 2018. Learn more about it or pre-order your copy by clicking HERE.
Finding Claire Fletcher, the book passed up by over 150 agents, went on to win Best Heroine and was runner-up for Best Novel in the 2013 eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook Awards. You can find that one HERE.
To see all of Lisa’s books, click HERE
A close friend and long-time writing collaborator Geoffrey Pierce has published Manna City, a riveting drama set in a post-apocalyptic future with a central character like no other: Nista is nine-months pregnant when she’s wrested from her home and must cross the hostile wastelands to reach Manna, the last city in a shattered world.
Geoff and I met at college many moons ago and have worked on a variety of writing projects over the years, with Manna City dominating our creative collaborations. First a screenplay called Books from Purgatory, then a graphic novel, Geoff finally took the project over to pen its novel form. And I couldn’t be happier with the result.
Manna City, in its novel incarnation, promises to be the first of many books set in the “Manna Universe.” That universe is inhabited by terrifically nightmarish creatures, outlaws, marginalized desert denizens and a technical elite purportedly living in the utopic world of Manna, a city surrounded by an immense and impenetrable wall.
Geoff’s novel has landed at the perfect time. While dramatizing a potentially dark future through Nista’s journey, the story highlights the issues of contemporary society without choosing sides. Good people can harbor dangerous secrets. Bad people can be redeemed. Love and companionship can be found in the darkest places.
Manna City is a compelling road-trip story through a fascinating and unsparing world. I hope you give it a look.
Bobbi caught a glimpse of the car, saw the blood splashed across the front seats, and felt the nausea rise up. It should have been her who was working last night, not Harriet. It should have been her.
So, it’s almost the end of 2017 and I realize I’ve published five books within the last trip around the sun.
DEAD GONE (Tom Lange #1) was published December 26, 2016. BLACK SOUL, the final book of the Titan series, was published February 3, 2017, followed by BURIED SECRETS on August 18, GONE MISSING on November 16, and TRUTH OR DEAD on December 14. So not all five in 2017, but technically within a year!
That’s a good point – so what. Is writing all about speed? Absolutely not. It just worked out that way.
Like most books, each of these was written well ahead of the publishing date. Dead Gone was written in early 2016, partly in Florida, where the story takes place. Buried Secrets and Gone Missing were written later that year, simultaneously.* (*Meaning finish a draft of one, leap frog to a draft of the other, and so on until completion.) Truth or Dead was written over the first half of 2017.
And Black Soul? Honestly I can’t remember. I’d had the idea for a while that the story of Brendan Healy and Jennifer Aiken didn’t end with Daybreak – in fact the end of Daybreak, while conclusive, does set them up for a follow-on story – and at some point, I wrote it.
I don’t expect the next 365 days will yield as many published novels. Chances are, in 2019 there will be another batch – but who knows. The extent to which I plan all this stuff out is the extent to which I’m not actually sitting down and writing. Everybody is different; I like to venture into the cloud of creativity with one eye squinty and the other eye shut. Then again, maybe 2018 is the year I come to do things differently? The future of my process is just as murky.
Can’t wait to find out.
As always, thanks to all of you amazing readers and supporters. I hope I’ve given some of you something of value with these books. You deserve it. And really none of it would have been possible without you, reader, and without my amazing editors – Abigail Fenton, Caroline Oakley, Jasper Joffe – and all the talented staff at Bookouture and Joffe Books. Happy Holidays to you all; Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and all the ways in which you may observe and celebrate this time of year.
By the way, my Christmas tree appears to have opened a portal to another dimension. Maybe that’s what the next book will be about. (Joking…… maybe….)
With love and best wishes,
Tim “T.J.” Brearton
Great News! After solving the murder of an unknown woman in DEAD GONE nearly killed him, Special Agent Tom Lange spent months rebuilding his life and is back on a brand new case…
On her drive to work, Heather Moss gets a phone call which will turn her life upside-down. If she doesn’t do what the caller wants, they will kill her two little girls.
An inmate dies in the county jail. He was a witness who could have brought down notorious criminal Mario Palumbo.
