DAB: Was there a point in your life that prompted your desire to write or have you always wanted to be an author?
BCP: I think I've always been something of a storyteller, so the drive to write was there, even if I didn't always realize it. When I was a kid, I loved drawing my own comic books to amuse myself; in my mind, there was no reason why Batman and Spider-Man shouldn't have been in the same story. As I got older, I probably had the same dream that every comic book-loving kid did of drawing them professionally one day, but by the time I was old enough to be objective about it, it was clear to me I didn't have the talent for it, so I focused on other things. But I never lost the love for storytelling. I made my first two attempts at writing novels while still in law school, in my mid-20s. They both wound up being fairly derivative and I didn't complete either one, but I learned a few things. The first novel I completed began shortly thereafter; it remains unpublished, but there are parts of it I love. So the attempt at being a writer "for real" is something I've been pursuing for most of my adult life, though it's an ambition that's frequently gotten backburnered due to other "life stuff."
DAB: What was the catalyst for this novel’s premise?
BCP: The idea for Grievous Angels first started percolating in my brain many, many years before I began trying to tease it into an actual story. In my 20s I was a volunteer Sunday school teacher, working with high school juniors. One week, the head of the program showed the kids a video called Audrey, which introduced me to the concept of the "victim soul." (I reference the story from this video at one point in the book.) I found it fascinating, but it's one of the more obscure parts of Catholic theology and there wans't a lot of info to be found on it (at least at that time, this was before Google and Wikipedia seemed to have some info on just about everything). It took me several years to figure out how to work the "victim soul" concept into a plot; mixing it with my fascination with secret societies was one of those strokes of inspiration that writers hope for but can't explain.
DAB: I think I hear 'Dan Brown fan' in your words. :-) Who is your favorite character in your novel, and why?
BCP: My favorite Grievous Angels character is definitely Lindsay. She was sort of the anchor of sanity through a series of rather insane events. I tried not to be too obvious about it, but to convey that she really understood how this situation would play out well before it all clicked into place for her fiance, Ben. The fact that I close the book having left a terrible emotional burden on her in no way is an indication of a lack of affection; indeed, I think it shows my respect for her because I know she's strong enough to endure it.
DAB: Do you write full-time or part-time? If full-time, tell us about the journey to full-time. If part-time, share with us about your “day” job.
BCP: I'd say that "part-time" is more accurate. I worked as a lawyer in the financial world for many, many years and would fit in writing when I could. Honestly, a lot of the writing I've done over the years is more "practice" than practical, stuff I'd never show anyone. But I've managed to fit in some writing that developed into actual manuscripts (two of which I've managed to get out to the reading world). Recently, I was working for a great company in Atlanta, working with a team of fantastic people that I liked and respected, but there was this buzzing in the back of my head that told me now was the time to take a chance on doing something different. So, I quit my job and moved back to Massachusetts and have been focusing on writing projects and promoting Grievous Angels, which I'd published a year earlier but for which I hadn't had the bandwidth to do much in the way of promotion. I'm also pursuing another interest of mine; I'm in the process of forming a real estate company with a law school friend. So I'm enjoying this brief period of being able to focus on writing, before the real estate business heats up. And I'm going to have to go back to practicing law in the near future, at least on a part-time basis, to pay the bills. But some day I'd love for "writer" to be my primary occupation.
DAB: I'm with you there! When I write, I have particular composers and music that gets me in the mood for certain scenes and characters. Have you ever written to music?
BCP: I'm a music junkie, so there's something playing in my apartment quite often. I don't usually employ a particular artist or album to set the mood or get me in the mindset of a character. Rather, I find that music helps get my brain in the right creative place to let ideas flow. Intermittently over the years I've worked on a series of short stories inspired by various songs I've found especially evocative of an idea. At this point, it's been eons since I've returned to that project, so I have no idea if I'll ever finish it. My mother's sung professionally since her teen years and my oldest brother is a professional musician, so I think that kind of creative inspiration comes from the same source. For me, writing seems to be a more effective outlet for that, but I think it's all connected.
DAB: There's the eternal debate whether to outline or not. What is your preference?
BCP: I have to have an outline of some sort. Even though my novels don't tend to be epic-length, I need a map of where I'm going and what points I need to hit along the way. Of course, that doesn't mean I work everything out in the outline; for some key scenes, I might craft a more detailed section of an outline, to make sure I'm hitting the beats I need to, but it's also just as likely an outline entry could be "Person A and Person B have a discussion about The Thing." The outline is an aid for me, but it's not set in stone. I find that once I start writing, ideas occur to me that didn't pop up during my preliminary thinking on the plot, so it's crucial to be flexible, but I do need some structure when writing, to keep myself on track.
DAB: Do you belong to a critique group? If so, tell us a bit about it.
BCP: I don't belong to a group, but I'm lucky to have a good friend who reads even more than I do and whose command of English and grammar is impeccable. She served as my editor for Grievous Angels and having her perspective and comments was really valuable.
DAB: Usually authors are also avid readers - what are you currently reading?
BCP: I have a shelf full of books at all times; I can't stop myself, I go into a bookstore or wander around Amazon online and there are more books. But I do read constantly. I just finished Edith Wharton's The Custom of the Country; I'm a late convert to Wharton and have found over the past few years that I very much enjoy her work and that it's very relevant still. That makes me sound hopelessly pretentious, so I'll note that I'm currently reading Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl; I've read Gillian's other books, too, and I love that her characters are as twisted as her plots. And I never quite grew out of comic books, but now I read the collected editions instead. Those pop up frequently; I just read the second volume of The Superior Foes of Spider-Man, which is an extremely entertaining series about several second-rate villains trying to make a dishonest buck in a tough economy.
BCP: It's something of a cliche, but I think if you want to be a writer, you need to write regularly, even if no one else is going to see it. I have folders full of stuff that no one but me will ever see, but it's valuable. It's helped me learn pacing, how to develop characters, how to structure plots... writing really is something that you need to do a lot of to become good at (he says, ending a sentence with a preposition). I mentioned my first two attempts to write novels that I abandoned because they weren't coming out well. I don't regret trying to write either one; they didn't work out, but they taught me a lot of lessons that have helped with what I've written since.
DAB: I imagine all authors can relate to those throw-away manuscripts. So much work that will never see the light of day. Care to tell us what is next on your writing horizon?
BCP: I've been using my brief break from the law to finish the first draft of what I hope will be the first in a new series (I'm almost there). The impulse came from me thinking about what a cool lawyer job would be, total lawyer fantasy stuff, and I thought it would be a lot of fun to be a lawyer who worked for a museum like The Met who basically went around troubleshooting the big crises for the museum. That might be an indication of how hopelessly uncool I am, that such would occur to me as a fantasy job, but it seemed like good terrain for a series. And it lets me indulge another of my junkiedoms, for museums. It's got a ways to go yet, but I'm hopeful about its future.
DAB: Sounds like something I'd take a gander at (to use your preposition ending). Now’s your chance – give us the final plug for your novel.
BCP: Grievous Angels is a great thrill ride, with lots of action and suspense. It has a bit of a supernatural edge, but really is a family story that gets into how a family copes with an unreal crisis. It has some chills, some laughs and a few scenes that should give you a good scare. It's a great ride and I really hope people will come along and enjoy it.
Brian C. Poole is a writer from the Boston area who’s trying really, really hard not to be a lawyer anymore. Well, at least not a full-time one. Brian’s novels include Grievous Angels , now available wherever e-books Echoes of a Distant Thunder (harder to find, but out there in the world of used books if you really, really look).
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