Tuesday, December 4, 2012

John Henry Brebbia - In the War Zone - Author Interview

Author Interview

1. How did you come up with the title?
The title of In The War Zone is meant as a metaphor for the mean streets of the gangbanger Vegas neighborhood where the protagonist Gibb Quinn was raised, the memories of which remain with him and is the lens through which he views life. It seemed like the most appropriate title for the story I had in mind.

It might interest the readers to know that I decided to attempt a second novel only after having failed in my numerous attempts to find an agent or publisher for my first novel – APO 123 - based on my experiences as an Army prosecutor in France in the late 1950s during the height of the Cold War. At the time, I thought it would be easier to interest agents, publishers and readers in a work of contemporary fiction and that a novel based on a protagonist that was a former Las Vegas street fighter who went on to become a star computer salesman would be as contemporary as it gets.

2. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
People who are able to overcome adversity are to be most admired. The steeper the hills they have to climb, the more credit they deserve. In Kenny Rogers - Vegas gambler-speak - in order to succeed: “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, Know when to walk away and know when to run.” I happen to be a sucker for reluctant heroes. Classic examples that come to mind are Gary Cooper in High Noon, Alan Ladd in Shane, and Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca. Although his is a less dramatic story, I’m hoping Gibb Quinn can take his place alongside them, as a contemporary reluctant hero.

3. How much of the book is realistic?
Although the story is pure invention on my part, the book’s observations about Las Vegas manners and mores are taken from real life experiences. Until he is exposed to the small coastal town of Chatham, CT, populated by narrow-minded, class conscious natives and ruled by its Ivy League educated aristocracy, Gibb Quinn’s rise in the business world represents the quintessential American success story. As to what happens thereafter, I’m guessing some readers will recognize New England provincialism at its worst.

Forgetting the fact that, to most outsiders/visitors, Las Vegas is more a state of mind than a real place where real people live – a mirage-like city rising out of the desert, surrounded by mountains, filled with gorgeous, scantily clad showgirls and high rollers with call girls clinging to their arms, a place where anything goes. (“What plays in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” as pictured in the movie “The Hangover”) I’m sure any number of real life people from “Sin City” have suffered through reactions similar to those portrayed in the book. As proof the urban legend lives on and despite that fact that the Las Vegas metropolitan area population has grown to more than two million residents, two weeks ago, Jack Sheehan, a member of my writer’s group, was asked by the woman seated next to him on a plane ride back to town whether people actually lived here.

4. If you had it to do over again, would you change anything in your book?
In terms of the story line, not one thing. I might, however, have used fewer technical sailing terms in connection with Gibb’s ordeal at sea. It should be noted that my desire for authenticity is what caused me to use so many technical terms, resulting from a great deal of research about the subject.

5. What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Given my life long admiration for reluctant heroes, the first draft of In The War Zone went smoothly and was relatively easy to write. Rewriting was hell, as was, in the figurative sense, knowing when to put down the pen.

6. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
A novel based on pure invention requires persistence and constantly tests the imagination, requiring as it does characters that are sometimes bigger than life, yet realistic enough for readers to identify with.

7. Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
It was purely a matter of an overriding desire on my part to preserve for friends and family, the M*A*S*H-like experiences I underwent while stationed in France with a bunch of wild and crazy guys. These were many times told stories, so different from the conventional military experiences of my JAG School classmates that I couldn’t bring myself to let go of them. Had this not been the case, I doubt that I would have become a writer. It should be noted that from my college days – during which I played the lead role in the senior play – onward, I had dreams of becoming an actor – only to be waylaid by my Irish mother’s insistence that instead I become a “professional man.”

8. Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work.
My favorite author is and always has been Ernest Hemingway. Never having taken a course in creative writing, the preparation I underwent for writing my first novel was limited to reading and rereading more than once The Sun Also Rises. I’m in tune with the “less is more” theory of writing fiction (and movie acting) and always have been a fan of simple declarative sentences. So much of the latter work lies beneath the surface, yet Hemingway was able to make the story come alive in my imagination and left me thinking about it, especially about Jake Barnes, long after reading it. If asked what book I wished I could have written, without question, The Sun Also Rises would be the one. Followed closely behind by The Great Gatsby.

9. Tell us your latest news.
APO 123 is in the hands of a Hollywood TV program syndicator with 30 years of experience in the “biz,” who earlier this year to my great relief/satisfaction pronounced its content suitable for use in producing a 10-12 week, one-hour per episode, TV series. Having offered the theatrical rights to In The War Zone to Clint Eastwood - in the hope of interesting him in playing the part of Art Donovan, the owner-operator of the Chatham Taxicab Company - and having been turned down, I’m hoping to interest someone else in Hollywood like Mark Wahlberg (who comes from a background similar to Gibb Quinn’s) to purchase the theatrical rights and produce the movie version.

10. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
So far all of the comments from readers have been favorable, including the following from a successful, long time Hollywood screenwriter who, to the best of my knowledge, is not in the habit of writing book reviews: “I just finished ‘In The War Zone.’ A big deal for me to finish any book in one day – so that says a lot. I really liked your caustic humor – and dead on portrayals of both sides of the tracks in Fairfield County – where I grew up. More importantly, from a writer’s standpoint, I truly liked your ‘voice’ throughout the novel. And that voice also has enormous compassion and empathy in it. A perfect combination, and all the tonalities work well together.”

I hope interested readers will take the time to visit my Website and blog where additional information is available about my work and my TV and movie projects and also become friends on my Facebook page.

About the Book

Unlike my first novel, which took me 30+ years to write (a story in itself) – In The War Zone is not about war or the military. It is an unconventional contemporary love story with a surprise ending. The protagonist – Gibb Quinn – is a former street fighter raised by his single mother in a trashy Las Vegas trailer park. A scholarship to the University of Portland, compliments of the Bishop Gorman High basketball coach, enables Gibb to escape from his gangbanger neighborhood to become a star computer salesman for the Big Byte Corporation in Seattle. His is a quintessential American success story until the company sends him East to rescue a failing retail outlet. Despite his Ralph Lauren wardrobe bought especially for this assignment, Gibb could not be more out of place in Chatham, Connecticut – a tight coastal hamlet full of old fashioned, narrow-minded, class conscious natives that treat him as a “Vegas hustler.” (Seemingly, a case of the natives concluding you can take the guy out of Vegas, but you can’t take the Vegas out of the guy.) More interested in his place on the Big Byte leader board than being accepted socially by the natives or the local business types – the “Regulars” – Gibb concentrates on becoming number one in sales in New England.

All is well until Alicia Farrell, aka the virgin princess, aka the Belle of Chatham Township, and her mink-clad mother – members in good standing of the local aristocracy – visit the Big Byte store. Their purpose is to purchase a PC as a Christmas present for the family patriarch, Judge Farrell. Alicia, who is promised to Josh Bingham, Jr., a member of the other ruling family, has deferred her admission to Yale Law School for a year while working as a paralegal in her Uncle Tom Farrell’s law office. The trouble starts when Alicia’s weekly visits to the Big Byte store for computer software lessons convince the Regulars that the Vegas hustler has designs on her. This, in turn, sets the rumor mill on fire. Gibb’s protestations that his interest in Alicia is strictly platonic fall on deaf ears. An ordeal at sea and the resulting boycott of the Big Byte store puts Alicia at odds with her family and the townspeople generally. From there, the story proceeds apace to its surprise ending.

There is a lot more to Gibb’s story than is possible to convey in a brief synopsis and without giving away too much of the story.

Prices/Formats: $14.99 paperback, $9.99 ebook
Genre: general fiction - unconventional contemporary love story
Pages: 223
ISBN: 9781466290945
Publisher: CreateSpace
Release Date: February 2012
Buy Links: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kindle

About the Author

The author, John Henry (“Jack”) Brebbia grew up in Brookline, Massachusetts, attended public schools there and went on to Stonehill College and Boston College Law School. For the past 25 years he has been a member of Lefty Salazar & Associates, a local writer’s group whose members have published a number of works of fiction and nonfiction and whose motto is: “We don’t take incoming phone calls!” He served in the US Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps during the height of the Cold War. His experiences as a prosecutor in a logistics command, located in rural, historic Verdun, France and populated by a wild bunch of Cold War warriors whose behavior on and off duty made them better suited for employment by a military circus, were the basis for his first novel−APO 123−published with CreateSpace in 2010. 30 years in the making, APO 123 has best been described as a M*A*S*H for lawyers, in the tradition of the characters from the movie and TV series. His second novel−In The War Zone−an unconventional contemporary love story with a surprise ending−was also published with CreateSpace in February 2012.

After completing his military service, Jack moved to Washington, D.C. where he was a Trial Attorney at the Federal Trade Commission and then a managing partner at Alston & Bird, a prestigious national corporate law firm, headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. While practicing in Washington, Jack served as a member of the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships, before relocating to Las Vegas as president of a bank holding company and vice-chairman of its subsidiary bank. He later became an entrepreneur and private practitioner. Among his civic activities, he was chairman of the Nevada Humanities Committee; vice chairman of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Education Relating to the Holocaust; a member of the boards of the Nevada Commission on Cultural Affairs, public radio station KNPR and the Federation of State Humanities Councils.

Links to connect with John:
Web site

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