Welcome to my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, scriptwriters, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with thriller writer Bryan McLachlan. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Bryan.
Bryan: Hi, Morgen. First, let me thank you for this opportunity.
Morgen: You’re very welcome. Thank you for joining me (us). Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Bryan: I live out side of Albany, New York and work security at a Middle School. I began my writing career back in the 90’s. I always enjoyed reading and writing papers in college so I decided to try my hand at writing fiction and having it professionally critiqued. I enrolled in a course and after writing a few pieces, I took a chance and submitted a short story to a magazine and got it published! While taking the course, I read an article about Tom Clancy and at that time, he bought interest in the Baltimore Orioles baseball team. So I thought to myself, if this guy can write a few books and buy a baseball team, I have to give writing my own books a shot. Lo and behold, I turned one of my short stories into my first novel and got it published!
Morgen: Yay, congratulations. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Bryan: I write thrillers. They incorporate good guys versus bad guys, spies, national security and personal issues all wrapped into one. As for writing other genres, no, I haven’t considered any…at least not yet!
Morgen: What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Bryan: I write under my own name. I figured if I wrote it, I might as well put my name on it. I’ve had three novels published. In order, they are Shadows and Deceptions, Triangle of Stars, and The Bear Hunter. They are linked together, not a true trilogy, but there is a group of main characters that the stories focus around. I like to say they are all fast moving, edge of your seat reads.
Morgen: You’ve self-published, what lead to you going your own way?
Bryan: My first two books were published by Four Seasons Publishers. They are now out of business so when I wrote The Bear Hunter, I had to basically start from the beginning in finding a publisher. After getting rejection letter after rejection letter from agents and small publishers and the closing of bookstores which limited distribution outlets, I decided to self-publish The Bear Hunter. The market is heavily leaning towards purchasing items online and books going digital, I figured why wait for someone to decide if they want to publish my novel when I can get it done myself.
Morgen: Me too. You mentioned “going digital”, are your books available as eBooks? you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Bryan: All three books are available as eBooks as well as trade papeback. As for me, I’m a traditionalist. I like to hold the book in my hands.
Morgen: Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Bryan: Tough decision. For a favorite book, I’d like to say Shadows and Deceptions because it was my first but I’m leaning towards The Bear Hunter as my favorite and best. My favorite character is the main guy, Marcus Kaderri. It was a lot of fun creating him. He’s a former Green Beret and CIA employee and tough as nails with a huge heart and completely devoted to his wife, Sara. For an actor to portray him, that’s a hard one but he’d have to have the persona of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood with some Liam Neeson thrown in and I’d say David Beckham looks alot like him. For Sara, I would say Angie Harmon or Salma Hayek would make a good fit.
Morgen: Did you have any say in the titles / covers of your books, especially the early ones? How important do you think they are?
Bryan: I came up with all three titles and worked with an artist / designer the publisher had on staff for the first two covers. I gave them ideas and they came up with the product. For The Bear Hunter, I’d say ninety percent of the layout was from me. I think the covers are very important. There’s that saying ‘you can’t judge a book by its cover’ but you need something to grab the reader’s eye to get your book noticed on a shelf or displayed on a web page.
Morgen: You certainly do. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Bryan: Right now, nothing of significance but ideas are slowly coming to the surface.
Morgen: 🙂 Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Bryan: When I have the idea of a story, then yes, I’ll write almost every day. I won’t write just anything for the sake of writing. I’ve tried that before when I got stuck on writing one of my chapters with the hope that what I was writing would be a springboard to get the story flowing. It didn’t work. When I went back the following day to edit, I deleted all fifteen pages of jibberish. Occasionally I’ll suffer from writers block. It’s gets frustrating when it happens in the middle of writing the story. I can be plugging along and then, poof! the mind goes blank. Eventually, though, the ideas come back.
Morgen: They do certainly if you move on to something else then return to it later. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Bryan: I do a combination of both. I’ll work one thought and many times it will lead to something else. There are times that the story takes on a life of its own and the writing just flows. To keep the story flowing, I ask ‘what if this happens?’ and take it from there.
Morgen: Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Bryan: I like to ‘people watch’ and use what I observe to create my characters and use them as a base. I’ll develop their personalities based on people I know or met or on how I want that character to be. Regarding their names, the phone book comes in handy!
Morgen: A lot of people use that, and baby books. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Bryan: I edit all the time and rewrite, rewrite, and rewrite again. Then I have an editor go over it and make the changes that she recommends.
Morgen: Do you have to do much research?
Bryan: On some of the material and scenes I will, especially when my characters are in different cities and I want the reader to be able to feel as if they are there. Sometimes I’ll use my own personal experiences to incorporate into the scene. It makes the story much more realistic.
Morgen: What point of view do you find most to your liking?
Bryan: I always write in third person. As the author, I want to be the narrator, not the character. I think you can get a better story by having it in third person. The story comes at you from different angels and perspectives. It allows the reader to connect and identify with more than one character.
