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April 20, 2015

Interview with J.J. Brown (@jjbwordslinger)

by Heather Kirchhoff

Secrets and Howls
What made you decide to start writing? Was this something you always thought you’d do? 

I’m not really sure why I decided to write, except that I always wanted to be a part of the story that my favorite books and movies told. So I wrote myself in as a character specific to that world. This was before I even heard the term fan fiction – I wrote them for myself and no one else.  I kept a list of who my characters were, but it’s lost.

How do you come up with your characters or story ideas?

1. Story ideas come out of either the “What if….?” Zone or they originate with the characters themselves. My first novel, Secrets & Howls: A Wolf’s Head Bay Mystery, originally started out as a straight horror story, with werewolves as the center piece. My inspiration came from many sources, including photographs of the California coast and my love for lighthouses. The process began with a variation of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot (about a town whose people became vampires), where my question was “What if there really were werewolves? And what if, instead of hiding, they lived in plain sight?”

It just went from there.

2. Characters are interesting, particularly the lead characters – they either show up and demand that their story be told, or they reveal themselves as the story progresses. The lead character for Secrets & Howls, Marita Brye, didn’t really start out as the lead, but she was a part of the cast. She wound up being the lead when it became clear that I needed a character to lead the reader into the story and she fit the bill perfectly. In most cases, though, I know who the lead character is and finding out who they are as I write is both amusing and frustrating, which I suppose is a lot like dealing with real people.

How do you get inspired to write?

I have no idea how I get inspired to write, I just need to write (lol). But I do know that as I’m writing, I’m inspired by the story and the characters to keep digging deeper into the material, to find connections that I didn’t even realize I’d put there until later.

For example, the Wolf’s Head Bay series is connected to two other series – one on which I’m working right now, and another that is set during World War II.

I wasn’t actually consciously making that choice until I started working on my current WIP and doing research for the other one. And then I realized at least one character was present in all three series. It just grew in ways I hadn’t really expected.

What do you do while having writers block?

When I have writer’s block, I break out the watercolor paints and doodle on paper. Or I take one of the journals for one of my current projects and write down questions or notes pertaining to the story. That way, I’m either being creative in another form or I’m still working on the story at hand. It’s that works for me, but something different might work for others.

What kind of stories do you write?

At the moment, I seem to be writing mostly mysteries, some traditional, some with a more supernatural flair.

Who are your favorite authors?

Jane Austen, Stephen King, Sue Grafton, Agatha Christie, JRR Tolkien, Dorothy Sayers, Kate
Elliot, Robin Hobb, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Oscar Wilde, William Shakespeare, to name a few.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing since I was very young, before the age of ten, I think. I have a one page story in a file box from that time. It’s about a horse. It’s terrible.

What are your stories about?

I have a fantasy novel that I wrote years ago and am working to re-write completely, as well as a science fiction one. They’re somehow connected to each other and I’m very curious as to how that’ll turn out. I’m also interested in tackling the horror genre and maybe a forensic thriller, too. I’ve written a few romantic comedy screenplays and a stage comedy.

What are you currently working on?

A supernatural mystery that takes place about 30 miles north of Wolf’s Head Bay and 30-plus years after the events in Secrets & Howls (which takes place in 1978), the sequel to Secrets & Howls, an erotic novella set in the 1920s and revising my stage play.

What do you do when not writing?

When I’m not writing, I’m reading, taking care of my horses, playing trivia with friends at my favorite watering hole, playing catch-up with movies and chilling with my nephew. I’m looking into taking up swing dancing, which should be a lot of fun.

Buy Secrets & Howls at Amazon

About the Author:
I grew up in Southern California surrounded by an eclectic selection of authors and books ranging from classic literature to popular fiction to mythology to non-fiction, thanks in large part to my educator parents.
Drawing, watercolors, with an occasional dabble in oils and pastels, and theater served as other avenues for story-telling. But what truly fired my imagination was the craft of the written word. This began at an early age and the intricacies of world-building and character allowed me to find my voice and hone my craft.
When not writing, performing in local theater, hanging out with a cantankerous cat and dramatic horses, I enjoy the company of friends (even when it involves heavy duty stable work), trivia night and going for a latte at a local coffee shop.
Currently, in addition to the sequel to Secrets & Howls, I am working on two more novels, shopping an original stage play for production and developing erotic novellas under a pen-name.
'Much Ado Over Murder: A Hey! No Problem! Mystery' is my third and the most recent novel to be published.
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