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Interview: October 10, 2003

October 10, 2003

New York Times bestselling author Sandra Brown talks with Wiley Saichek and co-Founder Carol Fitzgerald about HELLO, DARKNESS. She explains how she develops her characters, talks about two authors she likes in the suspense/thriller genre and reveals the premise of her next novel scheduled to be released in the fall of 2004.

BRC: What inspired you to make Paris a radio show host?

SB: For the character of Paris, I needed someone who worked alone in an isolated place. The late night radio show host was perfect because it was also in darkness.

BRC: You did a terrific job illustrating the conflicting relationship between a teenager and parent. Your other characters were just as realistic. How much time do you spend fleshing out the background of your characters, prior to beginning the actual writing? Do your characters often evolve or change as you write?

SB: When I begin a book, I have a rough idea of what I want the characters to be, but I prefer not to flesh them out, rather to let them evolve. They frequently change and become different from what I initially envisioned.

BRC: HELLO, DARKNESS touches on the controversial topic of pornography and the newsworthy topic of Internet safety. What inspired you to write these topics into this book?

SB: I was looking for an issue that would be of grave concern to contemporary parents, so Internet pornography and safety lent itself to that. Unfortunately it's a very timely concern.

BRC: What was the most interesting or surprising thing you learned during your research for HELLO, DARKNESS? How long does it typically take you to conduct research for a novel? Do you enjoy researching a book, or are you more comfortable writing? Do you write and research simultaneously?

SB: I would much rather write the book than do the research, but in the case of HELLO, DARKNESS, the research was interesting and fun. I sat in with a deejay during his program and visited the Austin police department.

BRC: For a long time the suspense/thriller genre was dominated by men. At any point in your career, did you feel it was a challenge to break into this category because you were a woman? Or do you think that for writers these barriers are invisible?

SB: Publishing barriers are not necessarily and solely based on gender. Instead, one's ability to breach them has more to do with telling a good story.

BRC: When you read suspense/thrillers written by others, do you find yourself "taking them apart" to study how the author set up the story?

SB: The test of a really good book to me is whether or not I can read it without thinking of the technical aspect. I want to get totally lost in the story. If I'm thinking about the author's technique, then it probably isn't very good.

BRC: Are there any authors in this genre that particularly excite you? On this same topic, are there any new authors that you would suggest readers keep an eye on?

SB: I read John Sanford and Dennis Lehane. I particularly liked MYSTIC RIVER. But I also read outside the genre. I'm presently reading WIDEACRE, a historical novel.

BRC: A fellow Texan, Wiley enjoyed recognizing the cities mentioned in HELLO, DARKNESS. As the state is so huge, are there any Texas cities that you have not written about that may find their way into future books? Can you share some other settings that intrigue you outside of Texas?

SB: I'm sure I will set other books in Texas, but I haven't determined which cities that might be. I love writing about the Low Country of South Carolina and all parts of Louisiana.

BRC: On your website you have noted that the title HELLO, DARKNESS was inspired by Simon and Garfunkel's hit song, The Sounds of Silence. We love that they announced that they will be reuniting to do a tour shortly after HELLO, DARKNESS comes out. Are you planning to catch their tour?

SB: I hope to catch Simon and Garfunkel somewhere on their tour. I saw Art Garfunkel perform with the Ft. Worth Symphony and when he sang Bridge Over Troubled Water, I got tears in my eyes. I'm a huge fan.

BRC: Do you still have your pet steers? (We at love that you have steers as pets!) If so, how are they doing?

SB: I have two steers, Boudreaux and Bowie. Regrettably we lost Bubba last year. He's buried in the pasture.

BRC: What are you working on now, and when can readers expect to see it?

SB: I'm working on my next novel and it will be out in Fall 2004. It's about a feudalistic town in Louisiana, owned by one decadent family.