Author Chris Brookes
I met British mystery author Chris Brookes in a Facebook author group. Chris impressed me with his positive outlook and his creative approach to marketing and promotion. When I learned about his mystery trilogy, the Entanglement Series, I knew this author was a kindred spirit. Like me, Chris is captivated by history. The bit of history that hooked him was the fascinating story of Walter Greenway, an eccentric Englishman whose bravery during World War I was memorialized in the writings of Robert Holmes, a Sheffield man who was a police court missionary (an early version of a probation officer).
“The mystery of both Walter and Robert Holmes consumed me and I found myself entangling facts with fiction,” Chris explains. “Suddenly my idea was born—to create a police court missionary character and write entangled stories based on the experiences of people listed in his registers. And what better place to start than with Walter—this most intriguing man whose experiences stretched from Sheffield to the war zones of Mesopotamia and included many acts of heroism.”
Chris dove down the rabbit hole of research and happily emerged years later with three historical mystery novels: Entanglement of Fate
, Entanglement of Revenge
, and Entanglement of Deceit
. I was thoroughly impressed with Chris’s storytelling skills when I read Entanglement of Fate,
and I look forward to the rest of the trilogy. Here’s my interview with Chris about the path that led him to the indie author life. I hope you enjoy it!
Q.You’ve always been drawn to creative work and are happiest when you’re writing or drawing. How did interest in the arts develop for you?
A. Actually I never read or wrote as a child, this was something that developed after working in theatre. My love of drawing, however, started in my teenage years. I started working as a theatre production manager in the 1980s and from there went on to produce many UK touring shows. Working in that environment brought me into contact with many talented and creative people, some of whom I ultimately got the chance to work with on a regular basis. One such person was director Mark Kenyon, who was also a screen writer and was responsible for fueling my interest in writing. He taught me all the basics, and more, of character development, effective description, and how to thread plots with anticipation and create cliff hangers. All of Mark’s teaching I still use today in my writing.
Q. During the years of raising children, you put your creative pursuits on the back burner for a while. Are you able to write full time these days?
A. As with most jobs in theatre, sometimes there isn’t much prospect of a steady income so I decided to take a ‘day job’ as they say. I worked in corporate service management roles, but always kept my interest in script writing. Eventually in 2013, with my children grown up and beginning to flee the nest, I decided to return to my creative roots and began writing full-time again. In addition, I created a company to offer book promotion services which seems to fulfill my desire for designing things. Currently I’m working on a fourth book, and ideas for a fifth, in the Entanglement series, as well as some script editing work for a production company.
Q. Your Entanglement series started as a screenplay, sat in a drawer for a few years, and then you brought it back to life as a series of novels. I love that the character of Walter Stanford was based on a very charismatic real person whose story fascinated you. What was your writing process once you decided to transform it into novel form?
A. I write very cinematographically and have to have everything clear in my head as a movie. Once I have an idea I begin to embellish details and craft it into a scene. Only once I’m happy that the story is working as a film do I start writing. Then it’s a process of describing what I’m seeing in my head and developing my plot, characters, and conflicts.
The Entanglement Series
Q. Did you make up your mind to commit a certain number of hours a day to writing until the first book was out?
A. Not really, I’m not very disciplined with writing, unless doing script work to deadlines. I generally just sit and write when the mood takes me. Some days I can be in the zone and work more than 14 hours, other times the feeling just isn’t there so I’ll go off and do other things (but don’t tell my wife or she’ll have me working through that decorating task list!)
Q. Did you publish all the books independently?
A. Originally they were traditionally published but now I have gone over to self-published.
Q. Why did you choose to go indie? And what do you like about being an indie author?
A. Ultimately it was about me wanting back control and getting a better ROI [Return On Investment]. I love the fact that I have the freedom to make final decisions on all aspects of my work. That being said, it also brings the headaches if things go wrong.
Q. What was your process with the first book? (Did you hire an editor, use beta readers, etc.)
A. I absolutely recommend working with a proper editor and not just a proof reader. A good editor will challenge you and the story’s construction, characterizations, and help you keep consistency. I start by sending Helen, my editor, the opening five chapters and she will red pen it all and we’ll go back and forth with ideas and suggestions for changes. After this the process is normally write a chapter, edit a chapter. I also have a few good beta readers from my reader group mailing list, but generally I find they aren’t critical enough. Over the years I have worked with some very talented designers and printers, so I’m fortunate that I know where to find good people for things like cover design, book formatting, ebook conversions, etc.
Q. Did the second and third go more quickly? Did you find it easier?
A. Yes and Yes, for the second book at least. I don’t really know why. Perhaps it’s because you become more comfortable writing in the voice of your main characters. Most of the foundations have already been laid so it’s easier to develop things.
Q. What are your biggest challenges as an “authorpreneur”?
A. I think this will always be how do I get my book read by people? And how do I get readers to buy book two, three, four, etc? The other big challenge is how to successfully build a fan base outside of Amazon.
Q. Who are your inspirations?
A. I admire many writers for the way they can craft their stories and draw the reader in. From the old school there is obviously Agatha Christie or Dorothy L. Sayers, further back still, I love to read the Jacques Futrelle mysteries. I also have an affection for John Buchan’s work. Modern-day authors I will happily read include the likes of Stephen King, James Herbert, John Grisham and James Patterson.
Q. How do you stay positive?
A. Remembering that being negative doesn’t lead anywhere!
Q. I’ve participated in one of your author promotions (which you did at no cost to the authors who participated, though I know you put a lot of time in) and I’m excited about a new service you’re developing, short video ads to publicize books. Is marketing and advertising a particular interest of yours?
A. Yes I love exploring ways to find new readers. What do they like and what do they want? Sometimes it’s simply a case of I like an idea so I’ll give it a go.
Q. You seem very tech-savvy. Do you enjoy learning and using new technology?
A. Absolutely, although I can’t tell you how many expletives I’ve hurled at my screen over the years when I can’t grasp things.
Q. What are you working on next?
A. As previously mentioned I’m currently working on book four and five in the Entanglement series. But this year I’ve allocated to spend a lot of time on my Authors to Readers projects [joint promotions for authors] and I’m really excited about developing my video ad service.
Original artwork by Chris
Q. Do you sell your artwork?
A. I haven’t painted seriously and sold my pictures for well over twenty years now. But I sense those days aren’t that far away again!
Find Chris Brookes at his website, where you can learn more about his Entanglement historical mystery series. To read a sample of Entanglement of Fate, the first book in the series, click here.
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