Morgen: You are more limited with first. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Bryan: I have stacks of rejection letters and emails. I kept everyone and use them as motivation to keep going forward. I figured every rejection is one letter closer to an opportunity for someone to say yes The one thing I learned is that you can’t take the rejections personal. It’s not about you, it’s about what writing piece you submitted on that day. It is hard though to stay positive when letter after letter keeps coming back with a ‘no thank you, not for us.’
Morgen: That’s all it is though, a ‘not for us’. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Bryan: I don’t have an agent. I tried to get one but kept getting rejections. When I was shopping my first book, Shadows and Deceptions, my name was out there and my eventual publisher contacted me asking to see my manuscript. I sent it to him, he liked it and mailed me a contract. As being vital to an author’s success, I’m not sure. Once again, you’re dealing with one person’s opinion about your writing but they do have access to the big publishing houses where the publishers won’t talk directly to authors or take unsolicited manuscripts.
Morgen: They do / they won’t, although I think authors do have more sway these days, certainly at the low to medium end. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Bryan: Since my publisher went out of business, I have to do all of my marketing. It’s not an easy task. I try to get spots on television and radio shows and like a query letter to an agent, many rejections come fast. Cost is also an issue. All expenses for advertising come out of my pocket.
Morgen: It is tough, and probably why blogging is so popular (I’ve interviewed over 600 authors to-date). What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Bryan: My favorite aspect of my writing life is that I accomplished what most people who’ve I talked to said I couldn’t do. When I first started to write Shadow’s and Deceptions people laughed at me and said I couldn’t get a book a published. Now I have three and I all I do is smile at those naysayers. One surprise is how many people come up to me and tell what story I should write next!
Morgen: Wow. That’s great. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Bryan: Don’t quit and rewrite, rewrite and rewrite! Once you’ve finished writing, especially fiction, have someone you trust read your work and have them give you feedback and tell you what they got out of the story. You as the author know what you are trying to write and many times that doesn’t get down on paper the correct way to connect with the reader. You know there’s an issue if you’re writing about apples and your reader says it was a good story about grapes!
Morgen: If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Bryan: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and any Medal of Honor winner. I would open dinner with a round of Samuel Adams Lager or Macallan 12yr old. I would cook Porterhouse steaks with sautéed onions and mushrooms with a baked potato and a great Bordeaux or Cabernet Sauvignon.
Morgen: Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Bryan: I like ‘words mean things’ and I love the quote from Margaret Thatcher, “Consensus is the negation of leadership.”
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing?
Bryan: I work in a middle school and coach football and lacrosse. I also ski and enjoy wine and whisky. I’m a member of the Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin (Burgundy wine society) and The Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America.
Morgen: What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Bryan: That’s hard to tell. With self-publishing out there, it’s a great opportunity for new writers and material to become available. But, with less and less bookstores remaining in business, it’s going to be hard for new writers to get noticed in the traditional sense.
Morgen: It certainly is. Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Bryan: You can go to my website http://bryan-mclachlan.com to learn a little bit about me and all of my books.
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Bryan: Thanks again. I really appreciate the opportunity you offered. Please, everyone, visit my website and get a book, or two, or three!
Morgen: 🙂 You’re very welcome. Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Bryan: Absolutely. What made you do this blog?
Morgen: Simply because I’d heard it was a good idea. I hadn’t a clue how time-consuming it was going to be as the recommendation was to post at least once a week. I post anywhere between three and five time a day so it’s of my own doing. 🙂 Thank you, Bryan.
I then invited Bryan to include an extract of his writing and the following is an excerpt from the prologue in ‘Shadows and Deceptions’…
Kaderri cocked his .45 and aimed it at Steiner. The anger in his steel blue eyes erupted and his heart beat faster. “You’re not a soldier, you’re a cold blooded murderer!”
“Like I said, Lieutenant, you are in no position to make any demands.”
A few Israelis regained their positions around Kaderri and Wolff. Others went to help the wounded and search for the PLO. One soldier came up behind Kaderri and placed his rifle at the base of his skull. Another did the same to Wolff. Waiving to the two men closest to him, Steiner instructed them to take Hassad’s body. To Kaderri he said, “Get back in your vehicle and go your merry way. If not, you’ll end up like him.”
Kaderri’s cheek twitched and his eyes bore a hole into Steiner. “One day Steiner. One day I will find you and blow your miserable ass away.”
Steiner held his stare, but by the change in his eyes, he was clearly taken aback by the cold finality in Kaderri’s voice.
And a synopsis of his latest book…
The Bear Hunter—Back in 1985, U.S. Army Special Forces Captain Marcus Kaderri led a mission against the Soviet Red Army in Afghanistan. Years later, as a result of that mission, Kaderri’s team is being murdered and he finds himself being hunted by the Russian Mafia. With information gained from the CIA and the battlefields of Afghanistan, Kaderri and his friends, including Albany Detective Gary Trainor, learn of the personal vendetta against him and turn the tables on the organization.
The Bear Hunter is a fast paced, edge of your seat thriller that is ripped from today’s headlines!
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