Minefield of Storytelling – interview with Brian L. Porter (4 September 2007)

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Introduction

I uploaded an interview with Graeme Houston a few days ago. Within 24 hours, I received an email from Brian requesting an interview. I visited his websites and had a proper look at all his work. It’s an impressive body of work and without  further ado, here’s Brian L. Porter.


Aneeta: Brian, thank you for contacting me with a request for an interview.

Brian: It’s a pleasure to talk to you Aneeta. When my good friend Graeme Houston suggested I contact you I had no idea you’d be in touch so soon, so thank you!

Aneeta: Yes. When I see something good and worthwhile for my website, I don’t see any point in delaying. Let’s start with something about you. Please tell me a little about your childhood, where you grew up, where you live now, what you do for a living and something about your family.

Brian: Well, let’s see. I was born in 1953, the year of Queen Elizabeth the Second’s coronation in Doncaster, England. My father had been in the Army for most of his life and had met my mother while he was serving in India. My mother was Anglo-Indian and lived to the ripe old age of 90. I lost her just two years ago though my father died when I was only 23. So, I grew up in Doncaster, and left when I was seventeen to join the Royal Air Force, thus fulfilling my childhood ambition.

After leaving the Air Force I spent about twenty years in the retail industry, first as a store manager, then as an area manager, and finally moving to an administrative role at the company’s head office. During that time I became a qualified hockey coach and had a wonderful time coaching the colts at my local hockey club. My career included living and working in Scotland for about eleven years where I lived near to the banks of the beautiful River Dee, surrounded by pine forests in one of the most beautiful parts of the British Isles. Unfortunately, about ten years ago my previous marriage broke down and I was struck down by what people like to call ‘a nervous breakdown’. In fact I had severe clinical depression, and it is still with me today. Following on from the depression I became afflicted with various physical problems including a heart condition and chronic asthma to name but two, and I could no longer continue to work in the accepted sense of the word. A friend suggested that I try to write poetry as a form of therapy for the depression (I had always written poem for family and friends), and it was in that way that my writing career began.

Two and a half years ago I met the lovely Juliet who is now my wife, and we live in Yorkshire with my two step-daughters and our 4 dogs, who all came from a local animal sanctuary, having been previously abused or abandoned. I also have a son by my previous marriage who was born during my time in Scotland and who is now grown up and who lives with his mother.

Aneeta: I know that you’ve had a long an interesting road to becoming a published author. Please, share with us that whole journey, giving full details of your books and all relevant material.

Brian:  Well, as I said previously my career started with me writing a few poems as a form of self-therapy. I was encouraged by my friends to send them to a few publishers and I was lucky to find that my work was accepted almost immediately. Subsequently I had over 200 poems published, mostly in anthologies, by a number of specialist poetry publishing imprints and was very fortunate to be included in ‘The Forward Press Top 100 Poets of the Year’ on 3 occasions, in 2002, 2003 and 2005. I was also honoured to be made chairman of my local poet’s guild, a post I held for two years.

It was my wife Juliet who then encouraged me to take my writing to the next level, having seen an advertisement in the library for short stories being required by a major publisher. The story I wrote wasn’t accepted, but I had the developed the ‘bug’ for story telling and my next piece, ‘The Voice’ was accepted for publication in an anthology produced by the New Fiction imprint of Forward Press. More stories followed and fortune must have favoured me as publication followed publication. One day, I sent a copy of a very dark and macabre poem to my friend Graeme Houston in Malaysia and he was so impressed by it that he asked if he could use it as an introduction if he ever decided to write a dark psychological thriller of his own. That made something ‘click’ in my brain and I politely told Graeme that he couldn’t use it because I was going to write a dark psychological thriller myself, and would use the poem for my own purposes. (I did of course thank him for the inspiration). I suppose you could say that that day was the day that my first major novel was born.

