SEPTEMBER 5, 2002   

From all the books you have written, do you have a favorite?

Well, with only two books out there, I reckon it would be kind of harsh to single out one as the "Do Bee."   Sleep with the Fishes is so different from PIPSQUEAK that comparing the two is difficult.  And of course, an author's judgment gets clouded.  After promoting Sleep with the Fishes for a whole year, I'm really hyped to talk about PIPSQUEAK if only because it's new.  Ultimately, I'd have to say my favorite book is always the one I'm writing now, which is called DIRT NAP, but it won't be out until 2003.

At what point in time did you realize that writing was "the thing for you"?

Probably when I realized it was the cheapest way to export my creativity.  And a lot less messy than throwing pots.

What advice would you give to someone interested in becoming a writer?

I'm absolutely certain that I'm way down the list of authors qualified to answer that question, but I'll put in my one cent:

Write.  Sounds trite, but so many people dodge around the PC shuffling paper and index cards and hoping for divine inspiration.  Do not expect your first novel to be the breakthrough - it'll break your heart if you hang it all on the first one or two.  This is a learning process, and experience will make you better. 

What is the name of your favorite mystery movie?

I'd have to answer that by sub-genre.  British: a tie - "Kind Hearts and Coronets" and "Lady Killers."  Caper: "Hot Rock"  Mob:  "Goodfellas"  Detective: "Blade Runner"

What other authors do you enjoy reading?

I'm partial to my comic sub-genre: Donald Westlake, Janet Evanovich, Harlan Coben and Bill Fitzhugh. Superb.  But I'm a sucker for Lee Child and Steve Hamilton, and have been known to delve into Chris Niles and Lauren Henderson.  I also have a passion for the Fraser "Flashman" books - can't put `em down.

Do you normally do a lot of research when writing a book?

I don't rely on it:  it's fiction, after all.  As a matter of course, I don't write the kinds of books that rely on copious factual detail - God bless those that have the fortitude to do so.

What other types of jobs have you had?

Most Humble:  Grounds crew, hauling garbage.
Most Enlightening:  Tri-Plex Projectionist ("Shining", "Caddyshack", "Herbie Goes Bananas" etc.)
Most Potential:  Selling newspapers at the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel.  Hey, you never know who's going to die and make red headlines that'll sell out your papers.
Most Officious:  Postage Meter Inspector
Most Stressful:  Messenger

Do you attend conventions and signings?

Bouchercon every year, and locally here and there. 

Is there anyone, in particular, who influenced you?


What led you to write mysteries?

Did I mention Westlake?  When I read his Dortmunder books, there's a smile inside that lasts long after I finish the book. 

Do you read reviews of your books?

Always.  Of course, I've been fortunate to have mainly favorable reviews thus far.

How would you like to be remembered?


What do you believe is the highlight of your writing career so far?

Still waiting.

Do you write on a fixed schedule or do you wait until thoughts come to you?

As with exercise, a regimen is essential to making good progress.  I write in the evenings.  But I don't claim to be highly regimented.  I often work for months at a time, 4 nights a week, and then suddenly procrastinate for a month or so.

How did you get started in writing?

I'm an NYU grad with a degree in Film and TV.  I was trying to get in on the creative end, writing screenplays, and thought maybe I could write a novel and get a screenplay sold that way.  Haven't written a screenplay in 15 years.   I still think my last, "Zombie Beavers", would make a great film.

How do you come up with plots?

I don't.  My characters do.  I only put the characters in a premise, with the other characters, and the rest they take care of.   As anybody who has read my work will attest, the plots run all sorts of different directions and in unexpected ways.  To be frank, I prefer the word "story" over "plot," which for me infers a character-rich novel. 

Now you ask, "OK, smart guy:  I say "plot" you say "premise."  So where do I get your premise?"  Use "What If."  An example: Take the three old men sitting on the park bench you see every day.  Now name them Frank, Ted and Charlie. Doesn't seem like much of a story there, kind of dull looking at the face of it.  Now ask yourself "What If?"  What if Charlie didn't show up one day, and Frank and Ted go looking for him?  What might they find?  Charlie wasn't his real name, he never fought in the war and it turns out he was a bank robber on the lamb for thirty years.  The story might end there except that some mobsters who were still looking for the loot from that robbery think these two bench sitters might know where Charlie disappeared to.  Did Charlie disappear to go to recover the money?  Did he leave any clues for Frank and Ted so that they might find him?  Off the two duffers go to Alaska on a bus, then a stolen car, horseback, chased by the mobsters.  Bingo: a premise, snow-balling, the seedling of a story.  From there it's on to characterization, incentive, pathos and catharsis, the ingredients that will make it a compelling story.

Did you take any classes on how to write?

Only at NYU undergrad, and that was for screen writing. 

Do you ever get writer's block?

I usually get stuck somewhere in the middle of a book as a bunch of story lines are converging. "What the characters want" is the nexus of writing fiction for me - it's what drives the whole book, and when the story lines come together, it's more difficult to decipher the characters motivations, to understand where they are going so I can guide them. 

What are your hobbies and interests?

Aside from writing novels, I also write for fishing magazines on fly fishing and fly tying.  I also own a vintage car - a 1963 Comet convertible - that's both transportation and hobby.  My website covers both in detail, as well as my books.

How do you spend your free time?


Do you have a message you would like to give to all the readers out there?

Enough with the serial killers!  Read more comic novels!

                                              ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Born and matriculated in the Washington DC area, Brian went on to NYU Film School before finding his true calling, video taping sewers. Well, that and surfing Brooklyn is what kept him alive while writing, and the day job eventually led to an expertise in underground utilities. This entails researching, locating and mapping missing or lost tunnels, ducts and other underground structures in New York City. He's been involved in many subsurface explorations, including a number of urban archeological digs. Some of his published articles have delved into this topic, most notably in Mercator's World, the book Concrete Jungle and in the Tribeca Trib.

Surfing gave way to his earlier passion of fly fishing, a skill taught to him by his mother, and he has since devoted a disproportionate amount of resources to the pursuit of fly fishing. His home waters are Pocono Mountain lakes, the Delaware and Connecticut rivers, and the Miller's and Deerfield rivers in Massachusetts. American shad and pickerel are specialties, and a number of Brian's articles on both have appeared in American Angler, Mid Atlantic Fly Fishing Guide, Fly Fishing Journal, Fly Fish America and Rackelhanen Fly Fishing Magazine (Sweden). Some of his shad fly patterns and musings on shad behavior will appear in C. Boyd Pfeiffer's book Shad Fishing (Spring 2002). Brian has also fished variously through Central America and East Africa.

Having mentioned Brian's mother Helen Hills, we should note that she is also an author and columnist who lives in Warwick, Massachusetts. Brian provided the illustrations for her book Making the Dawn Welcome.
Brian lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with Maggie Griffin and Tuco, a "23lb Hereford cow masquerading as a cat." Brian and Maggie boast Brooklyn's largest collection of taxidermy (mounts and skeletal), which includes well over 80 pieces. The collection has been built over many years. All were bought legally in the US and they don't advocate or endorse the collection of endangered/protected species. His next novel features the Nick and Nora Charles of taxidermy. Bin of Squirrels, the first in the series, will be released next year.

A 1963 Mercury Comet convertible is Brian's every-weekend vehicle. While it's not exactly what you'd call a "fishing car" the convertible feature allows him to put the rods fully rigged in the back seat. So if you see a red convertible zoom past with fly rods in the back, wave!