Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Steve Brewer: Calabama

Today I welcome guest blogger Steve Brewer.

Steve Brewer is the author of more than 20 books, including the recent crime novels CALABAMA, FIREPOWER and CUTTHROAT. His first novel, LONELY STREET, was recently made into an independent Hollywood comedy starring Robert Patrick, Jay Mohr and Joe Mantegna. BOOST currently is under film/TV option. Brewer's short fiction appeared in the anthologies DAMN NEAR DEAD, THE LAST NOEL and CRIMES BY MOONLIGHT, and he's published articles in magazines such as Mystery Scene, Crimespree and Mystery Readers Journal.

A writing coach, Brewer has taught at the University of New Mexico, the Midwest Writers Workshop and the Tony Hillerman Writers Seminar. He regularly speaks at mystery conventions, and was toastmaster at Left Coast Crime in Santa Fe, NM, in 2011.

Brewer worked as journalist for 22 years, then wrote a weekly syndicated column for another decade. The column, called The Home Front, produced the raw material for the humor book TROPHY HUSBAND.

Steve Brewer:

Sometimes, it starts with the title.

You need certain key ingredients to get going on a new novel -- a setting, a notion of the plot, a good opening line, a protagonist that speaks to you. I also like to have a title in mind before I start writing, though we all know they sometimes change.

Occasionally, the title is the spark that sets an idea on fire. That was certainly the case with my 18th crime novel, CALABAMA.

I first heard the term from a friend in Redding, California, where I lived from 2003 to 2010. Redding is an isolated city of ninety thousand people, way up north near Lake Shasta, and it's the setting for one of my other novels, BANK JOB.

Soon as I heard the word "Calabama," I knew I must write a novel to go under it. It was the perfect description for life in inland California.

When most people think of California, what comes to mind is Los Angeles or San Francisco or beach towns like Santa Cruz, where I live now. But the state's vast interior is rural and socially traditional and politically conservative and prone to pickup trucks. It resembles Arkansas (where I grew up), but with palm trees.

I've bucked that redneck mentality my whole life, so it was easy to create a character who'd do the same. Eric Newlin is a dope-smoking slacker who landed in Redding by accident. He's unhappily married, works for his father-in-law and dreams of escaping Calabama.

Eric survives a traffic accident, one of those near-misses that feel like an omen, and he decides his life is going to change. It does. It goes straight to hell. Jobless and broke, Eric gets mixed up in a kidnapping scheme with a local crimelord named Rydell Vance, and things go very wrong.

The novel's a hillbilly noir, full of violence and greed and backwoods bitterness, but leavened with dark humor.

Kind of like Calabama itself.

Steve Brewer's new novel CALABAMA debuts June 15 via Kindle, Smashwords and other e-book platforms. Only $2.99.