Tom thinks Palumbo was responsible for the inmate’s death. He desperately wants the evidence to point that direction, but it doesn’t all add up, and soon there are more victims.
Can Tom protect Heather and stop a killer? He faces a choice between the truth and getting the result he wants.
Set in tropical Florida, this second book in the Tom Lange series will keep you turning the pages till the tension-packed conclusion.
“Just wow! This book was amazing… had me on the edge of my seat… dark and suspenseful; you could feel the fear radiating off of the pages. I loved this book - if I could give it 6 stars I would.” – NetGalley Review
TRUTH or DEAD comes out on December 14th.
To request an advanced reading copy, click here.
If you haven’t already, sign up for the T.J. Brearton mailing list – it’s quick and easy and you’ll only receive emails when new books are published!
Okay, eleven questions, really, but ten is a better hook. And that’s the point of this interview – what, besides the hook, makes a book successful? And what’s it like to write in a popular subgenre? And how do you possibly crank out such highly-regarded and thrilling books as fast as Stephen Edger does? Let’s find out.
TJB: Stephen, thanks for doing this. How many books of yours have been published?
SE: I have been writing since September 2010 and in that time have written 16 books. I self-pubbed eleven of those, two were published by Endeavour Press and Bookouture have published two with the third due out early 2018.
TJB: Kapow! That’s a lot of writing! Your latest series has Kate Matthews hunting down serial killers – can you tell me what it’s like writing a female lead?
SE: For a long time I avoided writing a series with a female lead as I was worried I wouldn't be able to get her thought and mannerisms right. After all, what do I know about a female mind (it's a mystery LOL). But I was really keen to work with Bookouture who are one of the hottest publishers out there at the moment, and I knew they had a great track record with female-led detective series, so set out to write one. I had completed two books in the series when I submitted to them in an effort to show the series had legs, and it must have done the trick. I'm also lucky to have a female editor who gets first look at my books, and she's able to pick me up when male thoughts start to occupy my lead's mind LOL.
Brilliant. So, how do you structure your writing life? You and I both are married and have kids – how do you make it all work?
I'm pretty good at compartmentalizing my life. I have a full-time job and a young family as well as the writing career, so I'm often asked how I manage all three. I write before my wife and children wake up, during lunch and sometimes in the evenings once the children are in bed. Before they're awake, I'm a writer. When I start work, I'm a worker, and when the family are there, I'm a dad and husband. I'm also lucky enough to be a quick writer, in that I can usually write 1500 words in an hour. At that speed, a first draft only takes 60hrs.
That's an impressive pace. Is your speed facilitated by having an outline, or are you freewheeling it the whole way? To that end, how much of a reviser are you - are you submitting after two drafts or ten or somewhere in between?
I am definitely a planner. I need to know where the plot is going chapter-by-chapter. Think of it as building a jigsaw puzzle, where your first job is to hunt for all the corners, and then the flat edge pieces so you can build the border before fixing the rest of the picture. So, when I sit down to write in the morning, I know the key moments in the scene and where it needs to end. That allows me to get in and out of the chapter and move on. Although I have the chapter's structure in mind, I still have the creative freedom to engage the characters and I have had unexpected twists stem from these moments too, which then require me to alter future chapters.
What’s the thing you’re after for when you’re writing? Is it truth? The narcotic bliss of creation? Protest? Pure entertainment?
It's an escape. When I'm writing, I don't have to be me, I can be any character I choose, make any decision I like, with no fear of repercussions. I can forget all the stress and worries from my real life and spend a couple of hours somewhere else.
Where do you write from – an office, a dining room table, a coffee shop?
I write in an office / spare room in my house most of the time, I can close the door so my wife and children can't disturb me, put on some music and just get lost. I don't like the idea of writing in a café with everyone else's conversations and troubles distracting me.
Do you have a favorite book you’ve written?
