An interview with Carl Brookins

If you haven’t yet been introduced to Carl Brookins and his work, you’re really in for a treat! I’ve had the pleasure of working with him for several years now and he’s an incredibly unique and gifted individual. His writing is entertaining but it also makes you think. His personality is the same way. Read on…

How long have you been writing?

Essentially I’ve been writing my entire life. In school I discovered that choosing to answer test questions in “long form” that is, essay as opposed to multiple choice questions, got me better grades. I think teachers looked at the pages and thought, “Well, the right answer must be in there somewhere.” Seriously, except when I worked in the experimental fields at the University of Minnesota (we were creating new strains of corn) my job choices have all involved a heavy component of writing. Fiction writing became a major piece of my life later, when I approached retirement. I started seriously writing fiction about twenty years ago.


At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

I haven’t reached that point where I consider myself successful as a fiction writer. I’m still learning, still improving (I hope) but I’m not sure how to define success as a writer. The high volume of work I produced for the Minnesota Highway Department’s Safety division, back in a previous century, was success involving writing.

Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?

I’m married to a publisher. I pretty much knew what to expect except for the advances in technology which have produced major changes in the landscape.

The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?

I didn’t have “expectations.” I hoped my writing would produce sufficient income to allow us to take some research trips. That hasn’t happened. I know  a lot of authors, many fairly intimately, so I can say with some confidence that most authors, at least of genre fiction, are continuing to maintain and rely on their day jobs.

Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?

Not much. I knew going in that this is a business and that I’d have to devote time and energy to that aspect of the thing. I am still trying to write books with plots and characters and settings that I would like to read if written by someone else and, that are as well-written as I can make them. Because I came rather late in life to the fiction writing game, I chose to go directly to small independent publishers without engaging an agent. That was in order to get a few novels published before my death. As things have worked out, I enjoy the independence of running my own writing business. I don’t make as much money as a good agent might have negotiated for me, but I have a fine publicist, I have more than  a dozen stories in print and I’m getting enough feedback from readers that I am persuaded I made the right choices. Not having to rely on my fiction writing to pay the mortgage helps.


How long did it take you to get published the first time?

About nine months from the time my critique group was satisfied the manuscript was ready. By that time, the story was a year old. That was the advantage of going with a small independent press.


Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?

Yes, this is such fun, I would have started much earlier if I had realized the great satisfaction and pleasure I derive from the writing and the association with this marvelous community of crime fiction writers.


Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?

Since I also read and review crime fiction , time management is a real problem and I have no answers. Fact is, I’m behind on lots of projects, although the fact that I don’t have multiple-book contracts and thus pressing deadlines, makes things considerably easier. My deadlines are my own.


What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

Selling my first book (Inner Passages) which was confirmation that there was a market for my stories.

What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?

Not selling my book to the movies for a million  dollars.



 What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

The Minnesota Crime Wave – Carl Brookins, Ellen Hart and William Kent Krueger

Hooking up with two fine writers (Ellen Hart and William Kent Krueger)  and forming the Minnesota Crime Wave was one of the best things.

With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

Characters, humor and plot.



What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

Understand that this is a business and to be successful you have to take a realistic business-like and somewhat organized approach. You will become a marketer and salesperson and you still have to write the best books you possibly can.


What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

I’m pretty good at personal contacts, but practically, I try to use social and other media as much as possible. I think you have to use as many tools as you can. But in the end, it’s the writing. The books have to bring new readers into the fold, whatever the format or platform you choose.



What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

Setting up events or appearances. Making cold calls. Can’t do it.


Once Upon a Crime, Minneapolis MN

Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?

Oh, yes, one of the finest bookstores in the land, owned and operated by a succession of knowledgeable, dedicated and hard-working individuals. I refer of course, to Steve Stillwell, Pat Frovarp and Gary Shulze, owners at various times of Once Upon A Crime, in Minneapolis.


Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:



“Night Sail.” Fiction. The Pinehurst Journal, summer 1992.

“A Winter’s Tale.” Fiction. Silence of The Loons, fall, 2005.

“Hard Cheese,”

“A Winter’s Tale”

“A Fish Story,” Resort to Murder, 2007

“The Horse He Rode In On,” Minnesota Crime Wave Presents, Fall 2012

“Daddy’s Little Girl, 2011

“The Day I Lost My Innocence,” 2011


Sailing mystery series


Mystery: July, 2000, Top Publications


Mystery: September, 2002, Top Publications


Mystery: March, 2005, Top Publications


Mystery: January, 2010 Echelon Publications


Mystery: May 2011, Brookins Books

Detective series (Sean NMI Sean )


P.I. Mystery: Nodin Press, 2009


Five Star Mysteries Press, 2008


P.I. mystery, Brookins Books, 2011


P.I. mystery, Brookins Books, 2012

Academic series


Mystery: January, 2008, Echelon Press


Mystery: June, 2011, Echelon Press

Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:

The Great Train Robbery of the title was a real event in 1935. A Federal rail car was robbed. The money and the perpetrators were never found. In 2010 a man digging for his garage foundation, discovers disintegrating money and an ancient revolver. Could the money and revolver be tied to the train heist? Somebody thinks so because mayhem and murder ensue and Sean Sean is called in to identify the corruption and those still alive who are linked to the old crime. It becomes a race against murder to find the perpetrators.

Where can we buy it?

The Case of The Great Train Robbery is available in a Trade Paper edition from Once Upon a Crime and from the author. As an e-book it’s widely available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the Apple store, Kobo and Smashwords.

What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?

I’ve just posted/published my 1,000+ crime fiction book review.

Thanks, Carl, for taking the time to talk with us here. I urge every one of you to check out Carl’s work and pick something that you’ve not yet read. I know there are lots and lots of authors to choose from, but he’s one you really don’t want to miss!