What inspired you to write your first book?
I am a slow thinker. I know a lot of words, but I have trouble putting them together out loud and on the fly – especially when I’m under the affluence of incahol. Too often people don’t understand what I’m talking about. Those with big egos think I’m stupid. Humble people think they’re stupid. Neither is true. When the adrenalin is pumping, I tend to gun-sling words from the hip. Sometimes they hit the mark. Mostly they miss. In the mid 1980s, a mate and I were playing a game of snooker and drunkenly arguing about the gold price. I thought it would go up and he thought I was talking nonsense. My six-gun word bullets were obviously missing the target. In a fit of madness, I finally blurted out: “Okay, I’ll tell you what: I’ll write down all my arguments and you can see them as a cohesive whole.”A week later, I took him about 30 pages of explanation.
“Why don’t you turn this into a book?” he asked. So I did. The book was called “Stock Market Magic” and it turned out to be a three volume self published book of around 50 pages a volume.
How did you develop your writing?
I placed an ad for Stock Market Magic in a local financial newspaper and sold enough copies by mail order to pocket a reasonable profit after paying the cost of the ad. In the hope of getting some publicity, I delivered one full copy to the editor of that paper. A few days later I received a phone call:
“I’m moving to become the editor of a new national broadsheet newspaper. I like the way you write. How would you like to write a weekly column for us?”
“What about?” I asked
“Anything you like.”
And so, my writing career commenced as a sideline to my day-job. I wrote a column called “Albert Tells How”. It was ostensibly a report of a conversation between me and a 300 year old Swiss gnome by the name of Albert. N. Sane. I owned a small factory at the time and Friday was the day I had to pay wages. Naturally, on Wednesday nights I couldn’t sleep so I would go to the refrigerator to get a snack. In those days, the refrigerator light didn’t just switch itself on. Personal service was still important. Like the old days when you stepped into an elevator and the operator would ask “which floor?” That’s how I met Albert. He was 3” tall and he was taking a sabbatical in our ‘fridge.
He had done a deal with Westinghouse. In exchange for free board and lodging it was his responsibility to switch the light on and off whenever it was appropriate. Albert and I became friends. Having lived for 300 years he had seen it all. When I had a business problem or I was worried about the economy or about the stock market, he would draw on his vast experience and calm me down. I was always able to pay the wages on the Friday.
More importantly, I came to understand that, for me, writing could be a “do it first and think about it afterwards” kind of activity. Once a week I would sit at the computer – sometimes with no ideas in my head. When that happened, I would shoot word bullets out of my fingers and, eventually, a coherent pattern would emerge. Then, with a bit of iterative editing, I was able to craft a column. Often the final column looked nothing like the original thoughts. That’s when I came to understand how to manage writer’s block.
So you’ve been writing on and off since the 1980s?
Yup. When I emigrated to Australia with the family in 1987 I stopped for a few years, but then I started blogging from about 2002. Eventually, Denise – my loyal and long suffering wife – turned around and asked me why I didn’t do something more challenging, like write another book. In 2005, I took her advice and decided to write a novel. I had no idea where to start, but I knew that the answer would come to me. You’ve heard the expression “wired for sound”? Well I seem to be “wired for inspiration”. In Denise’s language, my third eye is wide open. So I just waited for inspiration. It didn’t take long.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
The ideas just come to me. Most often it happens in the dead of night when my conscious mind is asleep. Of course, they don’t just come out of the black (it’s night time, remember J); I’m usually mulling over a problem in my mind when I’m awake and, if I can’t solve it I just let it go and I wait.
Eventually, one of two things happens: Either I wake up at around 4:00 am with a clear picture of how to proceed, or a book or a person will jump into my life from somewhere – usually in the daytime, when I’m awake – and in the book or in conversation with that person, there will be a clue. For example, with Beyond Neanderthal, my first novel, a friend of Denise’s suggested that I write about Blue Amber. I had never heard of Blue Amber, but I started researching it and then I put pen to paper and, along the way, I found I was writing about humanity’s social evolution – so I changed the name to Beyond Neanderthal. It was a name that just popped into me head in the dead of night after I realised that the original name , “Blue Amber” would not be appropriate.
