Author: Brett Battles
Price: $24 on Amazon.com
Genre: Political Thriller
I’m proud to announce my first ever author interview on this blog. Brett Battles kindly agreed to answer some questions about his two books, The Cleaner and The Deceived, which both star Jonathan Quinn. Here’s Brett’s official bio as noted on his website:
Brett was born and raised in Southern California. His parents, avid readers, instilled the love of books in him early on.
Though he still makes California his home, he has traveled extensively, including trips to Vietnam and Germany—two locations that play prominent parts in his debut thriller The Cleaner.
So, Brett. Tell us about yourself. When did you start writing? How long have you been published?
I started young. Fifth or sixth grade. Even then I told everyone I was going to be a novelist. Didn't know it was going to take so long, though! My first book, THE CLEANER, came out last summer.
One thing I liked about The Cleaner was how you took the whole world of espionage and reinvented it. Everyone writes about professional murderers, but nobody writes about professional cleaners. How did you get that idea?
Excellent question, but I'm not sure there's an easy answer. I think concept of Jonathan Quinn (the protagonist/cleaner) came from several sources, some I remember, some I don't. Movies, books, things I saw on TV. Harvey Keitel in Pulp Fiction. It all mixed together in the back of my mind, and eventually Quinn emerged.
Tell us about writing The Cleaner.
Writing THE CLEANER for me was just writing every second I could. Being an unpublished author meant I also had a day job. So it was getting up early so I could write a few hours before work, hitting the coffee shop in the evening so I could get another hour or two in. Also with THE CLEANER, I didn't have any deadline to meet other than the ones I made up. (Once you have that book contract, your editor expects your next one on time!)
What was your publishing process?
My story is a little twisted. I've told it before in several places, so I'll just give the quick version here. Queried probably upwards to 80 or 100 agents. Some nibbled, but no one bit. Then a friend of mine who was being published by a small press (prestigious UGLY TOWN) here in L.A. suggested I send my manuscript to them, and that he would provide an introduction. So I did that. When I hadn't heard from them in over six month I figured they'd passed, so I started writing a new book.
Then, almost 11 months after I sent them the book, while I was sitting in Starbucks working on rewrites of my new manuscript, they called me and told me they wanted to buy THE CLEANER. This was in Jan. 2005. They said they wanted to bring it out that October. But in August they ran into financial issues having to do with a distributor that went out of business owing them money. Basically they also had to shut their doors.
I thought I was back to square one, but the guys at UGLY TOWN did a wonderful thing. They sent my manuscript to an editor friend at Bantam Dell, who loved it and bought it. That's how I went from being unpublished to being with a small press to being at the largest publisher in the world.
Is there anything you wish you could have known before publishing The Deceived and The Cleaner? From the perspective of a new author, what would you do differently if you had the chance?
I'm not sure I would have done anything differently. THE CLEANER was actually the third book I wrote. With each I would sent out tons of queries and when it was obvious that particular manuscript wasn't going to be picked up, I would start working on the new one. If you want to be published, it's about perseverance and constantly improving your craft. You have to be realistic, too.
I once heard on average, it takes someone a combination of working approximately 10 years and writing 4 novels before they get published. The 4 novels thing was certainly close to true for me, though it did take me more than 10 years...mainly because there were batches of years here and there that I wasn't writing very much.
Would you say writing The Deceived was harder or easier than writing The Cleaner? Was there an added pressure?
Harder. Definitely harder. And in talking to other authors, it's almost a universal feeling that your second book is the hardest. First there's the pressure to please your publisher. Then there's the fact that suddenly you have this deadline, whereas when you weren't published, you could take as long as you wanted to write your book. You worry and you second guess yourself and you think at times "I can't do this." But you do. And in the end, book two comes out even better than book one.
What is your writing process?
Up at 5 a.m., writing by 6 for a couple hours. I might squeeze a few more hours in the evening. Depends on how close I am to my deadline. Also will do several hours on the weekend.
What are you planning to do next?
I actually just turned in a draft of the next book in the Quinn series, so I'll probably be doing some edits in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime I've been writing the synopsis for book four, also another Quinn book, and should be diving head first into that in the fall.
What do you think makes you unique as a writer?
It's what makes any writer unique, our voice. We each tell stories in a different way. Finding your voice and being confident in it...that's what you have to do.
What is one bit of personal advice you can give to aspiring novelists?
You've probably heard it time and again...keep writing. It's the most important thing. Secondarily, don't let rejection get you down. You are going to get rejection letters (I have probably a couple hundred from all my earlier books...and a good thing, too. Those books sucked in comparison to where I am today.) Use rejection to improve yourself.