– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –
Today I’m on the ‘Strangers’ Kingdom’ blogtour, organized by R&R Book Tours.
To promote this book I have a Q&As post, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.
About the Author :
Brandon Barrows is the author of the novels STRANGERS’ KINGDOM, BURN ME OUT, and THIS ROUGH OLD WORLD. He has published over seventy stories, selected of which are collected in the books THE ALTAR IN THE HILLS and THE CASTLE-TOWN TRAGEDY. He is an active member of Private Eye Writers of America and International Thriller Writers and was a 2021 Mustang Award finalist.
Title: Strangers’ Kingdom
Publication Date: August 25th, 2021
Genre: Mystery / Suspense
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Politically blacklisted detective Luke Campbell’s last chance in law-enforcement is a job with the police department of rural Granton, Vermont. It’s a beautiful town, home to a beautiful, intriguing girl who’s caught his eye, and it’s a chance at redemption. Even if his new boss seems strange, secretive, and vaguely sinister, Campbell is willing to give this opportunity a shot. And no sooner does he make that decision than the first in a series of murders is discovered, starting a chain of events that will change the lives of everyone in this once-quiet town…
First of all thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions, I really appreciate it. Here we go! 🙂
Can you, for those who don’t know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
I’ve been writing stories for my own enjoyment pretty much as long as I can remember. About twelve-thirteen years ago, an opportunity arose and I started writing comic books professionally. Eventually, I transitioned to (or perhaps back to is a better way to put it), writing prose.
I still write comic books now and again, and have roughly a hundred individual issues’ worth to my name, but mostly I write crime, mystery, and western short stories and novels now.
Which books did/do you love to read as a child/now as a grown-up?
When I was a kid, I was really big into JRR Tolkein. I read The Hobbit first when I was in third grade and then struggled through The Lord of the Rings trilogy in fourth and fifth. I had a teacher who encouraged my love of literature and loaned me a lot of classics like The Three Musketeers, The Man in the Iron Mask, and The Scarlet Pimpernel. They were pretty tough reads for a kid that age, but from there, I branched out and found my own loves, which included Robert Howard, Piers Anthony, and a lot of science fiction paperbacks.
I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point as an adult, I mostly stopped reading horror and fantasy and sci-fi (though I still do occasionally) and moved on to crime, mystery, and western fiction. Some of my all-time favorite authors in those genres are Gil Brewer, Ross MacDonald, and Louis L’Amour.
Is there a writer whose brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
I’m not sure. Honestly, most of my favorite authors are dead, which limits my choices, unless I delve into necromancy. If I could pick anyone, though, I’d be interested in talking to Ross MacDonald about plot construction. His Lew Archer novels have some of the most complicated, deeply layered mysteries I’ve ever encountered – often to the point where you might think, “He can’t possibly wrap this all up in the pages we’ve got left.” And yet he does, every time, and the solutions to his mysteries are always so logical that you’re left wondering how he managed to pull all those threads together so brilliantly.
Plot is the most difficult part of writing for me. I can draft prose until the cows come home, but I often struggled when it comes to the question of “What next?” or “How do I tie this all together?” Speaking with a true master of complex plotting would be very interesting to me.
If you could, which fictional character (from your own book(s) or someone else’s) would you like to invite for tea and why?
Most of my characters are not people I’d want in my home truthfully, haha. If I chose one, though, I think Luke Campbell, the protagonist of my most recent novel, Strangers’ Kingdom, would probably make the best guest. He’s a lifelong professional detective and I’m sure he has plenty of interesting stories even I haven’t heard.
Do you have some rituals or habits whilst writing?
Not rituals, per se. I like to write in as quiet an environment as possible, so no music or anything like that. I know many people keep the radio or TV on in the background while they work, but I find it distracting.
I do drink most of my coffee while writing, though, if that counts as a habit. I also spend a fair bit of time with my favorite online thesaurus, looking for alternatives to some of my most used words so I’m not repeating myself too often.
That’s pretty much how I write: quiet, coffee, and my trust thesaurus.
Where do you come up with your idea(s)? Do people in your life need to be worried? 😉
Well, no, I’ve only killed off a couple people I know in stories, and they were both crappy neighbors, so nobody I actually like will have to worry.
Ideas and plots can be tough for me. Often, titles pop into my head and I try to work out a story that will fit the title. I find, ironically, that I get my best ideas for novels when I’m working on a short story and vice versa, though. If I just sit around looking for ideas, I won’t find any, but if I’m occupied, whatever part of my subconscious is responsible for that stuff usually comes up with something or other.
Are you a plotter or do you go with the flow, as a pantser?
It depends. I would say 70% pantser, but as ideas come to me I often jot them down and arrange them into a semblance of an outline so I don’t forget them.
The only novel I’ve written entirely from an outline was Burn Me Out, my most hardboiled noir novel to date. That one the ideas came to me so quickly, I had to sit down for a couple days and just bullet stuff out. As I was doing that, bits of dialogue and descriptive passages came to mind and I added those, as well. By the time the outine was done, I had a really solid skeleton for the novel and the prose was very easy to write. The first draft only took about five weeks.
On the other hand, Strangers’ Kingdom took me close to three years, with a lot of breaks, because I kept coming to points in which I really had no idea what came next. I finally got sick doubting myself and just powered through, deciding that it didn’t matter what I put into a first draft, as long as I had a first draft. When I went back to it a few months later, I was quite pleased to discover that most of what I wrote during that period wasn’t bad at all.
Can you give novice writers some tips (do’s/don’ts)?
Read a lot and write a lot.
Read everything until you know exactly what speaks to you personally. I’ve met many would-be authors that don’t seem to actually like reading that much, but like the idea of thinking of themselves as a writer. If you don’t like reading much, you won’t like writing, either.
