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Kat Meets Cowboys #7: An Interview With Glenn A. Bruce

Glenn A. Bruce, MFA, has written professionally since 1979, but as he says: he has been a writer all his life. He was born in Miami, FL, where he played in rock bands into his 20s. He then moved to Los Angeles for 21 years where he wrote for television and movies. His best known credits include “Kickboxer,” “Baywatch,” “Walker: Texas Ranger” and “Assaulted Nuts” for CineMax. He also developed dozens of series and features, taught film acting, and started his directing career.

In 2000, Glenn moved back to a family second-home in the mountains of NC where he is an adjunct professor at Appalachian State University, teaching Screenwriting and Acting for the Camera. and where he has written and directed over a dozen videos, several of which have won awards.

Glenn finished his first novel “Chad” in 1982, but it took until 2011 and the world of Kindle e-publishing to publish his first novel “Riverbend.” He followed it with “Temptation Key,” and “Versions of the Truth,” two novels set in South Florida, and two collections of short stories, “Rest Along the Way,” and “All Most Together Now.” He has written several other novels.

Glenn’s strengths are offbeat, clearly defined characters, dark and frequent humor, and a strong storytelling bent. “I believe that in order to engage a reader more than once, we must tell interesting, uncommon stories, with plenty of surprises and a satisfying ending.

When did you realize you wanted to be an author?

I always wrote a lot, even in elementary school where I was editor of the school paper. I learned to paraphrase. In college I edited our little newsletter and later wrote and edited a house organ for defense contractor. In 1979 I moved to Los Angeles and took a screenwriting course with the legendary Syd Field. I wrote my first novel in 1982 but put it aside while I did movies and tv. Then, about 15 years ago, my wife at the time said to give fiction a shot. I just finished my 29th novel, so I’m glad I took the chance.

How long did it take you to come up with an idea for your first novel for DSP?

When I got my MFA, I wrote a western story and I always liked it. It was a dark, twisted short story. I wrote it on a 2-week cruise and submitted it for my fiction class. A while later, I thought it would make an interesting screenplay, so I started that; then I wrote it as a novel. DSP liked it and I wrote four more for them and just finished the sixth installment in that series. I also just finished a western trilogy—historical fiction in the mid-1800s. I’m waiting on that; it should be releasing soon.

What advice would you give to new authors?

Everybody writes what they write; there’s a market for tropes. But I would encourage them to think outside the box. It makes it more interesting. If the readers can relate to the characters instead of cardboard cut-outs, you should try that to make it more interesting. I taught screenwriting and I didn’t have many rules. No vampires, no zombies, and no stories about your dorm room because nobody cares. Don’t write about your own life. Make up something fun.

What’s your process of writing?

I never have an outline. I like finding the story as it goes along, what the characters do and how the story unfolds. I don’t plan it out. I fly by the seat of my pants. That’s a lot of the fun of it for me. I have ideas then flesh them out. I think of scenes generally, meditate, and come up with the sequence. I’ll just plot it along and I’ll get to a point where I’m at 60,000 words, have some new ideas, and now I have to go back and change it to work right. You have to establish it, then you can go back and put clues or steps to get you to that point. Unlike some writers, I love revisions. That’s when it all comes together, during the editing process. I go from page 1 to the end at least 5 times, sometimes 10 times, and fix things. I also judge 2-3 short story contests a year and have 6-8 stories I read each time. I hate when people just slap stuff on the paper and send it in. You need to take the time to edit your own work. It could be the best work in the world, but if it’s sloppy you haven’t done your job. That’s your duty as an author to get it the best it can be, before it goes out. You have to rewrite. Some edits are harder than others. Consistency is key; everything has to be right.

How would you approach it differently if you were to repeat it today?

When I first started out, I didn’t do as much editing as I should have done. Once I got my first computer, editing became easier, so I didn’t have to go back and physically retype pages. I was, I guess, lazy; I didn’t want to do all that rewrite work in the beginning. It’s demanding and you’re often brain dead by the end of it, but it’s necessary. You can do searches now—search and replace. If I find a word that I use too much, I go back and change it to something else. Common words are fine but unusual words that are repeated will jump out and look bad. So just go back and make sure it’s smooth, use new phrases, and eliminate the repeats.

What got you interested in writing novels?

I’m from Miami and I lived in Los Angeles. I worked in movies and television. In 2000 I left LA and moved to the family farm in the mountains of North Carolina. The first novel I wrote around 2009 was from a screenplay set in the Florida Keys loosely based on people and situations I knew. I then adapted a few other screenplays into novels. Now, I will write some novels from scratch and other ones I’ll go back to existing screenplays and rework them. Sometimes, I even write them first as screenplays, because they become a good map for a novel. Other novels I write from scratch, like most of the westerns.

What do you think makes for the perfect Western?

Since westerns are not the main thing that I write, I perhaps come at it from a different perspective from the other established DSP Western authors. I would guess that I have a different way of working. Most genre writers love their tropes and though some readers do as well, so those tropes stick around. For me, it’s more important that someone picks me up and thinks ‘this is different; it’s not like the others.’ When that happens, it’s kind of cool. A woman shoots the bad guy; she saves the hero instead of him saving her or himself. I want to surprise readers. Give them something different. What’s important in any literature to me is that there are twists and surprises. I want twists that I didn’t expect, including a really good one at the end. There has to be something that sets it apart and makes it different than the other stuff out there, like the woman character who’s in 3 books. I hadn’t seen many women cowpokes, so I was like, well, I’ll do it. She’s a great character, and I plan to do another one where she comes back and teams up with another woman, an immigrant from the first book. They go back to avenge Lawrence at the end of the book series. Now, I’ve just added a Ute woman to the series. I might have her join the other two as well for a big distaff climax!

What makes your writing stand out?

It has to do with avoiding tropes, working a bit harder to come up with something else, something perhaps new, but at least different. I force myself to think outside the box, to come up with something at least a little different like the female cowpoke with gun skills, or the runaway slave as a friend, the sundown town and a house that seeks revenge—all of it having to do with the human condition and how my characters deal with the onus of their situations and life. So, I am looking for something different whether it’s something I’m reading or writing. It has to be different. If it’s the same-old-same-old, I get bored. I can’t read it and I can’t write it!

What can we look forward to from you next?

The most recent one is for Raven Tale; I wrote a screenplay a while ago. Earlier this year I decided to write it as a novel after Raven Tale started. I worked with Emily on it, and they released My Worst Nightmare: The Dead of Night several months ago. I just finished the follow up. I had an idea for a house that eats people. Emily, the executive assistant, loved the idea, so I wrote it and sent it in last week. Again, I think there’s something different to it, just as with my other books. I write the human condition, something I work into everything I write (so as not to get hung up on tropes). My Worst Nightmare: The Dead of Night is really about the angst of young adults going into and dealing with a broader society. Their transforming into monsters becomes a metaphor for the challenges they face moving into adulthood, how it changes them and how they struggle with those issues. The new one, tentatively titled Hanging House, is reminiscent of the movie Get Out, but in a sense in reverse. It’s set in a “sundown town,” where as recent as the 1960s, African Americans were not allowed on city streets after sundown. So, it’s about deep-seated fears and anger and how new people to the town accept their well-hidden prejudices—to no good end.

Katrina Achey resides in Pennsylvania with her fiancé and child where she works as the Social Media Manager for Dusty Saddle Publishing. Katrina enjoys reading, writing, painting and playing her guitar—anything that lets her express her creative freedom. When she’s not working, you can find her curled up on the couch with a good book or having a fun game night with her loved ones. Please email admin@dspublishingnetwork.com

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