Blog Hopping and Almost Criminal

Blog Hopping and Almost Criminal

Posted on July 31 by E.R. Brown
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I recently participated in a ‘blog hop’, a kind of chain letter for writers: one writer tags the next. We all answer the same four questions. This is a condensed version of my replies. For the full version, with links to blogs by some really interesting writers, visit

1) What am I working on?

I have two projects on the go. One is a back-burner pet project, a historical novel/coming-of-age story set in the remote north woods during the Great Depression. It’s a first-person story told from the point of view of a twelve-year-old, whose family has become unraveled. It’s currently novella length, and I have plans to take it to new places one I can get back to it... likely beginning in the fall.
My front-burner project is a crime novel that involves eco-terrorism and oil pipelines and human trafficking, and a kick-ass female cop (whose sidekick is Ivan, the undercover agent in Almost Criminal). This project has sent me to the library for research. I’ve interviewed environmental scientists and RCMP, and I’ve spoken to young men who work the oil patch, far away from home with too much money in their pockets.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Although Almost Criminal is usually found in the mystery racks, it’s really not a mystery: no one dies in Chapter 1, and there’s no investigator hunting for clues. Instead, the reader is inside the head of a seventeen-year-old young man who resorts to criminal activities out of personal desperation and a need for a father figure and a sense of belonging.
Fortunately, crime is a broad and accepting genre. While the story’s uniqueness challenged my agent and my publisher, it’s also what sets the novel apart. The voice of Tate McLane is, I think, the reason the novel was shortlisted for an Arthur Ellis “Best First Novel” award, and was a finalist for an Edgar Award—the biggest award in the crime/mystery universe—alongside Stephen King and a handful of international blockbusters.

3) How does my writing process work?

It usually begins with an ‘aha’ moment, when a particular scene or situation comes to mind. Often these come at 3 in the morning, when I’m looking at the ceiling of my bedroom. One out of a hundred of these ideas actually sticks, and I start to investigate the world that the novel will inhabit, whether it’s the world of grow-ops or the world of Deep Green/Direct Action activists.
For my first novel, I tried, repeatedly, to write an outline, but it was a disaster. This time around, I’ve been much more disciplined. For months, I resisted the lure of writing. Instead I outlined, thoroughly and in great detail. A four-page outline became twelve pages, and blew out to 40.  Only then did I start writing. I’m now about eight weeks from finishing the first draft.
Plotting in advance has taken a lot of the anxiety out of the process, but it hasn’t diminished the creativity. I still have to write tight, dramatic scenes, and it’s OK if they go off on a tangent from the outline, as long as I can bring them back in line eventually.

4) Why do I write what I do?

I like to tell a story, it’s as simple as that. I love the idea of pulling an idea out of nowhere and then putting it into someone else’s head. Writing, and then reading... it’s a strange kind of magic.  
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Word of mouth is what its all about! Google ‘blog hop’ and see how far these things have gone. It’s fascinating to read how various writers see themselves and approach their work.

E.R. Brown

Posted by Dundurn Guest on December 6, 2014
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E.R. Brown

E.R. Brown is an award-winning advertising writer whose fiction has been heard on CBC Radio 3 and seen in national magazines. Born in Montreal, he lives in Vancouver.