On Fridays right here, writers talk about their books, their process, where they’ve been, and where they’re going. Today Brian Spangler joins us to celebrate the launch of his novel, KILLING KATIE, a Kindle Scout winner published by Kindle Press.
I was having an affair with murder.
There. I admit it.
And there was no program for me—no rehab or clinic. I couldn’t deny my obsession, my fantasy. Murder.
It was only a matter of time before someone died. And I knew I wouldn’t be able to stop after just one.
So, when the temptations became too intense, I risked everything for one little taste. Immediately, my life was filled with twists and turns and thrills—the seductive arms of a dark society embracing my desires, relentlessly drawing me in until I lost sight of who I was.
But my husband is a police detective, and some of my nightly adventures have showed up on his desk. My newfound world, my fantasies–they’ve bled into my family’s lives. No matter what I try, I’m tangled up in a deep web of lies, telling one after another to throw off the suspicions of the man I love and save who we are.
I know people live for the idea that their fantasies can come true. The question I began to ask was should they?
- What were the most challenging aspects of writing this book, and what came easily?
KILLING KATIE is one of the first books I’ve written where I purposely went into the project with an objective. I wanted the readers to love the main character’s story even when they disagreed with her. That was the easy part—knowing what I wanted to accomplish. The difficulty, the challenge, was everything else.
The main character in KILLING KATIE is by far the most complex I’ve ever written. Amy Sholes is a character you know you should not like. And yet, you can’t help but want to like her. Better yet, she just might be someone you can relate to.
What made her character difficult was in accomplishing my goal while staying true to the main character. As writers, the story has to stay true to the development of the characters we create. I tend to fall out of movies and books when the main character does something that seems unrealistic and doesn’t fit who they are. Readers can see through over-reaching and general character mistakes.
- Tell us about your main characters and what drives them.
I grew up watching television shows like Dallas where we had bigger-than-life personalities such as JR—a character you just loved to hate. Fast forward to the days of Netflix and the series sensation, BREAKING BAD, and we have another great main character in Walter White.
JR and Walter are main characters that bring unique conflicts to great stories. I wanted the same to drive my main character, Amy Sholes. On the surface, Amy is a loving housewife and mother who would do anything for her family. But Amy also has a dark side, a secret: murder. She is fascinated by it.
When desire meets opportunity, Amy makes a decision she believes will help her family while allowing her to act on her fantasies. But sometimes, desire and opportunity are a ruse and the results catastrophic.
What drives Amy through the KILLING KATIE story is her struggle to be a mother and a wife, but to also become the person she knows herself to be. As a writer, I’m drawn to see what Amy is going to do next.
- Can you describe your journey to publication: the torment and elation, the times none of it made any sense, the moments when it all came together?
Growing up, I would never have considered writing a book—let alone publishing one. In fact, there was a time when I wouldn’t have read a book. But here I am, writing a thousand words a day (give or take), and steadily growing a list of stories I can’t wait to write.
When I was young, I struggled with dyslexia. It was bad enough for me to have been held back in school—unable to read and write while everyone around me did so with ease. But after a few years of re-training my brain, I began to catch up, and in the process, I discovered fiction. It wasn’t long after reading some classic stories (ROBINSON CRUSOE was a favorite) that I began to pen stories of my own. They were silly, indiscriminate, tiny disasters, but seeing the images in my head and then putting the scenes to paper did something that I found rewarding.
I wrote a lot of short stories, most of them now lost: discarded papers and notebooks, old floppy disks, a crashed hard-drive. Five years ago, my family and I were on vacation and I’d been juggling a story idea in my head. By the last day of the vacation, I’d written a few pages: an opening to what later became SUPERMAN’S CAPE. It was raw and ugly, but there were some good pieces. I finished writing the book and then quickly rewrote it, having read a few books on writing fiction and learned the basic structures of dialog. I had no idea what to do with SUPERMAN’S CAPE and had never heard of indie publishing. I learned about agents and sending queries. And then I learned about rejections.
