Who or what influenced your writing once you began?
There were several influences. My father was an English teacher. When he was retired and had nothing to do, I would ask him to “edit” my weekly newspaper columns. The man was superhuman. He never once commented on the content; kept his opinions to himself. He would read the article and hand it back to me with spelling mistakes corrected and with suggestions as to grammar.
For most of my business career I have been involved in drafting Business Plans. It soon became clear to me that the human mind works well if it is presented information in context and as part of an unfolding story that has reference benchmarks.
In drafting advertisements as part of my business activities it soon became clear that less is more. If one has something to say then say it. It’s rather like having an itchy left ear: You can scratch the itch with your left hand or you can extend your right hand all the way over the top of your head and scratch it that way. I discovered that readers typically don’t appreciate that kind of meandering writing.
Denise often criticises me for being too basic. “Readers aren’t stupid” she often tells me. “You don’t have to explain at that level of detail.” But then again, I often don’t know what the hell she’s talking about, so it boils down to a balanced approach.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
I tend to break my life down into “projects”. Right now my project is to market my two novels. Creative writing is on the back burner. However, if I’m successful and the books start to sell in reasonably large numbers, I might attempt a third book that looks at an imaginary day-to-day adventure/thriller story of life in the future – on the assumption that life on planet earth evolves as my two novels envision. I might call it “The Next Frontier” and the “thrills” might come from conquering the unknown rather than engaging with an enemy.
On the other hand, if my marketing efforts do not give rise to significant sales then I will not try to argue with the market. “Success” is often about timing. My books may be too far ahead of their time. If that turns out to be the case then I may turn my attention to children’s stories. I’ve had this idea about an alternative life form that inhabits the planet and lives in parallel with humans, but only innocent children can see them and consciously interact with them. The stories might involve the human children’s adventures with citizens of the community/ies within the alternative life form.
My fallback position is to devote myself to getting my golf handicap down. I’ll be 67 years old in January and whilst my health is okay, I consider myself to be on the home stretch to death. I don’t want to engage in anything that I’m not enjoying. Last week I managed to score a net 70 in a local golf competition, so I have various options.
Have you ever had writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
Often. Most times I walk away just to allow my mental batteries to recharge and my unconscious mind to open. Sometimes, I “pretend” that I’m travelling downhill on a bicycle and even though I know it’s a waste of time, I start pedalling furiously in anticipation of reaching the next hill. I “dump” words onto a page even though I know they won’t have traction. But then, after a few pages, an idea starts to emerge. At that point I go back to where I starting pedalling and I start to edit by cutting and pasting relevant ideas, deleting irrelevant ideas. Eventually, I recognise that I’ve started pedalling up the slope again and I continue the momentum of my writing.
Tell us a bit about your family. You’ve mentioned Denise and Jenna. It sounds like you have an interesting family
Well, here’s an example of how things just happen to me. When I was still single, I had met an old flame who had emigrated to Austria and had gotten married. She came back home to visit her family and she invited me to spend a week-end with her at some remote resort. I kinda liked the fantasy of such a tryst until common sense took over and I thought: “What the hell are you thinking? You must be out of your mind! That’s bound to lead to trouble with a capital T.” So, instead, I went with a male friend and my sister and one of her female friends to another holiday resort, which is where I met Denise. 48 hours later I was telling my mother that I had met my future wife. Three weeks later Denise and I were engaged. Three months later we were married. That was in January 1971 and we’re still married.
