August 2010 Limelight Author: Pat Brown


Hot days…dog days…high temperatures and thoughts of cool, autumn afternoons. Can you guess? Yes, it’s August.

this month brings us Pat Brown, a crime fiction author with a lot of unique and interesting things to keep us spellbound.

KB: This month I have author Pat Brown in the Limelight. She writes gay crime fiction, which are well written, and oh-so gritty and realistic. Welcome to the limelight, Pat!

PB: Glad to be here, and thanks for having me.

KB: I read in your bio that you packed up and moved to L.A. where you found yourself after being young and free for a while. I understand that at the time you lived in a crime-ridden section of the city and that it’s the basis of why you write crime novels. However, what drove you to actually start penning them?

PB: One reason I moved to L.A. was to try my hand at screenwriting. What I loved and wanted to replicate were shows like The Rockford Files and, I have to confess, Starsky & Hutch. (I was sooo in love with Starsky) But I especially loved the character of Rockford. During a course, I had to come up with a character to base a movie on. I came up with a guy I called Johnny Wager. In the beginning he was an ex-con who had been sent to jail for a crime he didn’t commit and when he got out he was hounded by this LAPD detective who wanted to put him back in jail permanently. There was a murder he pinned on Wager, and Wager had to find the real killer to keep that from happening.

The screenplay and writing career went nowhere and I went back to writing novels. But for the longest time I wrote science fiction, not crime. But over time two things happened. I grew away from SF, started reading mysteries, and I found myself remembering L.A. and how much I had loved it. The city both fascinated and horrified me, but one thing I couldn’t do was forget it. It was glamorous and glitzy, but it also had some of the worst, most horrific killers imaginable. When I shifted to mysteries it was like there was no question of putting them anywhere else. To me it was the perfect place for bad things to happen to good and bad people.

KB: So you were wrapped up in sci-fi for a while too? What drew you to that particular genre and did you ever have any of those stories published?

PB: I grew up with a science fiction loving family. My dad was almost fanatical about it and we used to sit up till all hours of the night talking about where the world might be going and how this book or that book reflected something. We used to joke we solved all the world’s problems in a few hours over a couple of beers. I also had two brothers into SF, so it was really in my blood, so to speak. The very first book I wrote wasn’t SF, but after that, they all were until I wrote L.A. Heat. Only one of novels and one short story were published.

KB: Ever thought of writing an m/m sci-fi novel?

PB: The one SF novel that was published, just came out from Amber Allure and it’s m/m. It’s called Fall Into the Night. I may write a sequel if the book proves popular enough. Here’s a short blurb for it: Captain Terik u Selhdun has known darkness all of his life. Captain of the Necromancer, the ruler of Tiamat, his ancestral home, he is coerced into taking a small group of scientists in search of the legendary birthplace of humanity. Earth — Terra — was lost to history during the Exodus. From the beginning trouble dogs the expedition, from a failed assassination attempt to the manipulations of a despotic Suzerain and a brutal Navy Admiral who have no intention of letting Selhdun or his mission succeed.

KB: Was the crime of the city the reason you left and moved two more times?

PB: I really only left because I was pregnant and the chance to go to Hawaii came up, and face it, who doesn’t dream of living in Hawaii? So I went there and had my daughter. But the relationship fell apart and I couldn’t afford to live in Hawaii or L.A. on my own so I had to return to my family in Canada. But of both places, it was L.A. that stayed in my mind.

KB: Were you ever frightened living in such a violent neighborhood? Do you channel those emotions from those years into your characters?

PB: Sometimes looking back I realize I should have been afraid, but I rarely was. I don’t know if that was just the cockiness of youth or that I just felt so at home there I never felt threatened. But I was still very aware of what was going on. A bartender friend of mine was murdered by a customer she took home. I had met the man that night and sat beside him talking, mostly about how much he liked my friend and about how lonely he was. My only thought when I left her alone with him that night was that he was a nice guy. The next day she was dead. Later, the man I lived with was shot by a sniper – small caliber shotgun, so he wasn’t hurt. But it was just another thing I absorbed. But at the same time I had no compunction about going out drinking and walking home alone in Hollywood late at night. We even lived in our car for a month, moving around from neighborhood to neighborhood.

Sometimes I seriously wonder how I managed to stay alive. I did so many foolish things. But I did and out of it came a million experiences I have been able to tap for my stories including a near death experience that came much later. If you read Forest of Corpses you will experience something of what I went through when Spider hallucinates towards the end of the book.

KB: {whistles in appreciation} You certainly do have a wealth of information and experience to draw upon for your stories!

Do you ever find Hawaii or Canada crying out to be the main settings for your books?

PB: Oddly enough, not really. I keep thinking I should write about Hawaii, but no ideas ever come to me. The same with Canada. The closest I have come to a story is an idea for a historical set in Ontario in the late 1800s. But there is no solid plot at this point so I don’t know if it will ever come to be.

KB: Every author has a favorite book that he or she has written. Which one is yours?

PB: This is hard, because I’m not sure my favorite is the best one I’ve written. It would have to be Memory of Darkness. In that I was able to bring Johnny Wager from my scriptwriting days back and give him new life in the form of a smart-assed ex-con, burglar and car thief who went to jail because he had committed the crimes he was convicted of, unlike his first incarnation. I think of him as Jim Rockford on steroids or a gay Rockford meets John Dillinger. He was fun to write and in some ways he best reflects my personal experiences in L.A. He’s a character and a half and a few people have been upfront about not liking him one bit. Others love him nearly as much as I do. Those are the kinds of characters I like writing about. The ones on an edge. That have a dark streak in them that can never quite be tamed. I like to think they are an extension of me. LOL. ☺

KB:  What are you working on now?