Always a tough question as it's like someone asking you to pick your favourite child. I have favourite books for different reasons. I'm proud of my first book (Integration) because it showed me I had the stamina to do it. It's probably one of my worst books to be honest, as I didn't really know how to write and I have certainly improved my craft since then. My fourth book (Snatched) is a favourite as it's my most successful book with more than 200K downloads since publication. That said, again, my craft has improved since then. My favourite book to write was book-12 (Blackout), as I wrote it with no plan. I had the idea for the plot (man wakes in hospital with no memory of the last five years, and is arrested for murder) on a Friday night, started writing it on the Sunday, and was finished within six weeks. It was a thrilling story to write and packed with adventure and harrowing twists. It's a story I may return to at some point in the future, as I think there is more of the protagonist's story to tell.
I love that idea - Blackout. And fitting you didn’t have a plan for that one. I rarely have a plan (though that may be changing). Enough about me – let’s talk about the marketplace. Some reports have shown that the growth of eBooks recently leveled off, and there’s been a slight resurgence of print. What do you think the future holds?
I don't think it matters what format books are in, people will read on anything they can. I tend to read on a Kindle these days, but for some of the traditionally published books, it can be cheaper to buy the reduced paperback in the local supermarket, rather than on Kindle, so I mix how I read.
I’ve heard estimates that there’s an ungodly amount of books published each day – in the thousands. How do we stay afloat in this business? Is “indie” or digital publishing going to wind up with publishers getting even more selective, or will there just be more of them emerging to handle the surge?
There are new publishers sprouting up every day, though a lot of them are yet to have significant successes. I can't criticise the "indie" revolution, as that is how I got started, but I think platforms like Amazon need to take more responsibility for the large cut of the profits they take. At the moment all the editing, beta-reading and proofing is the writer's responsibility. The only role Amazon play is to warn the author to make sure the manuscript is perfect, which is a cop-out to me. Yes, it is the writer's responsibility to make a book as good as it can be, but suppliers like Amazon need to vet some of the quality to help eradicate formatting issues, spelling and grammar troubles, so that the end user (the honest reader) doesn't suffer as a result.
I’m with you. In fact for a time I was a bit obsessed about a writer who was always showing up in my “customers also bought” section, but with very low ratings and reviews that the writing was poor. The thing is, his covers looked really good, and he had the right taglines to hook readers. I definitely think the direct publishing model is exploitable. Readers do catch on, though! But whether it’s a cover or title that initially draws them in, or a catchy premise, an author/publisher brand, or a particular timing (or some combination thereof) – success is hard to predict. So… cut through the confusion for us – what do you think is the number one reason a book soars or sinks?
I don't think there is one thing that makes a difference. I think idea, cover, blurb, and timing all play a critical role in how well a book does. I know all readers like to pretend that they don't judge a book by its cover, but most do (including me). If a cover looks good, I'll read the blurb, if that entices me, I'll look at the review / rating to see what others thought, and if that's good, I'll purchase. But timing is key too. Who knew Fifty Shades would suddenly take off? Or the Harry Potter series? Those books found a hungry audience and soared. To be honest, if I knew what they key to success was, I wouldn't still be working full-time and praying my books make me enough money to quit the day job.
Too true. Hey, I have one last question: What are you reading right now?
I have just finished reading DEAD SIMPLE (Roy Grace book-1) by Peter James, which I really enjoyed, and next up is THE SECRET MOTHER by Shalini Boland, which I've heard great things about.
Stephen’s newest book, the second in his Kate Matthews series, DYING DAY, has just been released. To find out more about it and the rest of Stephen’s books, visit stephenedger.com
Gone Missing is my newest thriller and now available to request on NetGalley. Here's what readers are already saying:
"A fast-paced adventure"
"This book was playing along in my imagination as I read it"
"An excellent mystery"
To request an advanced copy on NetGalley, click HERE
To pre-order your copy for the introductory price of just 99 cents from Amazon US, click HERE
For all purchase options (and a summary of the book) click the image below! Thank you!
Taylor Adams is the author of the huge hit of the summer, the thrilling NO EXIT, which has racked up the five star reviews, dominated the Top 100 list for Amazon Kindle, and was recently optioned by 20th Century Fox to become a feature film.
Taylor, still in his twenties, also a filmmaker, shares a publisher with me - Joffe Books. Shortly after my debut novel HABIT was published by Joffe in 2014, Taylor came out with EYESHOT, a taut thriller about a couple stranded in the desert and pinned down by a ruthless sniper. EYESHOT became a hit in its own right, but NO EXIT has set new and incredible records.
