Today I welcome Glen Barrera author of “The Assassin Who Couldn’t Dance” and “A Capable and Wide Revenge”.
Hi Glen Barrera, thank you for agreeing to this interview. First I would like to say that I enjoyed very much your book “The Assassin Who Couldn’t Dance” and just started reading “A Capable and wide Revenge.’
Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I’m a former partner in a real estate appraisal company. Over the years I’ve edited a company newsletter, written short stories (one of them a contest winner) and poetry. It wasn’t until I divorced a few years ago, however, that I finally found time to take a writing course while working on my first novel, The Assassin Who Couldn’t Dance.
I grew up in Chicago, with college at Western Illinois University, College of DuPage and the University of Illinois, Chicago. I studied Isshinryu Karate for fourteen years, sailed for seven years out of Burnham Harbor, Chicago, practice Tai Chi and play classical and blues guitar. A Chicago boy at heart, I now live in a western suburb.
If you have one, what is your favorite motivational phrase?
“You can do remarkable things, when you have remarkable things to do.” – Jim Rohn. This quote came to me while I was making a major career change in my thirties, when I really needed it. It has stayed with me ever since.
What motivated you to start writing?
I had a public speaking class in college. One of my assignments was to write and present a humorous piece before the class. My teacher was so impressed with the writing, she asked me to present it at a national speech teacher’s convention being held in downtown Chicago that year. Fortunately – what, speak in front of an auditorium filled with teachers? – I had to work and couldn’t make it. But at that point of life, I had the feeling I could write.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I was on my third draft of Assassin when I had the pages printed. It hadn’t been edited yet, but I wanted to give a copy to my son, daughter and son-in-law to read; and another copy for my Florida family to trade-off. The responses were very good. It wasn’t just because they are family – they are all avid readers. I considered myself a writer when my two brothers, who read extensively in the same thriller genre I work in, and who would have no qualms letting me know if they didn’t like it, gave me very nice reviews.
How do you find or make time to write?
When I began Assassin, I was working long hours. The only way I could write involved a set-in-stone regimen beginning at 6:30pm and working until 8:30 – with no TV, no music, no phone calls and no internet until afterword. I considered it my time-out from the world, where I could concentrate on the story. I still do the same.
What book or books have influenced you or your writing? Why?
There are many answers to this question. I was reading my mother’s Agatha Christie books when I was ten or eleven, in college I was reading Tolstoy and Dostoevsky (not as class assignments), and in the next few years went through most of the recognized classics. They all had an influence, but I believe Dostoevsky affected me most. In his Brothers Karamazov, there was a paragraph I would return to day after day. It described a walk in the woods on a snowy day, and was the most beautifully written piece I could imagine. It sparked my desire to one day write.
Is there an author that you consider a mentor?
Not really. There are a few contemporary, traditionally published authors I like: Lee Child, David Baldacci, Nelson DeMille… But none gripped me to the point where I wanted to emulate any particular writing style. I’ve always followed my instincts, my own voice, which takes bits and pieces from the wide range of authors I’ve read.
Are your stories based on someone you know or on events you have experienced?
Many of my characters are based on people I know, or have known. Some are composites (Boondock Dittle, from the Assassin, is loosely modelled after someone I knew. Like Boondock, he didn’t have a good outcome). Growing up in Chicago, I’ve had a few…confrontations. I know the adrenalin rush of conflict, the feel of a well-placed punch and the true colors of a “black” eye, the giddy elation of victory…and the air-sucking crush of defeat. I wasn’t in the military – my collarbone pinned and wired together before I was out of high school – but try to evoke those same feelings, in a larger scale, through my writing.
What do you prefer eBooks or traditional paperback books?
Having read for many years, I love the smell of a fresh paperback directly from the bookstore. However, I’m getting comfortable with eBooks, if only for their convenience.
What are reading now?
I just finished Anita Kovacevic’s, Threshold (a lovely, well-written dip into the supernatural), and am now reading Jean Gill’s, A Sixth of a Gill. A wonderfully creative writer, she’s not afraid to take chances in her compilation of short pieces and poems. It works.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Many. I’ve been reading a lot of new Indie writers. To go into a short list would be unfair as the books I’ve enjoyed are varied in genre and I would invariably leave someone out. I will mention some author names, however. In no particular order, I’ve read: Jackie Parry, Elizabeth Horton Newton, Rochelle Carlton, Mark Fine, Suzi Albracht, Dave Adair, Benedict Martin, JJ Toner, Charlie Flowers, Nick Jones, Rachel Amphlett, Geoff Nelder, Marcia Weber Martins, Terra Kelly, Margaret Ann Loveday, Rebecca McCray, Lexa Harpell and Wolf Schimanski. They all brought something special to my table. And my Kindle is full with other authors I’m anxious to read.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
That there is a balance between writing too much, and too little. The Assassin, on the third draft, had 147,000 words. It was edited down to just under 100,000. Sure, there were scenes I loved, but they didn’t add to the flow and pace of the story. On the other hand, in my writers group, there is a women on her fourth draft, currently fleshing out her characters (backstory, etc.). Her 75,000 words will inevitably end up higher and will make a very intriguing read.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
I’d suggest taking a writing class or reading books on writing/novels if they haven’t already. No matter the genre, there is a formulaic structure to the storyline – major plot twists, etc. If a writer doesn’t know how a story is supposed to develop, that writer will likely wallow in the attempt to create one. Oh, and outline, outline, outline. No one likes this part (including me), but even a rough idea of where you’re going works wonders.
