Brian Herskowitz - A Thrilling Crime Story
Brian is a film and TV producer, director, writer. He has taught screenwriting for UCLA Extensions and Boston University. He is a world masters champion in judo and jujitsu. Conceptus is his first novel, and the first in the Laura Drummond Mystery Series. As our Author of the Day, he tells us all about his book, Conceptus.
Please give us a short introduction to what Conceptus is about.
Conceptus tells the story of Detective Laura Drummond. At the age of 14, she survived a brutal attack that almost took her life. Many years later she's investigating a series of murders that follow the same M.O. as the attack that nearly ended her life.
What inspired you to write about a detective who survived a brutal attack?
I initially wrote the story as a screenplay. I wanted to create a character that was well-rounded, a flawed, wounded person, and in order to heal those wounds, she needed to confront her past.
Tell us more about Detective Laura Drummond. What makes her tick?
I love Laura. She's intelligent, tough. She is a martial artist and an army veteran. She's damn good at her job, but her personal life is complicated. She drinks a bit too much, and while she's up for a good time she has avoided any long-term relationships... up until now.
You taught screenwriting. In which way is writing a novel different?
When you write a screenplay you're hyper-focused on what can be seen and heard. You cannot really explore what characters are thinking like you can in a novel. Another difference is time. Screenplays are generally around two hours long. That means I have to introduce the characters, the world, the rules of that world and set the story in motion in very short order. You don't have time to go on tangents and follow subplots and subplot characters that are peripheral to your plot. You don't have the same restraint in a novel. A reader can go on a side trip within a novel that they wouldn't accept sitting in a theater.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
If I told you then they wouldn't be secret, now would they? Okay, just kidding. I have a 5th-degree black belt in judo and 1st degree in both Brazilian jiu-jitsu and sorenji kenpo (karate). I have won world championships in both judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. I studied in Japan in my youth and still speak fairly passable Japanese. I guess the other hidden talent isn't all that hidden. I started off as an actor and continue to do work as a voice-over actor. I don't know if this counts as a skill, but my wife of 33 years is Gina Hecht who is an actress and a recurring character on the FXX show DAVE, and I have two daughters that are both in the entertainment industry.
What, do you think makes a serial killer so frightening?
I think it's the randomness that makes serial killers so scary. It's fairly common knowledge that most murders are committed by someone the victim knows, but a serial killer preys on strangers. It's significantly harder to protect yourself from the unknown than that which we know.
You also included some romance in the story. Why did you take this approach?
This speaks directly to both the attack on Laura as a teen and her broken relationship with her parents. The physical scars from the attack are matched by the emotional scars. Laura faces her past and begins to heal in part because she's opening up to another human being. Conversely, as she faces her past she's able to accept love for what very well may be the first time in her life. Another thing that I really wanted to explore was treating a same-sex relationship in a grounded, and real way. I was pleased with the outcome. I think the love story between Laura and Sharon feels real and honest. I hope that the LGBTQIA+ community will as well.
Which of your characters was the most challenging to create?
I think the killer was the biggest challenge because they needed to stay veiled in shadow. There was a balancing act between understanding his motivations and his actions and saying too much, too soon.
Readers say that this is a mystery that constantly surprises. Did you plan out all of the plot twists before you started writing, or did some of it just "happen" along the way?
The twists were always a part of the plan. I knew I wanted the story to surprise the reader, and I hope that I have succeeded.
Interesting cover. Please tell us more about how it came about.
I created a mock-up design. I wanted a cover that evoked certain emotions and captured the tone of the story. The front shows a man in a hoodie holding a knife in the background and a battered terrified woman in the foreground. I think that it does the job well, and I really like that it feels a bit noire-ish.
When starting on a new book, what is the first thing you do?
I generally start with the seed of an idea and then begin to break down the main characters, creating detailed bios of their lives. From there I create a beat sheet that tracks the flow of the story. I expand that into an outline, and from the outline comes the chapters.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
I used to lecture on screenwriting and say that my average day went something like this, I get up and turn on my computer. While I wait for the computer to "wake up" I go make a cup of coffee. Then I sit down to write... but then I realize that I'm hungry so I go make breakfast... After breakfast, I return to the computer... but first I have to check my email. Once that's done I can really focus on writing... except its almost lunchtime, so I shouldn't start because I don't want to be interrupted. So, I wait until after lunch to really dive in. However, about that time I realize that the dog needs to go for a walk... I'll do that, and then I really buckle down... except when I get back from the walk, well more emails have snuck into my inbox and really should take a look at those... and then it's really too late to get started because dinner's just around the corner...
And some days are really like that. In truth, when I am on the hunt I try to schedule four to six hours of time every day to work, and I make achievable goals for each session. That can be a certain number of pages or a chapter, or there may be a landmark that I want to reach. Some days I will go well beyond those goals, but I don't want to set myself up for failure. I think it's important to treat the process like it's sacred. I suspect I am like many writers who are all too easily distracted. Over the years I have trained myself to block the noise and the interruptions and focus on the page.
What are you working on right now?
I am working on a multitude of projects. I have started on the second Laura Drummond Mystery, and I am very excited to continue her saga, and I have a plethora of film scripts that I am currently developing.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
I can be reached through my website BrianHerskowitz.com. I can also be reached on Linkedin.