Comments (0)

Dale Brown -- Author of ten consecutive New York Times best-selling novels

An Interview with Dale Brown -- Author of ten consecutive New York Times best-selling novels


Kenna McHugh, author of "Breaking into Film"

Author of Ten Consecutive New York Times Best-Selling Novels.

A former U.S. Air Force captain, Dale Brown was honored with many military decorations and awards that includes the Air Force Commendation Medal, the Combat Crew Award, and the Marksmanship ribbon. Brown logged over 4,000 hours flying strategic bombers and pulled "round-the-clock" nuclear alert, his greatest source of inspiration today is current events.

Lake Tahoe, California is Brown's borough, but he was born in Buffalo, New York and graduated from Penn State University with a Western European History degree.

His first novel, Flight of the Old Dog, was published in paperback. He has since written in the same genre -- military-action-aviation adventure. Brown's latest, The Tin Man, deviates from his usual to Sacramento Police Department. His main character is an owner of the high-tech company and develops a powerful weapon to help him accomplish that task of revenge --a bulletproof suit equipped with rocket thrusters that makes him a formidable fighting machine.

Recently, Brown formed a joint venture with New Millennium entertainment, headed by producer/director Michael Viner (TV Family Blessings, Futuresport) and his wife actress/producer Deborah Raffin to co-produce feature films and TV movies based on his stories.

With his new venture in mind, Brown says he would like to try his hand at scriptwriting, but publishers want his novel manuscripts more than producers want screenplays from him, so he goes where the work is.

I caught up with Dale Brown in Sacramento on one rather warm evening with a slight cool breeze from the Delta. I found him to be a truly nice man, who is open to new writers approaching him on his adventures in writing best sellers and breaking into film as a writer. His next book Battle Born is a sure top, if not best seller for the 1999 Christmas season.

KENNA: You have 10 consecutive best sellers on your mantel. Have you ever considered working in the movie business?
DALE: Absolutely. I'm interested in every aspect of making motion pictures--acting, producing, directing, writing, selling, and watching.

KENNA: What is happening with your movie deals?
DALE: Lots of smoke, lots of attention, lots of meetings and parties and pitches and "dog and pony" shows. No fire--yet.

KENNA: Can you give me an example of one those? What keeps you staying in there and pitching?
DALE: Diane and I are often invited to parties--everything from pizza parties at Sony to elegant cocktail parties in Beverly Hills. We are expected to mingle, chat, and introduce one another, and talk about our ideas if the opportunity presents itself. Nothing specific about any project or idea or script--just chat about the stuff we know best. It's not a "pitch" per se, just "war stories" that will hopefully get the right persons excited about a concept, or at least entertain them enough so our names and ideas stick in their minds.
We attended such a function last week in Beverly Hills. Our friends threw a party for Helen Thomas on the publication of her book "From The Front Row." I had an opportunity to talk about the conflict in Kosovo and about the recent American Airlines plane crash in Arkansas--two subjects with which I'm very familiar--and the chat wound around to my books and soon to future ideas. We exchange a few business cards or e-mail addresses, start networking, and go from there.
How do we keep going? We realize it's an uphill battle, that the odds are totally against us--but it's challenging, and educational, and fun to tell a story and holding a few potential producer's or actor's attention for awhile. Just go with it!
The novel or the treatments have already been finished--that's the hard part. Getting an opportunity to tell a story is hard, but when the opportunity presents itself, do it!

KENNA: What should a novelist beware of in making a movie deal?
DALE: The same as making a book deal, or a house deal, or a car deal, or a spouse deal. Learn as much as possible about the deal, get advice from folks you trust, think hard about it, and don't jump at the first offer because it looks good or flatters you.

KENNA: What have you learned about the film business that every writer should know?
DALE: KEEP GOING. You are a writer, so WRITE. Don't give up. Hollywood is frustrating. They tantalize but they'll ignore you, even insult you, just as easily and just as quickly. Don't let it get to you. You have something they want--your ideas, your talent, your vision, your hard work. Give it to them. If they pass on it, give them three more. If they pass on those, give them six more.

KENNA: What do you like best: writing the beginning of the story? Continue writing the story after you started? Or, writing the ending of the story?
DALE: The beginning is often easier, and it gets progressively harder until the last few action scenes. Then, it flows pretty well.

KENNA: Do you write the story or does your characters write the story?
DALE: I set up the situations and let the characters do their own thing. Sometimes I need to help them out, but generally they do it on their own.

KENNA: How do you keep track of all your characters, so they are consistent with the plot?
DALE: Reading and re-reading the manuscript, and relying on good editors.

KENNA: Did you find it hard to change genres?
DALE: Not at all. On retrospect perhaps I should've done it under a pen name.

KENNA: Pen name? What would that have done for you?
DALE: Maybe created a bit less confusion and consternation among my readers. Now I have two mostly unrelated story lines going--some readers, I fear, won't like that. Doing "The Tin Man" under a pen name might've helped.
Or maybe I'm just being paranoid???

KENNA: How did your military background help you develop BERP, the bulletproof suit equipped with rocket thrusters that makes your main character, Patrick McLanahan, a formidable fighting machine, in The Tin Man?
DALE: Not at all. I invented BERP myself.

KENNA: Which actor would you like to play Patrick McLanahan?
DALE: Ben Affleck. But there is an unknown actor out there that can make a career being Patrick. I just haven't discovered him yet!

KENNA: Is there another genre you would like to write?
DALE: Lots of them: historical fiction, romances, maybe even horror.

KENNA: What inspires you to write or get you in the mood to write?
DALE: Reading the papers. Getting e-mail from readers asking about what the new one is about. Getting a call from an Air Force buddy telling me about a recent happening. Lots of things.

KENNA: What makes a story intriguing?
DALE: Conflict. It's the basis of any novel or screenplay. Creating believable characters, putting them into believable situations, then letting them fight their way out.

KENNA: If you were starting out as a wannabe novelist or screenwriter and you had two completed manuscripts, what would be the next course of action to get published?
DALE: a) Work on the next one; b) Get query letters out to every agent in the country; c) polish the previous novels or scripts; d) continue steps a-c until they are all sold.

KENNA: If you were starting out as a writer, what would you do different?
DALE: Not been afraid to try more of the things I want to try.

KENNA: What do you think is the number one barrier writers have in getting their work known?
DALE: Giving up too quickly. Most authors give up a couple hundred pages short of a great manuscript or a couple dozens query letters before finding the right agent.

KENNA: When the writing gets harder, how do you manage to keep going or work through it?
DALE: Editors again--they never let you forget there are lots of folks (readers as well as folks in the publishing house) waiting. Talking the story through with my wife Diane helps. Re-reading and re-thinking often helps.
Most of all, NOT PANICKING helps. I have to remind myself that occasional blocks are not a sign that I'm losing my abilities!

KENNA: When you re-read your ms, do you also re-write? How many times do you go through your ms before turning it over to the editor/publisher?
DALE: I'm constantly re-writing. I have no idea how much each chapter has been massaged--dozens probably. Working on a word processor allows me to move entire scenes or even chapters, and I take advantage of that capability.

Kenna is a highly regarded writer for The Screenwriters Utopia . She has also worked for StoryCrafting: The Fiction Writers Magazine, and is author of "Breaking into Film".

More recent articles in Interviews


Only logged-in members can comment. You can log in or join today for free!