This type of experience has been happening to me for most of my life. Denise tells me I’m “plugged in”. I first assumed she was talking about the collective unconscious that Carl Jung spoke about. Later, I came to understand that the entire universe is like a giant database of information – something like The Cloud, only much more all encompassing. Religious people might describe it as the mind of God. New Age followers might talk of Akashic Records. It’s a matter of how one perceives things.
In my imagination, I see how it might have been possible for the prophets of old to tap into that database and see the future. I don’t really understand how it works and I can’t “force” it to happen on demand. I’ve come to understand that I should just go with the flow. My best bet is to maximise the potential for my remaining plugged in to the database. I do this by meditating as often as possible – but no more than once a day – and, recently, I have joined the Tai Chi class that Denise teaches. Mostly, I like to be at one with nature, “surrounded by nobody” as our daughter Jenna used to put it when she was a child. When my mind is quiet, the ideas flow. When my mind is cluttered, it tends to go into cruise-control mode.
How did you come up with the title?
With both books, I asked the question of my unconscious mind and the answer manifested in the dead of night. (I’m not kidding). I think that the names of my two books – Beyond Neanderthal and The Last Finesse are spookily representative of the ideas those books are trying to communicate. Denise would argue that they are examples of my being plugged in.
Who or what influenced your writing once you began?
There were several influences. My father was an English teacher. When he was retired and had nothing to do, I would ask him to “edit” my weekly newspaper columns. The man was superhuman. He never once commented on the content; kept his opinions to himself. He would read the article and hand it back to me with spelling mistakes corrected and with suggestions as to grammar.
For most of my business career I have been involved in drafting Business Plans. It soon became clear to me that the human mind works well if it is presented information in context and as part of an unfolding story that has reference benchmarks.
In drafting advertisements as part of my business activities it soon became clear that less is more. If one has something to say then say it. It’s rather like having an itchy left ear: You can scratch the itch with your left hand or you can extend your right hand all the way over the top of your head and scratch it that way. I discovered that readers typically don’t appreciate that kind of meandering writing.
Denise often criticises me for being too basic. “Readers aren’t stupid” she often tells me. “You don’t have to explain at that level of detail.” But then again, I often don’t know what the hell she’s talking about, so it boils down to a balanced approach.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
I tend to break my life down into “projects”. Right now my project is to market my two novels. Creative writing is on the back burner. However, if I’m successful and the books start to sell in reasonably large numbers, I might attempt a third book that looks at an imaginary day-to-day adventure/thriller story of life in the future – on the assumption that life on planet earth evolves as my two novels envision. I might call it “The Next Frontier” and the “thrills” might come from conquering the unknown rather than engaging with an enemy.
On the other hand, if my marketing efforts do not give rise to significant sales then I will not try to argue with the market. “Success” is often about timing. My books may be too far ahead of their time. If that turns out to be the case then I may turn my attention to children’s stories. I’ve had this idea about an alternative life form that inhabits the planet and lives in parallel with humans, but only innocent children can see them and consciously interact with them. The stories might involve the human children’s adventures with citizens of the community/ies within the alternative life form.
My fallback position is to devote myself to getting my golf handicap down. I’ll be 67 years old in January and whilst my health is okay, I consider myself to be on the home stretch to death. I don’t want to engage in anything that I’m not enjoying. Last week I managed to score a net 70 in a local golf competition, so I have various options.
Have you ever had writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
Often. Most times I walk away just to allow my mental batteries to recharge and my unconscious mind to open. Sometimes, I “pretend” that I’m travelling downhill on a bicycle and even though I know it’s a waste of time, I start pedalling furiously in anticipation of reaching the next hill. I “dump” words onto a page even though I know they won’t have traction. But then, after a few pages, an idea starts to emerge. At that point I go back to where I starting pedalling and I start to edit by cutting and pasting relevant ideas, deleting irrelevant ideas. Eventually, I recognise that I’ve started pedalling up the slope again and I continue the momentum of my writing.
