Tag Archives: developing a character

Interview with Norm Brown, Author of “Carpet Ride”

What is your book about?

Norm: Near the end of their honeymoon trip across Oregon, Sam Stanley, his new wife Lynn, and her one-year-old son Andy, traverse a steep mountain road in a rented RV. In the middle of a blind curve they run over a long roll of carpeting angled across the road. Sam barely manages to avoid crashing down the mountainside. When he walks back up the road to move the obstacle—it’s gone. Upon returning home to Austin, Sam learns that the crushed body of a business executive from Boulder, Colorado has been found at the site of their reported accident. The Oregon police suspect Sam in the obvious hit and run death; there is no roll of carpet. When deadly “accidents” continue in Texas, Sam realizes they were all supposed to die on that mountain.

How long had the idea of your book been developing before you began to write the story?

Norm: It rattled around in my head for over six months before I actually sat down and began to outline the plot.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

Norm: The opening scene occurred to me when my son and I were traveling on vacation in a rented RV through the Coastal Wilderness of Oregon. While negotiating a frighteningly narrow curve on a steep, lonely mountain road, I couldn’t help but imagine what would happen if something suddenly blocked the way of the big, clunky vehicle. Like most book ideas, it started with that simple question: What if?

Tell us a little about your main characters. Who was your favorite? Why?

Norm: The novel actually has two protagonists, but if I had to choose my favorite it would be Sam Stanley. At the beginning of the story, newly-wed Sam feels almost literally on top of the world. When targeted by an unknown enemy, he discovers courage and strength he never knew he possessed. Carpet Ride is the story of Sam’s evolution from vulnerable victim to desperate defender of his little family.

Who is your most unusual/most likeable character?

Norm: I was surprised by how much I enjoyed writing about the one-and-a-half year old boy, Andy. The growing bond between him and his new step dad Sam added a level of vulnerability that I think helped ratchet up the intensity of the story. The little guy is barely starting to form words, but he actually helps to solve the mystery.

How long did it take you to write your book?

Norm: I’m not a speedy writer at all. I wrote and rewrote for over a year before even considering trying to find a publisher.

How much of a story do you have in mind before you start writing it?

Norm: I know a lot of authors like to let the story unfold as they write, but I’m definitely an outliner. The basic story was laid out in my notes before I started. The details of the plot changed a lot however by the time I finished the first draft.

Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it?

Norm: The action of the story takes place at locations I was already somewhat familiar with in Oregon, Texas, and Colorado. I think that reduced the amount of background research required. I do remember however nervously wandering around a local hospital intensive care unit to get a feel for the layout of a scene. I always feel like an intruder in hospital hallways, and in this case I probably was.

How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

Norm: Although I start writing with a very detailed plot, I find that my characters evolve and more or less define themselves through their actions and words as the story unfolds. One main character, Sam’s best friend John Canton, didn’t even exist when I started the first draft. I soon discovered that I needed him to help Sam solve the murder mystery and he went on to become a second protagonist. Starting out as a rather reckless young man, his development throughout the story is more or less the opposite of Sam Stanley’s. By the last chapter he has noticeably matured and puts his life on the line to defend his friends.

Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?

Norm: I worked most of my life as a computer programmer/analyst. Just as when creating a software program, I need a fairly detailed timeline of how my novel is going to proceed before I start typing. While writing Carpet Ride I kept the timeline updated until very near the end. Once the editing and rewriting phase started, the timeline was still useful as a reference for details.

What do you like to read?

Norm: I read mostly mystery and suspense novels. I particularly like stories that put ordinary people into extraordinary circumstances.


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Pat Bertram Introduces Alden Cameron Lindsay Scott, the Duke of Buccleuch and Monmouth, and the Hero of A Love Out of Time by Mairead Walpole

mw1Bertram: Before we get started, why don’t you introduce yourself.

Alden: My name is Alden Cameron Lindsay Scott, but my friends call me Alden.

Bertram: Is it true that you are a member of the titled aristocracy?

Alden: Er, yes I was and currently am the Duke of Buccleuch and Monmouth but as my wife will tell you, that and plane fare will take me anywhere I want to go.

Bertram: What is your problem in the story?

Alden: That question assumes that I had a single problem. The story sets up several problems for me. The first problem is losing the woman I felt to be my soul mate in a freak riding accident. The second is somehow walking 129 years into the future and into the arms of the woman who my soul-mate reincarnated into. The third is getting dragged back into my own time and not knowing how or if I can ever get back to her.

Bertram: Since you are here now, can we assume that you do return to this time?

Alden: Sorry, but you’ll have to read Mairead Walpole‘s A Love Out of Time to find out the specifics.

Bertram: Can you give us just a hint?

Alden: I can neither confirm nor deny anything. Mairead will sic Taly on both of us and trust me, you do not want to deal with that guy in a temper.

Bertram: Who is Taly?

Alden: You would know better recognize him as the Merlin Taliesin but he prefers to go by Taly. He is a Formorian and the head Time Sentinel. Anything that deals in time travel has to be cleared through him before being revealed to mortals and/or humans.

