10 Questions with Brian January
1. Your new book, Emerald, opens with an action-packed scene and the promise of a high-octane ride to the very last page. Tell us a bit about Emerald.
I wrote Emerald with the intent of making it a high-octane ride for the reader–I’m glad it appealed to you that way! My goal in writing novels is to entertain the reader to the best of my ability. I think an author owes his or her audience that!
Emerald is about OSR (a fictional secret government agency) agents Park Skarda and April Force, who investigate anomalous happenings around the world, especially if they pertain to US security. It’s not X-Files in any way–just things out of the ordinary that happen to pop up on OSR’s radar. In Emerald, they investigate the fabled Emerald Tablet of Thoth, the legendary priest-king of Atlantis, which ultimately leads them to a cult which wants to destroy the world.
2. April, the main character in Emerald is not your typical hero. Where did you find the inspiration for her character?
April fascinates me. She’s a very strong, independent woman—definitely not somebody you want to fool with (lol!)—who has a core of compassion for people who have been wronged or who are in trouble. Like Skarda, she cares very deeply about justice. Even when I’m writing about her, April just kind takes off and goes in her own direction!
I think the ultimate inspiration for her character would be Modesty Blaise, another strong, independent woman created by Peter O’Donnell, whose adventures I read when I was very young. If you haven’t read the Modesty Blaise novels, I strongly encourage you to do so!
3. How do you create minor characters of your work? How important are they do the storyline?
I actually like creating minor characters the best. This is because I can give them all kinds of quirks and oddities (Jaz, for example, the assassin who tries to kill the heroes in Emerald, is truly a psycho—and proud of it!), which is lots of fun!
4. How do you weave sub-plots throughout the entire structure of the book?Since I write action-oriented thriller novels, I tend to keep sub-plots at a minimum, usually only to advance the main plot in some way. In Emerald, there is a minor love dalliance between Skarda and Laura “Flinders” Carlson (the linguist who helps the heroes), but Skarda is still reeling from the murder of his wife (which took place before the story opens), and so is not psychologically ready for involvement as yet. He takes a few steps in the healing direction in the next book, Silver, though!
5. What kind of research do you do for your works?
I do extensive research. I usually wind up with about a hundred or so pages of notes about various things that are going on the story. It takes lots of time!
6. How does Brian write? When? Outlines or not?
I write every day. It’s like practicing an instrument—you have to keep at it. I always use outlines—in fact, I can’t imagine writing a story without planning it out beforehand. You save yourself so much rewriting time that way and a well-structured book is a far better experience for the reader.
7. What made you want to become a writer?
I’ve just always had the urge. As a kid, I loved to read and to write. Stories occur to me all the time, so I guess I just approach the world in those terms.
8. When do you know the ending of your book and does it change throughout the writing of the novel?
I usually start the outlining process with the ending in mind, especially as it relates to the villain (s). The villain is really what any story is about, because without an antagonistic force, the hero would have nothing to do! As I write, various permutations occur to me, so things change and flux all the time, but the ending generally stays the same.
9. What’s next for April? What other stories are you working on?
Skarda and April have already returned in their next thriller, Silver, available now as a Kindle edition from Amazon at this link. In this one, they’re looking for an ancient hoard of Minoan silver which contains a rare earth element vital for U.S. weapons systems.
I’m also planning a novella for them, too, and have their next full-length novel already planned.
10. What can readers except to find in Emerald?
I hope they will find a solid, fast-paced story, with interesting, engaging characters. Ultimately I hope they will be entertained!