The Dark Mind of R Thomas Brown

Art and entertainment made the world smaller long before on-line communities showed up on the scene. While books, music, and art sparked conversation, one rarely had the opportunity to actually converse with the creator. Lucky for us, that’s not the case anymore. R. Thomas Brown is one of those artists you read and you either want to have a beer with or run away from him.

I mean, what kind of twisted guy comes up with stories like he does? He dropped by to share his inspiration for his novel, Hill Country (including tunage).

Why would you write that?

It’s a question I get pretty often when friends and family read Hill Country. And it’s a fascinating question. Well, what they’re really asking is “What else is that sick mind of yours thinking about?”

That’s not very interesting. The answer is “even worse things.” But, the original question is worth thinking about. Why did I write it? Not why did I write something, but why this book? These people? This plot?

Well, the idea for the plot came first. It was the Maltese Falcon. Really. People searching for something valuable. They have no idea where it is, but they think they know who might know. When they do find it, it doesn’t have the value they thought it did. That’s the tiny kernel of an idea that spawned the story (oh, and, yes, the reference to the film in the book was intentional).

Then came the place. I’m a suburban guy. Have been most of my life. Right now I am surrounded by big box stores, chain restaurants and similar looking homes. Not as similar as my last house, but still. And, I like. It’s comfortable for me and the family. It also drives me nuts.  There’s an oppressive sameness about it all. So, I went far away. To a small town that my cousins lived in for a few years. I built a little town that had the character that is lacking in so much of urban sprawl.

Now, the people, they’re all around me. Not the killers. No, that’s just imagination at work. But all the people that populate the town. They’re all around me. Always have been. See, I’m not just a suburban guy, I’m a suburban Texas guy. I’ve never  lived anywhere else. I know lots of people in the same boat. They live in that book. The story doesn’t spend lots of time dwelling on the unique character of them, but I think the nature of the people comes out.

The rest of the stuff. The killing, the sex, the drugs. Well, I just thought it fit, and it was damned fun to write. Especially the cursing. Fuck a ring-tailed lemur, I loved the cursing.

So now you know. You can check out another interview here, and read the first chapter of Hill Country at his blog, Criminal Thoughts. You can also follow him on the Twitters at @rthomasbrown and FB

Writerly Advice

Recently someone asked me why I don’t share some of my tips on writing, and I asked him if he had the internet. There’s always some writer over on that site penning a series on how to write novel. And for only 2 bucks, you can get all the wisdom he’s acquired including —

In a used car salesman voice: Use Strong Verbs, Make Your Antagonist a Well-Rounded Character, and my personal favorite, Show Don’t Tell.

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but it’s the same shit that other writer said on that other site but with a little more wit.

Essentially there is nothing new said about writing, how to write, or how to write better; it is all just rehashed, repackaged, and recycled material. I don’t begrudge this repackaging at all. I love Dr. Who and Sherlock Holmes a lot more now than I did when I was first introduced to them, and what student hasn’t peeked at some study guide to get a gist of something screwed up like Gravity’s Rainbow?

Unfortunately, he was not quite satisfied with my answer concerning the internet (I mean who ever is?). He implored, “But you’re a writer.”

“No,” I tell him, “you have it all wrong. I’m a reader who writes.”

There. That’s it. That’s my advice. You want to write, read. And read multiple genres, nonfiction, poetry, and Drews has some fantastic screenplays you can download (I recommend The Three Kings right off the bat).

I’ve been reading R. Thomas Brown’s Hill Country lately. The book came highly recommended. It has one of the best openings I have read in a long, long time. The characters are stark, sharp things and the way he drew the place is remarkable. It’s as if he took Richard Hugo’s The Triggering Town, chewed it up, let it dissolve into his bloodstream, then slashed his wrists all over the page.

Nothing Matters by Steve Finbow is next up.   I mean, how can I pass up a noir poem?

And Eric Coyote shared this promo with me which certainly piqued my interest, but everything must be read before John Horner Jacob’s new book, This Dark Earth, comes out this summer.

Now back to work you filthy cretins.