Thursday, April 4, 2013

Interview: Stephen Brayton

Let's get to know a little more about Stephen Brayton's new book, ALPHA

1. What was your inspiration for this book?
In 1991, after being involved in community theater for almost a year, I took up the local taekwondo club's offer of two weeks' free classes. Soon, I dropped theater to focus on martial arts. Around 1995, the writing bug hit me again and I thought about using an old character I'd created years before but was in awe of all the wonderful and talented women in my martial arts organization. So, I decided to change the gender to female. I wanted a hook for the planned series, so I thought the Greek alphabet would be interesting, using the letters as a reference to something else within the story. So Alpha refers to an alpha male and also to a fraternity one of the characters joined.

2. Would you classify your writing as plot driven or character driven?
I seek a good balance. I enjoy creating characters and want them unique or quirky enough to fit the story. The plot, however, has to be believable and will develop and change the main character by the end. I don't go for too complex plots. A little surprise at the end works but I want keep the reader reader's interest throughout the story.

3. Can you tell us a little about your main character?
Mallory Petersen: six feet tall, blonde, blue eyes, beautiful, strong, romantic, Fourth Degree Black Belt and private investigator in Des Moines, Iowa. She drives a 1971 Dodge Dart Swinger. She's won many trophies and medals at tournaments. She lives alone in a house in suburban Pleasant Hill. Normally, her cases are a little odd (finding lost goats, obtaining evidence against cheating spouses) but every once in awhile, she gets involved with something serious.

4. Which of your supporting characters was the most challenging to write?
Darren, Mallory's office manager. He's enigmatic, loyal, and I had to strengthen him a bit in the first book, Beta. My critique group suggested a name change to help reflect him in a more masculine manner. I try to have him always keep a secret from Mallory and, almost magically, to know where she is or what she's doing. He's a way to keep Mallory on her toes and always thinking. They have a good relationship and each is very supportive of and caring for the other.
5. Without giving away too much, tell us a little about the main conflict in this book.
In Alpha, Mallory finds the corpse of her boyfriend, Bobby, in front of her office building on October morning. Despite the cops wanting her to stay out of the investigation, she discovers devastating secrets including the fact Bobby was married with a child. From there she gets involved with narcotics, a police chief with a grudge, and local gangs.

6. Why did you choose this genre?
Because I have no interest in writing historical fiction and cannot write technical journals. Actually, I've enjoyed mysteries for decades. At one point in my life, I thought it would be fun to try my hand at writing a mystery story. Alpha and Beta aren't whodunits or cozies. I classify them as action mysteries.

7. What do you hope readers take away from this book?
I am in love with Mallory because she represents the type of martial artist and instructor I strive to be. I admire her work ethic and envy her friends and romantic endeavors. In Alpha, I take Mallory down to a low level, spiritually, emotionally, and physically. She's not Superwoman and she does get beat up and injured and the revelations about her relationship with Bobby affect her emotions. However, she always comes out on top, stronger and a better person for having endured. I think women especially would enjoy Mallory's strength and strong will and physical prowess. She is a woman other women can admire and gain strength from. I think males can enjoy the physicality of the martial arts, the pure action of the story.

8. Who are your favorite authors?
Ellery Queen. Erle Stanley Gardner. Elaine Viets. Rex Stout. Current faves are: Robert Pobi (a pure master at the use of language). Mike Manno (He doesn't put out enough books fast enough but they're good ones). Sparkle Abbey (The Pampered Pet Mysteries Series is the cat's meow and top dog).

9. Do you have any interesting rituals or habits when you write?
Nothing for public viewing...
Actually, I work nights and faced with several free and quiet hours. This is my time to market, update my website and blogs, check the social networking sites, read, and write. When I'm settled in for writing, I usually have a drink nearby, the phone off, the Internet closed, and classical music softly playing. A pen in hand and a notebook or legal pad in front of me. I write longhand for the first draft because I can think faster than I can write which allows my brain to put together paragraphs and sift through ideas while the hand is writing. I can type faster than I think so if I sat in front of a computer, I'd be stopping every few sentences to think of what came next. The typing of the written pages becomes my first edit.

10. Can you tell us about any future projects?
The first draft of Delta, the next Mallory Petersen story, is finished. This one is the toughest one yet because there was so much research to be done and I'm going to need hours to really focus on getting just the right atmosphere. I take Mallory so far down, she'll be affected for months, maybe years afterward.
My first book, Night Shadows, is begging for a sequel and I'm in the middle of the fourth rewrite and still not happy with it. I have a deadline, though. A relative from whom I obtained anecdotes to help me with some of the scenes is celebrating her 100th birthday next February and I have to read the story to her then.
I also have another mystery along the lines of Ross MacDonald that is going through it's second rewrite.
Oh, and one final project with a lofty but hoped for publication date of August 1. It's a collaborative story being written by over a dozen members of the writers' critique group I attend every week. Currently we're still slogging through the outline stage, but once we get rolling with the actual writing, I think we'll make some good progress.

Alpha is available now from Amazon

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