After college, Alan spent the next twelve years as a law enforcement officer, with a two-year hiatus in Berlin, Germany, contracted to US military. After law school, he was a prosecutor then a criminal defense attorney. He and his wife, Lillian, reside in the Austin, Texas area.
Time to chat with Alan!
What is your latest book?
My latest book is titled Cornered and is expected to be released by late spring or early summer. The story follows a Texas detective as he works to solve the mysterious disappearances of seven professional women while trying to exorcise a demon from his past. He faces off against an organization that always seems to be one step ahead. When he gets too close, he steps into the cross-hairs of a professional cop killer.
Is your recent book part of a series?
The manuscript I’m writing now, titled Rampage, is a sequel to my first title, Price of Justice. It’s set about three years after the ending time frame of Price of Justice. In it, the protagonist detective has to deal with temptation – he has a very pretty and single female partner – and trust issues – he’s in a long-distance relationship with the heroine/co-protagonist from the first novel, while working a series of murders committed by a gang. His worries ratchet up several notches when the gang attacks his home where he lives with an eight-year-old daughter.
I use the pen name of Alan Brenham. This matter arose when I discovered that another attorney named Alan Behr (New York) had also written a book. We’re probably distant relatives but I never explored it. He had the domain name of alanbehr.com so my wife came up with the name Alan Brenham, using my name and the name of a nearby Texas city where Blue Bell Ice Cream is made.
Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?
I always plan out both the working title and the ending before I begin writing the manuscript. Most of the time, it doesn’t end up as planned. In my first novel, Price of Justice, I set up a non-Hallmark Channel ending but changed it to a satisfying ending after all the trials and tribulations I had put the protagonists through.
Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?
I’ve done it both ways. Usually the first draft is finished before I’ll do any editing. But I have occasionally gone back to certain parts of the draft and either edited out aspects that don’t fit any more or add scenes to tie in with material written in later.
After working for a very long time on a novel, many authors get to a point where they lose their objectivity and feel unable to judge their own work. Has this ever happened to you? If so, what have you done about it?
That’s happened to me many times in the course of writing a novel to completion. Usually I’ll set the manuscript aside for a week or two and work on an outline for the next novel. During that hiatus, ideas and changes to the plot (epiphanies) emerge, sending me back to incorporate them into the manuscript.
Have you ever written characters that you truly despise?
There are two in Price of Justice – Tom Zarko and Dorian Winters – and one in my current project, Rampage – Justin Cooper, AKA Mad Dog, whom I despise. In Cornered, there are three who come close to being despised but have one or two redeeming qualities.
Do you allow others to read your work in progress, or do you keep it a secret until you’ve finished your first draft? Can you elaborate?
I have two readers who provide a lot of constructive criticism and suggestions to improve the story flow and plot as well as the fleshing of the characters. Other than my two readers, I do keep the manuscript a secret.
Are you an early bird writer or night owl? And do you have any must haves like coffee, chocolates, wine, music or something else?
My writing day begins about 7:00 in the morning and ends around 4:00 in the afternoon. My wife makes sure I take plenty of breaks within that time frame. Coffee is an absolute must-have. Music is second. Every other day, I have a scotch in the afternoon. The chocolates and the wine come at the end of the day.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, how do you get around it?
Writer’s block raises its ugly head every so often. My wife is close by so I pester her for suggestions. If that fails, I set the work aside and do something else.
What genre have you never written in that you’d like to try?
I’m giving serious consideration to a fantasy/thriller hybrid with a totally different set of characters, social rules, laws, and government bureaucracy. I’m not going to delve into any greater details simply because I have none to give out at this point – no plot, title and ending. Another story I’m considering writing, in the same hybrid genre, would be a prosecutor with a whole different outlook on the criminal justice system.
What’s your favorite comfort food? Least favorite food?
My favorite comfort food would be crackers and wheat wafers smeared with peanut butter. I’ll pile mounds of crackers and wafers on a plate and munch on them while I’m writing.
My least favorite comfort food would be broccoli. I’ve had a lifelong distaste for that vegetable in any form. The family German shepherd and I formed a symbiotic relationship whenever my mother served broccoli at dinner. He’d get treats of broccoli under the table and I cleaned my plate. A win-win situation.
Have you ever played a practical joke on a friend? Ever had one played on you?
The best practical joke I ever played on someone happened when I worked at the police department. I used to smoke cigars then that my detective partner detested. One day, I had left a box of cigars on my desk that he supplemented with cigarette loads. I lit up and got the shock of my life when the thing exploded, spraying embers everywhere. Payback came at the greatest time. He smoked cigarettes so I bought a can of loads and waited until he slipped up, leaving his pack on his desk. I figured he’d find the first two so I did three. Later that day, all of us went to lunch with the Texas Ranger captain. When lunch was done, my partner, seated across from the Ranger captain, lit up. I almost couldn’t keep from laughing as the cigarette blew up, spraying embers on the captain’s crisp, pressed shirt. If exploding cigarettes were a capital crime, the look on the captain’s face told me he’d have shot my partner then and there. Needless to say, he and I made a truce after that.
Since I was on a roll, I went after another detective and scotch-taped the end of the telephone cord that ran from the wall to his desk phone. That enabled the phone to ring but when he picked up (and he did…a few times) neither he nor his caller could hear each other. When he threatened to have the sergeant call the phone company, I removed the tape. No sense in ending up in the chief’s office trying to explain the nature of a practical joke to a man who most of us felt had no sense of humor and I didn’t need a no-pay suspension.
My other police-related joke came when I worked uniform patrol. Then, each set of car keys operated every single patrol car. So, one evening when calls were slack, my then-partner and I spotted the downtown unit parked in the alley next to a couple of bars. We parked across the street from the alley and I snuck over and drove their patrol car around the corner and parked it. Then he and I sat in our car and waited. The look on the two officers’ faces when they saw their car was gone was priceless…well, not exactly priceless, I got a day off without pay for that stunt. Neither our sergeant nor the patrol captain saw the humor.
If you are a TV watcher, would you share the names of your favorite shows with us?
My favorite TV shows are: The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Bitten, The Blacklist, Banshee, Strikeback, Longmire, The Originals, Vampire Diaries, Grimm, Arrow, Major Crimes, Revolution, The Americans, Orphan Black, Intelligence, and Motive.
What’s the coolest surprise you’ve ever had?
The coolest surprise I ever had was a surprise party thrown by my wife, my older brother and my parents to celebrate my passing the Texas bar and getting my law license. I had decided not to wait on the Bar to mail me the documents so my wife and I drove to Austin to get them. We stopped at my brother’s house before driving across town to the State Bar HQ. Nothing anyone said or did gave me a clue as to what was about to happen. My nephew went with my wife and I to the Bar. I should have picked up on my wife’s asking a few times if I had obtained all the documents from the Bar, that maybe I ought to go back in and check to be sure. But when your mind is focused on something else, i.e., the bar card, things zoom right over your head. When we walked back into my brother’s home, I was greeted with a loud united shout of “Surprise”. And it was a surprise. A large banner of congratulations, signed by all in attendance, stretched from wall to wall. The dining table was covered with a huge carrot cake (my favorite), trays of cookies and other sweets plus a lot of beer. A great day indeed!
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