I guess the shortest description I can give about my family is that we all seem to be healers. Denise has been a Tai Chi instructor for over 20 years, and she is a Master of both Usui and Karuna Reiki. She also leads group meditation sessions. Our eldest daughter, Andrea, studied glass blowing as an undergrad degree and then gained an MA in Art Therapy. She uses art as a medium of communication that bypasses the need for words. She works with people like the elderly who have Alzheimers, or kids with autism, or with dysfunctional mothers who are sitting in jail but who have young kids with whom they need to form or maintain relationships. Our son, Terence, has become exceptionally religious. I happen to be descended from a long line of Chassidic Jews going back a couple of hundred years. I turned away from that but Terence decided to embrace it again. He studies the Torah as often as he can – he’s actually a qualified Electrical Engineer (B.Eng. (Hons) ) and he’s employed in the software industry as a business analyst and back-of-house website designer – and he has roped me in to studying the Gemarah (rabbinical commentaries on the Torah) with him once a week for an hour. To preserve our relationship, we’ve agreed to stay away from religious dogma and concentrate solely on the wisdom that the Jewish religion has to offer. He believes that the more people who can be trained to sublimate their egos, the closer we will come to healing the world because we stand on the threshold of a Messianic era. And he practices what he preaches. I’ve watched him sublimating his own ego and its remarkable how he’s matured. Our youngest daughter Jenna started out as a youth outreach worker. When she was barely out of school, as a 17 year old – she’s now in her late 20s – she worked as a charity volunteer in one of Sydney’s most notorious red-light districts getting to know the homeless people who lived in the area. She was too young to know fear and, under supervision, got to know every homeless person in the area by name. The organisation she worked for sometimes offered accommodation and usually offered a hot meal. Now she works for the Sydney City Council and interfaces with several elements of the community. Amongst other things, she attempts to inculcate a feeling of belonging of individuals to their communities. As an aside, she is emerging as a formidable “spray-can” stencil artist and has won two art competitions. For my part, I’ve spent a goodly proportion of my mind space over the past 50 odd years thinking about whether or not humanity is going to survive if we carry on like we are, and what we should be doing to change our behaviour so that we can ensure that survival. At the end of the day, both my books – which are disguised as light hearted novels – are intended to communicate messages of hope for the future. Our world is clearly in trouble, but it’s always darkest before the dawn. We have five bright grandchildren with enquiring minds and who give us enormous pleasure. All five are under the age of 7.
What books did you love growing up?
My mother was a bit of a romantic. She read me Peter Pan and all the Beatrix Potter stories before I could read, and my grandmother – when she visited – used to read a few pages of Swiss family Robinson every night before I went to bed. I remember them all and I’m going to make sure that my grandkids read them all. Later on, my mother read me Little Lord Fauntleroy, which is very probably what turned me into a rebel. None of my friends called their mothers “mummy dearest”. It just didn’t feel “cool” to my 5 year-old way of thinking. Nevertheless, the story must have been interesting enough even though I can’t remember it today because I sat still for the entire time it took to read that book. Maybe I just enjoyed it vicariously because my mother loved it so much.
When I first started to read, Enid Blyton drew my attention for a few nanoseconds, but I was soon drawn to the Hardy Boys and then, later, I started reading books that can probably be best described as kitchen table philosophy – with an emphasis on the Holocaust; what it was about and why it happened.
My father had once owned a bookshop called Pickwick Bookshop. It eventually went out of business, but he couldn’t bear to part with some of the more unusual books so we had a room full of literally thousands of books. Most were dreary reference tomes or classical works or books on history, but now and again I would pick one out and scan through it, looking for pearls of wisdom. You could probably call it “dragonfly” reading. I would swoop down on a book, dip into it and flit away.
The book that undoubtedly had the biggest impact on my life was one I found on the desk of my friend’s mother. It happened to be lying there and I was bored. It was an out of print book of prose called Earth, by Frank Townshend. He was probably in his 70s when he wrote it. It described in non rhyming verse his perceptions of life on earth and I thought it had been written after World War II. When I finally turned to the flyleaf, I discovered it had been published in 1929. That book had an amazing impact on my thought processes for the rest of my life. It opened with the following statements:
“I wandered about the earth, meeting all sorts of people;
And I lived in every kind of place,
Doing all manner of work.
Of the people that I met, only one was completely and unalterably happy.
Indeed, I observed that most of them did, whatever they did, because of fear;
Fear of life or fear of death,
Or fear of after life or after death,
So they piled up possessions if they could,
Hid from sight their personal affairs,
Covered their risks with reasonable precautions,
Denied their inmost longings,
Or became deeply religious, or even thoughtful.”
I read it from cover to cover, all 164 pages, standing there at Mrs Morris’ desk. It took me hours; I don’t know how many. Time ceased to have meaning and nobody seemed to care where I was. It was school holidays and Peter was lying by the pool, probably asleep or reading.
Who is your favourite author?
I found Michael Crichton’s work fascinating. His approach to scientifically oriented thrillers captured my imagination and probably influenced me greatly in the writing of my books, although I’m not all that keen on blood and guts. I also enjoyed Dan Brown’s works and Beyond Neanderthal has a bit of his style of reasoning in it. Lately I’ve been reading thrillers by Sam Bourne.
What book genre of books do you adore?
