15 February 2012

Follow Up Interview with William F. Brown, author of Amongst My Enemies

Author image of William F. Brown
William F. Brown
Hi Bill, welcome back and congratulations on the release of your latest novel Amongst My Enemies.

You mentioned in your last interview with me that the concept for each novel you write begins with a simple concept; a one-liner. What was the one-liner that kicked off the writing for Amongst My Enemies?
Amongst My Enemies began with a thing – the Amber Room, which I came across in my reading. It was a large reception room in the Ekaterininsky Palace outside St. Petersburg, the walls of which were made of amber panels, encrusted with precious stones. They were there when the Germans swept past in 1941, and gone when the Russians took it back in 1944, and have never been seen since. It is priceless and remains one of the world’s great art mysteries. The Russians still believe the Germans know where it is, and they in turn have kept a lot of art they took from Berlin.

I had a double major in history, and WW II, the Cold War, and the current era of terrorism offer an endless supply of action, emotion and good stories. Good fiction, however, is about compelling characters, not background, and I completely rewrote Amongst many times until I got the characters right.

Amongst My Enemies is set in WWII and the majority of the story takes place overseas. Was it difficult for you to write a novel vastly different from The Undertaker or was that your intention?
I spent last year and will spend this year putting my existing books out as e-books, so I find myself working on a number of projects in different stages of development at the same time. Amongst My Enemies is partly WW II and mostly early Cold War, and had to be meatier, richer story to establish the background and motivation for what happens. The Undertaker, which by design is more of a fast, snarky, character-based, contemporary, ‘chase’ book didn’t need that help.

Thursday at Noon, which I’m now polishing up and will release in April, is also a fast paced story set in a few days in 1962, in Egypt. Winner Lose All, my newest, which is off with my agent, is mostly WW II, but an action, character-based story. One Good Shot, which will come out later this year, is a contemporary Middle-East terrorist thriller set in Washington and Virginia. As you know, The Undertaker is told in 1st person, which was my first attempt at that. It adds some immediacy and emotion, and I may do more of that.

I have another story in its infancy, Through the Glass Darkly, which may be first person, and may bring back Pete and Sandy from The Undertaker, since I had so many favorable comments on them. I’ve never tried a continuing character, but they are popular with readers, so we’ll see. As you can tell, I did not immediately shift gears from Undertaker to Amongst, but they are the opposite extremes of what I do. I was very concerned about that when I put Amongst out, but the early reviewers are people who reviewed and liked The Undertaker, and I’m very pleased to see they all liked both.

Did the fact that you've travelled to Germany and Russia help you when writing the novel? If so, can you tell us more?

Yes, for color and images. I’ve spent a lot of time in Germany, East, West, and Berlin, but only went to Russia two years ago, when my wife and I were able to spend 2 ½ weeks in Moscow, the Golden Ring, and St. Petersburg, including a visit to the Ekaterininsky Palace, where the Amber Room is.

It has taken the Russians almost 60 years to rebuild them, including a perfect copy of The Amber Room. It is very impressive, and no amount of photos can give the same impression as being there. Our tour guide was a young Russian woman whose parents and grandparents were Siege survivors, and you could feel the pride she took in her heritage.

What was the best book you read in 2011?
I can read or I can write, but it is hard to do both. In non-fiction, I read The Coming of the Third Reich by Richard Evans, the first volume of his three volume study of Nazi Germany which I think is a fascinating study of how tyranny can take over a country. It completely changed my understanding of the subject, and I highly recommend it to anyone.

In fiction, I read Daniel Silva’s The Rembrandt Affair and David Baldacci’s Divine Justice. Along with Michael Connolly, Robert Crais, and Dennis Lehane, they are my favorites, and always good.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?
No, just thanks for the interview and the review.

Thanks again for your time Bill.

Would you like to comment?

  1. Dear mr Bill, my name is Tim and i wrote a sequel to the Wiz and would like to get permission from you to use the characters tittled in the Wiz, i been trying to get in touch with your agent and publishing company for a year now and keep having bad luck in getting an answer, please email me at timajinali@aol.com or call 267-275-9678. thank you.

  2. Thanks for your message, I will email it through to the author.

  3. I don't usually read suspense novels but I'm visiting Russia later this year and will see the Amber Room - so this just had to go on my reading list!
    Thanks, Tracey!

  4. Wow, I'd love to visit the Amber Room and see it up close. I didn't know about it until reading this book and then I did a little research, what an amazing opportunity!

    You'll have to read this before you go then :-) and I'm sure seeing it in person will be one of life's memorable moments.


Thanks for your comment, Carpe Librum!