Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Q & A with Brian Drake
This time we interview Brian Drake, who has a cool new book out called Justified Sins. Check out his work at Smashwords!
Q: What makes Pierce different from other (unofficial) PIs?
Piece isn’t entirely for hire; he’s a vigilante who has a special arrangement with some higher-ups in law enforcement who help him out and look the other way when he blows things up. He works on his own, for the most part, but now and then a client comes along. He won’t always take money, but he may charge richer clients more so he can not charge poorer clients. We only see one client in Justified Sins, his foster sister, so a lot of the background I created for him doesn’t appear in the novel. There are two Piece short stories in my Reaper’s Dozen collection, and you can see more of him there.
Q: How did you come up with the character Pierce?
He didn’t start out with that name; the name he did have I wanted to use for another character, so I changed it to Pierce and I like it much better that way. He has some mystery to him now. All I really wanted was a hero not connected to the Man in any way, call it “literary rebellion”. I’m a huge believer in following one’s own destiny and not following the crowd (slaying the monster of conformity, if you will), and I didn’t think I could communicate those ideas with somebody who has to report to somebody else. And doing a cop or PI who violates the rules didn’t appeal to me because after Dirty Harry and Mike Hammer, there’s nowhere to go with that kind of story (not that many have tried—I mean, imitated). Based on what I wanted to say and what kind of character I thought could say it best, I came up with Pierce. I will happily admit that Don Pendleton’s Mack Bolan, aka The Executioner, was a major influence.
Q: What's next for you and Pierce?
I’m not sure. Other than the two short stories I have already mentioned, I really do not know. Some readers have asked for Justified Sins II, but quite honestly, I think I’m done with hard-boiled crime for the time being, and that means there won’t be a second Pierce book in the foreseeable future. I’m not going to say “never” the way Sean Connery did, but I will say that the books I’m planning now (I think there are three of them) have nothing to do with the hard-boiled genre, they’re adventure stories. I have a few crime stories in the pipeline, but they have a stronger emphasis on character rather than action.
Q: How do your promote your work?
Interviews like this! There is a very wide and welcoming community of indie writers and reviewers so tapping into the stream of communication has been terrific.
Q: What are your thoughts on ebooks as a reader AND a writer?
As a reader I will always prefer a solid book. As a writer, a real book provides a sense of accomplishment and legitimacy. I think what Amazon is doing, giving potentially good writers a chance to get their work exposed and find an audience, is wonderful, and there’s nothing wrong with it; however, for me, the goal is still a real publishing contract. If I can bring an audience to a publisher and show them the book has a built-in profit potential maybe that will help.
Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
I think they’re fine, sort of a take on how Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, two seemingly opposite people, partnered up for some crazy doings. I like Hawk a lot, and wish Parker had written a Hawk book. Joe Pike I’m less familiar with. Perhaps one day I will make his acquaintance. I really don’t read many contemporary crime writers.
Q: In the last century we've seen new waves of PI writers, first influenced by Hammett, then Chandler, Macdonald, Parker, later Lehane. Who do you think will influence the coming generation?
That’s a hard question to answer because, as I said above, I don’t read many contemporary writers, but I think after the classics, everything else is just updated for today, as authors attempt to tell the same stories within our modern context. Today we write about topics the old timers never dealt with; it’s a good way to document the times, though I like stories that are timeless.
Q: Bruce Desilva came up with the following question: How important is sense of place in your novel, and in the books you most enjoy reading?
Very important. Crucial, almost. I didn’t realize how important a sense of place was until I read a book David Morrell wrote on how he wrote, but now I’m a believer. I want to hear the noises, smell the food, feel the objects. There are ways to describe this without being too wordy but there are authors who don’t do this and their work feels very thin. Hemingway is a favorite of mine but would it have killed him to describe things a little more? I think little descriptions like that are very important and help bring a scene to life.
Q: What question should we ask every PI writer we interview and what is your answer?
How has your motivation for writing evolved over the years? At first I wanted to write because it was fun and I learned you can make a ton of money; now I write because it is fun and I have something to say that I think is worth saying, and I hope others agree. Money isn’t the first thought anymore. I have a good job that pays me well and I don’t need much to lead the life I want. This way, I’m not held hostage to somebody’s checkbook. I can write what I want. Did I mention I’m not a conformist?