Today, on the Big Blue Takeover, I’m delighted to share AN INTERVIEW WITH BARRY KNISTER, Author of GODSEND.
You’re in the final stages of finishing GODSEND, your third Brenda Contay suspense novel. Can you tell us a little about it?
Sure, and let me start with a disclaimer: GODSEND isn’t a book for readers who think suspense novels have to pit the forces of good and evil against each other.
But GODSEND is a crime novel, right?
Like the first two Brenda novels, it definitely is. But the criminal in this new story and my journalist main character Brenda Contay meet just once. At the beginning. These two characters remain important to each other throughout the story, but they never actually meet again.
I have to ask you: why don’t they? Doesn’t it make sense that the central character in a suspense series would find herself in conflict with the criminal?
If the writer’s aim is to fulfill the usual conventions or assumptions of the suspense/crime novel, you’re right. But one of the freedoms open to self-publishing writers is to try something new. To invite readers to step outside their expectations.
Aren’t you likely to lose readers?
Probably. Children enjoy being told the same stories over and over, and they don’t like it if you change anything! Most readers of crime fiction have read widely in the genre, and know what to expect. They love to be surprised, but not necessarily challenged.
All right, let’s talk about that first and only meeting. What happens?
A prologue introduces the antagonist, James Rivera. He’s a young illegal alien from Mexico who is the brains behind a successful service company for the elderly, called Lend a Hand. He has secretly started a new “niche” business within the company—assisted suicide. We see him “assisting” one of his clients, even when she changes her mind.
So, the reader knows from the beginning who the bad guy is.
That’s right. In my work, I often make use of Dramatic Irony. In conventional suspense novels or mysteries—whodunits or howdunits—the reader tries to figure out who’s responsible. With dramatic irony, the reader is made an insider, someone who has information the protagonist doesn’t know about. The pleasure—again, for the reader—is being placed in a godlike position, and watching as the hero works her way to knowledge.
In other words, figuring out whodunit isn’t the point. The reader learns that up front. So, what happens next?
Thank you. That’s the most important question any writer wants a reader to be asking. Soon after the novel actually begins, the two characters meet at the Southwest Florida International Airport near Fort Myers. Brenda Contay is a journalist, and she’s come to Florida to write about baby boomers getting ready to retire, and buying real estate. James Rivera has been hired to pick up Brenda and take her to Naples. Everything Rivera does and says impresses her. She doesn’t yet know he’s an illegal alien, and he seems to embody the American dream of success through hard work.
So, this is a rags-to-riches story, with a noir twist.
In many ways, that’s exactly right. After entering the country illegally, James Rivera became the apprentice of a successful but unscrupulous owner of nursing homes. This mentor describes Rivera as being like a sponge in his ability to soak up knowledge. This quality is reflected in Rivera’s obsession with perfecting American English. Aside from his Mexican features and coloring, he sounds like any articulate, likeable young businessman. But when Brenda turns her attention to his story, the amoral potential in business is dramatized.
And your journalist lead character, Brenda Contay. Will she eventually see her first impression was wrong?
She will. Her own story mirrors Rivera’s, in that she, too, is a success. But unlike Rivera, she is plagued by a sense of being controlled by her past. In fact, her real motive in coming to Florida has nothing to do with writing about baby boomers. She’s escaping from her lover Charlie Schmidt (introduced in the previous book, Deep North). But whereas James Rivera sees his life in terms of fulfilling his pre-ordained destiny, Brenda must find a way to break with destiny, and change her life. Uncovering Rivera’s story will help her do this, with a lot of struggle along the way.
Aside from breaking with the conventions of crime writing, what has been the biggest challenge facing you in writing Godsend?
Writing a series means having to make decisions peculiar to a continuing narrative. My biggest problem is how to make each Brenda Contay suspense novel a stand-alone story, while at the same time not ignoring Brenda’s past. Sue Grafton’s character Kinsey Millhone has a past, and some secondary characters reappear. But I don’t think Grafton is very concerned with her character’s past. Grafton has almost worked her way through the alphabet, but I don’t see her character aging much, or being burdened by her past. This is not the case with Brenda Contay. As is true for anyone who isn’t delusional, my character must contend with past events that shaped her. But how to bring in the past—backstory–without slowing down or stopping the forward movement of the current story—that’s been a real challenge.
Do you think you met the challenge?
I hope so. I’m soon publishing Godsend, and my name will be on the cover.
Barry’s novels are available in eBook and Paperback via Amazon UK and Amazon US.
The Anything Goes Girl (A Brenda Contay Novel Of Suspense Book 1)
Journalist Brenda Contay Doesn’t Look For Trouble—But It Keeps Finding Her
When she said “yes” too often in college, she became “the anything goes girl.” Pretty soon her sex life figured in locker-room graffiti.
But when Brenda Contay makes it big on local TV as W-DIG’s Lightning Rod reporter, everything seems to be turning around for her. Except succeeding in tabloid TV because your butt looks good in Levis isn’t much different from the “anything goes” days.
That’s why Brenda quits television to learn the truth behind an old lover’s death. Vince Soublik drowned recently, off a tiny island in the Pacific. But All-State swimmers like Vince don’t just drown.
When she gets to the island, Brenda learns that Vince’s death was collateral damage in a scandal of global proportions. And since it involves one of the ten richest men in America, Brenda’s chance of living to break the story is next to zero.
But you never can tell about “the anything goes girl”—she just hates to lose.
Deep North (A Brenda Contay Novel Of Suspense Book 2)
HOW FAR WOULD YOU GO TO PROTECT YOUR CHANCE FOR HAPPINESS?
Journalist Brenda Contay seems to have it all: a Pulitzer Prize, plenty of money and lots of friends. Just one thing is missing: a relationship that counts.
That seems about to change when lawyer friend Marion Ross invites Brenda to go fishing in northern Minnesota. But they won’t be roughing it: they’ll be staying on a big, comfy houseboat. Charlie Schmidt has a cabin nearby, and before long, Brenda is thinking a lot about Charlie’s gracefulness and good looks.
But two other men have followed the women. Louis Rohmer knew Marion in college and has an Internet scheme to steal everything she’s worth. Jerry Lomak is much more dangerous: Marion’s legal skills destroyed him in court. He’s headed for prison, but Lomak has no intention of doing time, or of letting a woman lawyer get away with her “crimes.”
It’s a beautiful place, northern Minnesota. Cold, clear, unblemished. But none of it will count when Brenda Contay must choose between losing her chance for happiness, or committing a terrible crime.
Next up on the BIG BLUE TAKEOVER is Patricia Paris, author of Run Rachael Run.