About your book…
What is your book about?
I’ll give the short version: The story is about Hector (his current name). Since the age of seven, after his father and older brother are murdered by corrupt U.S. army officers, he has been home taught by Teacher, a close friend of Hector’s father. As the oldest male in the family it is his duty to avenge the deaths. So along with rigorous academic studies, Hector is taught to kill. By the age of twenty-three, Hector can speak five languages, kill a man a hundred different ways, but has learned almost nothing about life and love. The story, then, is about Hector’s quest for vengeance, but along the way, and maybe more important, his quest to discover who he really is and where he belongs. (Please see link below for a longer version)
Recently you have changed the cover, why?
Interesting, but I found that a good many favourable reviews of The Assassin Who Couldn’t Dance came from women. And as the character Hector falls in love with, Lucy, is also a major part of the storyline, I didn’t believe the first cover reflected that well enough. The second cover, I trust, foreshadows better the eventual linking of the man and woman.
It is a very interesting title. How did you come up with it?
Assassin had a different title until the book was in the second draft. At that time, I decided I wanted something more out of the title, something that would give an inkling to the character of Hector, the assassin. As I went through the book again, I came across a paragraph I wrote. Hector was reflecting on how different his life might be if his family had moved to the U.S. sixteen years before. Part of his thought process questioned, “….would he have a girlfriend now? Would he have learned how to dance?” It sounded so innocent, I couldn’t let it go.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
The story is about how family and friends will stick together, no matter the odds. At the same time, it’s a story that deals with the questions: Who am I? Where do I belong? I believe this applies to Hector and Lucy, so far apart, yet both searching for the same answers.
Let’s talk about your new release, “A Capable and Wide Revenge”. Hector and Lucy are back.
What was your inspiration for this book?
Quite simply, I love my characters. I know them well and wanted to stretch their capabilities.
What is this book about?
Hector, Lucy and Morgan, and the ex-recon team have returned. It’s now three years later. Lucy has finished college. Hector is in Iraq training police for an elite reaction team. The Leary Group has grown to a worldwide business under Denny Leary and Gil Scott. Everything is going well…
But that’s about to change.
The Group – a corrupt segment of the U.S. military, thought disbanded, is back. Under new management with tentacles reaching to the Senate, it is even more ruthless than its predecessor. The last obstacle standing in the way of unlimited power and money is Corley’s unnamed department. A government entity with its own power base, and the mandate to stop the Group by any means necessary. The plan has been set into motion, with Corley’s department in the states already reduced, most through assassination, the rest on the run. In Iraq, the Group enlists Bazam Shokor, a sadistic killer, and his militant band of followers for the final clean-up. Believing Hector and the ex-recon team are part of Corley’s department, and needing the names of surviving personnel, they draw the recon team to Iraq – by the most appalling means. A war begins, ranging from the streets of Baghdad to the streets of Miami to the farms of Wisconsin, drawing into the conflict a beautiful news reporter, an accountant, and a most unlikely inside-man.
Through it all and against impossible odds, Hector, Lucy and their allies must fight for their survival…and revenge.
In “The Assassin Who Couldn’t Dance”, there was a lot of action. Can we expect the same in “A Capable and Wide Revenge”?
Oh, my goodness, yes! Aside from the oldies and goodies, there are new characters in this one. Good guys and bad guys, a load of surprises, and a glimpse into what my tutor once described as the “underbelly” of society. Someone is in a heap of trouble.
Are you going to write more books about Hector and Lucy?
Yes. I’m about halfway through, Sweet Peach. This book will take a different path. It’s the story about a woman trying to change her past, but finds herself being pulled back to her former life. Through family connections, she will have to rely on help from Hector, Lucy, the ex-recon team…and a couple others guys.
Before you go,
Do you have anything that you want to say to your readers?
I would like to add a – Thank You – to those who have read Assassin. I’ve had some wonderful reviews and comments. Your words are truly appreciated. I’d also like to give a shout-out to the terrific friends I’ve made on “Books Go Social” and Facebook author groups. I am grateful to be associated with such a supportive and caring collection of talented writers. I’ve learned so much from you.
And finally, thank you, Marcia, for having me as a guest.
The Assassin Who Couldn’t Dance: amazon.com/dp/B00ZVEMVW0
A Capable and Wide Revenge Amazon.com/dp/B012LWVTEK