Chicago’s own thriller author Glen Barrera is here to talk about his work as a writer, his novels and life, and some fun facts about him. From a thriller author you might expect very serious and studious answers, but you might also be surprised by his witty thoughts and his enthusiastic approach to life. Thank you, Glen, for doing this interview!
1. First off, I have to say I always stop and stare at your title ‘The Assassin Who Couldn’t Dance?’ Where did the title come from?
It actually had a different title when I began. I changed it after the novel was finished because I wanted to give an inkling as to the assassin’s vulnerability. At one point in the story, Hector, the assassin, considers how different his life might be if his family had moved to the States sixteen years before. One of his what-ifs was – “…would he have a girlfriend now? Would he have learned how to dance?” It was so innocent, I couldn’t pass it up.
2. The story switches several settings. How difficult was it to plan the story? Do you spend a lot of time planning your novels, or do you jot down the plot first and fine-tune later?
There was a lot of pre-planning on this novel. I was taking a writing course at the time and my tutor, Canadian author Michael Mirolla, preferred a detailed outline. I spent a lot of time on it. It did prove valuable for the first half of the novel, but by the second half the story began to deviate from the original outline (a good thing). So, needing a new guide for the remaining chapters, rather than detailing once again I decided to work from a more flexible rough outline. I carried this “rough outline” pattern into my second novel, A Capable and Wide Revenge, and am using it for my third novel, Sweet Peach.
3. When did you decide to go for it and become published author?
I’ve written short stories and poetry in the past, but it wasn’t until after I divorced a few years ago that I found time to write a novel, something I had wanted to do since college. And as I was content doing just that – writing – it never occurred to me to publish anything until my second novel was near completion. I sent out a few queries to agents at first, at the same time reading-up on Indi publishing and social media marketing (a new world for me). In May, 2014, I joined Facebook and Twitter. In October I finally published with Book Baby.
4. You write thrilling stories, packed with action, mystery and emotion. How does it feel when you are ‘in’ the story, when you dive into writing?
There is nothing like the high it brings. I’m ducking and weaving when the bullets are whizzing, scratching my head at the mysteries, and often shedding a tear with the characters during the more emotional parts. Many of the characters I’ve used are based on people, or composites of people, I’ve known (good and bad). I tend to get wrapped up in the lives I’ve given them.
5. Whose opinion and criticism do you trust the most?
I have two sources. The first is the Bolingbrook (SW ‘burbs of Chicago) Writers Group. I’ve been with them four years.
They are all talented writers and have gone though my novels adding comments/suggestions/critiques. They keep me in line. The second are my two brothers in Florida. They are avid readers in my genre and not afraid to verbally punch me if I mess up.
6. What genre do you think is the most difficult one to write in?
Mystery. Although I love to read them, I’ve never been able to get a handle on the genre as a writer.
7. When you need to get out of the action-packed intensity of the stories, what do you do to relax or vent off?
I typically write in the evenings, before dinner. Sometimes, especially when wrapped up in an intense scene, I don’t get in the kitchen until 9 or later. Then I turn on the TV while preparing something to eat and watch comedy re-runs like Big Bang Theory. It takes my mind off writing.
8. What do you like to read when you read for pleasure?
I do try to keep up with the thriller genre, but I’ve been branching off into literary fiction, historical novels, and even romance. I also love non-fiction history. Last year I finally got around to Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
9. Would you like to see your novels turned into movies? Any director or actors in mind?
I don’t know if it can be done with all the varied scenes and characters I use. But if it could, I’d like Quentin Tarantino to give it a go. I like his style.
10. What is your favourite scene from your books and why?
It’s the scene where Hector and Lucy are alone for the first time in a second story bedroom, waiting for an attack on the house. Hector’s awkwardness in dealing with the woman he’s come to love is something many guys, including me, have gone through at some point in our lives – his sweaty hand reaching out to hold hers – included.
11. Would you like to add anything about your current work or send a message to the readers?
I’ve had some very nice reviews and comments regarding the Assassin. Each one is greatly appreciated. I had a lot of fun writing the book – so much so that the next book, A Capable and Wide Revenge (title from Shakespeare’s Othello), will feature the same main characters (yeah, Hector and Lucy will be back) along with some interesting new ones. I expect an April or May release.
I hope you thriller-lovers check out Glen’s books! And don’t forget – read, rate and review!