Sunday, October 30, 2011

Welcome Barry Brennessel

When did you seriously sit down, and say to yourself, I’m going to write a novel?

I don’t think I can pinpoint exactly when I found myself drifting into “novel phase.” For the longest time I wrote exclusively short stories and screenplays. The process grew more out of having several short stories that cried out for expansion, or film scripts I felt would work better as a novel.

If you were to start again, with the knowledge you have now, what would be the first thing you do?

I would just dive in, and turn off that inner-critic. In the past I was so consumed with having the first draft done perfectly that I would spend days and days on the very first paragraph, read it the next day, delete, and start the process all over again. In that amount of time I could have probably written four or five chapters.

Do you have the support of family and friends?

Very much so. A supportive and encouraging partner, family members who have put up with all of my creative shenanigans, a close friend who has read and edited my pages for years, and my mentor from undergrad days who still inspires me. Sometimes they even buy copies of my books!

Do you have a book coming out? If so what?

My first novel, Tinseltown, came out in June of this year. I have a short story collection from Lethe Press also coming out this year, and in early 2012 my second novel The Sulphur Cure will be released.

How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing?

I think all my characters have some aspect of me, some more than others, but still my DNA is in their being. And I do distill certain things that have happened to me. The events may not exactly mirror what I’ve been through, but my memory would say, “Hey, that restaurant with the drunk waiter and the crazy laughing woman looks mighty familiar.”  

Do you have a set schedule for writing or do you just go with the flow?

I’m more of a go-with-the-flow writer. I write wherever and whenever I can. I think if I tried to come up with a set schedule, I’d procrastinate, as if I were working on a term paper for school that I just didn’t want to start. I’d rather write when the urge strikes.

What do you have coming up? Any teasers you want to give us?

I wrote a gay-themed short story a few years ago as part of my MFA thesis at Johns Hopkins. It found a home, and the editor nominated it for a Pushcart Prize. I toyed with expanding it into a novel, but then I decided I liked a second character so much, I wrote a short story about him. That too found a publisher. Then I had the brilliant idea of creating short stories around all the characters in that original story and linking them together. And long story short (haha), that collection, Reunion, will be coming out this year from Lethe Press.

My second novel, The Sulphur Cure, is near and dear to my heart because I based it on a decaying health spa in my hometown. Clara Barton was staying there when she started the American Red Cross. My brother and I often wandered the grounds, and I could never stop thinking about the place. For years I played around with some “what ifs” and eventually a story grew out of it.

What is your writing routine once you start a book?

Write, write, edit, worry, write, struggle, think think think, write write. You get the idea. Some days the words flow, other days I stare at a blank page for hours.

Fill in the blank favorites


Anything—anything—with chocolate!!


San Francisco. So beautiful.


Autumn. The colors, the cool air, the harvest, Halloween….

Type of hero.

Crafty and quirkily attractive. Maybe Columbo, only played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Type of heroine.

Emma Peel from The Avengers.
What are some of your favorite things to do, or your hobbies?

I love gardening, though it’s often frustrating, with the insects, fungal diseases, deer and squirrels. I also collect antique telephones (I’m not sure why; I just love them). Sipping wine by a roaring fire is always nice. And I’m a storm fanatic: thunderstorms, blizzards, hurricanes.

Who are some of your other favorite authors and/or genres to read?

I don’t really have a favorite genre; I’m all over the map. Some of my favorite authors are Truman Capote, Thomas Mann, P.G. Wodehouse, Shirley Jackson, Willa Cather, E.M. Forster, Edgar Allen Poe, Joyce Carol Oates, Dorothy Allison, and Yukio Mashima.

Which of your books has been the easiest to write?  The hardest?  The most fun?

I think Tinseltown was the “easiest” in the sense that the voices in my head just kept talking and talking the characters lead me along and I just jotted down what was happening.

The Sulphur Cure was most challenging, as there was a delicate balance between worshipping the eerie setting (oh, that decaying spa) and focusing on the tense relationship between the two lead characters. The plot also had to tie together, of course, but many times I hit a roadblock and had to figure my way out of it.

The most fun? Tinseltown as well. Micah was just so quirky and bubbly yet scared and insecure. Though I might add that writing Miss Arntree from The Price of Silence was a hoot.

Which comes first, the story, the characters or the setting?

Interesting question!  For Tinseltown, it was the characters (quirky Micah and his smorgasbord of friends and dates). For The Price of Silence, the story (blackmail, murder, revenge, and a costume party). For The Sulphur Cure, the setting (have I mentioned that decaying health spa?).  And for Reunion, a combination of the characters and the setting (gay boys in Japan, Prague, London…!).

If we asked your muse to tell us three things about you, what do you think they might say?

