By Sean Tuohy
Brett Battles ushers his readers into a world filled with shadows, shady dealings, and deadly characters. Just like the hero in his novels, Freelance Intelligence operative Jonathan Quinn, Battles navigates the world of international thriller writer with ease and an eye always set to the future.
Brett was able to sit down and talk about his writing process, the meaning of well built characters in thriller novels, and the future of Jonathan Quinn.
Sean Tuohy: When did you start writing? Was it something that came to you naturally or was it developed over time?
Brett Battles: First story I wrote was in sixth grade. At that time, I told anyone who asked what I want to be when I grow up that I was going to write books. It took me a while, but I finally fulfilled that 11-year-old me’s prediction.
ST: How long did it take you to complete your first novel?
BB: Hmmm, that was a long time ago, so I don’t remember exactly, but I think it took about a year and a half. As a side note, it’s one of my two desk novels (books that will probably never see the light of day). It served its purpose, though. Proved I could finish a full novel, and showed me where I needed to improve. Hey, when you first learn how to play baseball, you don’t immediately get called up to the New York Yankees and inserted into the starting lineup.
ST: As a thriller writer do you believe in letting the action build or just throw the reader right in to the mess of the story?
BB: It all depends on what serves the story best. I’ve done both.
ST: Jonathan Quinn is not the standard hero, where did this character come from?
BB: So many places. I have always had a love of spy type thrillers, and wanted to write my own, but I didn’t want to go down the typical James Bond/Jason Bourne route. I’ve also always had a fascination with what I think of as the after story. In other words, what happens after a big event occurs—like after an assassination or car crash or secret meeting gone wrong. I combined these two interests (and other things I’d been thinking about) to create Quinn, a man whose job it is to make the bodies disappear, so basically the ultimate after character.
ST: How important are characters to a thriller novel?
BB: There is nothing more important. You can have the most ingenious plot ever with the coolest twist anyone has thought of, but without good characters the story will fall flat.
ST: What is your writing process like? Do you outline?
BB: I might write down a few notes, but I don’t outline. Why? Well, honestly, I find outlines too restricting. When I follow one while writing a book, I feel like I’m just typing. What I want to feel is the excitement a reader feels when they read a book. I get that when I write without a net. I love the process of discovery as the scene develops. Do I paint myself into corners on occasion? Oh, yeah. But I just back right out and turn in another direction. The only exception to my no outline policy is when I write a book with someone else, like the Alexandra Poe series I write with Robert Gregory Browne. We outline those ahead of time so that we both know the story.
ST: Do you do any research before starting a new project?
BB: Again, depends on the story. Sometimes, yes. Often, though, the research comes as issues arise.
ST: What advice do you give to up and coming writers?
BB: Always be writing. I don’t mean always be putting words on paper or a screen. But real writing is a 24/7 gig. See story everywhere. Describe in your head the people you meet. Look for the little things in real life that will make your story connect with readers. And when you do put those words down, always be open to learning more and improving your craft. I’m constantly trying to improve, and will undoubtedly be doing that through the last thing I ever write.
ST: What does the future hold for Brett Battles? Any upcoming projects?
BB: I always have something going on. Just finishing up a new standalone novel that should be out in August called Rewinder. It’s a thriller with a bit of a sci-fi edge. And I’m really excited about it! Later in the year, the seventh in my Project Eden series should be out. And, of course, more Quinn next year!
ST: Can you tell us one random fact about yourself?
BB: I love peanut butter and ketchup sandwiches. No lie.