Thursday, March 11, 2010

INTERVIEW: Award-Winning Mystery Writer - Brian M. Wiprud

Welcome to “Up Close and Personal.” For every interview I will be introducing a literary personality discussing their views and insights, as well as upcoming literary events around the world.

Today’s interview is with Brian Wiprud. He grew up in Washington, D.C. His mother was an editor for the Department of Education; his father, was a tax lawyer for the Justice Department. His parents divorced when he was 15. He graduated from St. Albans prep school in Washington and New York University film school.

He wrote his first novel in Watusi Report in 1983, his second in Watusi Report is What You Get in 1984.. He also wrote two horror screenplays Zombie Beavers, Floaters and a couple short stories, followed in the early nineties when novel called Swires Poker.

Mr. Wiprud also wrote Trampoline Nude, the sequel to SP, which he completely re-wrote for publication in 2006. By 1995 he had written Sleep with the Fishes, and wrote $50 Moosehead then Pipsqueak and then by 1999 Dirt Nap (sequel to SWTF, He also illustrated children's book and two non-fiction books. Also in the mix were about ten fly fishing and magazine articles.

Mr. Wiprud, started the road to self-publishing in 2000 with SWTF as He self-published Pipsqueak in 2002 around the same time he started the third SWTF book called Granite Hat (unfinished to date), but didn't receive his first publishing contract, with Bantam Dell, until 2003.

Brian Wiprud wrote eight and a half novels, two screenplays, three short stories, illustrated three books, and published ten articles over 20 years before he was officially, undeniably and irrevocably published. To make ends meet, he did lighting and grip work for small filmmakers and selling newspapers at the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel.

He became a utilities specialist and a manhole detective. He got into his field of expertise when an engineering firm required footage of sewers. He did not do the filming himself. The cinematographer was a robot on treads, with a rotating camera and lights.

Mr. Wiprud sat in a mobile TV studio and made certain the robot was getting it right. That led to reading and mapping manhole covers and underground utilities. Often, in addition to studying maps, Mr. Wiprud must climb down a manhole or direct a dig. His talents were called upon after 9/11 as part of the rescue and reconstruction effort at ground zero.

He is not an engineer. His college degree was in film, and for pleasure he goes fly fishing and writes detective novels. He prefers to think of himself, as a literary bent.

He is dressed more like an East Village artist than an engineer; a funky long-sleeved white shirt worn over a faded blue-green paisley shirt. His blond hair is combed in a pompadour like Tintin, the children's book hero's.

He has written and published seven books: His newest novel, “Buy Back” will be available in bookstore June 8th 2010. “Buy Back” is about Tom Davis, a Brooklyn insurance investigator in a jam. He arranged an art theft to cover a debt—only somebody swiped the paintings from his crew.

Now the insurance company wants him to investigate his own art theft; the local bookie wants his money; his crew in the neighborhood is targeted by a sniper; both the mob and the cops think he’s the shooter; and his girlfriend split and stuck him with four cats that are redecorating his apartment.

Six-foot-six Tommy nimbly navigates his troubles and Brooklyn with the help of tantric yoga, his father’s aphorisms, and a comely masseuse. But the question remains: do good things happen to good people? The answer lurks in a fiery Brooklyn scrap yard.

E.I. Would you share some early self-reflection to give us a sense of who you were as a teenager? What were you like? Give your readers three “Good to Know” facts about your first job experience, the inspiration for your writing career, any fun details or anecdotes that would enliven your page. Also, tell us about Brian Wiprud today -- the man behind the award-winning mystery writer.