And it should go without saying, but write as much as you can. A lot of people love the idea of their own stories, but don’t want to put in the work to craft them. Telling people about all your great ideas may temporarily scratch the storytelling itch, but it doesn’t amount to anything if you never write the book.
What are your future plans as an author?
To keep writing as much as possible, hopefully expand my audience. I have four novels either under consideration or under contract with publishers, so the next two years or so will be a pretty busy time.
Last, but not least : Can you give my readers one teaser from your book, which is featured here on my blog, please?
Sure. How does this grab you?
When I arrived on Rosalie’s street, fifteen minutes after her call, I saw exactly who she was worried about and exactly why. He stood just outside the circle of light cast by a streetlamp, hanging around the mouth of an alley. I watched for a few minutes and he did nothing at all – not so much as light a cigarette, shuffle his feet or cough. He wasn’t worried about seen.
I exited the vehicle and approached.
Closer up, I could see he was a sickly thin young man, skin so pale it almost seemed to glow in the dimness. He wore a faded blue hooded sweatshirt that hung from him like laundry on a line and his hair was short, mussed and unwashed, making it look like blond barbed wire. I’d have bet his diet consisted largely of amphetamines.
The guy’s eyes, watchful and wary, scanned me as I approached. I flashed my badge and said, “Evening.” That was all it took. Those animal-alert eyes went wide and his fist swung out in an arc and then he was gone, rabbiting towards the nearest hole.
My feet pounded the pavement, echoing sharply in the narrow, trash-strewn space, all senses searching for signs of the danger I was rushing headlong into. Light beckoned from a short distance and after a moment, I burst out into the next street. Even the soft yellow glow of sodium lamps seemed brilliant after the pitch-dark of the alley and, as my eyes adjusted, I turned left then right, spotting a figure disappearing around the corner. I followed, telling myself I was being stupid, telling myself I should go back to Rosalie Stompanato’s, make sure she was all right, call it in, ask for additional officers, all while my feet took me closer to where I saw that retreating form.
I turned the corner, saw a flash duck around yet another corner. At the mouth of the alley, I allowed myself an instant’s rest before entering. Even from the street, it was clear this was a dead-end. There was nothing but darkness down this brick corridor – the alley was blocked up midway down.
I drew my weapon, fumbled in my coat pocket for my penlight, flicked it on, then aimed it and the weapon down the length of the alley, sweeping the narrow width of the space.
“C’mon out. There’s nowhere left to go.”
My heart pounded in my chest and there was a stitch in my side, but I felt good all the same. Stompanato’s intimidation failed, and I caught his crony in the act. Witness tampering charges would be a bonus year or two on Stompanato’s sentence.
There was a rustle behind a pile of discarded cardboard boxes. “Let’s go,” I commanded. “Now.”
The figure rose like a scarecrow in a concrete field, arms lifted in a half-hearted pose of surrender. I flicked the flashlight’s beam upwards; he shied away, blinded by the brilliance, his head turning and one arm flying up to protect his eyes. I shifted the light so I could hold both it and my weapon in my right hand then started forward, plucking a pair of handcuffs from my pocket. With my left hand, I reached for the man’s wrist. Up close, I could see he was barely more than a kid.
“You’re under arrest for disobeying a lawful command, resisting an officer and—“
I never got to finish.
The fist I’d narrowly avoided before thrust out again, catching me hard in the right shoulder, a wave of pain and shock jolting down the length of my arm. He was a lot stronger than his frailness suggested. He followed up with a two-handed push that sent me spinning off to one side, banging my other shoulder off of the rough stone wall of the alley, before rushing past, trying again to escape.
I threw out a hand, grabbing a fistful of his sweatshirt. It stopped him, but only long enough for him to half-turn and chop an open-handed blow down onto my elbow. Fresh pain skittered along my nerves, but I didn’t let go, instead raising my right hand, only to discover it was empty. Somewhere in those chaotic two or three seconds, I dropped my gun.
I cursed and struggled for a better grip on the kid’s clothing. He was thrashing wildly, yelling, “Let go! Let go!” his voice shrill and his mind going into panic mode. The decision between fight or flight was no longer his to make, but it seemed as if he was trying to choose both options simultaneously.
“Settle down! Cut it out, God damn it!” I snarled, freeing one hand to cuff him alongside the back of the neck, trying to startle him into a semblance of calm. “Nobody’s going to hurt you, but you’re digging yourself one hell of a hole!”
He ignored the words and continued to flail around. I tried to tackle him around the waist and ended up dragging both of us down to the filthy floor of the alley, where we rolled around for a few seconds, trading a punch a two. We were making enough noise that lights in the surrounding buildings came on. I hoped someone would have the sense to call 911, but even if they did, I knew nobody would arrive soon enough to help me get out of this. I was on my own.
Just as the thought flew through my head, the kid stopped moving. I allowed myself to hope he was coming to his senses at last. Then his hand shot out, straining to reach beyond my head, and when it came back into view, his fingers were wrapped around a chunk of brick the size of a small loaf of bread. He reared up, holding the thing above his head, prepared to end things between us. In the scant light of the nearly forgotten flashlight, his eyes looked huge and empty.
My own eyes flew all around, frantic, searching for a way out. The other man was straddling my chest and his knees kept me effectively pinned to the ground, but my arms were free and my fingers scrabbled across the rough, cold ground, searching for something, anything, to break this deadlock. They closed around something even colder, something metallic and familiar.
As the brick came down, my fist came up, and the explosion of noise and light only inches from my face all but knocked me senseless.
Isn’t that a great reason to pick up this book and to find out more?!
Thanks once again for this lovely interview, Brandon Barrows.
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P.S. Are you an author (or publisher) who also wants a FREE interview like this? You can always contact me via e-mail!