Angels and Bandits

Please welcome Brodie Curtis to my blog. Good morning. Shall we get started?

1. Please introduce yourself to those reading this blog post.

First, thank you very much Mary for having me on today! My name is Brodie Curtis and my debut novel, THE FOUR BELLS, came out in 2019 and told the story of Al Weldy reconnecting with his old-flame Maddy Beane, and the two of them reopening old wounds that the Great War had caused. Today I’ll be talking about my second historical novel, ANGELS and BANDITS, which follows up on some loose threads in THE FOUR BELLS to tell the story of two young RAF Spitfire pilots in The Battle of Britain who come from very different stations in life and must overcome their differences to become fighting brothers for the defence of Britain.

I was raised in the Midwest, in a small town not far from the Mississippi River. I was educated as a lawyer and ended the first part of my career in the California corporate tower of a large company.  I left the corporate world to embrace life in Colorado with wife Sue and our then two young sons. Sue and I turned our talents and drive to building a business in Denver. With plenty of hard work that went well, and I began to write.

F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said, “there are no second acts in American lives,” but with the effort I’ve put into my writing I feel I’m closing in on a third act.

2. Has writing always been part of your life and when did you “know” that it was time to start writing your first book?

Until not too many years ago, I hadn’t written much fiction (I’m sticking to my story that countless business letters, memos and documents written in the corporate tower don’t qualify!). My debut novel, THE FOUR BELLS, was set in motion years ago, in a homey lounge, when I heard a gorgeously mournful acoustic version of John McCutcheon’s song about the transcendent Christmas Truce of 1914. It inspired me to research reports on the Truce in contemporaneous writings and non-fiction, and to walk the fields of Flanders. I found that there wasn’t much fictional treatment of the Christmas Truce. At the time, we had pretty much stabilized our business, and looking back, I was meandering about, trying to find an activity that would fill a chunk of time (boy, did I find one in writing!) and decided to have a go at writing a novel on the Truce. It’s funny though, how our characters take us writers down their own road, and the Truce became just one important scene in my story.

3. How difficult was it writing your first book?

Once I decided to move ahead with my book, I sat at my desk for many hours and wrote on my yellow pad with Natalie Merchant, classical mix stations, the Stones and many more keeping me company. I’d written tens of thousands of pages of legal memorandums, business letters, and corporate reports. Surely I could write a novel. Actor, action, subject. No problem.

I cranked out a draft, which I was extremely proud to have delivered to myself. Certainly it was near best seller shape, I thought, and searched the internet for an editor who might tune it up a little bit before it was displayed by the front door at Barnes & Noble.

The feedback wasn’t what I expected, and the most valuable comments were the harshest. ‘It’s all tell—no show. First or third person, even omniscient—just pick a point of view. This thing is filled with meaningless physical gestures and unnecessary movements, summaries and conclusions, and meandering dialogue. Cut the crap out of this three hundred page manuscript and there might be enough for a novella.’

Now, the smart move might have been to toss my pen in the bin and work on my golf game. Instead, I put the pen down, and set about educating myself on the craft of writing and building some skills. For probably half a year, I read writing instructional books and blogs, and did innumerable writing exercises. Viewpoint, voice, the narrative, sourcing, premise, themes, suspense, raising the stakes.

Then I rewrote. I knew I had improved my writing game— but I was still way over my skis. I reached out to the very talented author-editor Sue Millard from the Lake District in the North of England to help me with applying British authenticity to my dialogue and descriptions, naively believing this was all the help my book required.

I thank my lucky stars that Sue took me on and poured herself into THE FOUR BELLS. Without her care, corrections and guidance, there would be no book. Sue has me striving to write with precision (find the perfect word), and with economy (say it the simplest way, and don’t double up on descriptions). More than that, she taught me to write with a plan. Who are your characters? What are they about? Describe them on paper. Recognize that each action triggers a response. Draw out how the actions and responses flow.

4. Have you ever wanted to give up and what stopped you?

Truthfully, I never got to the point of giving up on my writing. I can be obsessive to a fault, and just kept trucking along with my yellow pad even when I knew my writing chops needed a lot of work. I noticed my editor started sprinkling in a ‘good’ in the margin comments here and there along her many ‘grrrs’ and ‘OMGs’ and ‘can we stop with—’. That, and some patient and supportive friends who gave me feedback on early drafts that allowed me to believe I was improving my craft turned the tide.  

5. Who is the most supportive of you and your dream to be a writer?

My wife Sue has been tremendously supportive of my writing even long before there was THE FOUR BELLS to hold in her hands and know that something has come from all the time I’ve spent at it. Life is very busy between parenting, business, keeping up a household and one’s many other pursuits. Having a partner and best friend who will support the devotion of time needed to a creative pursuit that probably seemed to her like no more than an endless hobby is truly a treasure.

6. Anything specific you want to tell your readers?

Since I’ve begun writing, I’ve gotten into the habit of putting my short take, just a paragraph or two, on paper after I’ve read a book. I consider myself a bit of a connoisseur of world war fiction and have posted more than 100 of my quick takes on books from that genre on my website, under Brodie Curtis’s Takes on War Fiction + Book and Movie Reviews – Brodie Curtis Author. I’ve also posted reviews of historical novels outside the world war fiction genre. Most of these were published in the Historical Novels Review. If one of my takes or reviews sparks your interest, make a search and see if you want to add the title to your reading queue!