‘A Study in Red – The Secret Journal of Jack the Ripper’ is that novel, and tells the story of Doctor Robert Cavendish, a modern-day psychiatrist who is bequeathed a set of papers by his late father. As he begins to read them in the privacy of his study, he soon learns that he is holding the previously undiscovered journal of the infamous Whitechapel Murderer who stalked the streets of London in 1888. The pages seem warm to the touch, and the words on those pages begin to penetrate deep into Robert’s mind until he finds himself being transported back in time to the world of the world’s first and still most notorious serial killer. The graphic descriptions contained within the journal are soon joined by a series of letters from Robert’s own great-grandfather which seem to hint at some great and tragic secret kept by the Cavendish family for over a hundred years. As Robert delves deeper into the journal he becomes aware of a power emanating from the pages, a power that threatens not only his very sanity, but his life! The story builds to a shattering and surprising conclusion as Robert finally reaches the last page of the journal and the secrets of history are revealed!

The novel’s release date is March 2008 and is being published by Quill Pen.net Press of California whose website can be found at www.quill-pen.net The book also has its own site at www.freewebs.com/astudyinred/ I hope your readers might like to visit the site and perhaps buy the book when it becomes available. My own website is at www.freewebs.com/brianlp/ (*)

Earlier this year my second novel ‘The Nemesis Cell’ was published as an e-book by Stonehedge Publishing of Alabama. In this tale of murder and mystery a group of women gather at a Belgian fertility clinic where Doctor Margherita Dumas offers a revolutionary and decidedly experimental treatment for their infertility. A year later, each of the women give birth to a healthy baby boy, it would seem that the doctor’s controversial methods have been successful.

Thirty years later a mysterious killer stalks and begins to wipe out the children born as a result of Dumas’ programme. Is there a link between the events of the past and the deaths of the innocent progeny of the Clinique Sobel?

Detective Inspector Harry Houston and his specialist team of murder investigators must piece together the complex web that links the deaths across nations and leads to a terrifying conclusion as the story of The Nemesis Cell unfolds!

The book is available from various online retailers but if anyone would like a quick link to obtain it they can go to www.fictionwise.com/ebooks/ebook46963

Released at the same time as ‘Nemesis’ was my latest novella ‘Avenue of the Dead’ which features Police Captain Juan Morales, who made his entrance in my short story ‘The Devil you Know’. Avenue of the Dead’ takes the reader to the ancient ruined city of Teotihuacán near Mexico City where Morales is faced with his strangest case yet, as a vacation with his best friend in Mexico City leads him into a world of human sacrifice, ancient Gods, and a relationship with the beautiful archaeologist Sophia Kanakarides. When Sophia goes missing, Morales and his friend Francisco Tamayo face a race against time to save her from the knife of the High Priest of the Old Religion. Again, the surprise ending will hopefully bring readers back wanting more of this enigmatic and likeable detective. This is available from the same group of retailers as ‘The Nemesis Cell’ and a direct purchase link is available through www.fictionwise.com/ebooks/ebook46497

My novel ‘Glastonbury’ is a thriller in the mould of one of my favourite authors, Clive Cussler, and takes the reader on a roller-coaster ride of emotions as a small team of surveyors attempt to unearth a hidden secret from the pat. The problem is, they don’t know what they are searching for, or that those who are paying for their expedition have a very different agenda than the archaeological search they think they are involved in. This book contains a dramatic ‘twist in the tale’ and is currently being offered to publishers and agents in both the UK and abroad.

I am currently working on ‘Purple Death’ a very dark murder/mystery/thriller all rolled into one. Someone is poisoning a multitude of apparently unconnected victims. The police are baffled, and Detective Inspector Sean Connor must use all of his experience and guile in order to track the unknown assailant. The problem is, a he investigate the case, the body count grows, and he faces a race against time to prevent the killer from pursuing his or her deadly game. I hope to have the book finished in a month or two, and then it will have to face the same fate as Glastonbury as I begin to submit it to the same publishers and agents in the hope of finding just one who will take it on board.

Another smaller release in soon due when Eternal Press in Australia publish a trilogy of my short stories, all based in Mexico, under the title of ‘Murder, Mayhem and Mexico’. This one will feature the previously mentioned ‘The Devil you Know’ and two others, and is very reasonably priced, so if anyone feels like obtaining a small sample of my work I’d be honoured if they went to www.eternalpress.com.au

Strangely enough, my work seems quite popular in Australia and another publisher in that lovely country has published a number of my short stories as individual e-books. RS Publishing have so far published ‘A Long Way from Home’, ‘An Alien Abduction’, ‘Breathing to Death’, ‘Compliments of the Boss’, ‘Terror at Tunguska’, and one other of my (politically incorrect) stories published under a pseudonym. They can be found at www.rspublishing.com.au

I don’t want to bore your readers with a long list of my publishing credits but I would just like to say a big thank you to all the publishers and editors of various magazines and online journals who have honoured me by including my work in their publications around the world. I’m proud to say that my work has now appeared on four continents, which I take as a great personal achievement that is very gratifying to me as a humble and relatively unknown author.