Well, the word “adore” is a bit over the top. I really enjoy a good conspiracy novel and I particularly like books that have a feeling of historical mystery – for example, to do with the Knights Templar and their supposed links to the Freemasons. I like science fiction but draw the line at science fantasy. It needs to be credible. I also prefer books to have happy endings. I don’t enjoy books that are dark and leave me feeling scratchy. My preference is to read a book and close it with a feeling of having been uplifted. Once in while I might pick up and old classic that has a bit of old-fashioned romance in it – something like Jane Eyre. Those books remind me of what it’s like to be human in a world that seems to have lost touch with what it’s like to be humane. Nowadays, for example, it’s all about the science itself as opposed to how our lives might be improved by the science. For example, if you watch a TV program on the adventures of (say) a pathologist, it’s all about the blood and guts and how the pathologist looks for physical evidence. No one seems to be interested in the lives of the individuals except if they’re hopping in and out of bed with each other.
I suppose, like my mother before me, I’m a bit of a romantic. I like to read any book that is about people who have something uniquely interesting about them. I’m not particularly interested in what a person has or owns or does. I’m interested in who the person is, how their mind works, and why they are doing what they do. In this regard, I remember something that J.K. Rowling was reputed to have said. It was to the effect that she started off by defining the characters so that each character would be a recognisable individual. Then she built the story around the people. Given the volumes of her book sales, I thought it might be a good idea to pay attention. I bore her approach in mind when I wrote my two novels. Hopefully, my characters themselves are of interest in addition to the storyline.
Do you find it hard to share your work?
Not at all. What would be the point of writing if I was the only person who ever read the stuff?
What are some of the best tools available today for writers, especially those just starting up?
Once you have decided whether you want to write fiction or non fiction, get yourself an appropriate software program that will help you to structure your thinking in terms of layout and sequence with which information is prepared. If you are writing a novel, make sure that you breathe life into your characters. There are software programs that guide you in that also.
What contributes to making a writer successful?
Above all, tenacity. There are thousands of reasons why you should give up. Pay no attention. Keep chipping away. But do this within context of structured thinking. Tenacity without clear purpose is more like stubbornness.
Do you have any tips on how writers can relax?
Of course there are artificial means such as medication or alcohol – which may be sensible in moderation – but the fact is that these techniques can easily spiral out of control and a writer can become dependent on them. There are only two sensible ways that I know of to relax: The first is to get rid of excess energy by some form of aerobic exercise, following which the heart-rate will slow down as a matter of course and physical tiredness will give rise to mental calmness; and the second is to slow the metabolic rate down by meditation or yoga or some other form of relaxation technique.
In the global corridors of power, a group of faceless men is positioning to usurp control of one of the world’s primary energy resources: uranium. Climate change looms large. Luke Sinclair is a young, Australian-born professor of mineralogy and an expert in the nuclear-fuel cycle. Up to now, he’s led a carefree, hedonistic lifestyle.
But things change: renegade North Korea is about to transfer its illicitly acquired nuclear-weapons technology to Myanmar. The CIA wants to block the development. It enlists the aid of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service. ASIS commandeers Luke, who quickly discovers there are wheels within wheels. Who has the real power? Who are his real friends? Is the attempt to corner the nuclear market ‘The last finesse’ of the faceless men who are so fixated on their personal goals they’ll risk a planetary cataclysm? Has ethical behaviour become merely an anachronism in the 21st Century gladiatorial arena?
The Last Finesse is Brian’s second factional novel. Both were written for the simultaneous entertainment and invigoration of the thinking element of society. It is a prequel to Beyond Neanderthal, which takes a visionary view of humanity’s future, provided we can sublimate our Neanderthal drive to entrench pecking orders in society. The Last Finesse is more “now” oriented. Together, these two books reflect a holistic, right brain/left brain view of the challenges faced by humanity; and how we might meet them. All our problems – including the mountain of debt that casts its shadow over the world’s wallowing economy – are soluble.
About the Author:
In 1987, Brian and his young family migrated from South Africa to Australia where he was employed in Citicorp’s Venture Capital division. He was expecting that Natural Gas would become the world’s next energy paradigm but, surprisingly, it was slow in coming. He then became conscious of the raw power of self-serving vested interests to trump what – from an ethical perspective – should have been society’s greater interests.
Eventually, in 2005, with encouragement from his long suffering wife, Denise, he decided to do something about what he was witnessing: Beyond Neanderthal was the result; The Last Finesse is the prequel.
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Genre - Conspiracy Thriller
Rating – MA (15+)
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