"When it comes to authors,we may hide ourselves from others but within our pages, our true souls emerge." - Nicole Hill
"I want a Vampite of my very own. Until I find him, I'll just keep writing him into existence." -Nicole Hill
" I write like people talk. It may not be perfect but it's damn entertaining." - Nicole Hill

Monday, September 28, 2015

#Indie Spotlight of Alex Brightsmith @AlexBrightsmith Author of Viennese Waltz


Alex Brightsmith

The Title of Your Work:
Viennese Waltz

Where are you from?:
 A little town called Sandy, in Bedfordshire. Anywhere in the world I can lay odds that if anyone has heard of the town they’re a keen birder, because the RSPB have their head office there. No one else has ever heard of it – even in England, a lot of people struggle to place Bedfordshire, let alone Sandy, but we do perform the vital services of preventing the Midlands from falling into the Fens and buffering the Home Counties from the North.

In what genre do you write?
 My published novels are contemporary thrillers, but I’ve also contributed fantasy stories to anthologies, and I’m working on a fantasy series. When it comes to flash fiction I skip around in whatever genre seems to fit the prompt.

In your own words, what is your book about?
 If you were not the author and trying to explain this awesome book you just read to a friend, what would you say about it? 
Viennese Waltz is a character driven thriller that begins as hypnotically written intrigue and evolves into an intense tale of subtle bluff and desperate thrust and parry action.

Kathryn Blake (or Kate, which she prefers as the short, honest blade of a name suits her so well) finds herself in Vienna for what should be a minor part in a simple operation, with an opportunity for her to attend to some business of her own on the side. When the job starts to go wrong her government employers are forced to use all of her talents, and she finds herself playing a lone hand in a game she doesn’t quite understand, with an opponent she’s tempted to trust and old friends she knows can be dangerous.

What is your writing style? Do you follow all guides and rules? Synopsis, outline etc. or do you just sit down at the computer and type to see what happens. 
I don’t think I have one particular settled style of working, but I’m a great believer in harnessing the mood I’m in. If I’m on fire to write something I’ll write it, and worry about where it fits later – whether it belongs later in the piece I’m ‘supposed’ to be working on, goes off a tangent, or simply comes out of the blue. Either I’ll work it in, or get a ‘meet the cast’ blog out of it, or it can sit in the maybe file. If I’m feeling more diligent than inspired maybe I’ll outline a section that’s giving me trouble, writing very mechanical stage directions that I can flesh out on a day when the words come more easily. Even if I’m having a day where everything I write sounds awful, that’s fine, that just makes it an editing day.

Have you ever written anything and thought; " The world has got to see this!" ? 
If I have, I was probably wrong. The piece I’ve had the most extraordinary response to started as a silly challenge to myself, and almost didn’t see the light of day because it didn’t come out at all how I was planning.

 Do you have an editor and Cover Designer or do you do this yourself? 
For my thrillers I’ve self-edited and also worked on my own cover art, but that’s likely to change. Both of those works spent so long in the back of the drawer that I had the distance to edit them myself, but at the same time I was so close to them that I knew I would find it very difficult to work with anyone else on them. I’m learning to be less bull-headed now.

 Who is your favorite author. 
I find it hard to say what’s really influenced me, because my memory tends to turn everything into mulch in the back of my brain. Besides, if I was really honest about the one single book that had inspired me to write down the stories that I’ve always told myself, and if I could remember what it was, it would probably be something awful, something that made me think ‘well, if that can get published ... ’

However, one author who must have influenced me, and one I would love to see reflected in my writing, is Leslie Charteris. My brother had a handful of Saint books that I read over and over again in my teens. I just adored them, for their pace and excitement and sheer exuberant fun, but also for their language and their expectation that the reader would keep up (hagiography and occiput spring to mind as words I learnt from him). It’s a joy to read something that, though it allows me to take my mind off the hook and enjoy the ride, revels in the full joy and complexity of the language.