Tell us a bit about your family. You’ve mentioned Denise and Jenna. It sounds like you have an interesting family
Well, here’s an example of how things just happen to me. When I was still single, I had met an old flame who had emigrated to Austria and had gotten married. She came back home to visit her family and she invited me to spend a week-end with her at some remote resort. I kinda liked the fantasy of such a tryst until common sense took over and I thought: “What the hell are you thinking? You must be out of your mind! That’s bound to lead to trouble with a capital T.” So, instead, I went with a male friend and my sister and one of her female friends to another holiday resort, which is where I met Denise. 48 hours later I was telling my mother that I had met my future wife. Three weeks later Denise and I were engaged. Three months later we were married. That was in January 1971 and we’re still married.
I guess the shortest description I can give about my family is that we all seem to be healers. Denise has been a Tai Chi instructor for over 20 years, and she is a Master of both Usui and Karuna Reiki. She also leads group meditation sessions. Our eldest daughter, Andrea, studied glass blowing as an undergrad degree and then gained an MA in Art Therapy. She uses art as a medium of communication that bypasses the need for words. She works with people like the elderly who have Alzheimers, or kids with autism, or with dysfunctional mothers who are sitting in jail but who have young kids with whom they need to form or maintain relationships. Our son, Terence, has become exceptionally religious. I happen to be descended from a long line of Chassidic Jews going back a couple of hundred years. I turned away from that but Terence decided to embrace it again. He studies the Torah as often as he can – he’s actually a qualified Electrical Engineer (B.Eng. (Hons) ) and he’s employed in the software industry as a business analyst and back-of-house website designer – and he has roped me in to studying the Gemarah (rabbinical commentaries on the Torah) with him once a week for an hour. To preserve our relationship, we’ve agreed to stay away from religious dogma and concentrate solely on the wisdom that the Jewish religion has to offer. He believes that the more people who can be trained to sublimate their egos, the closer we will come to healing the world because we stand on the threshold of a Messianic era. And he practices what he preaches. I’ve watched him sublimating his own ego and its remarkable how he’s matured. Our youngest daughter Jenna started out as a youth outreach worker. When she was barely out of school, as a 17 year old – she’s now in her late 20s – she worked as a charity volunteer in one of Sydney’s most notorious red-light districts getting to know the homeless people who lived in the area. She was too young to know fear and, under supervision, got to know every homeless person in the area by name. The organisation she worked for sometimes offered accommodation and usually offered a hot meal. Now she works for the Sydney City Council and interfaces with several elements of the community. Amongst other things, she attempts to inculcate a feeling of belonging of individuals to their communities. As an aside, she is emerging as a formidable “spray-can” stencil artist and has won two art competitions. For my part, I’ve spent a goodly proportion of my mind space over the past 50 odd years thinking about whether or not humanity is going to survive if we carry on like we are, and what we should be doing to change our behaviour so that we can ensure that survival. At the end of the day, both my books – which are disguised as light hearted novels – are intended to communicate messages of hope for the future. Our world is clearly in trouble, but it’s always darkest before the dawn. We have five bright grandchildren with enquiring minds and who give us enormous pleasure. All five are under the age of 7.
What books did you love growing up?
My mother was a bit of a romantic. She read me Peter Pan and all the Beatrix Potter stories before I could read, and my grandmother – when she visited - used to read a few pages of Swiss family Robinson every night before I went to bed. I remember them all and I’m going to make sure that my grandkids read them all. Later on, my mother read me Little Lord Fauntleroy, which is very probably what turned me into a rebel. None of my friends called their mothers “mummy dearest”. It just didn’t feel “cool” to my 5 year-old way of thinking. Nevertheless, the story must have been interesting enough even though I can’t remember it today because I sat still for the entire time it took to read that book. Maybe I just enjoyed it vicariously because my mother loved it so much.