PB: Recently I’ve moved into writing historical novels. Still at this point set in L.A. but the L.A. of the Prohibition years. I stumbled into it and once I started researching that time period I became amazed that there weren’t more stories set then. It’s so rich in potential. I mean Prohibition itself, then the characters of the day – women getting freedoms they’d almost never had before, famous cross-dressers who were almost as big in their day as movie stars, corrupt cops and politicians that make any of today’s scandal seem tame. In the bigger East coast cities there were even openly run gay bars – there used to be tours of them for both local straights and out of towners. They weren’t shut down until the depression started, along with the rise of anti-immigration and a growing dislike of all things ‘foreign’. The nascent movie industry blossomed with newly minted movie stars that had never been imagined before and the onrush of technology: cars, airplanes, highways going up around the country, skyscrapers rising higher than people had thought you could build. Quite literally it seemed that there was no limit to what we could do. Then the hardest crash ever that brought a complete reversal, all sandwiched by two world wide conflicts that disrupted whole generations.

So I’m writing books set then. Color of Shadows and Smoke, A Place of Silence and the one I’m collaborating with Leslie Nicoll of Bristlecone Pine Press called Where Shadows Run. There may be more after that. I don’t know yet. Not that I’ve stopped writing contemporary novels. I have a 5th and 6th L.A. book coming out, and other crime novels set in the Los Angeles of today and my venture back into Science Fiction with Fall Into the Night and a possible sequel. I still have lots of places to explore within the City of Angels and don’t see myself getting tired of her anytime soon.

KB: I have to agree with you on the time period. Some of my favorite movies and books are set during Prohibition. However, you sure are busy! Do you find yourself looking up from the pc to discover too much time has passed, you’re late for an appointment, or you’re an hour overdue starting supper?

PB: I have, but I have one advantage, if I’m late starting supper, I’m the only one who gets hungry, since I’m not cooking for anyone but me. As for appointments, I’m pretty good about setting alarms and notifications to myself to do that. If I’m deep into a novel, I have been known to be lousy company when I do tear myself away and go out. I can’t stop thinking about it, and always carry a notepad with me which I will pull out to jot things down, regardless of where I am, or who I’m with.

KB: So, I’m going to guess you have dozens of research books on your shelves that are about crime and the criminal as well as books on the time period you mentioned above?

PB: I do own a lot of research books, some are actual text books used in police academies, others are written by cops, or reporters who worked with cops, even books written (or ghost written) by gang bangers. I imagine I have at least a couple of hundred dollars in books, probably more, since one book alone cost over a hundred. I also watch/buy movies and documentaries about that time, including a few silent movies. I’ve also been accumulating a lot of books about the 20s and 30s. I even bought 3 issues of Good Housekeeping from the 20s, and a Sears, Roebuck catalog for 1923. Sear, Roebuck was the eBay of the day. You could sit at home and buy almost anything, including houses. You could buy a four-bedroom house for around $2500.00 – and they had installment plans, too, so even then people were going into debt to have nice things. Apparently the shipped the house out by train and you assembled it when it got there, or hired someone to do so. I haven’t found much notice of real building codes back then.

KB: I find the cover for A Forest of Corpses very unusual. Was that something you worked on with the cover artist, or did you luck out and have an artist who summed up the premise of your novel perfectly?

PB: I worked with Deana on that, and all my covers. I wanted something that both invoked the image of bondage/submission in some way, but I also wanted the forest background to be there. The photo of the tree stump is mine. I took that at my brother’s farm a couple of years ago. Deanna found the image of the man. She sent me several sample covers, all quite unique, but that one struck me as the most powerful. I think it’s very evocative of the story.

KB: Using your own photo in a cover is really cool!

PB: When I was in L.A. this March I took a lot more. You may see some of them on covers soon, too. If I get back next year, I’ll add to my photo album and my story idea chest.

KB: Well, Pat, I’ve enjoyed this interview. You’re one interesting lady, that’s for sure! And I think it’s wonderful that you’ve mixed parts of your life, people you’ve known, and things you’ve witnessed with your crime fiction. Thank you so much for being here this month and sharing with my readers!

PB: It was fun and thanks for having me. I’ve always figured two things – leading an interesting life might be a pain at times but it provides good material and what doesn’t kill you makes for really great stories someday. I keep telling myself that when something really bad is happening:-)

KB: For more about Pat brown and her work, visit her website at http://www.pabrown.ca or for her alter-ego, GK Parker, who will write all the darker mainstream historical novels http://gkparkerhistorynoir.blogspot.com/

~~~~~~~~~~

July 2010  Author in the Limelight Rick R. Reed, go here.
June 2010 Author in the Limelight Lisa Alexander-Griffin, go here.
May 2010 Author in the Limelight Honoria Ravena, go here.
April 2010 Author in the Limelight Nicole Zoltack, go here.
March 2010 Author in the Limelight Marianne Stephens, go here.
February 2010 Author in the Limelight Tess MacKall, go here.
January 2010 Author in the Limelight Jade Twilight, go here.
November’s Author in the Limelight Shiela Stewart, go here.
December’s Author in the Limelight Selene Noreen, go here.

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