Bertram: Are you saying that Merlin is neither a mortal or human?

Alden: I really can’t go into that and I fear I may have revealed too much as it is. Can we get back to the interview questions that Mairead has approved through the Time Sentinels and Guardians?

Bertram: Who are the Time Sentinels and Guardians? Not going to answer that either? Then, do you think the author portrayed you accurately?

Alden: Mairead did a good job in capturing my looks and basic personality but I think she downplayed some of my confusion and discomfort with finding myself in the 21st century. I appreciate her tact but I come off as much more in control of my emotions than I really was.

Bertram: What do you mean?

Alden: Well, take the first night I found myself in this time period. I saw so much that was new and amazing like cell phones and computers, it was truly mind boggling. Then I was given clothing that in my time would have been considered laborer garb and these things that passed for shoes. I was just getting adjusted to what I was wearing when Olivia walked in the room in her low-rise jeans and that blouse…it was…um…positively shocking.

Bertram: Who’s Olivia? You’re shaking your head, so it seems that’s another question you won’t answer. Were you offended by what she was wearing?

 Alden:Oh no, offended is not exactly the word I would use. I am not sure I can use the word that comes to mind when I think of my impression of how Olivia was dressed in this forum. Let’s just say that I was seriously, um, unsettled. In my time, one did not acknowledge that women even had legs!

Bertram: What was the most difficult transition for you?

Alden: That is a hard one. I guess the hardest concept for me to accept was that a man had walked on the moon. I am still not completely convinced of that but I have experienced stranger things over the course of my acquaintence with Taly and he assures me that it did happen.

Bertram: What are you afraid of?

Alden: Losing Olivia. If something were to happen to her, I don’t know what I would do without her.

Bertram: What, if anything, haunts you?

Alden: That we haven’t seen or heard the last of Jack Horton and before you ask another question I can’t answer, you’ll have to read the book.

Bertram: Since you’re short on specifics, maybe there’s another way to let readers get a sense of who you are. For example, what are five items in your pockets?

Alden: The keys to my Porche, season tickets to the Virginia Opera that I plan to surprise Olivia with, my wallet, my grandfather’s pocket watch, and about 82 cents in spare change.

Bertram: What are the last three books you read?

Alden: EE Knight’s Fall with Honor, JJ Dare’s False Positive, and Laz Barnhill’s The Medicine People. Both Dare and Barnhill are authors from Second Wind Publishing. If I could, I’d like to use this opportunity to put in a shameless plug for all the authors from Second Wind Publishing. There is something for everyone, no matter what your favorite genre is. Mairead Walpole is – obviously – my favorite. If I didn’t say that I think she might kill me off in her next novel for this series.

Bertram: So A Love Out of Time is the first in a series?

Alden: Yes. The series is built around the non-human races that co-exist with humans. The second book in the series is about Olivia’s sister Jocelyn and an old acquaintence of mine, who isn’t what I thought he was, i.e., human. Not to worry, Lucian is a good guy and he is exactly what Jocelyn needs whether she accepts it or not. I can’t say anymore about that story, so don’t ask. Mairead is being rather quiet about it.

Bertram: I guess we’ll have to wait for more information as the story develops. Let’s go back to questions you will answer. If you were at a store now, what ten items would be in your shopping cart?

Alden: That all depends on the store, now doesn’t it? If I were in a grocery store, those items would be: cream cheese, ground lamb, patty pan squash, onions, organic skim milk, nutmeg, greek yogurt, figs, spinach, and garlic. If I were in one of those discount or one stop shopping stores like a Wal-mart or Target, who knows? I tend to go a bit crazy in those shops. 21st century shoppers have such a wide variety of items to purchase. Olivia doesn’t like it when I go to a Wal-mart or a Target. I buy gadgets we don’t really need.

Bertram: Your grocery items are a bit intriguing. It almost sounds like a receipe. Is it?

Alden: Yes, I have found that I love to cook and play around with food tastes and combinations. I was creating in the kitchen several weeks ago and created a recipe for stuffed patty pan squash that Olivia loves. When I was a boy, I loved to visit the kitchens. We had a cook as well as a chef and they let me sit by the hearth and sample their creations. Mother and Father entertained a good bit when we were in the country as well as in town, Father being a member of the House of Lords. Thankfully, Olivia also grew up with a love of fine dining. Don’t get me wrong, we both love down-home southern cooking from time to time but cooking and eating is a hobby we both enjoy.

Bertram: How do you both stay so fit?

Alden: We stay physically active. Both of us like to run and hike. One of Olivia’s sisters recently opened a gym and we both have a membership there.

Bertram: How do you envision your future?

Alden: Happy. Seriously, I’d like to say something profound but if nothing else this adventure through time has taught me to cherish the here and now because the future you think you’ll have may not come to pass and if spend time thinking of what might have been, you will miss the present.

Pat Bertram is the author of More Deaths Than One,  and A Spark of Heavenly Fire now available from Second Wind Publishing, LLC.


 If you would like Bertram to interview your character, see instructions here: Character Questionnaire.


Filed under books, writing