Three years ago this month, Taylor and I decided to ask each other some questions. Taylor's exacting, perfectionist nature was apparent even then, a trait that no doubt helped him to craft a book as successful as NO EXIT has been. For the interview between Taylor and I from three years ago, click HERE. For our follow up interview two years ago, click HERE. To read about details of the book being optioned by 20th Century Fox, click HERE.
If you're not yet familiar with the premise of NO EXIT, a young woman becomes stranded at a rest stop during a blizzard and discovers a potentially abducted child, locked in a van. She wants to help the child, but also has to figure out who among the few strangers stranded with her is the abductor. Click HERE for the book.
What to do now?
READ A REVIEW:
ORDER YOUR COPY (e-book or paperback):
WRITE A REVIEW - if you read Buried Secrets, please consider sharing! Amazon reviews are a great way for people to learn what you thought and to learn about the book.
Thanks so much!!
BURIED SECRETS: A newlywed couple discover buried bones leading to murder and mayhem.
“Genius.” – Book Addict Shaun
“Masterfully crafted.” – Goodreads Review
NO WAY OUT (working title) (thriller): A woman must survive the Adirondack wilderness after escaping brutal kidnappers.
THE PROTECTOR (working title) (crime thriller): Tom Lange is back as a special agent for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and up against a ruthless killer.
FEBRUARY 18, 2018:
SUSPICION OF MURDER (working title) (crime thriller): A serial killer is targeting child protective service caseworkers and a young woman, Bobby Noelle, could be next.
‘A story which kept me thoroughly entertained from start to finish… Its hook is the naive innocence of Brett; the attempts of Russo to stay on the straight and narrow and still protect his wife and daughter; the conniving drive of Meg. To have captured all of these characters so well is a testimony to the writing of T.J. Brearton.’
>>READ THE FULL REVIEW AT NIGEL ADAMS BOOKWORM
What if your dream home became your worst nightmare?
Brett and Emily Larson have just moved into a new home, deep in the countryside in upstate New York, when they discover human bones in their garden.
As the police start to piece together the clues, three things become clear:
The bones are recent.
They are not here by accident.
They are a message.
When a mysterious coded note is found nearby, Brett and Emily start to suspect that the bones aren’t the only thing that’s hidden, and the danger may be greater than they thought.
As the investigation progresses, what secrets will be uncovered at the heart of the Larson house? Can Brett uncover the shocking truth – before it’s too late?
Fast-paced, compelling and full of twists, this heart-pounding thriller will keep you turning the pages until the very end.
AVAILABLE AUGUST 18, 2017 -- READY FOR PRE-ORDER NOW!
Took a trip to NYC this past weekend with the wife. First time we’ve been away from the children overnight since… I don’t even know.
We left home at six thirty in the morning, arrived in Manhattan just before noon via the George Washington Bridge, took the Henry Hudson / West Side Highway down to the Wall Street area. We stayed in the original Flatiron building on Pearl and Beaver streets.
We decided to keep our trip simple, not overdo it, so we headed up to SoHo and just walked around, checked out Washington Square Park, searched for a falafel bar where I used to eat, a bar where I used to drink, and a school I’d once attended. Couldn’t find the falafel place, learned that the bar had changed hands so long ago the bartender didn’t even know about it, and the school was no longer there. Just pieces of my life, like drinking itself, now gone.
The subways downtown are a mess, and at one point we were on what should have been the A train but somehow had become the F, on its way to Brooklyn. An odd couple of tourists were trying to get to the World Trade Center and asked me if they’d gone too far. Not too far, I told them, but the wrong direction. I decided to get off at 2nd Ave and take this weirdo train back to West 4th and try to get a different train, and the couple followed us off the subway. They had British accents; he was in his late seventies or eighties, wearing socks and sandals, she was a bit younger, with Asian heritage, and missing an arm.
