Richard Brawer's Beyond Guilty

My guest today on the Muriel Reeves Mysteries is Richard Brawer, author of Beyond Guilty. After graduating the University of Florida and a stint in the National Guard, Richard worked 35 years in the textile industry. Always an avid reader, Richard began writing mystery, suspense and historical fiction novels. When not writing, he spends his time sailing and growing roses. He has two married daughters and lives in New Jersey with his wife. He has published six novels.

Anne - Welcome, Richard. If you’re comfy, let’s talk writing! When did you first realize you were destined to be a mystery/suspense writer?

Richard - My writing career started when I read a newspaper story about a father who refused to take his child home from the hospital because the newborn was diagnosed with a brain impairment.

Having commuted on a train for years, I had read hundreds of mystery/suspense novels. That newspaper story struck a nerve because it was so horrendous and I asked myself, “What if the baby was misdiagnosed?”

With that question as a plot line, I began making notes. The notes turned into paragraphs and the paragraphs into chapters. Thus, my first Murder at the Jersey Shore mystery, Secrets can be Deadly was born in 1994. 

Anne – Tell us the defining moment when you felt as if you’d finally made it as an author.

Richard - Between 1994 and 2003 I had written four mysteries of which two were published by a small press. Those books neither garnered favorable nor unfavorable reviews in that they got no reviews. Blogs were not prevalent back then and newspaper reviewers were not inclined to review books from small presses.

Then in 2006 I had finished Silk Legacy, an historical fiction novel. I felt this story had all the details of a great novel--jealousy, infidelity, arrogance, greed, and confrontational characters.
I couldn’t get an agent interested and the small press that published my previous books only published mysteries so I self published. By now, bloggers and reviewers of self published books were proliferating and I gave out a lot of free copies to get reviews.

Every single review was positive. “Magnificent Characters” “Remarkable Storytelling” “A Tribulation of Yesteryear” “Vivid Enticing Characters” “An Absorbing Page Turner of a Novel” “Realistic Dialogue” “The fictional family is made up of flesh-and-blood characters. They laugh, love, argue, fight, and have adulterous affairs.”

It was those reviews that whispered in my ear, “You’ve have made it as an author.” But was Silk Legacy a fluke?

In 2010 an independent press published Beyond Guilty, a high concept thriller where a wrongly convicted woman escapes from death row and fights to prove her innocence. (The publisher of my first mysteries had gone out of business in the harsh economic climate.)

The reviews of BeyondGuilty solidified in my mind that I had become a writer.
“Twisting Action” “Thought Provoking” “A Fast paced Thriller” “Sympathetic Engaging Character” “Authentic Dialogue” “Complex Characters” “Spirited Prose” “A Real Winner” “A Damn Good Story” “Don’t go in expecting stereotypes because you won’t find them.”

Anne – I love a success story! Of all the characters you’ve created does one hold a special place in your heart?

Richard - Sarah Bressler in Silk Legacy, the female foil to her domineering husband is still my favorite character. She is based on my paternal grandmother. She’s like a velvet steamroller, slowly smoothing her husband to her way of thinking.

Anne - Velvet steamroller. Wow. What a description! Any words of advice for struggling, unpublished writers?

Richard - I’m sure you’ve heard this before, friends and relatives will not be inclined to give you adverse criticism of your work.

Therefore, try to find a critique group that will give you feedback on character development, dialogue, voice, plot, conflict and setting. But don’t automatically take anyone’s critique as, “Oh I have to change that.” Remember, it’s your story. Analyze the critiques to see if they have merit.

For example, I belong to a six person group. If one person criticizes something I do give it thought. However, if three or four in the group say the same thing about a segment then I take it under serious consideration and study how to rewrite.

Most important, be honest with yourself. You know deep down whether you have written a good book or whether it needs work.

Anne – So true! How many rejections have you received? Was one more memorable than others?

Richard - You have to have a thick skin if you want to become a published author. Every one of my books has been rejected by at least twenty-five agents.

However, with my ego inflated by the reviews of Silk Legacy, I was determined to find an agent for Beyond Guilty. Again, the rejections flooded in.  But one rejection really opened my eyes.

Without going into details, a famous author gave me a hand written note introducing me to his agent. This type of referral was supposed to get your work a serious look. Excited I sent off Beyond Guilty.

Eight weeks went by without hearing a word. I sent an e-mail asking if they had received my material. I received the following reply. “I just found your pages in a place where they shouldn’t have been. I’ll read them and get back to you right away.” The next day I received the agent’s e-mail rejection.

This was the crowning incident that totally turned me off to agents and the big New York City publishing cadre, and began my search for an independent publisher with staying power.  I found that publisher in L & L Dreamspell who is now publishing my latest suspense/thriller in 2012 titled, Keiretsu.

To read the book jackets, excerpts, full reviews of Silk Legacy and Beyond Guilty and my early mysteries, and find links to book sellers, as well as the book jacket and an excerpt from Keiretsu please visit my website:

Anne – Thanks so much for dropping by today, Richard. It’s been a blast! I wish you every success with Beyond Guilty and your next release.

As always, reader comments are welcome and appreciated. Btw, if you become a follower, well, hey, I will be eternally grateful, and you won't miss a single post, interview, guest blog or giveaway. 

Happy reading!

* * *


Kelly Hashway said...

Great interview. It's nice to see someone keep going even after the first two books didn't get reviewed. Times certainly have changed.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Richard,

You've given a good, honest interview which I as a fellow writer appreciate. Honestly, I find it difficult to be totally objective about my own writing. It's good that you work with a critique group. I also value L&L Dreamspell. Lisa and Linda are good people to worth with.

T.W. Fendley said...

I can appreciate your journey AND especially admire your perseverance! It is gratifying to find good people like those at L&L Dreamspell who "get" what you're doing. Nice post!

Christy Tillery French said...

Wonderful interview. I, too, gave up on NY publishers and went with a small, independent one. After meeting authors who have published with the biggies and hearing their complaints, I'm glad I am with a publisher that gives me creative leeway and treats me as part of their team.

jennymilch said...

So nice to see you here on Anne's blog, Richard! I would say those are some successes indeed. The trigger for your first novel--wow. Raised my hackles.

Laura G. said...

Wow, Richard! What a journey you've had. It's good that you found L&L Dreamspell. They're a great publisher. And I went to your site to read about Keiretsu - the title alone intrigued me. It sounds awesome. Can't wait for it to come out! Best of luck, Richard. And many happy sales!

Pauline B Jones said...

Great interview! I had two agents and it didn't get me as far as my own hard work. I too love L&L Dreamspell. Write on!

jamesdorrwriter said...

Hi Richard. I like that "velvet steamroller" myself, also your advice about writers groups. I might add from my own experience that, as a learning experience of how stories are put together, you may learn even more from your own critiques of othr members' work than from their critiques of yours.

M.M. Gornell said...

Thanks Anne and Richard for a great interview. Enjoyed meeting you, Richard, and hearing about your work and your writing journey.


Anne K. Albert said...

Times have changed, Kelly, yet now the need for more than one or two books is the norm. Which reminds me...I need to get writing!

So glad you dropped by Jacqueline.

Perseverance is key to anything, T.W. I need to keep reminding myself of that!

I'm in the same boat as you, Christy and like Richard I'm very happy with that decision. I like the warm, cozy atmosphere of a small publisher.

Your description of raising one's hackles is SO spot on, Jenny. That excerpt still gives me shivers!

So glad you enjoyed the interview, Laura, Pauline and Madeline.

Stephen L. Brayton said...

I totally agree with finding a good critique group who will be honest about your writing.