BMW: There's an entire book in the answer to this question, but I pride myself on brevity. I went to the Washington DC prep school St. Albans, where aside from attaining an expensive education both in academics and the social order, I played every sport except football, worked on hot rods and drank beer. I had an afternoon job as a Volkswagen mechanic and projectionist at the Wheaton Plaza Triplex. I would credit my time as a projectionist as being the seed from which the urge to write grew because I often came to dislike the opening scenes of movies and would edit them to make them more effective. That led me to NYU Film School and New York. Like highschool, the lessons I learned from college were valuable on two levels. I learned to refine the way I thought about visulaizing stories, and I learned that I disliked the film industry. So after living hand and mouth after school selling newspapers at the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and doing various production work for extremely little pay (you compete with trust fund kids and producers nephews who don't need pay) I took a steady job at an engineering firm doing traffic counts, drafting and technician work. It was over the next five years that I wrote my first three novels and two screenplays. The former stank, the latter were OK, and none of it sold. Fortunately, I had an aptitude for visulaization that helped me develop a career in engineering as an expert in underground New York. A solid day job is crucial for a novelist. I was first published in New York Press in 1997 with an article about fishing, but it wasn't until 2001, after 18 yeas of writing novels, that I decided to self publish my novel Sleep with the Fishes. Unfortunately, my pub date was September 10th. The fateful events of the 11th doomed my promotional campaign, but also drew me into the effort to save people trapped at ground zero by providing mapping of the utilties surrounding the WTC site and trying to find a way in to collapes areas. So I spent time down at the site an several occassions verifying the loations of manholes and exploring ways into the site. The New York Times wrote me up on that adventure, and I've been a go-to for the Times ever since on matters about underground New York. I self published the book Pipsqueak in 2002 and this quirky novel about a taxidermy collector got noticed to the extent that it won Left Coast Crime's Lefty Award. That in turn got me noticed by Random House - I landed my first publishing contract twenty years after penning my first novel. This June novel #7 will be published with Minotaur.

E.I. What is it about the art form of writing mystery novels that enchants you, and gives you the enduring passion to continue in such a demanding profession?

BMW: I've been doing this so long that at this point it's just what I do. I'm hard wired to create compelling characters with stories to tell. Not sure what I would do in the evenings if I didn't write. I guess the reward is that as a novelist I'm privileged to live more than one life. I live mine and I live each of my protagonists as well.

E.I. Please tell your young readers about your novel “Feelers.” What was it that sparked your imagination? What were your favorite aspects about this book?

BMW: I wanted to write a novel that was highly suspenseful in the tradition of Alfred Hitchcock with long character vectors and lots of foreboding. I was thinking particularly about the mechanics of Strangers on a Train, a story so beautifully orchestrated that it literally brings tears to my eyes. Feelers of course is a completely different story, about a house cleaner who finds a large sum of stolen money and tries to keep it. As with all my books, I like my protagist, and our Canarsie Lothario Morty was and continues o be a great joy to write.

E.I. What were your biggest challenge and obstacle while writing and creating the character “Morty Martinez”? Did you work him out in advance, or did he evolve as you wrote the story?

BMW: I work out nothing but the premise first. Morty is a romantic like myself , just extremely so - he just popped out there once he got talking. There is a certain magic to how an author comes to create characters, I can't explain it except to say that they seem to jump out of you, like they were in there all the time. But each has something to say about the human condition that intetrests or concerns me.

E.I. Mr. Wiprud, What do you find to be the hardest part of weaving so much suspense and elements of information into your stories and yet you keep them so fast-paced?

BMW: I just finished Ringer - the sequel to Feelers - with Morty and there were a lot of details that needed vetting. But I don't usually find any part of writing truly hard anymore. The characters do all the lifting. The fast paced part for me is just an innate sense of the story arc and that 320 pages or so makes for a good book - sort of like movies. Three hour movies are almost always too long.

E.I. You've created a character so remarkably captivating that your readers will definitely clamor for more; how did you decide what level of details your readers will accept? How does your creative process work?

BMW: Morty made all the decisions - though my characters don't write details that make me personally squeamish. Explicit sex just seems pointless, I abhor torture scenes and bloody violence is best done quickly, so quickly it takes my breath away. Which of course is how violence usually plays out in real life. One minute everything's fine, the next you're running for your life. My "process" is really just coming up with a premise that I feel will be both exciting and provide insights into the human condition. I of course rely on my personal experiences but none of my characters or the vents that take place are real except in my head and as they exist in fiction. The rest is all being emotionally open to my chacaters, letting them speak and act. I nudge them a little here and there, but they tell the stories.

