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Monday, October 15, 2012

Richard Brawer's Keiretus


Richard Brawer writes mystery, suspense and historical fiction novels. When not writing, he spends his time sailing, growing roses and studying history.  He has two married daughters and lives in New Jersey with his wife.
Welcome to the blog, Richard.
 
Thanks, Susan.

How has your environment affected your writing? 

My first three novels written between 1994 and 2001 and now incorporated in one volume titled “Murder at the Jersey Shore” are set at the North Jersey Coast between Sandy Hook and Asbury Park.  The stories are based on events that were reported in the local newspaper.

For example Secrets Can be Deadly is based on a story about a father who refused to take his child home from the hospital because the newborn was diagnosed with a brain impairment. I asked myself, “What if the baby was misdiagnosed?”

Diamonds are for Stealing, developed from a story about a robbery at a jewelry store where the owner pulled a gun and accidentally killed his wife while firing at the robber.  I asked myself, “Accident or planned murder?”

Murder on the Links, the third book in this series came from stories about stock market fraud and the mobsters that perpetrated the fraud.

The publisher of these books has gone out of business and I have reacquired the rights.  I put the three books together into one volume titled “Murder at the Jersey Shore” and placed it on Kindle for $2.99

My fourth mystery, Murder Goes Round and Round is also based on a Jersey Shore town that had fallen into decay.  With the demise of the town, the owner of a hand carved antique carousel worth a million dollars put the carousel up for auction.  The newspaper stores reported that many in town were upset that it was being sold.  My imagination again took over and I used the carousel as the motive for murder.

Do you travel to do research or for inspiration?  Can you share some special places with us?

I only traveled once for inspiration.  Originally that travel was not for researching a novel. I was born in Paterson, NJ, the center of America’s silk industry in the early twentieth century.  My family moved to the Jersey shore when I was eleven.

When I read an article in the paper about an historian giving a lecture on the silk industry and a tour of Paterson’s historic silk district I was curious and went to the event.  As I listened a plot about a divided family formed in my mind.  I took a lot of notes, but not enough to truly understand the era.  So I did research by going back to Paterson and reading old newspaper stories.  I picked out the events I wanted to use in my story and created Silk Legacy.

Silk Legacy was the only time I traveled for research.  My last two books, Beyond Guilty, published in 2010, and my current book, Keiretsu, coming out the end of November , 2012 were researched on line.

Give a short synopsis of your most recently published book.         

Keiretus is set in Japan and the United States.  The plot again arose out of many newspaper articles about China’s growing military strength.

While the United States is focused on diffusing Iran’s and North Korea’s nuclear weapons’ programs, the ultra-nationalist CEOs of Japan’s eight largest Keiretsus (conglomerates) form a cabal to use some of the shuttered nuclear power plants to secretly enrich uranium to bomb grade and develop nuclear weapons as a deterrent to China and a clandestine PAC (political action committee) within the U.S. to donate heavily to congressmen and senators to thwart the expected U.S. cease and desist demands.

Since I knew very little about Japan I had to do extensive research.  The setting in the Japanese part of the book was the easiest to find as all I had to do was access travel websites about Tokyo.  And of course there were many stories about the tsunami that ravished Japan.  However, researching specific Japanese customs as well as how the people relate to each other so I could develop proper chracters was much more difficult.

For example the story takes place mostly in the summer.  I read about O-chugen, midsummer gift-giving, an extremely important period in Japan.  I read that how the gifts are wrapped expresses sincere thoughtfulness on the part of the giver.

Gifts are wrapped in special handmade white paper resembling dried abalone and the cord around the gift is made from starched, tightly wound rice paper that is painted or otherwise colored with Mylar or thin strands of silk called mizuhki.

The mizuhiki was developed in the Edo period by samurai and became more and more elaborate as one samurai tried to out-do another in his gift giving. Today gift givers have the muzuhki fashioned into animals such as cranes, frogs, fish, dragons and turtles.

Also, gifts as well as business cards must be presented with two hands.

A simple detail such as this adds authenticity to your story.  The point I am making is that with the internet you can get that authenticity without the traveling I had to do when I wrote Silk Legacy.

