Brian Drake is the author of Reaper’s Dozen—12 Tales of Crime and Suspense, which is available at Amazon.Com for the low price of $1.99. He has been a writer of mystery and crime fiction since his first publication at age 25, and discusses important contributions to the hard-boiled canon at his blog, “Brian Drake Explains It All” (www.briandrake88.blogspot.com). He sat down with us to share a few words about writing.
1: What is the most productive time of the day for you to write?
Any time, really, since I have so many other responsibilities to juggle. When I’m off work or have a free day, it’s usually the first thing that gets scheduled.
2: Do you start your projects writing with paper and pen or is it all on the computer?
I’m a masochist when it comes to writing. I start with a spiral notebook—I like to hear the sound of a pen scratching paper, and that process often forces me to slow down and really consider what I write. Then I take the written draft and blow the dust off my grandfather’s Royal Deluxe portable typewriter; I like how it sounds like a machine gun when I really get going, using two fingers, like Mickey Spillane did. That’s when I make changes and adjustments to the written draft. It also makes me feel like one of the old-timers who wrote for Black Mask. Then the typed draft goes into the computer, where final changes are made, and adjustments continue until the manuscript is finished. So, basically, I go through three drafts of a book.
3: What do you draw inspiration from?
There are too many sources to list—inspiration comes from life, being active and around people and observing, which usually helps with characterizing people and getting behavioral details right. Story ideas come from “what if” questions and things you hear on the news or whatever my imagination brings to mind. Inspiration comes from other sources, too. For example, I needed to do a restaurant scene for the book I’m working on now, and read a review of a pizza place where people were unanimous in stating that the food was good but the service was horrible. I decided to place my characters in this restaurant, suitably altered, and had them attempt to conduct their business while dealing with a rude waitress.
4: Do you set goals for yourself when you sit down to write such as word count?
Five pages a day is my usual goal; lately, I’m happy to do two pages or even a paragraph. If I only get one day a week to do something, it’s a marathon session—25 pages, at least, to make up for what I didn’t get done the previous five days. A “real job” is the curse of the creative class.
5: Are you a published or a self published author and how do you come up with your cover art?
A little bit of both. My short stories have appeared in printed anthologies and on webzines; right now, the novels are self-published for the Amazon Kindle and other e-readers. This is not where I want to stay, however; I want to hold a published book in my hand. With the business I get from the e-books, I hope to show publishers that there’s a demand for my material, and we can all make money together if they put the book out.
As for cover art, my friend and fellow writer Rebecca Forster does a great job with my covers using Clip-Art images or pictures I’ve photographed of actors posing in a scene from a book. I’ve also hired an artist friend, Mr. Christopher Finneke, to draw the cover of my upcoming novel Justified Sins. He’s expensive, though, so if I’m going to hire him again I need the book to earn a little first.
6: What drives you to choose the career of being a writer?
I am notoriously lazy with an active imagination so the logical choice is to do something creative; making such activity pay the rent is another issue.
7: Do you own an ebook reading device?
I am embarrassed to say that I currently do not. However, I have friends who have their own, so I am very familiar with how the e-readers work and what the reader eventually sees.
8: Who are some of your favorite authors and What are you reading now?
Major favorites are people who are dead. Ian Fleming. Leslie Charteris. Dashiell Hammett. Mickey Spillane. Harry Whittington. The Black Mask Boys. Living contenders are Rebecca Forster, Jerry Ahern, Max Allan Collins, and that’s it. I’m always willing to try newer living authors, though, so if you think I might like something I’d appreciate a tip. I’ll try newer dead guys, too, that I haven’t heard of yet.
Right now in my “To Be Read” stack you will find the aforementioned Collins and Charteris; a Frederick Forsythe book that’s been sitting there for two years; and a book from The Executioner series. I am not ashamed for enjoying The Executioner; I read them all through high school and college and every now and then like to go back and revisit an episode or two in the series. I would love to write one, but Gold Eagle, the publishers, keep ignoring my letters. Perhaps I shouldn’t have included the severed ears with the last letter, but, hey, I thought they would pay extra attention. I bet they wonder where the ears came from.
9: What do you think of book trailers and do you have any plans to have any?
No plans for my own. I have tried to watch book trailers but can never get through them. I don’t know if they really have any impact. If I’m wrong, I’m happy to be corrected. As a part-time actor I have plenty of people who can work lights and cameras and do stuff in front of those cameras, but I don’t see a reason to produce one.
10: What are you working on now that you can talk about?
Current projects include Justified Sins, a slam-bang action story right out of the old crime pulps and I must admit that The Executioner was a huge influence. That should be out soon as I’m in the final editing stages. After that is a spy thriller called The Eagle Intercept, which is a great drama and adventure story rolled into one. It’s about secret agents, yes, but I’ve written it to exclude any political or current events you might recognize. You can truly be carried off into another world and have a good time and a few laughs and not be frightened by what the news has already frightened you about. While I think, right now, that Justified Sins will be a stand-alone story (subject to change), The Eagle Intercept is absolutely the beginning of a series and I’m looking forward to further adventures with the characters. Eagle is almost finished and should be ready by the end of 2010.