Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Pat Browning's Absinthe of Malice

Pat Browning is my guest today. Pat, first of all, congratulations on the success of your novel, Absinthe of Malice.

What inspired the book?

To be honest, it wasn’t inspired, it just happened. Seriously. I’ve been a writer of some kind ever since I was old enough to hold a pencil and write between the lines. In the fifth grade I wrote one-page haunted house stories and passed them around the room. That summer I wrote a “book” – an unabashed take-off of a Bobbsey Twins book -- and passed it around the neighborhood.

In my teens I kept an elaborate, illustrated diary – until I found out my mother was reading it. Furious, I threw it away. I’ve wished a million times that I still had it. In my twenties I dabbled with writing short stories, but I wasn’t really good at it – too much character, not enough plot. I found my calling as a newspaper reporter, and eventually that led to writing a mystery.

I was working for the Hanford (California) Sentinel and the managing editor wanted to dress up the paper with a books column. Would I do it? Of course. I went to the local library and walked along the shelves pulling out books that looked interesting. Most of them turned out to be mysteries.

After reading half a dozen mysteries I decided to write my own. I actually said to the editor, “How hard can it be?” That was about 1995, and five years later I could have written a book on just how hard it is to write a mystery. Through it all I was taking online writing classes, asking questions in chat rooms, lurking on listservs, trying to learn everything I could in the shortest possible time.

That book had more lives than a cat, with different titles, different characters, different plots and subplots. I think I ended up with nine or ten “final drafts,” each time thinking I finally got it right. Eventually I had to say, “Stick a fork in it, it’s done.”

But the end was not really the end. Seven years after I self-published the book as FULL CIRCLE, the editor/publisher of a new small press named Krill Press read the book, liked it, and wanted to republish it under a new name, with a new cover and a few minor changes. He offered me an advance, and I jumped at the chance to give the book a new life.

I made some changes, gave the book one more polishing, and it was reborn in 2008 as ABSINTHE OF MALICE. The Kindle version is going great guns. As of Nov. 10 it had sold 929 copies since August.

Please give readers a synopsis of the book.

(Insert maniacal laughter here.) I was so green it took me months to figure out what my book was about, even after it was first published. I didn’t know enough to boil it down to one sentence until I had done some presentations and listened to enough questions from potential readers.

Here’s the logline: “It’s just another Labor Day weekend in the small California town of Pearl until discovery of a skeleton in a cotton field leads to murder.” Fleshing it out brought in a whole town and a whole cast of characters. Two of my writer friends summarized it perfectly in their reviews:

Lorie Ham wrote: “Pat Browning does an excellent job of creating a town of people whose lives have been molded by their past and that of their ancestors.”

Beth Anderson said: “I have rarely read a mystery with such a profound sense of place. A beautifully crafted mystery intertwined with life in a small town as it really is.”

Where can readers get a copy and in what formats?

Any bookstore can order it, but it’s print on demand and I’ve heard they ask you to pay in advance, plus shipping charges. Krill Press will accept returns but bookstores don’t seem to know that. The easiest and quickest way to get it is to order it from or Barnes and Noble online.

It’s also available as an e-book on Kindle, and is being put on Nook even as we speak. Of course, you don’t even need a Kindle to download it from Amazon’s Kindle Store. You can download it to your PC or Mac. The software is free and takes only a few seconds to download.

You can read through almost to the very end on Google Books. They have a free “preview” feature, which I love, but in the case of ABSINTHE OF MALICE it makes me a little nervous. The AOM preview includes so many pages it almost tells you the whole story. My hope is that getting into it like that, getting to know the characters and the setting, will make you want to buy the book. The tiny url to the Google Books preview is:

Is there another book on the way?

Yes. ABSINTHE OF MALICE takes place over the Labor Day holiday, and METAPHOR FOR MURDER picks up the story during Christmas week. I’m halfway through with it. I just need to stay off the Internet long enough to finish it. Easier said than done!

Pat, you submitted recipes for the cookbook, Killer Recipes, which I compiled. Your Crabby Jambalaya is sensational. Is it a family favorite?

No, but back in my youthful, gourmet-cooking days it was a party favorite. Besides the taste, it’s such a beautiful dish. All you need is some French bread and a green salad and you have a very impressive meal. I had a New Orleans cookbook and tried every recipe in it.
Then I went through a period of a few years when I didn’t cook at all. Now that I’m living alone I’ve started cooking again. Back in the day I kept a pot simmering on the back burner for hours, but I discovered that a quick version of Jambalaya can be just as good as the old one. I make Crabby Jambalaya all the time. If I don’t have crab I use ham or chicken. The secret is a can or two of Ro*Tel tomatoes – original recipe, with green chilies.

Granted, it doesn’t take much time or effort to chop an onion and a green pepper and sauté them before adding regular chopped tomatoes, but Ro*Tel is spiced just right for my taste. Actually, there’s one more secret. I cook up a big pot of brown rice and store it in plastic containers in my fridge freezer. When it’s time to make Crabby Jambalaya I make chicken broth from granules, heat tomatoes and rice in the broth and add the shrimp (also from the fridge freezer). In a few minutes I have a scrumptious meal.

Where can we learn more about you?

My web site at Authors Den needs updating, but who has time? I also have a blog where I talk about everything from soup to nuts. I started the blog to remember where I've been and what I've done. Essentially it's a memoir in bits and pieces.

One more thing -- I encourage everyone to buy KILLER RECIPES. There’s a list of the recipes at – dozens of great recipes! Thank you so much, Susan, for letting me be a part of your project.

Yes, thanks for the plug. All proceeds from this particular cookbook go to cancer research in the hope that we can KILL cancer in our lifetime.     

Pat, it was my pleasure. Now I have to dash off and get my own copy of MALICE!


Julie D said...

Yay Pat! Congratulations on the success of Absinthe of Malice, and it's great to finally hear from you in blog-interview form. Please do more!


Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Hi, Pat, the first time I met you was when you came as a reporter to my first booksigning in Hanford. We go back a long ways. I do things the easy way most of the time now too.


Mike Orenduff said...

This is my lucky day. Susan Whitfield's blog is one of my favorites. Susan is also one of my favorite writers, and Pat Browning's ABSINTHE OF MALICE is one of my favorite books. I need to bookmark this page or date or whatever it is one does to save this stuff.

Susan Whitfield said...

Hey, Mike! Yes, you should. LOL Thanks for the compliments. said...

Wow, your recipe sounds wonderful! I think I've got to get a copy of that cookbook. And of course, a copy of ABSINTHE OF MALICE.

Anonymous said...

Can't wait for the crabby jambalaya and the second book.Loved Malice!!!