Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Interview with Brant Randall, author of Blood Harvest

I read and reviewed Blood Harvest. And I liked it too. I sent a set of questions to Brant Randall, which he graciously answered for us all.

Do visit him on his website:

I sent a set of questions to Brant Randall, which he graciously answered for us all. Here we go:


1. How much time did it take to write Blood Harvest? Did you have stumbling blocks in the way? If so, what?

Blood Harvest took about 6 months to write. The stumbling blocks were: 1) doing promotion for my first novel, Philippine Fever; 2) teaching my college classes on film directing, film business, and globalization of the news media; 3) spending time with my grandkids around the country, my wife, my son, my parents. The problem is that I like doing all these things.

2. Do you have any favourite spot that you like to write in (i.e. sitting on the bed, in a comfortable chair or out in the open, etc.)?

At my computer in my office, with the house empty. Otherwise, I am too tempted to join whatever else is in progress.

3. What was the process you went through to find a publisher for your book? Was it difficult?

For my first novel, Philippine Fever, I sent the ms to several agents all of whom rejected it with little or no comment. I eventually found an agent who sent it to the major publishing houses in New York. In short, order I had seven rejections, but some of them included words of encouragement while claiming the project was not right for them.

I had written nearly 30 screenplays and directed six movies before I attempted my first novel. Hollywood is a very competitive place so I had already experienced dozens of rejections before I sold my first script. It was painful and ego shrinking the first time it happened. My “child,” the offspring of my imagination, had been critiqued, criticized, and cut down to size.

In fact, the first script never sold at all and I “suffered,” developing my aura as an “artist.” The aura and a part time job put groceries on the table.

After half a dozen sales of scripts that were made I finally achieved a more balanced perspective. I consider this the most important thing I have learned as a writer. Here it is---
My scripts, books and movies are not my “children.” They are creations: some good, some bad, some better than others, some ahead of their time, some behind. But in every case they were not ME, they were not my “babies.” (I have real children who are now grown men. One of them is the author Troy Cook.)

These creations exist apart from me, just as Beethoven’s symphonies are not the man and Emily Dickenson’s poems are not the woman.

Publishers are much like film producers. They may like “art” but they keep their jobs by putting out projects that appeal to a larger public than just their own tastes.

Having adjusted my attitude, I then adjusted my working pattern. I joined a writer’s critique group. I cannot overstate the value of having other writers look at, respond to, critique, and make suggestions for improvement to my work.

Philippine Fever was published by Capital Crime Press. After the majors had rejected the ms, my agent was out of ideas about seeking a publisher. I asked if she minded if I pursued small presses. She didn’t so I began talking to editors from small presses whenever I met them—usually at writer’s conferences.

Three small presses offered to publish Philippine Fever. The monetary differences in the offers were not great. I made my choice based on how well my book matched their catalog.

That first novel sold well enough that Capital Crime Press wanted to publish this one, Blood Harvest.

4. Are you writing full-time? If yes, do you think it is a good decision?

Not yet. I think I will need a backlist of at least half a dozen books before the revenue stream from current sales and sales of previous titles will be sufficient to support myself.

5. What were you doing before you decided to be writer? Did that help in your writing career in any way?

I was a laser physicist on the Apollo Project; a mathematics professor at school specializing in aerospace engineering; a film director, writer, editor, sound designer, cameraman; a film professor. Plus the usual mix of jobs you take while in college. I think writing crime novels is finally my real job.

Every job provides grist for the writing mill. Characters, business practices, work places, environments, office politics, corporate shenanigans all make their way into the stories.

6. Can you please describe you writing style and the various influences you have had or having?

My writing style:

I want to write books that grab you by the eyeball and drag you hell-bent to an unexpected but inevitable conclusion. I want the dialog and dialect to ring true. I want the emotions to be both raw and occasionally tender. I want to leave the reader with things to think about when the story is over.

My biggest influences are:

PG Wodehouse for a sense of structure and the seemingly effortless use of dialect and manners;
Joe Lansdale for his ability to bring a new character to life in a single paragraph and his ability to keep the story moving forward even though it is full of asides; Donald Westlake and Elmore Leonard for their ability to mix humor into situations that would be horrific if they actually happened to the reader; Ken Bruen for his ability to immerse in another culture (Irish or British) and still have us recognize the similarities with our own, though the daily language and habits are quite different.

7. I did not know much about the KKK before reading your book. Can you please tell me how I get more info about it via books?

1.Hooded Americanism: The History of the Ku Klux Klan, 3rd ed. by David M. Chalmers

2. The Ku Klux Klan: History, Organization, Language, Influence And Activities of America's Most Notorious Secret Society by Michael Newton)

3. Inside the Klavern: The Secret History of a Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s by David A. Horowitz

4. The Fiery Cross: The Ku Klux Klan in America by Wyn Craig Wade

8. When is your next book coming out and about what?

My third book, Tommy Gun Tango, is due out in July 2009. It concerns the corruption of the Los Angeles Police Department in the early 1930s and the way they helped the movie studios cover up murders by stars.

9. Do you have any favourite authors? Can you tell us why you like them?

Robert Fate in his Baby Shark series handles action well without skipping characterization or details of the time and place that make his books alive.

Sheila Lowe has created a new character, Claudia Rose, who is a handwriting analyst. I love seeing the details of her craft applied to solving a crime, much like the early Scarpetta stories.

Gwen Freeman has created a character named Fifi Cutter who is so contemporary, so sarcastic and witty, so bound by Los Angeles that I laugh out loud when I read her misadventures.

10. What are you reading now?

Currently I am reading two books:

Exile by Denise Mina, with its wonderful Scottish dialect and Glaswegian setting, and
Ponzi’s Scheme by Zuckoff, a non-fiction account of the great con man.

11. Do you have any book recommendations for my readers?

If you have never read The Bottoms by Joe Lansdale, give it a try. It compares with To Kill a Mockingbird.


Thanks Bruce, for the great answers. I enjoyed reading those...