I’m also delighted that Graeme Houston of Stargazer Publishing recently appointed me as Poetry Editor of his new publishing venture ‘Balderdash Literary Journal’ as this post gives me the opportunity to stay in touch with the poetry world, and of course to read some wonderful poetry from the various would-be contributors. In addition I will be writing a slightly irreverent and satirical column for Balderdash entitled ‘Going to the Dogs’.

I must also add that my work wouldn’t be half as good as it is if it weren’t for a wonderful group of people who are my own critique group. They are based in different counties around the world and represent differing generations. They read everything before it goes to a publisher and are very honest in their opinions of my work. The important thing of course is that I really do listen to their opinions, which I think helps to make me abetter writer. After all they are readers, and they above all know whether what I am writing has any appeal or not. So can I please take the opportunity to say a big thank you to Malcolm Davies, Jean Pike, Graeme Houston, Ken Copley, Shelia Noakes and my dear wife Juliet.

For those interested in such things, here is comprehensive list of my current titles. For full publication details of the short stories I would suggest that your readers visit my website at www.freewebs.com/brianlp/

Novels:

Short Stories:

  • A Long Way from Home
  • A Novel Tale
  • An Alien Abduction
  • Bodies in the Cellar
  • Breathing to Death – Compliments of the Boss
  • Dinner with Christina
  • Final Confrontation
  • A Holy Grail
  • Megalith
  • Mexican Therapy
  • Night Flight
  • Red Sky in the Morning
  • ‘R.I.G.S.’
  • Terror at Tunguska
  • The Caretaker
  • The Devil You Know
  • The Significance of Cherries
  • The Sound of Silence
  • The Voice
  • The Voice Within
  • The Watcher
  • Wolf!

I have also been fortunate in that, due to my friendship with a number of talented American authors, I was invited to become a member of both The American Authors Association and The Military Writers Society of America. I am very proud and consider it a great honour to have been accepted as a member by these two organisations, particularly as I am not of course American!

Aneeta: That’s some list. Can you tell me, please, are there any lessons you’ve learnt about the publishing industry which we can benefit from?

Brian: Most certainly Aneeta. The first thing I would like to say to your readers is that the publishing industry is like a minefield, and every bit as daunting when beginning one’s passage through it. Most publishers will not touch an author who doesn’t have an agent, and most agents won’t look at an author without a publishing history of some kind. All is not lost however. The writer of today must be patient, accept rejections as a simple fact of life, an occupational hazard to be endured with a shrug of the shoulders and a determination to keep going. ‘A Study in red’ was rejected by every British publisher and agent I submitted it to, and yet it was accepted by the very first American publisher I sent it to, (well done and Thanks to Quill Pen). The lesson there is of course not to be too insular with one’s submissions. With the worldwide access afforded by the internet a writer must be prepared to cast his or her wings over as wide an area as possible. Also, never give up, believe in your work because if you don’t then how can you expect a publisher to do so? Remember that you only need one publisher or agent to like your work and there are literally thousands of them out there. If you have that belief, then stick with it, file away the rejection slips and send out another batch of submissions with both hope and confidence in your heart. If the work is good enough, there will be a publisher out there who will want it. You just have to find him.

Aneeta: Excellent advice! I see that you’re an author who has both the experience of having books in ‘traditional print form’ and also in e-book form. Can you share with me the benefits of each of these modes of publishing, from the author’s point of view?