At some point we realized there were no trains going on the other side of the platform so we had to cross to the other side of the tracks altogether and the couple, who’d been trailing us, mysteriously disappeared. But the wife and I jumped on a train, took it back two stops, got off again, found the 4 train, expected it to take us down to Fulton Street, but it dumped us several blocks earlier at the Brooklyn Bridge so we just got out and walked.
The downtown / Wall Street area is actually rejuvenating. There was a lot of flight post-9/11, but the region is rebranding itself as a residential district, and people are moving in, schools and parks are being built. My wife’s cousin, an entrepreneur working on software to spot Wall Street fraud and help prevent another 2008 crisis, took us on a tour, and we marveled at Frank Gehry’s architecture, strolled around the Seaport, and talked politics and finance.
We ate sushi, went to the movies (I fell asleep watching ‘The Lost City of Z’), and generally had a pleasant, relaxing time, save for the subway fiasco.
The cabs are all converted now, with hybrid engines, smaller and very quiet, drivers using GPS to get around. There are copious “Citibikes,” where you take a bike from a kiosk in one place, pedal it to wherever, leave it at another kiosk when you’re finished. It had been almost twenty years since I lived in the city, and I thought it was really coming along.
On the way back home we went through Westchester County and stopped at some of the old haunts – the apartment in Fleetwood where I lived with my dad for a few years, and the city where I was born, Bronxville, and we grabbed a couple slices of pizza in Yonkers.
Characters in my books are often from Westchester or NYC; Brendan Healy in the Titan series was from Hawthorne, and he returns there to investigate the death of a friend in the book ‘Survivors.’ In ‘Dead Gone,’ agent Tom Lange is originally from Yonkers, where we was raised in the foster care system with his brother, Nick, then they moved to Florida. And in my newest book, 'Buried Secrets,' which comes out this August, one of the characters, Jimmy Russo, is from Staten Island.
I love it all. Not sure if I’d ever want to live there again, but it was truly exhilarating to be back.
It was also nice to return to our little home in the mountains.
First let’s talk about your family. You’re married and have three children. What’s that like, being a writer with a full house?
I’ll tell you what having a family is like. It’s like you’re on acid. Or maybe if you’re a more natural sort of person, it’s like psilocybin. I’m serious. When that first baby comes out, that’s when you get dosed. The more kids you have, the stronger the dosage, the wilder the hallucinations, the faster it all goes. That baby comes out, and you’re off, and it starts to build, the trip starts to build up. And you keep thinking This Is It, but it’s not it, you’re not peaking yet. I think peaking happens somewhere right around where I am now – but I would think that, wouldn’t I? I have a twelve year-old, a five year-old and a two year-old. (Right now my two year-old is sobbing because we won’t let her lock herself in the closet.) So that’s a good spread of ages, and we’re really in it, this is the peak of the trip, the heart of it right here, with wild faces and colors and crazy people doing crazy things, all rushing by in a blur.
Now imagine trying to be a writer in the midst of that. That’s what it’s like.
Apologies for a sort of generic question, but what’s your process?
No, it’s okay. I’ll tell you my process: I submit my final draft to the publisher, thinking it’s genius. A few pleasurable weeks ensue. Then the edit notes come back, my brain convinces me that the last book I wrote was a piece of cake, and this one is way harder, and I’m getting worse instead of better as a writer. I work for a while, like a mad doctor on a desperate patient, but there’s too much blood, I can’t stop the bleeding so I snap off the gloves, walk away, and pretend the body is not there, lying on the gurney.
That’s where I’m right now with one of my books.
Yikes. I hope the patient pulls through. But how about before submitting? I mean the process of the work. Do you outline, do you take long walks, do you write two drafts or twenty?
I don’t remember.
You mean you don’t remember…? Don’t remember what? Do you mean each book is different? Or it all blurs together?
(Laughs) Yes, sorry. Yeah, they’re different, but they’re not different either. I’m different, but I’m not different either. I know that sounds moronic. I guess…I really mean it, like my brain resets after each book. Okay, I’ll go back to talking about children; maybe that will help. When you have one, you think you may know the ropes for the second one. But you forget a lot of stuff, and have to learn it over. The basics are there, each kid goes poop and that needs to be handled. But each child is different too. My wife spends a lot of time comparing and contrasting – how much hair did this one have at such an age compared to the other? And who weighed what or was how tall when? And we’ll talk about temperament, and disposition. Each one is different, but it’s in shades. Just like the books, they have different dispositions, they required certain things from me another didn’t.
