‘…The hardest part of writing… I would say it’s the doubt. There is always doubt that that story just sucks, it doesn’t work, people will hate it. And getting the ending right is challenging. I still have a tendency to just plunge ahead without always knowing where I’m going.’ says the author T.J. Brearton.
Today, I would like to welcome the author Timothy James Brearton aka TJ Brearton, who debuted in the world of writing with a gripping murder mystery ‘Habit’ and went on to become a bestselling author across the world.
1. Kindly introduce yourself to our readers and your journey towards becoming a writer.
Happy to. When I was a kid I used to take sheets of paper, divide them up into grids, and create stories using stick figures and word balloons. Mostly the stick figures were army guys, and I would have them parachuting out of F-15s while they quipped funny lines. I never really knew where the stories were going. The stick figures and word balloons became prose, but I still write in a similar way – just following along the action, seeing where the story takes me.
2. What inspired you to debut with a book on a murder mystery?
One thing that can be problematic with “just following along the action, seeing where the story takes me” is that they don’t always get easily resolved! So when I wrote the book which became my commercial debut – Habit – it was really about knowing where I was going. I wrote the ending first – it’s the prolog of the book – and then I figured out how I was going to get there.
3. When and why did you decide that the book would be continued into a trilogy?
I decided there was going to be a second book pretty much as soon as I signed the contract with the publisher for the first. I had resolved the story, but left the door ajar. I knew there was still more to the story, and I wanted to get back into Brendan Healy’s head, to see how he was doing after everything that had happened in Habit.
4. What was your biggest challenge in writing this book?
The big challenge with Habit was refining the denouement. There are earlier versions where it resolves quite differently, it stays more granular. The ending with Titan is what left that crack in the door for more books. Then the challenge with the trilogy, was after I’d explored where that opening led in Survivors, I had to bring it all together in Daybreak and make it all work, and be as believable as possible.
5. Your favourite author and favourite books/novels.
I don’t have one favorite author. I have authors I am in awe of – like Dennis Lehane and Cormac McCarthy for their prowess. They had such a command of the written word. I like Stephen King (as most people do) for the folksy Americana he writes. (Now I’m pausing to glance at my bookshelves in my office…) I recently read “The Two-Minute Rule” by Robert Crais. His style is very pared down. That was a good book. I loved the first book in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy. I like David Benioff (“The 25th Hour”), John Grisham (“The Racketeer”). I’ve never read any Baldacci or Patterson, believe it or not, though those are the comparisons my work sometimes gets – sometimes in a good way, but also a few readers say “he’s trying to sound like” them.
6. If you have to dedicate this book to one person, who would it be?
I dedicated Habit to two friends of mine who had both struggled with addiction. Addiction – habits – are a theme in the book. I struggled with (and still do) addiction. So one impetus of that book was really getting out the experience of having gone through recovery, relapse, etc.
7. What are the perks of being a writer?
The biggest perk of being a writer is that my therapy and my work are one in the same! Working from home is nice, too, though I do make it a point to get out and do other things and stay fresh.
8. What is the best compliment you have received for your book so far?
Oh wow, there have been some wonderful things readers have said about Habit. It’s nice when readers say that the book had lots of twists and turns, or that they didn’t see the end coming, but I’m most gratified when they connect with the struggle of a character like Brendan Healy.
9. Tell us about the happiest moment in your life.
Ha, that’s a tough question. The birth of my three children are really the happiest moments. That’s not saccharine – I mean it. The endorphins are really rushing through you, the oxytocin. After each birth I’ve called or texted family and friends and told them how much I love them. I feel bad for men in the old days, or even today, who didn’t get to be there at the birth. It’s the most amazing thing in the world.
10. Apart from writing, what are your other hidden passions?
Having babies, obviously! Haha. I have a lot of passions. I play the drums, guitar, I love filmmaking and photography and painting. My dream is to have one big room with everything in it – a recording studio and a photography studio and video editing suite and library and writing nook. I also am working towards a homesteader life; I’d like to be as self-reliant as possible, using renewable energy and growing my own food. I’ve got a garden and some land – it’s just a start.
11. What is the hardest and easiest part of writing?
Girl these are good questions. The hardest part of writing… I would say it’s the doubt. There is always doubt that that story just sucks, it doesn’t work, people will hate it. And getting the ending right is challenging. I still have a tendency to just plunge ahead without always knowing where I’m going, and that can make revisions tough. But I’m altering that process. The easiest part? There is really nothing that’s easy. As you train and get that muscle memory, I mean, maybe it gets “easier” to write a rough draft. At first you might really struggle with a rough draft. I can write a rough draft of about 90 thousand words in two months. But, that’s not always a good thing. Taking time can be good, too.
12. Who inspires you most in your life?
I think Richard Wright said, “All literature is protest.” Someone else said something about how writers always work on what makes them angry, or what they want to take a stand on. Look at John Irving and “The Cider House Rules.” So I get inspired a lot by things like wealth inequality, the evils of human trafficking, the skullduggery of the banking system and financialization of the economy. But I’m also inspired to just write a good crime story that doesn’t necessarily come at these big issues. My publisher, who is also my editor, Jasper Joffe, really got through to me one day when he said, you know, we can see these bigger issues expressed through the microcosm of the character’s lives. In other words, the story itself doesn’t have to be about the big issue. It can be about something human, normal everyday stuff. It’s the difference between, say, writing a sprawling book about the evils of the meat industry, or writing about a small farm owner who’s struggling. I like to think – I hope – there’s this balance in my work. But what inspires me, really, to answer your question, is to just get better.
13. Tell us about your future projects.
Ooooh. I’m excited about the future projects. For one, Brendan Healy is back. He has a new identity – William Chase – but it’s still the same bulldog Brendan Healy. He’s taking on human trafficking in Honduras in a new book which should be ready in a few months.
I’ve also started what may turn out to be a new crime series in south Florida, with a new hero named Tom Lange who is an agent with the state bureau. Murder, strip clubs, drugs, all under the blazing Florida sun.
And I’m in the midst of a fresh composition about a young couple who buy a new house and discover human bones buried in the backyard.
Finally, Detective Rondeau, the character in my latest book, Gone, might be back in a sequel…
14. Anything you would want to add for my readers?
Keep reading! If it wasn’t for the readers, none of this would be possible for me or any other writer. That’s sounds sort of obvious, but I mean, it’s good not to take that for granted. People have more options for entertainment than ever before, so the fact that so many are still reading fills my heart. If you’re out there, and you’re a reader, you’re awesome.
15. A billion dollar advice for aspiring writers.
Ha! The billion dollar advice! It’s paradoxical advice – ready? Do your own thing, but listen to your readers, editor, other authors. It’s really a tightrope.
If you don’t have an editor yet, get your book into the hands of people who will give you honest feedback. I rushed to self-publish first, and it worked out alright, because the self-publishing gave me some sense of completion on a work, but nobody really read the books.
Mostly, my relative “success” has to do with linking up with someone else – my editor / publisher. I’ve been challenged by Jasper Joffe and he’s helped me to become a better writer. I still have to stick to my guns sometimes, but I think that’s a healthy part of a relationship – a little bit of push and pull.
Just work, and keep working, write as much as you can, and keep putting your stuff out there for people to read. Submit things – even short stories – just to test the market, get familiar with queries. Just go for it!
Thank you Mr. Brearton, It was a privilege to interview a bestselling author like you. I hope this would be a source of a great deal of inspiration for our readers. It was a pleasure interviewing you! 🙂
Wanted to read Titan Trilogy, Grab a copy from here.