Adams / Brearton – A Double-barreled Interview

Taylor Adams is the author of Eyeshot, a debut thriller novel that soared to the top of the charts on Amazon, making him a best-selling author. T.J. Brearton is the author of Habit, Survivors, and the supernatural thriller Highwater, with multiple books reaching best-seller status on Amazon.*

Both Adams and Brearton are published by Joffe Books, based in Shoreditch, London.

The two authors dreamed up a cross-mojo interview where they would ask one another the kinds of questions that mainstream media sometimes misses.

 

Taylor Adams

Taylor Adams

T.J. Brearton interviews Taylor Adams

TJB: Okay. First question. “Where do your ideas come from?” Joking. What I really want to know is, “How long did it take you to write Eyeshot?”

TA: Too long! At least two solid years of writing, rewriting, and re-rewriting. Much of that was spent making beginner mistakes – not adhering to a schedule, getting bogged down in the first draft, et cetera – but I’m also a brutal perfectionist. The novel’s third act, in particular, I must’ve reworked a good fifty times before finally envisioning a climax I was happy with.

TJB: I’m curious as to what specifically caused you to feel bogged down in the first draft. Were you, in your perfectionist ways, trying to “get it right” too soon? Or was there something else going on?  

TA: Pretty much. Getting a rough draft down on paper (even a godawful one) is such an essential first step – you can’t fix story issues if the story isn’t written yet – and I started fine-tuning much too early in the process. Like trying to wax a car that’s still on the assembly line.

TJB: As of right now, Eyeshot has broken into the top 1,000 sales ranking for Amazon Kindle and has been hanging there for some time. According to interpretations of Amazon’s sales algorithm, that puts you currently between 100 to 300 books selling per day. Did you expect this? What were your intentions for submitting Eyeshot to publishers; Just get it out there and be happy with that, or start on your way to making a living writing fiction?

TA: I’m still in shock. I’d always known that I wanted to be an author – and ideally make some money at it – but I never imagined selling this many copies on a debut. So I’m truly grateful for every reader on Amazon who’s chanced their time and money on this little thriller from an unknown author, and everyone who’s taken the time to share their thoughts on it. I hope that as I keep writing and experimenting with new stories and ideas, these readers will keep buying and enjoying. I’d love to make a full-time living at this.

TJB: You’ve worked in film. How do you think this affected writing prose? Positively? Negatively? 

TA: Both, I’d say. Because filmmaking is so visual, it really hammered “show-don’t-tell” into my writing habits, and the bare-bones nature of screenwriting forced me to economize every last word. However, it’s possible to go too far in that direction and I think I went through a phase where I mistook vagueness for efficient prose.

TJB: Did you outline, or jump straight into a rough draft?

TA: I outline first, then write a rough draft. Outlining is a useful road map, but you don’t truly discover the story until you roll up your sleeves and write that godawful first draft.

eyeshotTJB: How many submissions before Joffe Books?

TA: I really lucked out here. I’d queried maybe a half-dozen publishers and received one contract offer – but I turned it down because I felt their editing and art design was subpar (my fault, really, for not researching them enough first). Then I queried Not So Noble Books, heard back from Jasper, and the rest is history. Having a publisher in the UK has been a terrific way to reach a lot of readers I otherwise likely wouldn’t have.

TJB: Do you read ebooks?

TA: Of course! I’m reading the Kindle edition of Richard Matheson’s Hell House at the moment. I still appreciate reading off dead trees, though. I’m old-fashioned.

TJB: After the fuss dies down (if it does, and the way your book is going, it may not), what do you plan to do? What’s your long game? Are you currently writing another book?

TA: I’d like to produce a book every 12-18 months, and keep trying new genres and stories. Hopefully with the same degree of commercial success as Eyeshot! Until that happens, I have my day job at an NBC TV affiliate in Seattle. I love mixing suspense and dark comedy, so that will probably be a consistent theme throughout my writing career, but I’m currently really excited to be working on a psychological horror novel. Horror is fun, and in my opinion, really operates on a slower wavelength than a thriller. You have to establish normalcy before you can disrupt it in a scary way. It’s been a real learning experience.

 

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T.J. Brearton

Taylor Adams interviews T.J. Brearton

TA: What cliché or crutch irks you most in thriller/mystery literature nowadays, and how do you avoid it (or subvert it) in your own work?