7. What is the best advice given to you (book or otherwise), and by whom?

A very wise man who I worked with, who was many years older than me, told me to figure out a way to break free of the corporate tower—and find a career path that ensures I have plenty of time for my family, particularly during the years my young sons are developing at home. Following that advice proved priceless.

8. What is your target audience and what aspect of your writing do you feel targets that audience?

My target audience is the readers of historical fiction, and particularly those who enjoy world war-based fiction. Some great world war fiction titles like The Nightingale and The Alice Network have enjoyed huge success in recent years portraying bonds forged in life and death circumstances between strong female protagonists. A number of other WW novels like The Orphan’s Tale, The Women in the Castle, The Flight Girls and Code Name Verity similarly focus on war-time relationships among female protagonists and have been successful enough to be featured in airport bookstores I’ve passed through. ANGELS and BANDITS is similarly a relationship-based story, but with compelling male protagonists: the story of Eddy Beane’s and Dudley Thane’s intense personal conflict and eventual bond. I have strived to develop my characters with depth and at the same time feature gritty scenes inspired by auto-biographies of Battle of Britain pilots and the Spitfire, the elegant war machine that still captures imaginations, with a dash of romance thrown in.

9. Did the cover evolve the same way, or did you work with someone to make it come together for you?

I believe the cover art for both my books is stunning and sometimes I just hope that the words behind them live up to their visual beauty! I worked with terrifically talented artists on the covers for both of my books, and the process for each of THE FOUR BELLS and ANGELS and BANDITS was similar. The cover artist and I exchanged emails where I laid out my ideas for the images and text. Ultimately, the artist came back with something well beyond what I could have ever conceived! I’ve searched the internet for potential cover artists in the past and I’m truly amazed by all the supremely-talented options out there for authors to choose from.

10. What are you working on now? Can we get a peek, an excerpt?

My third historical novel takes me into the period of Mississippi river Showboats in the years before the American Civil War. Showboats chugged into river towns with people lined on the banks for their arrival, watching the billowing smokestacks and listening to the happy sounds from the calliope. Many of them  boarded the docked vessel for an evening of theatre, song and dance. The Showboat genre has some quite romantic aspects and is very much under-fictionalized in my view. My protagonists are inspired by family lore.

Currently, I am researching away, learning all I can about life on the river during the period, the workings of Mississippi riverboats and the entertainment provided and pleasures taken on showboat excursions. Now that Covid seems to have loosened its grip, I hope to travel along the Big Muddy this year and stop in on museums, historical societies and who knows where all else to unearth photographs and anecdotes that inspire scenes in my new book! So we’re a bit early for an excerpt, but it won’t be long now!

11. Any last words before we wrap things up?

I’m very much a work in progress as a writer. It’s said to take ten years to become proficient at a trade or a craft and I believe I’m closing in! A big help on my writing journey is feedback from readers. I’ve received feedback that inspired me on and helped me write better scenes in my stories. Honestly, it’s cool and sometimes moving when someone sees one of my scenes from a different perspective than I had when I wrote it. I hope some of you who are reading When Angels Fly reach out to me about ANGELS and BANDITS or THE FOUR BELLS or for that matter about any of the takes and reviews I’ve posted on my website. Cheers! Brodie.

Media Kit

Book Title: Angels and Bandits

Author: Brodie Curtis

Publication Date: 15th May 2022

Publisher: Westy Vistas

Page Length: 357 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

Twitter Handles: @BrodieCurtis4 @maryanneyarde

Instagram Handles: @curtisauthor @coffeepotbookclub

Hashtags: #HistoricalFiction #WWII #BlogTour #CoffeePotBookClub

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The Battle of Britain rages and two young RAF pilots from very different stations in life must somehow find common ground—and stay alive.

On the eve of World War II, working-class Eddy Beane is a flight instructor in London. He successfully completes dangerous espionage missions for Air Commodore Keith Park and takes on society-girl June Stephenson as a student. Her ex-fiancé, Dudley Thane, is also a flyer, but upper-class and Cambridge-educated. When the German Luftwaffe attacks England in 1940, Eddy and Dudley end up serving in the same Spitfire squadron. Aerial combat is intense, and both men show their skills and courage, but can they set aside jealousy and class differences to become fighting brothers for the defence of Britain?

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Author Bio:

Brodie Curtis

Raised in the Midwest, Brodie Curtis was educated as a lawyer and left the corporate world to embrace life in Colorado with his wife and two sons.

Curtis is the author of THE FOUR BELLS, a novel of The Great War, which is the product of extensive historical research, including long walks through the fields of Flanders, where much of the book’s action is set. His second novel, ANGELS AND BANDITS, takes his protagonists into The Battle of Britain. Curtis is currently working on a novel set on a Mississippi Riverboat prior to the Civil War.

A lover of history, particularly American history and the World Wars, Curtis reviews historical fiction for the Historical Novels Review and more than 100 of his published reviews and short takes on historical novels can be found on his website.

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