Brian: Of course. Every author likes to see their work in print, to hold the finished product that began with a few words on a piece of paper. There are however, benefits to both forms of publishing. For me, the traditional print publisher is my major goal for any novel that I write. I want to see it, feel it, hold it in my hands and show it off to my family, my friends, and to see it on the shelves of bookstores and libraries. That of course, is usually the route to literary fame and fortune, which all fledgling authors surely aspire to, and I’m no different in that respect. There is also though a time when realism has to creep into an author’s life. Writers must realise that many publishers today will not look at short stories or even novellas unless they come from a very established literary name. Even novels under 60,000 words in length have little chance of finding a hoe with a traditional print publisher and this is where I find the e-book publisher a wonderful avenue to explore. My own novel ‘The Nemesis Cell’ was rejected by a number of print publishers (it’s only 56,000 words long), and yet was soon picked up by an e-publisher, who in general prefer shorter works as their customers usually have less time than the traditional paperback reader available and so therefore want something they can read quickly. Many e-publishers also like to publish individual short stories, a great way for a writer to build up a portfolio of publishing credits. One thing though, don’t let a writer assume that because they are e-publishers they will accept just anything. Most e-publishers use the same system of critique applied by the traditional publishers and a writer must still achieve a high standard of work in order to be accepted. E-publishers probably send out more rejections that the traditional publishers!

So for me, it’s the traditional route of print publishers for my major novels, and e-publishers as a route for shorter works. Both are perfectly acceptable forms of publication in the modern world and allow the author to reach a far wider reader audience than would have been available just a few years ago.

Aneeta: This next point is something that I find is emerging in the publishing industry – more and more authors are having their own websites. What is the benefit, in your opinion, especially in terms of marketing, of having your own website?

Brian: I love having my own website Aneeta. It affords me the opportunity to communicate directly with the most important people in an author’s world, his readers! Publishing blurbs and advertising campaigns are all very well, but a website allows the author to say exactly what he/she wants about their own work and to give readers a taste of those works in a format chosen by the author. Also, the website allows the author to market not only the book for example but his or herself as well. Personal marketing is so important for a writer in the cut-throat world of today and giving the reader a chance to communicate directly through a contact page or a guestbook is a great way to get close to the reader. No-one can market an author better than the author, that’s my belief. Tell the readers what you want them to know, tell them about yourself, about your work, and make them want to keep coming back for more.

Aneeta: As you know, this website caters for storytellers. What advice would you give those who would like to venture into this field?

Brian: I’m not the worlds best at giving advice but if I have to I would say that a would-be storyteller should remember that the best idiom to follow is that the writer must write what the reader wants to read, and not what the writer wants the reader to read. It might sound complicated but if you think about it that’s a quite simple philosophy to follow. Too many writers fail because they try to foist their own high ideals or their own beliefs onto the unsuspecting reader who will soon turn away from such pretension.

Having said that, and as I’ve said before never give up, keep submitting your work, and have belief in yourself. There is no magic wand that can turn a bad writer into a good one, so be truthful with yourself as well. Oh yes, and steel yourself for those rejection slips. You’ll get used to them in time, and they are just pieces of paper after all.

Aneeta: Brian, this is all I have to ask. Is there anything you’d like to add?

Brian: Can I just say a big thank you to you Aneeta, for taking the time and trouble to let me express my opinions in this interview and for giving me a platform to present some of my work to the world at large? Also, to any aspiring authors out there, please be true to yourself, and to your work. If you truly believe that you have written something of value then quite simply never, ever give up trying to get it published and one day, hopefully, you will find that elusive publisher who will share in your belief. Writing is never an easy occupation to follow, but it is rewarding in more ways than one. When just one person says, “I loved reading your book/story” then you feel that it’s all been worth while, and don’t forget, your readers can contact me at any time by going to my website and leaving me a message; the address once more is www.freewebs.com/brianlp

Aneeta: Thank you, Brian.


UPDATE – 13 January 2009

I received a message from Brian requesting that some of the information above be updated.