Okay, I can see by your expression this is not a satisfying answer. (Laughs again) So how about this: I used to power through a rough draft really never stopping or looking back. Then I’d revise and it took however many revisions, I’d say five or seven on average. Now, I’ll stop while writing and change things as I go, so it’s getting harder to really say how many revisions there are. But I’m not always doing that, either. I guess it depends on plot. I’m starting to hate plot. I want to just write about people and have them do whatever and say whatever.
I’m only partly serious, here.
Well, we did so well with that generic question, here’s one more – where do you get your ideas?
I don’t. I really have no sense of what that is. I’m serious. I have no ideas. Over the years I’ve met plenty of people, I’m sure you have too, who’ll say “I have this great idea for a book” or “this great idea for a movie” and maybe they’ll tell you and, yeah, it’s a cool idea. Maybe it’s great. But I’ve never really had that. Well, I shouldn’t say never. I guess I’ve experienced something like that, but for me it’s not what happens. I’ll maybe picture a scene, or get a line of dialogue stuck in my head, or have a thought, an emotion about something, and that’s where I’ll start. Sometimes. Lately my wife has been offering ideas, and I’m more than happy to take those and run with them. In fact, I always dreamed I would have ideas come from somewhere outside me, because either I don’t trust or can’t decide whether my own ideas are any good. They’re just arbitrary. Coming from someone or somewhere else gives them meaning.
(Full disclosure: April Fool's! No one really ever interviews me, so I interviewed myself! But if you want me to interview YOU, drop me a line. I love asking questions and learning about people. For instance, here's my interview with Charlie Gallagher.)
I'm very excited to announce a three-book deal with leading publisher, Bookouture.
Bookouture is home to authors Angela Marsons, Kathryn Croft, K.L. Slater, Carol Wyer, Robert Brynzda, Louise Jensen, Tom Bale, and many more.
My first book with them is slated for an August 2017 release, with the second in November and the third in early 2018.
Here is the official press release on the publisher's website!
What readers are saying:
“Crying. This book is terrific. Going through the ins and outs of the case was engrossing. I'm crying because of Tom’s situation at the end. It takes a good book to pull you in so deeply. I am a new fan of T.J. Brearton.”
“This is the first book I have read by this author and I couldn't put it down. I loved the characters and the setting. I live in Florida so a lot of streets, cities etc were familiar to me. A really good read.”
“A well-researched mystery, good until the very end!”
Also by T.J. Brearton:
“Brearton is new to me but already on my top 10 recommended list. His characters are so incredibly flawed, so human you'll be angry at them but love them at the same time. The multiple twists and turns in the story are breathtaking. You won't want to put the book down! Excellent story by an excellent writer.”
“You just really didn't know what was going to happen next. Riveting, exciting and convoluted. The very BEST of a good read.”
“Fantastic author weaves a great story full of twists and turns and emotional characters.”
Habit (Titan Trilogy Book 1)
“This was a five star read in my opinion due to the story coming from a refreshing change. Just going to begin the second in the series and have a feeling nothing else will be getting done at my house.”
“This was a very good story with many twists and turns. It kept me thinking and studying the whole time. The actual murderer surprised me as well.”
“Fast-paced shoot-em-up with a flawed hero that I grew to love. And now I am moving on to the second book in the trilogy - Survivors! Worth the read!”
The Titan trilogy:
Rookie detective Brendan Healy is on his first murder case. A young woman in a remote farmhouse has called 911 on an intruder and is killed. Who did it?
Healy learns about the death of an old friend and comes out of hiding to privately investigate. His friend’s death was not accidental, but connected to dark forces in high places.
Healy hunts for Leah Heilshorn, the daughter of Rebecca, the murdered woman from HABIT. Meanwhile, Justice Department Agent Jennifer Aiken must navigate a complex underworld to find the truth behind the company called Titan and its real relationship to the country.