Interview with Author Carl R. Brush

My guest today is Carl R. Brush.  Hello!  Welcome to Writing in the Modern Age!  It’s such a pleasure to have you here.

Hi, Marie. Thanks for the opportunity. I hope I can make it worth your while.


Of course!


Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book? When did it come out? Where can we get it? 


You can find my twin historical thrillers The Maxwell Vendetta and The Second Vendetta in Kindle or paperback on Amazon or on the Solstice website. You can check out my website - - for more info. Of course, if we happen to run across one another at a book fair or social event, I’ll have paperback copies and some good conversation very handy.

The Vendetta novels are set in early twentieth century San Francisco and the high sierra (1908 and 1910, respectively) and involve enough race, politics, and romance to satisfy the taste of anyone who likes to read regardless of genre-preference.

Is there anything specific that inspired you to write your Vendetta novels?


I have a love of history and love to explore how supposedly modern issues have arisen so consistently in the past. Thus, I spend most of my keyboard time creating historical novels. Although it takes some research (which I enjoy) to make sure my tales remain true to their period, I love not being constrained by the demands of modernity. The telegraph is more fun than cell phones, for example, and creates more complications for my characters who must often operate without knowing what’s going on in the rest of the world. 

I grew up in northern California and have always been fascinated with its history, so it was natural for me to set my characters and plots right here. There is a notable exception, though, so read on. 

In addition to my Solstice Publications, I have two “latest” books, both (surprise) historical novels, both (how’s this for a euphemism?) “awaiting publication.” 

Bonita opens in 1842 San Francisco (Yerba Buena) and traces the coming of age of a then-twelve-year-old girl through the gold rush and beyond. It turns my already-published historical novels into a trilogy. 

Yellow Rose takes place during the 1836 Texas revolution and focuses on Emily West, the real “Yellow Rose of Texas.” Yellow Rose was a team project. My collaboration, the inspiration for the book, was a real live Texan. We overcame or cultural/political and geographic differences to finish the book and to become real friends as well.  Then Bob died suddenly, so I’ve inherited the responsibility for seeing to it that our effort moves off the computer and on to the printed page.

I see. I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your author friend.  :(


Let's try a different question.


So, when did you know you wanted to write? Or has it always been a pastime of yours?


My writing start? As I put it in my bio sketch, I’ve been writing since I knew how to write. Faulkner called himself a failed poet (isn’t that precious for a Nobel prize-winner?) and a poet is what I once wanted to be also. I was a playwright for a while (two produced non-professionally), and now I’ve turned to the novel. It’s a great life, though not, I must admit, so great as a living.

Do you have any favorite authors?


Aside from Shakespeare? Yeats is my poet, though W.S. Merwin is running a close second these days. No one beats Faulkner, but I’m heavily devoted to Louise Erdrich for the hours of insight and enjoyment she’s given me, and Kate Atkinson is my hot new literary love. 

So, do you write in a specific place? Time of day?


I’m lucky enough to have a relatively quiet study, and morning time is my time.

(Laughs.) Yes, I've learned that quiet time is a luxury writers don't often have.


Are there any words you'd like to impart to fellow writers? Any advice?


Words of advice. I have so many. Reminds me of a t-shirt I saw once: “Take My Advice. I’m Not Using It.” 

Probably the most important single thing—beyond talent—is habit. Michael Chabon (I’m sure he’s not the first, but he’s the first living writer from whom I heard this.) says he sets aside time and writes. Period. His time is night time. A midnight to dawn kind of guy, which is not me. But time doesn’t matter.

Whether it’s going well or ill. Whether it’s the project he sat down intending to finish but can’t. Whether it’s eloquence or gibberish. Moving stuff out of your head (a dangerous place) on to the page is writing. Anything else is, well, something else. 

That is great advice! 
Thank you so much for stopping by to visit us today here at Writing in the Modern Age.  It was such a pleasure having you!  :) 
Hey, Marie, it’s been fun.  Cheers!
Thanks, Carl. 

Readers, here are the blurbs for the Vendetta series.

The Maxwell Vendetta

Early California, 1908. Andy Maxwell sets out to solve the mystery surrounding the stabbing death of his younger brother outside a San Francisco bar. He’s certain the murder is part of a vendetta against his family, but frustration and suspense mount as he fails to convince authorities that the killing is anything more than the sad consequence of a brawl between a pair of drunks. The police, the U.S. Army, even his mother refuse to entertain the possibility that the killer, Michael Yellow Squirrel, is one of a clan who intends to wipe out the Maxwells and their California Sierra Nevada ranch.
Andy’s quest for the motives and perpetrators behind the scheme carries him from California to Wyoming and deep into his family’s pioneer past and psyche, where he unearths disturbing secrets about, among other matters, his own racial heritage. It also plunges him into a romantic dilemma involving a blonde debutante and an Arapaho princess. Although Andy’s initial purpose is to foil a conspiracy against his family, his journey eventually leads him to question not only his own values, but also those of the frontier that spawned and nourished them.
This historical thriller, the prequel to another gripping historical novel, The Second Vendetta, is set nearly one hundred years in the past, yet The Maxwell Vendetta embodies themes as contemporary as racism, political corruption, and sexual exploitation. In short, contemporary America mirrored in a novel of early California.