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TJB: That’s a good question. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever thought about it. I can say that recently I was reading a book by a very popular thriller writer and was struck by how prosaic the writing was. (Of course, right there I’ve shot myself in the foot using the fifty-cent word ‘prosaic’ which, by definition, is ‘having the style or diction of prose.’ So that author was probably doing the right thing.) But that’s not really a cliché or a crutch. I’ve always written from experience. There is a caution in this; someone said if you only write from within you are doomed to repeat yourself eventually. Still, I think maybe the cliché is to try and divorce oneself too much from the material because of some imaginary mandate. This popular author I’m speaking of admits to trying to do that, but then found that readers considered him to be just like his main character anyway. So I guess this is one long-winded way of saying, “I don’t know.” Are zombies a cliché ? If so then I guess I’m sick of those.

TA: Do you research before writing – or do you construct the story first and then research a way to make everything “possible?”

TJB: I think as I move along, I’m naturally tending away from just jumping in. It’s for my own sake. I want to get to the story I’m telling myself quicker, so knowing ahead of time what’s going to be happening helps. And there’s less work on the back end this way, I think – I hope. Less trying to rearrange things or reinvent things to make the story work, if you’ve got it worked out ahead of time. Less concern for character consistency and arc of change if you already know who they are and where they’re coming from and where they’re going.

…But, your question was actually about “research,” so maybe I just went off on a huge tangent? When I think of research I think of facts to ground the story in reality. I might do a lot of research before a story, depending on what it is. And I might research along the way. If what you’re asking (sorry, it’s early and I’m on only one coffee), is whether or not I make shit up and then try to find the research to legitimize it, then no, not really. But I think it can happen accidentally, with things you just didn’t know you didn’t know. Like if I write that a coyote becomes rabid and attacks a family while picnicking, do I then later go back and make sure coyotes can be rabid? (They can’t.) I think this happens, for sure. And then you just change the coyote to a Pit Bull and hope it doesn’t totally fuck up the rest of the story.

TA: Do you write in mornings? Evenings? How much per day?

TJB: It varies, but mainly I write in the mornings. My writing schedule relates to my family’s schedule, so I usually only get about three or four solid days a week. The rest of the time I’m always thinking about a new story or a revision. (I have a waterproof notepad in the shower; highly recommend.) When I am “in session” I usually don’t look up until I’ve cleared 2,000 words. On a good morning I might write 4 or 5,000. Of course it’s not all about volume, but that’s how my first draft gets down in a three month period.

3DSurvivorsWPagesTA: Does caffeine help?

TJB: I think Hemingway said you should write drunk and edit sober or write sober and edit drunk. I can’t drink alcohol, so I get zooted on coffee enough that I can blow up things with my mind.

TA: Favorite thing a reader has told you?

TJB: That’s tough. Probably my favorite comments and reviews came from my second book, Survivors. A reader said it made them rethink things about the world. I think that’s the highest compliment I could ever be paid. It’s great to entertain and to have people love something because it employs the correct formula. But to hear the work caused someone to think about things in a different way, or that the book mirrored what was going on in the world, that’s especially gratifying.

TA: What attracted you to Joffe Books?

TJB: Why, Jasper Joffe, of course! Jasper had me at “sounds fascinating” when I pitched my first book. Even though it was over email, I could hear his British accent. I’m joking, of course, but I definitely felt right away that he was cool, and very smart, and was just what I needed and wanted. Plus the fact that he said “yes” was very attractive, haha. (Sounds like we’re dating.)

TA: My favorite thrillers are always a little harder-edged. How do you find the right amount of violence, sex, and profanity? In your writing, I mean. Not real life.

TJB: I get the feeling from our correspondence in this cross-mojo interview that we are different sorts of writers, and that’s wonderful. I say that because what I get from your answers and some of your questions is that you are very thoughtful about writing. You outline, you analyze the principles of a genre, such as horror, you consider the weight you should give to these elements you mention, and so on. This is great, because I really think it shows that people who want to write can work in the way that suits their personality; you don’t necessarily have to condition yourself in a totally new way – because I am quite different than you, I think. I don’t outline. I’ve never thought about the levels of profanity or violence from an outside perspective; if it happens in the story, that is, if I see it before my mind’s eye, then it happens.

