Tucson author Graham Brown will readily admit he’s delusional. He’s also a big fan of escapism and wants to tell us all about the end of the world.
We like this guy.
Despite his need to fill us in on doomsday, we won’t find Philadelphia transplant Brown preaching the apocalypse with a megaphone and Chicken Little sign on the corner of Broadway.
We’ll instead find his twisted version of it, as if the thought of an apocalypse is not twisted enough, in his series of books.
“Black Sun,” the second in the series following “Black Rain,” hits bookshelves Aug. 31 (today!).
Brown is inviting us to celebrate with a 5:30 p.m. book signing at Clue’s Unlimited, 3146 E. Fort Lowell Rd
While he didn’t promise not to bring a megaphone to the event, he did promise the event is free – and that books are still an economical way to make the great escape.
“(Paperbacks are) only $7.99,” he said in an e-mail interview, “barely any more expensive than a combo meal at McDonald’s, but they’re lower in cholesterol and contain no sodium whatsoever. And they will give you days of enjoyment as opposed to 20 minutes or so – depending, of course, on how fast you eat and/or read.”
So we’re filled in on doomsday and escaping – now let’s get to delusional part.
Key to success
Delusion, says the 41-year-old jack-of-all-trades turned author, is the No. 1 factor in success.
We told you we liked this guy.
“You need to live the dream, but you also need to live the delusion,” are words he first advised a group of writers at a California conference and still lives by today. “For me I lived in this delusion the whole time, I always felt like success was right around the corner.
“If you think success is 10 years off, it’s really easy to procrastinate.”
Not that delusion doesn’t come with blood, sweat, typos – and some really crummy first drafts.
Sure, Brown’s second book in his series is out and he’s already inked a deal with Random House for his third. But he had also been pounding his computer keyboard full-time for nearly a decade to fulfill his dream – all without a regular paycheck.
“I did the whole thing backwards – I quit my day job before I had even finished my final draft,” he said. “I would not recommend it. I’d saved up what I thought was enough money to last five years. It lasted two.”
To pursue writing, Brown abandoned all other jobs, which ranged from basic construction to airlines and rent-a-car companies. He also gave up the thought of a career based on his aeronautical science degree from Prescott’s Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and his law degree from Arizona State College of Law in Tempe, which led him to a gig as an attorney with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.
But none of that will go to naught as all things eventually come up somewhere in a writing career.
“I’d say being an attorney taught me the most and made me the most disgusted all at the same time,” he said. “You just see the best and the worst of humanity in that situation, all of which I’m going to pour out in my John Grisham like legal thriller one of these days.”
True life horrors, like working as an attorney, can lead to some awesome stories, Brown says, but we’ll never find him penning any biographies or history books.
“I’m all about escapism,” he reminds us. “So I probably wouldn’t write any kind of true crime stories or anything like that. I want people reading my books to forget the real world and go on an adventure, with its own suspense and mystery, not be reminded of the dangers that we all face every day.”
More escapism is on his list with some science fiction he’s working on, which includes a screenplay and graphic novel.
“Inspiration comes from everywhere,” he says. “People you meet, situations you hear about. Dreams. Sometimes you wake up in the middle of the night and think: ‘That was the greatest idea ever.’ You write it down and then fall back to sleep and then in the morning you get up and look at your notes and they say something like: ‘What if toast did not turn brown?’ That’s obviously not the subject of my next novel. On the other hand, sometimes it’s an idea so great you feel like it was sent to you from above.”
His take on Tucson
Brown first came to Arizona for college, where he met his now-wife and strong supporter Tracey.
“We hated each other and naturally ended up together after awhile.”
He first came to love Arizona after a visit back East. “I went back home to Philadelphia for Christmas break and realized right away I was spending the rest of my life out West if at all possible.”
It took a bit longer for him to warm up to Tucson, where he’s lived for the past five years.
“I did not like it when I first moved here but now think it is one of the greatest places on Earth,” he said.
He is especially fond of the people, the weather and the airport. Yes, the airport.
“Every time someone goes out of their way to help me – which occurs often – I think ‘This never happened anywhere else,’” he says. (Good thing he’s not a cat hit in the intersection.)
The weather needs no comment and the airport, well, Brown says he is overjoyed he still has time to grab a soda before a flight after going through security.
“You can’t do that in other cities. Don’t tell the TSA, OK?”
Advice to other writers
In addition to not quitting our day jobs before inking a book deal – or expecting our savings to last five years – Brown has a few other tidbits for success.
“Write as fast as you can, learn as much as you can, and keep re-writing,” he advises. “It’s like training camp in the NFL – it sucks but you won’t believe the difference in you skill level when you look back.”
He also reminds us to keep success in the forefront of our minds.
“I really did believe I would get here,” he admits. “It’s all part of that delusion thing. There’s a great line in the U2 song ‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind.’ It says ‘You’re packing a bag for a place that has to believed to be seen.’ Whatever you are trying to do in life, you have to believe it first before you’ll ever see it.”
Black Sun (Random House, 2010)
“Black Sun,” Graham’s second book and the sequel to “Black Rain,” comes out on August 31. Both books feature main characters Danielle Laidlaw – a government operative forced to take over a mission she wants nothing to do with, Professor Michael McCarter, a university scholar reeling from the death of his wife and a mercenary named Hawker, who once worked for the CIA, ruined his life and – at least initially – thinks he is willing to do anything they ask to get back in their good graces.
“Black Sun” follows Hawker, Danielle and McCarter as they race to stop an apocalypse associated with the Mayan prophecy of 2012.
“I know it’s not the first 2012 book on the market, but I think we’ve managed to take most of what people expect out of a 2012 book and turn it upside down. Our tag line is: 2012 – forget everything you think you know.”