Please welcome murder mystery author Patrick Brigham! He joins us from his home in Greece, where he talks about the nuances of the murder mystery genre, and how his personal experiences in Eastern Europe have contributed to his writing. He also has some invaluable advice for new writers.
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Patrick Brigham –
How many books have you written? This can include both published and unpublished works. Describe each of them in 1-2 sentences apiece (if published, feel free to include the links as well)
I have written a few books over the years but my most recent publications are the most important ones. This year I published Herodotus – The Gnome of Sofia:
Against a backdrop of political change in South Eastern Europe, this murder mystery embraces disgruntled communists, cold war warriors, intrigue, deception and finally murder. Sir Arthur Cumberpot has an unspectacular career which is swiftly drawn to a close when he is appointed British Ambassador to Bulgaria. Due to some unforeseen mishaps his wife Annabel is accused of being a spy and sent home to their house in Watlington while her background is checked by MI5. Annabel is guilty of nothing, other than being the biological daughter of Jim Kilbey, Britain’s most famous spy. It seems that a jealous god has sought to visit the sins of the father upon her, but so has everyone else. She is the victim of serendipity, but also of cover ups, the duplication of thin evidence and exaggeration. But she is also heartless, treacherous, self indulgent and without shame.
I also published Judas Goat – The Kennet Narrow Boat Mystery:
Sitting in a Lloyd Loom chair on a Narrow Boat, moored on the Kennet and Avon Canal, a dead man stares into oblivion. Who is he and what is his name? Chief Inspector Michael Lambert from Thames Valley Police Authority unravels a murder mystery which stretches from Reading in the UK to Bulgaria, South Africa to Belorussia, and finally from Taiwan to Peru. What at first appears to be a straightforward murder is revealed to be part of an international manhunt, the result of a major arms deal which has gone horribly wrong. The story begins with the discovery of a small mobile phone on the narrow boat and ends with the murder of a Chinese shipping magnate in the streets of London. Will anyone’s life be the same again and how will our provincial policeman cope with these different layers of intrigue?
Tell me a little bit about your current WIP.
Working title An Angel over Rimini this is a continuation story involving Detective Chief Inspector Lambert. In this murder mystery DCI Lambert is working on secondment for Europol which is the EU equivalent of the FBI. In it he visits Italy in order to track down a little English girl who has been abducted. Whilst he is there in Southern Italy he also tries to find out more about his mysterious father, who had served in Italy during WW2 in the Royal Air Force. As he simultaneously seeks the whereabouts of the little girl, so he finds out some disquieting facts about his father’s time in Italy, when serving with a Pathfinder Squadron in Bari. Both of his investigations unearth some very unnerving facts as murder looms on the horizon.
What does writing preparation look like for you? Do you do full outlines and character profiles, or do you just start with a general idea and write?
A story ferments in my mind for some while before I finally make the trip to the computer. Good murder mystery books need a strong element of truth about them, especially concerning the intricate details of forensic science – readers are becoming very aware of the facts these days. So there is a lot of research to be done, but presently through the wonder of Wikipedia, our travel costs are few. The main characters appear almost immediately, and the throwaway ones and the inevitable ‘henchmen’ easily fade away in the readers mind, as they concentrate on the main story. So in answer to your question, it is a bit of both.
Editing is a challenge for many writers. Give us some of your tips for editing efficiently and well.
Editing and proofreading are essential, and anyone who feels that they can do without, is on their way to nowhere. Writers are readers too, and we all get a bit miffed when horrible errors start appearing in the text. One is OK, two is unfortunate, but three is too much. I know what people have said about my past efforts when I was Chief Editor of a magazine for some years – so it applies to us all.
Research is another challenge writer’s face, but it is an important part of the writing process. What are some of your research tips?
Don’t be in a hurry. If you get it right the story becomes more interesting – believe me – and you never know you might learn something new!
If you have been published (self or traditionally), what type of marketing did you find worked the best for you? What was the least helpful?
I am self published. I always knew that marketing a good murder mystery was 10% writing and 90% marketing, so with Judas Goat – The Kennet Narrow Boat Mystery, I have launched myself and others heavily into a structured campaign – as they say – at both sides of the pond! Marketing is easier in America because they have practically invented the sympathetic use of the internet. With Don McCauley and Daniela Hampson on www.thesauthorsshow.com I found a high level of professionalism and very helpful information. In the UK, things are still fairly dominated by traditional publishers, but – as they say – things are changing.
What genre do you write in? What are some of the challenges to writing this particular genre well?
I write within the spectrum of Murder mystery, meaning that I also take a swipe at humbug and the idiosyncrasies of human nature. Murder is very serious I know, but meanwhile people are living their normal lives, and there is always some humor in that. I have also spent many years in The Balkans and so I know and understand Communism and the intrigue and myths surrounding Eastern Europe, before and after the changes. That is why I have set some of my books in that part of the world, colored by some of the many almost sometimes unbelievable characters and happenings, which prevailed at the time.
What advice would you give to a writer who is starting out?
Don’t be in a hurry, and don’t chase after the glitter when if you wait bit, you might find some gold.
What are your writing, editing, marketing, and research goals for 2013?
I expect it will be more of the same, but with more recognition and finally more interest from others. Writers should stick together and take an interest in each other’s writing.
Pretend I am from a publishing house and you are looking for me to take on one of your books. Pitch it to me in 1-2 paragraphs.
It is not all about the simplicity of genre, and there are writers out there residing in the ether who don’t always write to order or fit into the over simplistic categories that publishers present to us these days. But if one does not comply with these strictures then the wastepaper basket and the slush pile is waiting for you. So this is what I say:-
“The author Patrick Brigham has recently written two good mystery books, including Herodotus – The Gnome of Sofia, and Judas Goat – The Kennet Narrow Boat Mystery. Set once more at the end of the Cold War and Communism, his most recent book features the jazz loving, classic car enthusiast and fictional police murder detective, Chief Inspector Michael Lambert. Faced with political intrigue and in order to solve cases which often involve Eastern Europe, he genuinely needs to understand how an old Communist thinks, during the course of his investigations.
There are few good books on the subject of international crime, especially mystery stories which delve into the shady side of politics. There are also few mystery novelists, who are prepared to address the thorny political issues of arms dealing and money laundering in their mystery crime fiction. As a recently seconded officer to Europol – the new federal European police force –Police Detective C.I. Michael Lambert will bring a refreshingly new slant to good crime fiction books, as they emerge in the future from the pen of the author Patrick Brigham. “
Finally, is there anything else you would like your readers to know?
Writing is not about money, although that is how it is often presented to an aspiring writer by the press and in the mind’s eye of the general public. It is hard to make a living as a writer, but moreso is the damage to your soul if you don’t. Don’t give up!