That said, I have become somewhat trainable; if enough readers seem dissatisfied with too much cursing in a book, on the next one I might think, “Should I tone this down? Was I just having a bad morning when I dropped in all those F-bombs?”

Probably with writing, as with everything, there is balance. I think readers are savvy. If the violence or sex is really gratuitous and calculated, they’re apt to see through that. But that doesn’t mean you can’t think about it. Between what I perceive to be your more organized approach, and my more organic one, entropy has us both approaching center anyway, as I am getting a bit more organized and planful, and you’re maybe letting some things go as you experiment and “play jazz” in new genres.

Or, I could be just making this up as a story in my head.

It’s been great fun doing this. Thanks, Taylor.

 

 

* Eyeshot was the number one book in the International Mystery & Crime category on Amazon Kindle. Habit was the number one free book in the world for Amazon Kindle; Highwater has been number one in the Psychic Suspense category in both the UK and US, and the number one Police Procedural in Canada.

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Highwater is Here

highwater cover5 NEW

Detective Tom Milliner is racing against time to save the life of a unique little boy. He needs a blood transfusion and only one person matches. But first Milliner must solve the mystery at the Kingston house, where Liz Goldfine may have committed a heinous crime, and the dark depths of the lake harbor teenage secrets. Groups of strange young men are gathering on the roads, the old house holds many mysteries, and the waters are rising fast. What lurks deep in the lake and can anyone stop it?

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TB10CLRT. J. Brearton is the acclaimed author of the #1 Amazon best-selling mystery, HABIT, also available now on Kindle. * *

Coming in October

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When an aging detective seeking to stop an ancient evil is aided by a group of supernatural young men, a woman and a child are the best hope for their success.

Published by Joffe Books. To be released in early October 2014 for availability on Amazon Kindle and all devices with Kindle App.

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“Survivors” strikes a nerve

“Fast-paced and well written, with good characters. The story is interesting, a reflection of what is happening in the US today.”

3DSurvivorsWPages“Fiction with a plausible conspiracy. The story jumps into the action straight away and brings the reader along for an exciting ride. I enjoyed the descriptive power of the author and look forward to reading more in this series.”

“Interesting ideology in this book…Mirrors what’s taking place in America nowadays…Left me thinking things over from the author’s viewpoint…A poignant, gripping tale…”

“Great book…loved all the characters.”

“One of those that you just couldn’t put down. Even when I had to stop reading my mind was on Survivors and what was happening next. Great read!”

GET THE BOOK ON AMAZON

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Money and Good and Evil

Money_GoodandEvil

I was on a subway in New York City when I first realized something for myself about the concepts of good and evil. There was a man asking for money. In his grip, just so you’d notice if you took a good look at him, was a box cutter.

While he rattled off his spiel about needing to take care of his kids, money to get around and so forth, that box cutter was in his hand. I met eyes with him for a moment. I registered one simple fact: he meant to use that blade if it came down to it.

People on the train were giving him money. I don’t know how many of them saw the box cutter or how many were just offering up alms out of habit and not really paying attention. I saw the knife. When it came to me, I gave him the few dollars I had in my pocket.

After I got off at my stop, and over the next several hours, days, weeks, I found myself contemplating the nature of good and evil.

The guy had been scary. His eyes were menacing. Yet I believed his story about his kids was legit. If it had sounded rehearsed, that was likely because he’d reiterated it hundreds of times. If he’d really just meant to take money by force, why the story? Maybe it was just a two-pronged approach and had been working well for him. Maybe the story about his family was rhapsodic bullshit. Maybe he needed the money for alcohol or drugs.

I began to wonder if that same man would’ve been on the train if he already had money. Seems like a no brainer; he wouldn’t have been. But what if he’d had mental illness? It would stand to reason that if he had money, he would be on medication or in treatment. But what if he was one of those types who didn’t know he was disturbed and/or refused help? It was possible. Possible that the man in the ratty coat with the box cutter talking about his mother and his kids and how they needed him and so please could you give him a little money, that this guy was just perfectly well-off and yet mentally disturbed and refusing treatment.

Possible. But, I think, not likely.

