Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Brian Freeman

Brian Freeman is an internationally and New York Times bestselling author of mystery and detective and psychological suspense novels, including Spilled Blood, which won the 2013 ITW Thriller Award for Best Hardcover Novel. His books have been sold in forty-six countries and twenty-two languages and have appeared as main selections in the Literary Guild and the Book of the Month Club.

Freeman's new novel is Funeral for a Friend.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

In the early days, my working titles often changed by the time the books made it into print. Rachel's Body became Immoral. Vegas Baby became Stripped. In fact, I think I was on my fifth novel, The Burying Place, before a title stuck all the way through the publishing process. So I learned not to become too emotionally attached to them.

Honestly, working titles are probably more important for me than the reader. A title grounds me in the story. Some writers can stick “Untitled” or “Title to Follow” at the top of their manuscript and get going. Not me. I need to have a title to bring the project to life.

On the other hand, by the time a book appears in print, I’m really not sure the title does much to engage the reader with the story itself. It’s really just a tease – something interesting, dramatic, and mysterious to get the reader to pick up the book. It may or may not have anything to do with the plot.

But just to prove there’s always an exception to the rule, Funeral for a Friend is actually a very meaningful title for my new novel. As the reader gets toward the climax, it adds an element of anticipatory horror, as people wonder – Would he? Could he?

What's in a name?

Some names are meaningful. In the case of Jonathan Stride, for example, his name reflects that determined, step-by-step essence of his personality. On the other hand, other names simply feel right; they pop into your head and you simply know that’s the perfect name for a particular character. Or the names may come from some wild places. My hero Frost Easton takes his name from a highway sign in southwestern Minnesota!

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your new novel?

This is the life I dreamed about as a teenager, but back then, I couldn’t have imagined the depth or challenge of the writer’s life. It’s the hardest work I’ve ever done before, yet it’s also the most rewarding. It’s all-consuming to the point that I would love to have a little more distance from it sometimes (which rarely happens), but I also find it creatively energizing. For example, I wrote Funeral for a Friend simultaneously with The Bourne Evolution (my first Jason Bourne book for the Robert Ludlum estate). That’s a combination of circumstances even my teenage self would have had a hard time believing!

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

Beginnings are always harder. The first third of a novel is the most intense and demanding, because you have to get to know the story and the characters. It’s a little easier with a series book like Funeral for a Friend, because I already know the main characters so well. But regardless, it takes time for a new story to wrap itself around your brain and take on a momentum of its own. Once the story and characters have come to life on the page, then it all goes much faster. My endings don’t change much, but I’m constantly editing and tweaking the early chapters.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

Oh, I think there’s a little bit of me in every character I create – something that should probably make my readers very nervous! On the other hand, there’s a little bit of the reader in every character, too. I deliberately paint my characters in watercolors, providing just enough detail to seed your imagination so that you can build out the rest of that person in your mind. I think that helps create an emotional attachment between the reader and the characters. That’s why, when a reader asked me if I would recognize Jonathan Stride if I met him on the street, I said no – but I bet you would.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

Inspiration comes from so many different places. Sometimes it’s just opening up the newspaper. Readers delving into Funeral for a Friend will certainly see some “ripped from the headlines” elements that were inspired by current events. Usually, I’ll twist those events around to make you think about all the complexities and shades of gray we face in difficult issues. Other times, locations will suggest stories, too. There’s an area in Duluth on the Lester River called The Deeps, where kids often dive and swim. Unfortunately, after heavy rains, the undertow can be incredibly dangerous. It’s a beautiful, treacherous area – and simply seeing it made me want to set scenes there, which I did in this book.
Visit Brian Freeman's official website and follow him on Facebook.

--Marshal Zeringue