Oh, my! It would depend on which day you caught said Muse. Hahaha. But, really, I think the Muse would list:

·         Sense of humor
·         Shyness and sensitivity
·         Perfectionism (or lack thereof causing stress)
What is your favorite season and why?

Some call it Fall, some call it Autumn, I call it….bliss!  I just love the crispness in the air, the brilliant colors, the pumpkins and apples. And the fact it starts to get dark earlier and earlier.

Congratulations, your novel was just picked up by a major Hollywood studio. They are letting you cast the characters. Name the book you would choose to be made into a movie and who you think would play those characters.

You mean to tell me the studios picked up only one of my books? The nerve.

Oh, but, really, if I did get to pick the book and do the casting, I would have to say The Sulphur Cure. I could see Patrick Dempsey as Vincent, Cate Blanchett as Helen, Elle Fanning as Kate, Colin Firth as Aidan, Mary Steenburgen as Mrs. Rhodes, and Tom Wilkinson as Mr. Rhodes.  Action!

If you could choose anywhere in the world to set up your desk and write, where would you like it to be? What’s so special to you about this place?
Hmmm…probably a snowy mountain retreat with a railroad nearby. I’d love the beauty and seclusion, but a train going by every few hours or so would keep me in touch with civilization, and reality.
Barring that, a huge Manhattan penthouse on the very top floor.

Tinseltown by Barry Brennessel
Manlove Romance Press

Film student Micah Malone learns the hard way that when life sucks, you can't just yell "Cut! Let's do another take!"
His grades are a box-office bomb. His friends create more drama than a soap opera. And his love life needs a laughtrack. While there's no script to dictate what happens next, can Micah find the direction he needs? Life, after all, is no film school project. But it is great source material. The only source material.
Let the cameras roll. Micah's quirky story has begun filming.

It didn’t take long for me to figure out the back room of this creepy adult theater was the gay section. You can pretty much guess what was on the screen. Hot Czech boys taking a break from their farm chores.
Six guys were scattered around this room. Two in the corner, making out. One sitting by the door. One standing in the opposite corner of the lip-locked couple. And then there was the cutie, sitting against the far wall, with Mr. Jerk-O two seats away from him. Drooling.
The cutie looked up. We locked eyes again. A nervous excitement swept over me. Goosebumps. A flutter in my stomach. Blood rushing to my face. I could tell my cheeks were turning pink. What a great combo with my black-and-blue shiner.
I slid into a chair. I looked up at the screen to, you know, kind of play it cool. A mop-topped boy, let’s call him…Josef…was going down on…um…Czech name, Czech name…Václav. (Sorry, but it’s the best I could think of under the circumstance.) The cutie stared at me. His hand was gliding over his crotch. Jerk-O moved closer. He put his hand on Cutie’s leg. Cutie nudged him away. Jerk-O tried again. A harder nudge, with a look that screamed, “Are you serious? Get away from me!” Yeah, I liked it. He was cute and assertive.
Now I’m not sure which I like better, though I guess it depends on my mood. It’s sexy when the guy does a “c’mere” tilt of the head. It means he’s a take-charge, I’m-a-top kind of guy’s guy. But it’s gallant when he actually makes the effort to stand up, walk over, and sidle up next to me, like a matinee idol singing outside your window at midnight, neighbors be damned, and then showing up with roses the next day, and bumping into you (“Isn’t this a surprise?”) the day after that at the public market.
Cutie was gallant. He brushed past Jerk-O and sat down two chairs from me. Five seconds later he slid into the chair next to mine. Then our shoulders touched. Then he caressed my leg. He was Bulgari to my Gio. We smelled good together. He leaned over and whispered in my ear.
“You’re the cutest guy I’ve seen in here for months.”
Greek Chorus: Awwwww…
“What happened to your eye?” he cooed, and then gently kissed my cheek.
“I ran into a door.”
I thought he’d laugh or smile at my cliché line, but he burrowed into my neck and sighed.
Was this a dream?
“I’m Patrick,” he said as he undid two buttons of my shirt and let his fingertips graze across my nipples.
My name was furthest from my thoughts as I wrapped my left hand around his bicep and felt it flex as he undid the rest of my shirt. In a matter of seconds everyone else in the room had focused on us. The hot dudes in the film had been upstaged.


JP said...

Great interview!
It was my distinct pleasure meeting Barry at the GayRomLit retreat in NOLA earlier this month - he is a genuinely nice guy and a lot of fun to talk to. He read us part of Tinsel Town at an author reading and I added it to my Nook right away.
It is a delightful story and I'm looking forward to reading more of Barry's 'stuff' - also looking forward to seeing him again at the next GRL in Albuquerque. Cheers! JP

Barry B said...

Thanks so much, Dawn! It's an honor to be part of the Reading Nook.

And thank you, JP. It was great meeting you as well, and can't wait to see you again at GRL 2012!

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