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Interview with Barry Brennessel

June 7th, 2011 (11:46 am)

Barry Brennessel is one of my fellow authors at MLR with his new book Tinseltown. He was kind enough to agree to answer my questions - and I discovered a kindred writing spirit!

What inspired you to start writing?

I hear voices. Ha ha. Actually, I’m only 0.5% joking about that. It’s odd, but true: I have dialogue running constantly through my mind.

And people—the good and the not-so-good— have always fascinated me. I’m usually the quiet one in the room, watching people interact. I note body language and mannerisms, listen to speech patterns, study the hairstyles, clothes, shoes. When I sit down to create a character, all those little details work their way in.

I’m also an escapist. As a child, I would create my own little worlds. As time went by, the trend not only continued, but expanded.

I guess I also write to try to figure out myself and others. That, I must say, seems to be a non-stop challenge.

Do you have another job (paid or otherwise) apart from being an author? If so, how do you juggle your time?

For the last few years I’ve been able to devote full time to my writing. However, even without another job to worry about, there’s still time-juggling involved. The laundry and dishes won’t wash themselves, the cat needs feeding and attention, the garden has to be weeded, and so forth. I simply write when I can. I sit for hours at a time, take a break, run some errands. If I’m waiting somewhere, I always have a pad of paper with me so I can jot ideas down.

And even when I’m not physically writing, I’m writing in the sense that my mind is forever working out details or resolving plot problems or reminding me that character A can’t do such and such because earlier he or she mentioned that she hadn’t yet learned how to ski, etc., etc.

What does it feel like watching your first book fledge and leave the nest?

Scary! But exciting. And did I mention scary? The writer always hopes the reader will relate to his or her work. And enjoy it. And take something away from it. If you’re not writing to entertain, then the reader isn’t going to enjoy reading.

Obviously no one person can please everyone. It’s true of books, films, music, any art form. Some people, for example love both Citizen Kane and Female Trouble (I’m raising my hand!), some can’t watch either, some like one but not the other. As I watch that first book go out into the world, I’m sure that will be the case. You simply have to pat it on the head, and send it out and let it make its way in the world.


Are you character or plot driven? What do you do if one of your characters starts developing at a tangent?

I’m character driven. I’m most fascinated watching personalities clash, merge, explode. I want to explore how people fall in love. I want to know why a brother and a sister aren’t speaking to each other anymore. I have to find out why Mrs. Henderson throws her rotten tomatoes into Mr. Johnson’s yard in the dark of night.

Usually when characters start developing at a tangent, I try to get them back on track. Sometimes there’s a magic moment, though, almost as if my brain is guiding me without my knowing it. A character does something I originally didn’t plan, and by some miracle it has resolved a plot issue I’d been struggling with. All the pieces suddenly fall into place. It was just the missing element I’d been searching for. And I have Dr. Greene’s unplanned obsession with golf or antique lamps to thank.

If you were in a tight corner and had to rely on one of your characters to save you, which would it be and why?

Definitely Trish from Tinseltown. She could make a lion feel ashamed and embarrassed for cornering me. She would chew out a robber after she slapped the gun out of his hand. She would tell Auric Goldfinger she expects him to die.

If you had no constraints of time and a guarantee of publication, what book would you write?

I just know it would involve walking and talking letters and numbers and stuffed animals, like a children’s show on steroids with epic battles and time travel. Star Trek meets Dr. Zhivago meets Sesame Street meets Laugh-In meets War and Peace. That’s all I can tell you…for now.

Is there a classic book you started and simply couldn't finish?

Moby Dick. I don’t know why. I just want to shake Capt. Ahab and tell him to get over it.

What’s your favourite gay romance/other genre book? And why?

I’m not sure this qualifies as gay romance, per se, but I will never tire of reading Death in Venice. The haunting setting. That attraction to Tadzio. I think we all have/had a Tadzio in our life. That moment when you wonder: is he/she really staring at…me? That feeling of a first crush, and all the doubts and silliness and roller-coaster of emotions that come from it.

What's your next project?

I’ve started a new historical gay romance called The Celestial, set in the American west of the 1880s. It explores love and race issues during that tumultuous time, in that wild frontier.


Comments

Posted by: a geek in such the wrong way (haldoor)
Posted at: June 8th, 2011 07:52 am (UTC)
writing-quill

Thanks for this! I really enjoy reading your interviews with writers. I'm intrigued by the idea of Barry's new novel set in 1880, and the one pictured looks good too. I love hearing about the process of writing, and am relieved to know I'm not the only one who has voices in their head! I'm also very character driven (not that I'm a professinal writer, but you get the idea) so stories written by others who feel the same do draw me in!

Posted by: charliecochrane (charliecochrane)
Posted at: June 8th, 2011 08:40 am (UTC)
jonny

Thank you. I like doing them. (Any ideas for who I should nab next? I'm trying to avoid the usual suspects and find newer/different names.)
I was amazed at how much Barry sounds like me (and you spound like me as well!) The internal voices, story driven by characters as opposed to pre-determined plot.

Posted by: a geek in such the wrong way (haldoor)
Posted at: June 8th, 2011 09:30 am (UTC)
books-soar

Oh gosh, I so wish I was up on current writers out there, but unfoirtunately I'm not so I can't help on that one!

There must be a few of us out there, and it's so good to find others with similar style/s! I really must do more reading (not that I haven't got a stack of books to get through already...)

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