B.A. Hoffman – The Eighteenth Scroll

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

It is called The 18th Scroll. Special Agent Frank Jackson Turner of the FBI is sent to Del Rio, Texas to investigate the murder of Border Patrol Agent Wyatt Early. On the surface, it looks like a typical gang type murder but it isn’t. Jackson is told that a very heavy leather covered box taken from an illegal alien is missing. Jackson believes the box is the clue that with solve the murder. But the box is so much more. As he tries to recover this clue he is hunted by the owner of the box who uses Texas street gangs and a couple of corrupt FBI agents. In the end, Jackson and a small band of trustworthy associates find the box and the world-changing knowledge it contains.

Tell us something about yourself.

I’ve lived a rambling life, trying this and that. I’ve taught college,served as a Hospital Corpsman in the Navy and Marine Corps(including a tour in Vietnam), been an executive recruiter, sold mortgages, worked in manufacturing, prepared income tax forms, and been a photographer. I used to think I wasted my life. In fact, it has become the fodder for my stories. I think the most interesting thing about me is that I have sampled so much. I tell people that my knowledge is a mile long and an inch deep. Along the way, I learned how to research and that is critical to my writing. I began writing in college. Mostly poetry and science fiction. It wasn’t received well, too weird. Now it all seems normal.

What inspired you to write this book?

I tend to ask myself provocative questions. For this book, I wondered what would happen if a document were found that would change the world forever. I combined this with another theme I like to use, people in normal settings with unusual problems. This brings the things people can only image into their own world. The story evolved from the unusual situation and the personality of the main characters.

How did you choose the title?

This particular book had at least four titles along the way. Each one was a little better at representing the book. The second to last one was too evocative and my friend thought it was a non-fiction, religious book. As I finished the draft that would go to my editor, the final title came to me and I knew it was the right one. This is not normal for me. Most commonly, the title comes before the story and are rarely changed.

What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?

I ran into all the normal obstacles. The big one is getting the attention of an agent or a small publisher. I gave up after my first three manuscripts got nothing. I kept getting notices that said, I like your book but…. Things have radically changed in the publishing industry and taking chances on a guy living in the outback of Seattle is not high on the list for an agent trying to scratch out a living. They want something that will sell immediately to the small group of publisher they know. But all that has changed. Publishing your stories as ebooks is the best way to go. You will be published and if your work is entertaining it will sell. Besides, the greedy little businessman in me knows I’ll make more money with less hassle this way. And who knows, maybe someone in the traditional publishing business might notice my work. That would be nice, but not necessary.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

For me it was difficult. I’m also very interested in fine art photography. I decided I needed to concentrate on one or the other if my skills were going to develop. Writing won because I felt I could express my ideas more completely.

Do you have any writing rituals?

Sad to say there are. I write best while watching television late at night.

How do you come up with the names for your characters?

I have two ways of naming characters. The first is to dig around in phone books or lists of surnames then add a first name. I usually pick a name that adds to the character’s personality. In an upcoming book, I have a detective in 1940 Berlin. I named him Kappel or chapel for the irony. For minor characters, I might choose a name with an obscure historic reference. I named an Iranian student after the first leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. The irony here is that the student is a CIA agent.

Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?

Because this is my first ebook, I got the equivalent of a graduate degree in eprinting. I’ve read a half dozen books, tens of blog entries, and worked with experts. I’m committed to ebook publishing now because I believe it is the only reasonable way to go if you are a new author. Going into the slouch pile on some agents deck is the death of creativity.

If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?

Actually, nothing. I put together a plan for this book that included working with experts. This cost a lot but I don’t have to do it again because I did learn from them.

What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?

I read books like the ones I write. I also read books that are research for the next book. For the future book I mentioned with the character named Kappel, I’m reading six or eight books on the Nazi era in Germany

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

I am. It is called “4 Kinds of Homicide” from the Ambrose Bierce quote. The Prosecutor has lost a major murder case and she wants to know why. She hires a friend, retired Seattle PD Captain Neal Blackshear to investigate. The killer is notorious, the victim is a teenaged girl, and the police are not cooperating.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

Practice, practice, practice. Find a good writer’s group who can review your work. But that isn’t enough: you need to have something to say. Even mysteries and thrillers need an underlying theme. In “4 kinds of Homicide” the theme is that homicide isn’t alway wrong depending on the situation.

Who is the perfect reader for your book?

If you enjoy the more literary style of mystery and thriller, like Denis Lehane, or Henning Mankill I think you’ll like the plot. Those who have read it have also compared it to Robert Ludlum and Dan Brown.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

My website is www.brianhoffmanbooks.com. It is a new site but I’m adding to it all the time.