Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Visit with Pat Brown

Canadian native, Pat Brown, discovered Southern California and wrote a number of mysteries based in the City of Angels, although her plots are far from angelic. Her novels, including her latest, Between Darkness and Light, are written as P.A. Brown.

Pat, you had quite a few novels published within the last few of years. How did that come about?

The first book was published in 2006. I wrote what was to be book two, but around that time my agent quit agenting and the editor at the publisher was let go. Book two was rejected. Then in 2007 I got really sick and ended up in the hospital for six months. I had to learn to walk again and was put on disability. Once I was out of the hospital and could pretty well take care of myself I still couldn't work, but I could write. So I sat down and did just that. I rewrote book two, which became L.A. Bytes and wrote another book in the series, L.A. Boneyard.

Meanwhile, my book went out of print and around that time ebooks were starting to take off so I approached a new ebook publisher I knew and asked if she wanted to release L.A. Heat, book one, as an ebook. She did and around that time I wrote L.A. Mischief for her too. MLR picked up the series plus some other stuff I had been working on, including my vet story.

When and why did you leave your home in London, Ontario, for Los Angeles?

I grew up in a family that moved all the time. My father was in the air force so he was always being transferred. I lived in four places before I was five. So I think I was bitten by the travel bug. I had
started writing scripts in my late teens early 20s and at 22 I knew if I wanted to do anything with that, I needed to be in L.A. So I sold everything I owned--including 2 motorcycles--and took the Greyhound bus to Los Angeles. My family thought I was insane, of course, and I probably was--who moves from a tiny city of less than 300,000 to a city of four million total strangers?

What prompted your first book? Was it published?

My very first book was written when I was 17 and thank goodness it was never published. At that time I was reading books like Steppenwolf and Electric Koolaid Acid Test and loved music groups like the Rolling
Stones, Iron Butterfly and Wishbone Ash so even then I was interested in the darker side of things.

Tell us briefly about your debut novel as well as your latest.

L.A. Heat was my first published book. It was also my first mystery. Before that I wrote science fiction. Since then I have written four other books in the series with two more to come.

Why the love affair with Los Angeles, and why did you decide to leave?

From the first minute I set foot in Los Angeles I felt something I've never felt before. I think I felt more alive and filled with possibilities. There were things here that I'd never seen or experienced. To give you an idea, I had never seen a Mercedes or a Rolls Royce. London, where I grew up, was actually a very wealthy city. I've been told it
has more wealth per capita than even Beverly Hills. But wealthy people, in London at least, didn't showcase their wealth.

I never saw a black person until I was in high school. But I'd also never seen the kind of homeless people that filled downtown L.A. at that time. People walking around with three or four coats on and pushing shopping carts full of what looked like garbage to me. London doesn't have slums. There might be a street here or there where there are more drugs or very poor people, there are homeless people, but nothing so visible as what I saw there. And while I lived there, I saw it all--I went to Beverly Hills, the gates of Bel Air, Skid row and everything in between. It was beyond fascinating. It was incredible.

Why did you decide to write gay male mysteries?

A lot of the time I was in L.A. I spent living with, drinking with and making friends with gays. I also had discovered Jonathan Kellerman and his Alex Delaware series, with Milo Sturgis, his openly gay LAPD homicide detective. When I decided I wanted to try my hand at a mystery--and I really wasn't sure I could do it, since I don't plot worth a damn--I wanted there to be a gay cop who was the main character, not a side kick. I'd never heard of police procedurals, all I knew was I didn't like the soft cozies like Agatha
Christie. I liked grittier fiction. I was also a huge fan of Robert Ludlum back then

What’s the best part of writing and the worst?

The writing when I'm in the zone. When the words are coming and the story is flowing out then it's the closest to heaven as I've ever felt. The worst is when it's not coming, when I can't write a word or think of plot or characters. It leaves me feeling empty.

What’s your writing schedule like?
It really depends. If I have a deadline or the writing bug has taken over, I'll write for hours, only moving to eat. I try to get to the library at least once a week to do research. Lately I'm researching both the history of L.A. and New York as well as Prohibition.

Advice to aspiring writers?

Be persistent. It takes a certain amount of stubbornness to be a writer. To ignore the rejections you will get both from publishers and agents, as well as from family and friends. If you want to be a writer, keep writing, keep sending your work out, ignore the naysayers. But also finish what you start. A lot of wanna be writers start all kinds of great stories, but when the writing stumbles they put the story aside and start another one. Finish a book. That's important.

The other thing is write what you want to read. Don't try to write whatever is big right then thinking it will be instantly snapped up. Chances are by the time you see a trend, it's already waning. You need to find something you are passionate about. A story you need to tell. For this reason I think you should also read a lot. You never know where an idea will come from, so read. Read anything. Even now, I'll go to my library and look through the new books, or the special displays they put up throughout the year. I pick up magazines I would never normally read -- science, business, history, psychology, whatever catches my eye--and sometimes reading them will trigger an idea. Your mind should be a sponge, soaking up ideas and details of the world around you.

Thanks, Pat.

Pat's web and blog sites:


P.A.Brown said...

Thanks for having me Jean. It was fun.

Jean Henry Mead said...

It's good to have you with us, Pat.

Earl Staggs said...

Pat, I always enjoy reading about the different path writers follow to get where they are, and yours was most interesting. The one common thread, regardless of the diversity of paths taken, is the importance of perseverance. Best wishes to you in your writing future.

Anonymous said...

Effective write-up! Will you follow-up on this topic?