Here is the second half of our conversation with crime novelist Robert Gregory Browne, member of the KILLER YEAR: Class of 2007. Winner of the prestigious AMPAS Nicholl award, Robert spent several years "riding the Hollywood rollercoaster before severe motion sickness forced his retirement from the business." At the urging of a novelist friend, Browne tried his hand at long-form fiction -- the result, a thriller called Kiss Her Goodbye (St. Martin's Press), hits shelves February. Thriller writer Gayle Lynds calls it "a first-rate novel that will glue you to your chair until you finish the last satisfying word."
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WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR ASPIRING WRITERS?
The usual. Never stop reading, especially in the genre you're interested in. And never stop writing. Any kind of writing. Just write and write and write some more until you develop your own style. There's nothing wrong with imitation at first -- I used to imitate Donald Westlake and William Goldman -- but eventually you'll have to go beyond being an imitator and discover your own voice. And that takes time and practice.
And along with that: don't be so anxious to get in print. I know, I know, EVERYONE wants to be in print as soon as possible, but developing your writing muscles takes time, and believe me, few people are ready their first time out.
Kiss Her Goodbye is my very first completed novel, yes, but I had many years experience writing movies and television and learned a lot about structure and storytelling during those years. I also wrote my screenplays as novelistically -- if that's a word -- as possible. My goal was to get the producer turning the pages. And I have that same goal when writing novels.
WHAT DO YOU WISH NON-WRITERS UNDERSTOOD?
That writing is not easy. That knowing what to write and when to write it is extremely difficult. That the book they're picking up took months, if not years, of sweat, blood and tears to write. It's sometimes as exhausting as manual labor.
WHAT DO YOU WISH OTHER WRITERS UNDERSTOOD?
I think other writers understand very well what it means to be a writer. If they didn't, I wouldn't have such a wonderful time talking with them. It's an amazing thing to be in a room or a bar surrounded by people who do exactly what you do for a living. They "get" it, when those on the outside don't.
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT PUBLISHING THROUGH THIS "KILLER YEAR" CAMPAIGN?
I've learned that people in the business respond to a well thought-out campaign. I'm frankly surprised at how many people have latched onto Killer Year and given us a huge amount of recognition. People like you and Sarah Weinman and other blogs, as well as St. Martin's Press offering ideas to help us promote Killer Year. I may be biased -- since they're publishing Kiss Her Goodbye and the next book -- as well as the Killer Year anthology -- but St. Martin's is a wonderful, supportive house.
I've also learned that people can do so much more when they band together.
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT YOURSELF?
When I was screenwriting, I hated meetings and parties, didn't really feel like socializing all that much with the Hollywood crowd. Figured I must be anti-social. But since I've fallen in with the publishing crowd, I've discovered I can be a social animal and love every minute of it. I look forward to the meetings and parties instead of dreading them, and I have a feeling that has to do with the level of respect you get as a novelist. In Hollywood, the screenwriter -- unless he has a hot property -- doesn't get much respect. And once they OWN that property, he or she is often discarded like a used tissue.
Not true in publishing. Not in my experience.
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT YOUR CRAFT?
First, writing Kiss Her Goodbye in itself was an education. It was the first long form piece of work I'd ever done. I didn't know if I'd be able to sustain the 420 pages it took to write the story. But as I began to write, I felt as if the whole world had been opened up to me. That I could explore feelings and character motivations that I wasn't able to get into as a screenwriter, simply because of the nature of the screenwriting craft. Movies are visual. And most of what we learn about the characters is told to us through pictures and, to a lesser extent (if you're any good at the craft), dialog.
But when writing Kiss Her Goodbye, I was able to get into the heads of my characters. To let the reader know their thoughts and feelings. And that's an experience that nothing else in the writing craft equals -- at least for me.
But I'll be learning craft for as long as I write. You never stop learning.
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Many thanks to crime fiction novelist Robert Gregory Browne. Find him online at RobertGregoryBrowne.com.
You can also find more at the Killer Year website, the Killer Year blog and the Killer Year MySpace page.
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KILLER Q&A: ROBERT GREGORY BROWNE, PT 1
KILLER Q&A: MARCUS SAKEY (The Blade Itself)
KILLER Q&A: SEAN CHERCOVER (Big City, Bad Blood)
KILLER Q&A: SANDRA RUTTAN (Suspicious Circumstances)
KILLER YEAR: Class of 2007
Adopting Killer Year
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