After I’d started on my second book, AN ORDER OF COFFEE AND TEARS, I read Stephen King’s Memoirs. It was in his memoirs, I learned the basic rules. Read every day. Write every day. And so that is what I do. Indie publishing became a natural direction for me. I published SUPERMAN’S CAPE and soon after, I published AN ORDER OF COFFEE AND TEARS.
Every book is a struggle when it comes to marketing and promoting, but that is part of the work. Would I rather spend my day reading and writing? Absolutely. But I also like to talk to readers. I frequent Goodreads and Facebook and respond to every email I receive.
Although the path to publishing seems to change every day, writing is still writing. My writing career came into being around the same time Amazon started drastically changing everything. Is that a good thing? Who knows, but I know I need to remain aware of the publishing landscape and the changes taking place. Kindle Scout is a terrific example of recent changes. Modeled after baseball leagues and their farm teams, Amazon has created their scouting program, enlisting the help of readers to eliminate the traditional slush pile.
- You get to the end of your life, and there to escort you through the tunnel to the light beyond and show you around is a philosopher / author / artist / scientist / celebrity you’ve always revered. Who is it, and why him/her?
John Steinbeck. I’m not even sure what I’d ask—probably fall over first.
Reading OF MICE AND MEN was the first time I ever felt something, that special something that spoke to me and said, “You can do that too.” Steinbeck’s work woke up the writer in me and encouraged me to want to write.
- Tell us about your other books, past or in the pipeline.
So many stories, so little time to write them all.
My previously published books cross multiple genres. I tend to write absent of any particular genre—meaning, I write the story I’m thinking about more than any other. In today’s publishing world, this is not a favorable path for publishing and in growing a reader base. When I began to pick up readers with my book, AN ORDER OF COFFEE AND TEARS (Contemporary Women’s Fiction), I should have quickly jumped into writing another book in the same genre. Instead, I ran head first into a new Sci-Fi series and did not resurface until the series was completed.
I like to write the stories in my head, but jumping genres meant that I was starting all over. Did I learn my lesson? Of course not, I’m a writer.
After the Sci-Fi series, I could have gone back to writing Women’s fiction—another Coffee and Tears perhaps, but a new series popped into my head. This time, I’m committed to writing a crime thriller series called: AN AFFAIR WITH MURDER. Book 1, KILLING KATIE, was picked up by Amazon’s Scout program and published by Kindle Press.
Writing crime thrillers is awesome. Let me say that again: AWESOME! It’s a total blast. I’m nearly finished with Book 2, A PAINFUL TRUTH, and have outlined book 3. The crime thriller genre is fun fun.
After I’m finished with my latest series, I’ve got some new story ideas that have begun to take root and grow. One is a new dystopian thriller, and the other is a new crime thriller. I’m leaning toward the latter, but may pen a novella for the first, releasing serial installments between novels. We’ll see.
Who am I?
I’m a resident of Virginia, living with my wife and children, along with four cats (sometimes more), a parrot, lizard and the funniest chinchilla on the east coast.
Although I live in Virginia, my heart is still in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where I grew up. And I hope that one day, I’ll be able to call Philadelphia home again.
Growing up, I liked to read short stories, but struggled with the words. You see, I had a secret: a sad little secret. Ashamed and embarrassed, I was the little kid in the back row of the schoolroom, quietly moving my lips along with the class while everyone read aloud. I couldn’t read. I couldn’t write. I hoped nobody would notice, but they did. They always did.
By the time I’d reached the fourth grade, my secret wasn’t a secret anymore. The teachers knew something was wrong. Dyslexia. Maybe that is why I liked science fiction so much? All those crazy looking glyphs on the screen, glowing, flashing. The fix? Back to the third grade for me, and then special classes three days a week. It worked. Once I started reading, I never stopped. Stephen King, Piers Anthony, Dean Koontz, and even the Judy Blume books my sisters discarded.
I’m still one of the slowest readers I know, but school was never a problem again. I finally graduated the third grade, and then kept on going until I finished my Masters.
These days, I work as an engineer and spend my nights writing, editing and thinking up the next great story.
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