Robert Gregory Browne about ... Whisper In The Dark
Robert Gregory Browne
Books by this Author:
interviewed Jun 2008 by Sarah Rudd
Whisper in the Dark is the first of your books that we have read (we know you’ve written one other), and I have to say that the stark difference in your style and that of other, perhaps better known, crime/thriller writers is it’s accessibility – was this a conscious decision, or some latent intent?
I'm sure that every writer hopes for accessibility, but it isn't something I consciously strive for. Truth is, I'm stuck with the style I write in. No matter how accessible a writer might try to be (if inclined to work that way), he or she will never please everyone. So I simply write stories in a way that entertains and pleases me, and am happy when I hear that I've managed to entertain someone else, as well.
Blackburn is a bit of a chauvinist and proud of it, and yet we are made aware of moments of tenderness - why do you think he has to have this bluff and bravado?
Blackburn grew up in a household full of brothers, had to struggle to make himself heard, and bluff and bravado were part of the package. Oddly enough, the woman he falls for is the only one who calls him on it. She's also the only one who is able to bring out his tender side, whether she realizes it or not. But for a guy like Blackburn, showing tenderness is a dangerous thing. A weakness. So he has to compensate for that weakness by being borderline (and sometimes outright) obnoxious.
Vincent is as scary as he is elusive, clever as he is mysterious and depraved as he is moralistic – but why did you choose Van Gogh as his inspiration?
I wanted to create a monster of a man who considers himself an artist. But I also wanted to give him a signature that would help him stand out a bit in the realm of serial killers. As a man who appreciates art, I think he would be attracted to Van Gogh's genius as well as his madness, and the signature ear slicing is a visual neither he nor I could resist.
Ok, I’ll admit it – I didn’t see who Vincent was; until seconds before it became apparent – is that buzz something we can get used to in your novels?
I try to bring a certain amount of surprise to my work. While not every book I write is a mystery in the strict sense, every story does have its share of mysteries and part of what I try to do is to keep the reader guessing throughout. I never know the full story when I start writing it. I work with a basic premise and a vague beginning and ending and let the story unfold before me. So I try to surprise myself as I write and hope that those surprises translate to the reading experience.
I loved the idea of the Rhythm, as far as creepy goes; it really does the job – is it based on a real southern belief, or is it entirely fictional?
I'm afraid it's completely fictional. I was searching around for a real belief that I could use, but never found anything that quite worked in the way I wanted it to. So, The Rhythm was born, based on common beliefs in fate and on our inability to really control the world around us -- no matter how hard we might try.
We like to get up close and personal (hope you don’t mind) – so why write psychological thrillers?
There's nothing that interests me more than the human psyche. What makes people tick? What makes them behave the way they do? Why are some people normal, while others are depraved, or somewhere in between? When it boils down to it, any good story is about human emotion, particularly the psychological conflicts we all struggle with on a daily basis. Human interaction is a complex thing, and even if I'm not writing a strict psychological thriller (my first novel, KISS HER GOODBYE, leans more toward action with a dollop of supernatural), there will always be elements of that complexity on display.
There are lots of artistic characters in your second novel – Abby and Vincent himself – is art something that is important to you personally or did it just fit with the storyline?
As a writer, I consider myself more of a craftsman than an artist, but there's certainly a small amount of artistry involved. I'm also a musician, a videographer and editor, and enjoy doing graphic arts (I designed my own website), so I guess you could say that art is pretty much a part of my system. Sometimes too much. I often find myself distracted from what I need to be doing, which is writing books. And living a normal life...
Remember back when you were little? – Do you recall what you thought you were going to be? (Incidentally, I was going to be a writer… so I’m pretty close!)
(To my mind, you're doing it. There are all different kinds of writers.)
When I was very young, I was convinced I was going to be a superhero. I had the costume and everything. I was going to train myself with weights and, like Batman, go out into the world and right wrongs. That, unfortunately, never came to pass. I think it was the training with weights part that got to me.
Once that dream dissolved I wanted to be a number of things. Singer/Songwriter. Television writer. Movie director. Novelist. Commercial artist. It took me a very long time -- well into adulthood -- to finally realize that I had to concentrate on ONE thing, and that thing was writing. I actually DID become a television and movie writer for awhile, but every time I walked into a bookstore to buy a new novel (I have a house full of them), I'd turn it in my hands and say to myself, wouldn't it be nice if I had one of these with my name on it? That was the dream that just wouldn't die, and once I got fed up with Hollywood, I finally sat down and wrote my first book -- only to discover it was the thing I was meant to be doing all along.
Are you currently planning another book, if so, will it feature Vincent again? (We actually rather like him as serial killers go).
My third book, KILL HER AGAIN, is finished and set to be released by Pan Macmillan in, I believe, May of next year. While Vincent isn't in this one, there is a serial killer at work -- but in a way that I can pretty much guarantee you've never seen before.
It's about a female FBI agent who is having weird, disjointed visions involving the abduction of a little girl. She hooks up with a forensic hypnotist (who has his own problems) and soon discovers that she... well, I don't really want to give anything away. The story is full of twists and turns and I just don't want to spoil it for the reader. All I can say is that the title is appropriate.
I'm currently at work on a new thriller that revolves around the disappearance of a young woman and her possible involvement with a religious cult in Mexico. But I haven't ruled out the idea of one day bringing Blackburn and Vincent back together again. I think they have some unfinished business to attend to.
If you could have written any piece of work – what would it be and why?
MARATHON MAN by William Goldman. Not only is Goldman one of my favorite writers (who, along with Donald Westlake, influenced me most), but MARATHON MAN, in my estimation, is the perfect thriller. I urge everyone who likes great stories to read it. Don't see the movie -- which has its moments but pales in comparison. Read the book. And if you like that one, put Goldman's MAGIC and CONTROL on the list as well.Read our full review of Whisper in the Dark by Robert Gregory Browne