Do your characters take on a life of their own?  If so, which is your favorite?

 

Of course before you start to write you have to know who your charters will be―their looks, quirks, and their experiences in life that affect their personalities.  Without characters you have no book.

 

However, unlike some writers who outline their characters and their novels in great detail before they begin writing, I do not.  Of course I know the ending and write toward it, but I only think two or three chapters ahead when I write, and those chapter ideas are usually clips such as the scene where I “plan” to place the character.

 

As I write the story, new situations arise that move the character in a direction I hadn’t thought about.  The character’s reaction to those situations certainly gives the character a new “life”.

 

For example, one of my favorite characters is Sarah Bressler the protagonist’s wife in Silk Legacy.  This originally started out as a male oriented story.  However, as the story developed her character took on a much more important role as she battled her domineering husband.  As a result Sarah became an equal character in the story.  Some say they liked her as the lead character.

 

Here is the book jacket of Silk Legacy set between 1904 and 1913:  In early twentieth century Paterson, New Jersey, dashing twenty-nine year old Abraham Bressler charms na├»ve nineteen year old Sarah Singer into marriage by making her believe he feels the same way she does about the new calling of a modern woman.  He then turns around and gives her little more respect than he would a servant, demanding she stay home to care for “his” house and “his” children.

 

Feeling betrayed Sarah defies him and joins women's groups, actively participating in rallies for woman suffrage, child welfare and reproductive freedom.  For a while she succeeds in treading delicately between the demands of her husband and her desire to be an independent woman.  Her balancing act falters when a strike shuts down Paterson’s 300 silk mills.  With many friends working in the mills, Sarah is forced to choose sides in the battle between her Capitalist husband and his Socialist brother, a union leader who happens to be her best friend’s husband.

 

What do you think is the greatest lesson you’ve learned about writing so far?  What advice can you give new writers?

 

Create characters in CONFLICT with each other or with themselves.  Wondering how the characters resolve their conflicts keeps the reader turning the pages.

 

You see the conflicts in Silk Legacy.  In my Murder at the Jersey Shore trilogy with detective David Nance one reviewer wrote, “What really grabbed me, though, was watching the hero deal with his issues, eventually with a measure of success, while his girl friend dealt with ...him ...and her issues involving him.”

 

In Beyond Guilty the character is in conflict with herself.  She is responsible for her sister’s death and tries to overcome her quilt.

 

In my latest novel, Keiretsu, I have created many conflicts. Father vs Son

Husbands vs Wives; Mother-in-law vs Daughter-in-law; Brother vs Sister; Cousin vs Cousin

 

We all know how important promoting our work has become.  How do you get the word out both off and online?

 

I try to get reviews from mass market newspaper reviewers, but that is extremely difficult for an author published by an independent publisher.  I have been reviewed in my local paper, but I truly feel you have to be a best-selling author or know someone to get a review in a major newspaper, although I keep trying.

Since Keiretus is so unique I have sent advance review copies to a few major reviewers with a letter explaining how current the plot is, that the book is not self published and I enclose the independent publisher’s bio, but I’ll still be surprised if one of them does review it.

Thus I continue to promote my books through interviews on blogs such as yours.  Also, there are many interactive sites on the internet where you can join the discussions.  Like all advertising, repetition is the key.  Keep your name in front of readers by participating in those discussions.  Sooner or later people will say, let me try one of his books. 

 

Are your books available in print and ebook formats?  Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

                                                     

My back list is available only on Kindle or any e-reader that can access Amazon books.

Murder at the Jersey Shore trilogy is $2.99 for the three book series; Murder Goes Round and Round is 99 cents, and Silk Legacy is $2.99.

 

Beyond Guilty is available wherever books are sold in print and ebook format.

 

Keiretsu coming out the end of November, 2012 will also be available wherever books are sold in print and ebook format.

 

If you are interested in the print versions of Beyond Guilty and Keiretsu, you can order them on line from sites like Amazon.com.  However, as with most books published by independent publishers, bookstores will not stock these books, but they can order them for you.

 

Read book jackets, excerpts, reviews and more about Richard at: www.silklegacy.com

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