1. The part which is affected is marked with an asterisk (*). The novel’s release date was January 2008 and it is published by Double Dragon Publishing of Markham, Ontario, Canada, in paperback and e-book, whose website can be found at www.double-dragon-ebooks.com The book also has its own site at www.freewebs.com/astudyinred/ My own website is at www.freewebs.com/brianlp/  The novel has so far picked up a number of awards including a ‘Recommended Read’ award and two awards for it’s cover design. It is currently in the running for a prestigious Readers Pol award in the USA. It has also topped the Amazon best seller chart in its category in theUSA,UK, andCanada

2. In addition, many congratulations are in order because on the 22nd of December 2008, Thunderball Films LLC of Los Angeles, California has acquired the motion picture and television rights to the remarkable novel sensation, ‘A Study in Red – The Secret Journal of Jack the Ripper’ by award-winning author Brian L Porter. Published by Double Dragon Publishing of Markham, Ontario, this dark psychological thriller tells of the incredible and terrifying events that surround psychiatrist Robert Cavendish when he inherits a decrepit, yellowed journal that appears to have been written by the infamous Whitechapel Murderer, who terrorised the streets of the East End of London in 1888. Filled with dramatic imagery and an underlying sense of foreboding and danger, the novel will certainly lend itself well to the transformation from page to screen.

Executive producer Mario Domina will be in charge of the task of overseeing the books’ metamorphosis from novel to movie and the author is quoted as saying that he is “Absolutely thrilled and delighted to be given the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see his work evolve into a piece of cinematic history.”

Further details relating to the production can be obtained from Thunderball Films LLC at http://www.thunderballfilms.com/ or from the books’ website at www.freewebs.com/astudyinred

‘A Study in Red’ is available in paperback and e-book editions from the publisher, www.double-dragon-ebooks.com  who will also be releasing the audio book version very soon through audible.com, and also from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powells etc.

Double Dragon Publishing
PO Box 54016
1-5762 Highway 7 East
Markham Ontario L3P 7Y4
Canada

Thunderball Films LLC
137 N. Larchmont Blvd., #623
Los Angeles, California 90004-3704
USA


UPDATE – 22 September 2011

I received a message from Brian requesting that some of the information above be updated.

Award winning author Brian L Porter, is pleased to announce the release of his latest Victorian Murder/Mystery novel, Behind Closed Doors. In a generous gesture, the book’s publisher, Sonar 4 Publications, has agreed to donate $1 from every paperback sold to Brian’s nominated charity, The Mayflower Animal Sanctuary, in Bawtry, South Yorkshire, UK. The sanctuary does tremendous work every year, rescuing, caring for and rehoming hundreds of abused and abandoned dogs, cats and small animals. Brian, a dedicated dog lover and rescuer, has adopted four of his dogs from the sanctuary and he is delighted that his book may go some way towards helping the charity in their work.


Behind Closed Doors

Autumn, 1888. The population of London is transfixed and horrified by the atrocious and horrific murder spree being conducted by Jack the Ripper. The newspapers are full of the details of the mutilations perpetrated by the killer and the apparent inability of the police to apprehend the unknown assailant. As Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Charles Warren throws the bulk of his investigative resources into the search for The Ripper, and the tabloid press scream of the crimes in banner headlines on a daily basis; on the new, ultra modern Underground Railway that has revolutionized travel around the great metropolis for the working man, another, less well publicized killer is at large.

Tucked away on the inner pages of the daily press, hardly enough to raise an eyebrow among discerning readers, one may have found a few, short articles which told of the strange and also, so far unsolved murders which are taking place on board the carriages of the new-fangled and much heralded transport system. Each murder takes place the day after one of the ripper killings, as the murderer appears to be taking advantage of the lack of police resources to tackle not one, but two, major investigations simultaneously.

Inspector Albert Norris is charged with bringing the railway killer to justice, but, as with case of Jack the Ripper, clues are few, the killer’s motive unclear, and he is forced to carry out his investigations ‘quietly and without causing a public panic’ as the authorities seek to prevent a loss of confidence in the safety of the underground railway system. The press are being told even less, hence the minimal coverage, and Norris can count on little help from above as he attempts to solve the inexplicable series of murders.

Behind Closed Doors (ISBN 10,  0615529240 or ISBN 13,  978-0615529240) is available in paperback and Kindle editions from Amazon.com  and Amazon.co.uk and in PDF e-book from the publisher, www.sonar4publications.com and from all good online book sellers.

For further information please go to http://www.inspectornorris.webs.com and for information on the Mayflower Sanctuary, visit www.mayflowersanctuary.co.uk


This piece may NOT be freely reprinted. Please contact editor @ howtotellagreatstory.com for reprint rights.

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