When I first started to read, Enid Blyton drew my attention for a few nanoseconds, but I was soon drawn to the Hardy Boys and then, later, I started reading books that can probably be best described as kitchen table philosophy – with an emphasis on the Holocaust; what it was about and why it happened.
My father had once owned a bookshop called Pickwick Bookshop. It eventually went out of business, but he couldn’t bear to part with some of the more unusual books so we had a room full of literally thousands of books. Most were dreary reference tomes or classical works or books on history, but now and again I would pick one out and scan through it, looking for pearls of wisdom. You could probably call it “dragonfly” reading. I would swoop down on a book, dip into it and flit away.
The book that undoubtedly had the biggest impact on my life was one I found on the desk of my friend’s mother. It happened to be lying there and I was bored. It was an out of print book of prose called Earth, by Frank Townshend. He was probably in his 70s when he wrote it. It described in non rhyming verse his perceptions of life on earth and I thought it had been written after World War II. When I finally turned to the flyleaf, I discovered it had been published in 1929. That book had an amazing impact on my thought processes for the rest of my life. It opened with the following statements:
“I wandered about the earth, meeting all sorts of people;
And I lived in every kind of place,
Doing all manner of work.
Of the people that I met, only one was completely and unalterably happy.
Indeed, I observed that most of them did, whatever they did, because of fear;
Fear of life or fear of death,
Or fear of after life or after death,
So they piled up possessions if they could,
Hid from sight their personal affairs,
Covered their risks with reasonable precautions,
Denied their inmost longings,
Or became deeply religious, or even thoughtful.”
I read it from cover to cover, all 164 pages, standing there at Mrs Morris’ desk. It took me hours; I don’t know how many. Time ceased to have meaning and nobody seemed to care where I was. It was school holidays and Peter was lying by the pool, probably asleep or reading.
Who is your favourite author?
I found Michael Crichton’s work fascinating. His approach to scientifically oriented thrillers captured my imagination and probably influenced me greatly in the writing of my books, although I’m not all that keen on blood and guts. I also enjoyed Dan Brown’s works and Beyond Neanderthal has a bit of his style of reasoning in it. Lately I’ve been reading thrillers by Sam Bourne.
There is an energy force in the world—known to the Ancients—that has largely escaped the interest of the modern day world. Why? There are allusions to this energy in the Chinese I-Ching, in the Hebrew Torah, in the Christian Bible, in the Hindu Sanskrit Ramayana and in the Muslim Holy Qur'an. Its force is strongest within the Earth's magnetic triangles.
Near one of these--the Bermuda Triangle--circumstances bring together four very different people. Patrick Gallagher is a mining engineer searching for a viable alternative to fossil fuels; Tara Geoffrey, an airline pilot on holidays in the Caribbean; Yehuda Rosenberg, a physicist preoccupied with ancient history; and Mehmet Kuhl, a minerals broker, a Sufi Muslim with an unusual past. Can they unravel the secrets of the Ancients that may also hold the answer to the future of civilization?
About the Author:
In 1987, Brian and his young family migrated from South Africa to Australia where he was employed in Citicorp’s Venture Capital division. He was expecting that Natural Gas would become the world’s next energy paradigm but, surprisingly, it was slow in coming. He then became conscious of the raw power of self-serving vested interests to trump what – from an ethical perspective – should have been society’s greater interests.
Eventually, in 2005, with encouragement from his long suffering wife, Denise, he decided to do something about what he was witnessing: Beyond Neanderthal was the result; The Last Finesse is the prequel.
The Last Finesse is Brian’s second factional novel. Both were written for the simultaneous entertainment and invigoration of the thinking element of society. It is a prequel to Beyond Neanderthal, which takes a visionary view of humanity’s future, provided we can sublimate our Neanderthal drive to entrench pecking orders in society. The Last Finesse is more “now” oriented. Together, these two books reflect a holistic, right brain/left brain view of the challenges faced by humanity; and how we might meet them. All our problems – including the mountain of debt that casts its shadow over the world’s wallowing economy – are soluble.
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Genre – Thriller
Rating – MA (15+)
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