The Second Vendetta

Not again.
In this suspense-filled thriller of a California historical novel, set in 1910 San Francisco and the Sierra Nevada mountains, we find Andy Maxwell completing the two-years-long job of helping his family recover from a crippling vendetta attempt. In 1908, a vengeful marauder nearly killed his mother, burned their Sierra Nevada ranch house, and exhumed some long-buried family secrets—including the fact that Andy’s father was black. At last, Andy thinks, he can return to the University of California and pursue his history doctorate in peace.
Not so.
First of all, it turns out that the brigand who started all the trouble, the one Andy thought he’d Shanghaied into oblivion, didn’t stay exiled. Michael Yellow Squirrel is back for another try at eliminating every last Maxwell on earth. Furthermore, it turns out they don’t want a miscegenated mongrel in the Ph.D. program at the “Harvard of the West,” as the University of California likes to be known. Just when he’s enlisted the eminent San Francisco journalist, Ambrose Bierce, to help him attack that problem, the matter of the election intrudes.
Reform gubernatorial candidate Hiram Johnson wants him to run for the California legislature and help foil the railroad barons.
And then there are the women.
The debutante beauty and the Arapaho princess.
So, how is Andy Maxwell, going to deal with all these quandaries? The Second Vendetta answers that question and many more with a tale-telling style that pulls readers into this thriller of a California history saga and doesn’t let them go till they’ve turned the last page, wishing there were more yet to turn.  

Here is an excerpt from The Second Vendetta.


It’s 1910 on Andy Maxwell’s family ranch in the high sierra of California, northeast of San Francisco. Andy and Virginia have pursued their on-again-off-again romance for many months. In the midst of a crisis wherein Andy’s family has been threatened with annihilation, they have finally consummated the romance, but what about their future?

“When you think about us, Andy, what do you think about?”
“About thunder, lightning, explosions. The usual.”
“No, no. Seriously.”
“Didn’t you hear or see any of that just now? It sounded like maybe you—”
“It was glorious.” She raised up and kissed his brow. “But what about after this? Your career, mine. Our life.”
“Hey, let’s not get ourselves mixed up here. I’m the stoic, and you’re the sybarite. Remember?”
“Nobody’s one thing all the time,” she said.
“Is this really the best time for this talk?” he said.
This talk. Men always say that. If you have a situation, you call a meeting, have one conversation and think everything’s decided and you don’t have to discuss it any more. But Andy, this isn’t some kind of academic department problem, it’s life. If it was a painting the image would change every second.
She formed her fingers into a frame. “I can see a staid professor who is exasperated with his flighty wife.”
“Wife?” He sat up.
“Or …” She reshaped the frame. “I see an Indian-fighter-scholar and his eccentric and artistic mistress—”
“You want to be my mistress?”
“Flitting from salon to salon, her paintings hanging in galleries worldwide.”
“Are those our only options?”
“Oh, no. There are hundreds. But now it’s your turn.”
“I don’t want a turn. In the middle of everything that’s happening … Why not just let things unfold as they … unfold?”
“Because waiting for things to happen means they never do,” she said. "Would we be here right now if I hadn’t written you that note? Even though it took you forever to answer.”
“There was so much havoc—”
She sat up in bed, let the sheet fall around her waist. He tried not to look at her breasts, the nipples pert with excitement. He sensed this was a time to keep his wits about him.
“That havoc. This havoc. There will always be something. Now come on, Andy. A year from now. What are you and I doing, in your mind?”
“You’re an artist. I’m a graduate student.”
“You are maddening, maddening, maddening.” She flopped on to her back, speaking to the ceiling, pulled the sheet up to her chin. He never thought he would be glad for those breasts to be covered. “Not you.” She held up a palm. “And me.” She held up the other. “Us.” She twined her fingers.
“Okay, okay,” he said. He closed his eyes, cupped his hands and smoothed the air in front of him. “My turn at the crystal ball, then.” He tried to imagine a face, a scene, anything. He saw nothing, but he had to at least pretend. “Great swami sees in your future—our future—a city house and a mountain house.”
“Are we married?”
“Ah. Let’s see. Oh, no. Great Swami apologizes, the crystal ball has clouded over.”
She turned on her side, propped herself on an elbow, and looked past him to the wall. She looked into his eyes, smiled, and stroked his cheek.
He had either escaped an ambush or stepped into one. He had no idea which. 

Author Bio

Carl Brush has been writing since he could write, which is quite a long time now. He grew up and lives in Northern California, close to the roots of the people and action of his historical thrillers, The Maxwell Vendetta, and its sequel, The Second Vendetta. A third volume of the trilogy, Bonita, set in pre-gold-rush San Francisco is completed and awaiting publication.
You can find Carl living with his wife in Oakland, California, where he enjoys the blessings of nearby children and grandchildren.
Journals in which his work has appeared include The Summerset Review, Right Hand Pointing, Blazevox, Storyglossia, Feathertale, and The Kiss Machine.  He has participated in the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference, the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and the Tin House Writers’ Workshop, and the Dallas-Fort Worth Writers conference. 

Author Links:  


Carl's Books:


No comments:

Post a Comment