Charteris never gets stale. He’s endlessly inventive and his style ranges easily from hard-boiled New York excitement to pastoral adventures reminiscent of G K Chesterton. Above all, the Saint books play to the strengths of the written word. It often seems that the highest compliment a reader can pay is to be impatient to see their favourite work filmed, but screen adaptations of the Saint never work for me. Roger Moore’s Saint is wonderful, of course, as television, but for me he’ll never be the Saint of the books. Charteris’s Saint is a swashbuckling matinee idol, but he works because he’s contrasted to the real world, and that’s something that can be done with subtlety on the page when it might seem heavy-handed or comical on screen.

 Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I think what I find hardest is how much to reveal – thank heavens for beta readers! When I’ve lived with a story all that time, thought it and rethought it, written it and rewritten it, everyone’s motivations are so clear to me that it’s easy to forget that they’re strangers to the reader. Finding the balance between patronising the reader by spelling things out too clearly and being mystifyingly oblique is always a struggle.

 Do you write your characters or do they write themselves through you? 
I fool myself that I’m in charge, but a lot of the development goes on unconsciously in the back of my mind, and in little vignettes that I amuse myself with in check out queues and at bus stops. That means that by the time I’m actually writing the main characters are as well known to me as an old friend, and knowing what they will and won’t do does make it feel sometimes as if they’re dictating the plot. That can be frustrating, but it can lead to the best feeling of all – when a story has stewed down so well that I almost feel as if I’m sitting on the next bar stool scribbling down the story as the narrator tells it to me in their own words.

 Do you ever write yourself into the characters?
I try not to, usually. It’s amusing and frustrating in equal measure to find, during editing, the quirks that all my characters share because they’re natural to me, like a tendency to know more than you’d expect about botany and folklore and to have a discreet chirr or buzz for their ringtone. Having said that, sometimes I can’t resist giving a character something that’s mine. Kathryn Blake is a natural night owl because I wanted to share the joy of two a.m, which is something all you natural early birds will never know. I haven’t found an excuse to really go for that yet, but I’ll really enjoy writing about it when I do.

Is writing your full time job or are you "Keeping your day job"? So to speak.
 I’m a long way short of paying the mortgage without showing up in somebody else’s office on a regular basis. Usually that annoys me, but sometimes I wonder how much writing I’d do if it wasn’t a guilty pleasure that I had to cram in around all that important stuff.

If you could go back in time and meet one famous person or legend in history, who would it be?
 I’m at a bit of a loss on this, partly because I’d be so shy I’d certainly waste the opportunity, and partly because I’m so dizzy and eclectic that I could never settle on one person. Even if I did, I’d probably get distracted by a view or a market stall or something on the way to the meeting, and be too fascinated by that to keep my appointment.

I’m jealous of my husband in the respect, because I know that he’d choose Isambard Kingdom Brunel without a second’s hesitation. His earliest memory is of standing in the hull of the ss Great Britain (Brunel’s only surviving ship) not long after she was towed back to Bristol. She was open to the public, but she wasn’t a big tourist draw back then, and it was just his family there and a volunteer doing some work with an angle grinder. It spawned a lifelong fascination for him, and I know that if he had a chance to corner Brunel he’d have a list of questions as long as his arm. I can be interested in anything for ten minutes, utterly absorbed by it, but I don’t have that depth of knowledge.

There are millions of new books released every year. What in your mind makes yours stand out from all those millions in your genre? 
I’ve been described as writing books that are like fine malt whisky, subtle and complex. I know it was meant unreservedly as a compliment but it’s a double edged sword. I don’t write alcopops with mass market appeal (though I have the greatest respect for anyone who can pull off that trick) – but if I’m the right writer for you I’ll mesmerise and beguile you, and once I’ve drawn you in I’ll reward you with action that doesn’t let you go.

In the world of Indie, marketing is very difficult, especially if you don't have the funds to pay for it. Have you found a great free way to market your work that you think other Indies will benefit from?
 If only! I’m afraid not. But I’m open to suggestions.

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