More likely he was just what he appeared to be; sane enough, knowing what he was doing, trying to appeal to his fellow human beings’ sense of compassion and equity, but keeping that knife there as an extra measure of persuasion.

I rode that subway frequently and never saw him again, nor did I ever read or hear about someone getting slashed with a box cutter by a panhandler on the 6 train.

So I was left deducing that the whole thing was a product of this man’s socioeconomic status; he was low-income. You could argue that he wasn’t brought up right, or that he was lazy and could’ve gotten a job, or that he was crazy after all, or just a bad seed, and I don’t have the tools to prove you wrong. I just had a sense of intuition that the whole reason he was there, and I was threatened, was because of a thing called money.

money cross symbol

We have, in our Western world, many issues which really split the room. Gun control, abortion, gay marriage, etcetera. But the mother of all of them, in my opinion, is money.

On the one hand there are people who believe that the current system in place is working. That corporate / big business money “trickles down” to the lower classes and increases the general wealth. That the globalization of money is good, too. An investment manager in emerging markets in Singapore, for instance, located abroad because of the low tax rate, is obviously apt to think that the globalization of money is positive. Perhaps he or she will point to the money cycling back from the emerging markets and feeding the pension funds of the West.

On the other hand, there are people who think the current system is flawed. That trickle-down economics is a fallacy, and that what’s needed is middle-out economics. More small businesses and well-paid workers that are happy workers who turn around and buy their company’s products because they make a livable wage.

One thing is for certain, no matter which side of the issue you fall on, the statistics show that the wealth disparity in the U.S., and in the world, is a wider gap than it has ever been. And the statistics also show that while the cost of living has risen dramatically, earnings for the middle and lower class have not risen commensurately.

It makes sense; it’s logical: Large corporations are prone to sheltering their money offshore to avoid taxation, to pay their employees as little as possible while their CEOs are earning more and more. This is not conspiracy; in fact, it’s perfect legal. No U.S. tax laws prohibit a corporation from making its money in the US and then moving it overseas to low- or no tax-rate countries to avoid paying taxes, which would then go back into the U.S. economy. And we’re talking billions and billions of dollars. Manufacturing, too, of course, has largely moved offshore; what hasn’t been automated has been outsourced to China, India, Pakistan, et al where factories can pay workers a pittance. Meanwhile, the middle class in the U.S. has withered, bearing the brunt of taxation in the void left by the rich and the fiscal inadequacy of the poor.

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What’s ironic is that there have been studies which show that having more money does not actually make a person happier. One MIT study illustrated how, in a rigged game of Monopoly, players who garnered the preponderance of assets actually began acting less compassionately toward the other players, while the players not doing well tended to be courteous and empathetic towards one another.

We’ve all heard stories about how the poor, whether in the rural south or in third world countries, entertain a bounty of rituals full of spirit and family and togetherness. Surely the rich also have their traditions, too, and there are doubtless happy rich people out there.

But one allegory of the wealth-and-happiness correlation about a lost hiker and a cabin illustrates what the studies have uncovered. There is a ceiling to the happiness we can feel based on the wealth or status we have acquired. The allegory tells the story that a hiker is lost in the woods, cold, wet, and hungry. Upon finding a cabin with a crackling fire, a towel, and a bowl of soup, the hiker becomes a lot happier. But if that hiker were to transition from the cabin, with its meager offerings, to a five star resort, the happiness of the hiker doesn’t become much more enriched. And if the hiker was to move from the five star resort to an entire mansion in a villa he owned, there is no more happiness to acquire.

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In early cultures there is a common link to how members of a society looked upon a person who took more than their share. Someone who had hoarded twice as much or ten times as much as the rest of the tribe was considered to have a disorder.

There is just so much that we can acquire before our happiness peaks. Our basic needs met, we are able to go about fulfilling our self-actualization, to become what is in us to become. Sure, some people want to self-actualize as a millionaire or a billionaire. And it’s their right to do so. It’s just interesting how many millionaires and billionaires we now have, and how the population of the lower class has increased right along with the upper class while the middle class has become more and more burdened.

In thinking of this process, one could picture a sphere, with a thin slice at the top as the rich, and the thin slice at the bottom the poor. That sphere has become an hourglass, with a bulb of rich at the top, a hefty dollop of poor at the bottom, and that reed-thin central piece the middle class.