E.I. If you were asked to read a page from “Feelers.” is there one that you would personally select to share with your fans? And why?

BMW: I usually read from th beginning because it seems pointless to pick something from the middle and have to provide the audience with a fiften minute set up. Besides, the opening should be the better part of any novel, just like those movies back at the Wheaton Plaza Triplex. That said, Morty is highly opinionated, especially when it comes to women and sex, so I might be tempted to read one of those.

E.I. If you were allowed total control of the Hollywood version of “Feelers” who would be in it? And in your opinion, who do you think should direct?

BMW: Feelers is currently optioned by Apostle Films, Denis Leary's production company, and I couldn't be more pleased as I think Denis would be perfect as the frustrated hitman Danny Kessel. Morty would like Benjamin Bratt to play him, but that's just Morty talking. I really don't know who would be best as Morty, I'll leave that to the experts. I don't really know any contemporary directors well enough to have an opinion about that role.

E.I. And, finally, could you give us a sneak peek about your upcoming book, “Buy Back"? What was it that sparked your imagination about this new novel?

BMW: I wanted to write a novel set in the exact Brooklyn neghborhood I live in to capture it's essence. In my book Crooked - which was nominated for two seperate awards - I had a protagonsit who was an insurance investigator, but I wanted to explore that world some more. Tommy Davin is our protagonist, a gentle 6'6" giant whose into tantric yoga and finding stolen art. Yet he needs to arrange an art theft to cover a debt to a loan shark - only the paitings are stolen from his crew just after they steal it, and the insurance company contraacts him to recover the paintings he stole. novel. Before I mentioned that my characters all have something to say about the human condition. Tommy's seeking the answer to the age-old question: do good things happen to good people? This is a much darker book than any of my previous novels, and while there is humor in it is not a comic. Then again I didn't think Feelers was comic, either.

E.I. Mr. Wiprud, Thank you for contributing to my blog. It has been a pleasure for me to get to know your work a little better. Would you like to end your interview with a writing tip or advice for young aspiring writers all over the world?

BMW: My advice for writers is very simple, and not original. If you want to write then write. If you want to be a novelist, well, my advice is a little more involved:

1. Don't expect your first novel to be any good, which is exactly what dismays and ultimately ruins many budding novelists. Would you expect to paint the Mona Lisa on your first try at painting? This is no different - there is craft involved and you need to practice your craft to get good at it.
2. Being published or winning awards is cake at the end of the meal - it is NOT the meal. If that's all your focused on, then take classes where someone will help you write a crappy formulaic novel devoid of any true inspiration. Then you can POD publish and immerse yourself in a fruitless promotional campaign that includes a website and conventions where you sit on panels with other manufactured authors and pretend to know what you're talking about. You might even get published traditionally and become successful. But you'll always know down deep that you're an imposter. If you're OK with that, great, have at it, there's nothing wrong with being an imposter.
3. IMHO, all the classes and manuals and other crap is procrastination. If you want to learn about story and the mechanics of story telling and dialogue all you need to do is watch classic films and pay attention to how the story unfolds. Ask yourself why the movie was so exciting, why you liked this character or that one.
4. The crucial part to writing well is to be so emotionally open to the process that you are able to fully invest yourself into a character and let him/her speak freely. You get to that point by practice, which inspires the confidence required to be utterly honest with yourself and to know who you are. If you don't truly know who you are, how can you know who your characters are? If you find yourself laughing out loud, shedding tears, or even getting turned on as you write - then you're there.

There's a whole other list of advice about being a published author - but much of that would be imprudent to impart publicly!

Happy to answer your questions and hopefully I've provided some insights and perhaps even inspiration. Cheers - BMW

To learn more about Brian M Wiprud, please visit his website.
To purchase his books please visit AMAZON and Barnes & Noble

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