NAW Interview with Larry Brill

Larry Brill

Larry Brill was born and raised in San Jose,CA. He has a Journalism degree from San Jose State University and spent 25 years as a TV news anchor in Oregon, California, Colorado and Texas. He is the author of The Patterer and Live@Five. Visit him here.

NAW- Tell us about Live@five. What is it about? How did you get the idea for it?

Live@Five is a satire based on the comic incidents and personalities I either experienced or heard about during my two-plus-decades in the local TV news business. The inspiration came from an evening of drinks with colleagues where we sat around trading “war stories” from different TV markets across the country. Everyone was trying to offer an anecdote about their former place of employment that would top the outrageous nature of the previous story. Toward the end of the night we were laughing and each one of us said that old cliché “I could write a book about all this…” Right then I knew I would be the one to do it. 

NAW- Tell us about the character of Hunter Riley. How did you develop the character?

Hunter is a compilation of several personalities, including myself. Hunter’s problem is that his effort to be a solid, objective journalist turns out to be an obstacle to his personal success. He is fired as anchorman at one station and then another, and the next, through a journey to increasingly smaller cities. I tried to put myself in his place, wondering what I might do if I got so desperate to escape rock bottom that I would abandon my journalistic ethics in order to save my career and my tiny TV station from the ratings graveyard. (Note to self: hire a topless dancer as your co-anchor) 

NAW- Your journalism background must have been of help but did you carry out any research for the book?

I had so much material to work with, and was so familiar with the inner-workings of the TV newsroom, that the conflicts, ethics and fears of the characters came with very little need for research. But I began writing the book at the very start of the cable-news explosion and the use of the internet for news gathering. I did a fair amount of research on what was “cutting edge” at the time, and even more into predictions of where it was headed. It turns out that at both the national and local level, the story I wrote presaged the opinion-driven journalism we see today with amazing precision. But that was from research and guess work; I really don’t have a crystal ball.

NAW- Media organisations have gone from being perceived as serious business to infotainment trying to sensationalise every trivial event. Was that somehow an inspiration for writing a humorous account?

Absolutely.The point of Live@Five is that the people who deliver the news are well-meaning but often very silly people who take themselves way too seriously. I wanted to highlight the best of the worst. And in my second novel “The Patterer” I take that theme of news as infotainment even further,back in time to show that the only thing that has changed in the past three hundred years of sensational journalism, is the technology we use to get our news. In many ways I think “The Patterer” is even more fun in how it goes about illustrating that journalism has always had it’s goofy side.

NAW- Tell us about your journey as a writer.

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t telling stories in one way, shape or form. I suppose it started with the incredibly over-developed fibs I would tell in hopes of getting out of trouble as a child. (Note to self: short, with little detail is much more effective in convincing a skeptical mother) Journalism was the natural career path for that, and I was always involved in the school newspaper at each grade level; middle school, high school and college before getting my degree in Journalism.

As for fiction, as a boy I wrote stories stealing liberally from The Hardy Boys. Through the school years I usually found a way to turn an English or Social Studies assignment into a short story with obvious fictional elements to add color and humor. Through my TV news days, I always tinkered with fiction in my spare time. I have boxes full of manuscripts of “The next great American novel” that I never have, never would share with the public.

It wasn’t until I knew I would be leaving the news business that I got serious about writing funny fiction. And I knew what my first target would be.

NAW- Tell us about yourself. What do you do when you are not writing?

When I left TV news, I started my own little video production and consulting business in order to keep our two cats in kibbles. So I earn a living telling stories for clients in a marketing sense. I’m pretty active, bicycling for exercise, scuba diving for thrills (and relaxing with the fish). And I play blackjack. I have been banned from the tables at two casinos for allegedly using my mental skills and a card-counting system in order to improve my odds of winning. I will neither confirm nor deny that I can do it. Sadly, if it is true, I’m nowhere nearly good enough to make any significant money at it.

NAW- How do you write, planning the complete plot beforehand or do you let the book take its course? Take us through your writing process.

I usually start a novel with the National Novel Writers’ Month competition. It runs the month of November each year and the goal is to write a novel of at least fifty thousand words in 30 days. It is like throwing words on the wall to see what sticks.

Then I develop a working outline from the silliness that comes out of that exercise. My stories are character-driven, so I spend considerable time getting to know them, figuring out what they want and what is stopping them from getting it. I write the first “real” draft. After that, I go through each scene and chapter, work up an outline for just that section and rewrite. And rewrite. And then rewrite the novel from start to finish.

The NaNoWriMo draft and the first “real” draft go pretty quickly because I lock my internal editor in the closet and ignore him as he tries to get out. But I work very slowly and deliberately through the rewrites. Between that, and the distractions of life, I doubt I will ever be one of those authors who churns out a new book every year.

NAW- What are you working on next?

Not too unlike the social roundtable of anecdotes that launched Live@Five, I attended a milestone high school reunion recently. And everyone was musing about what they would do if they could go back and change something that was significant to where they ended up in life. Inspiration slapped me upside the head as I sat there, listening. I imagined a character who is obsessed with the past and life’s failures since high school. So at age Fifty-something, he moves back home with his parents, gets a job at his old high school and forces a number of comical adventures as he tries to recreate his senior year of school and win the heart of the girl he let get away. It’s the story of having a second chance at the life you always wanted and the lengths one man would go to make that happen forty years after the fact.

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