It would seem then, that in order to achieve that dream of money, there are people’s backs you have to stand on. And for those backs that break, those people then slip into the lower class. This is not something that happens in a day, or exactly in an overt way, it happens over time, and it is revealed through the statistics and through the collective sentiment of those people who feel that the system is flawed.

 

Evil_wal_smiley

So what do we do? If you’re rich and avoiding high tax rates, you don’t want to do anything; you want to keep things status quo. If you’re poor, like the man on the 6 train, you might not even know what to do, so you take a box cutter and go out panhandling for cash. If you’re middle class, you’re likely in one of two camps. Camp One, you’re miserable because of the taxes you have to pay, so you blame the government for taxing you in order to hand out welfare to the lower class; you may even blame the lower class for being lazy. You wish for less government and more privatization. Let every person do what they want to do, and let the market (now the global market) keep prices affordable and competitive and the wealth will trickle down and spread around.

Camp Two, you’re miserable because of the taxes you pay, and you’re angry at the corporate subsidies you see in the world around you. Mega-corporations like Walmart that take huge tax breaks, pay their employees as little as they can, and then their employees need food stamps to buy from the store they work at. It’s government assistance that comes out of your hard earned tax dollars; so somehow your tax dollars are indirectly subsidizing an already billion-dollar, highly profitable company. And the market isn’t deciding squat, except to cede more of its share to Walmart, which is ubiquitous and offers rock-bottom prices because of products made in China, a country our own nation is now financially indebted to after huge borrowed sums of money.

How much money does a company like Walmart need? How much dough does a CEO have to rake in to be comfortable?

Of course, it’s Walmart’s right to behave as they do. Yes, it’s a CEO’s right to amass a fortune. Thing is, the ways to improve the situation for the middle and lower class aren’t about suspending rights or upending capitalism or blighting the Constitution. Naysayers needn’t fold their arms and set their jaws and talk about “the American way.”

What we need to talk about, if we want true prosperity, which comes from a healthy middle class and greater parity of assets and resources, is how to amend the system so that there is less government dependency, both on the low end of the socioeconomic spectrum, and at the top.

Higher wages for workers is one way to help move in that direction. The age-old argument that higher wages shrink job growth and cause layoffs is just not part of the current data. It’s an argument that goes back seventy-five years to when ardent capitalists first moved to block the institution of the minimum wage, equal pay for women, and child labor laws. Each time it was the same worry that businesses would have to close or go bankrupt, massive layoffs would ensue. But this has never actually been the case. Instead, time and again we see examples of businesses adapting to new models, which either profit-share with their employees or pay them higher, and that ends up coming back to the businesses.

And that’s where it’s all at. That’s where the “good” comes into the discovery of the truth behind good and evil. Good is giving. Good is when you offer your employees something better. It ends up coming back to you, time and time again. But then that other G-word so often gets in the way. Greed is a complex element of psychological and cultural factors. Some would say it has wended its way into our system like a snake in the garden.

Greed says to take, to hold on, Good says to let go. That’s why the money at the top is sheltered, stuck away; it does not flow down into the American economy like the Milton Freidman disciples say it does. We’re just not seeing that proof. Good is in-line with the way nature works, one big giant cycle of sharing. You share time, you share resources, you share the wealth of the kill, the bounty of the forest. When your time is up, you die. How you lived is measured by what you gave, not what you took.

So whether we want to stand behind the old Economics 101 argument that wage increases will be ruinous, which has no basis in reality, or we want to embrace an enlightened version of capitalism that puts a stop to corporate sequestering of wealth, tax breaks, and the ensuing middle class burdens – if we want this country to be more like “the way it was,” then we need to move forward towards a robust middle class once again.

Through giving.

Because the man with the box cutter on the 6 train is emblematic. There are more of him every day, not less. How far do we need to go until we see him everywhere? Until “evil” has completely taken over our society? When all we had to do was just uncross our arms, unset our jaw, and decide to give a little to our neighbors.

 

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Great related articles:

http://jared.realizingresonance.com/2012/04/08/money-a-story-of-good-and-evil

http://godlymanifestation.blogspot.com/2012/08/money-enough-to-suffer-part-1.html

http://musingswithmitch.com/?p=1492