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Brian Freeman | Empathy

The most memorable e-mail I ever received from a reader was also the most emotional.

There's a scene in my second novel, STRIPPED, in which Detective Serena Dial interviews a woman whose child has died in an accident.  A reader wrote to me and asked if I had ever lost a child myself.  He and his wife had gone through that experience, and he told me that I had captured the emotions of that situation so well that he assumed it must have happened to me, too.

Fortunately, I was able to say no.  In fact, I don't have kids.  But I consider that e-mail one of the most meaningful compliments I have received as a writer, because it gets to the heart of what I hope to achieve in my books – empathy.  I want to get inside the heads of my characters.  I want them to reflect the moral and emotional depth of real people, not just hollow caricatures of good and evil.

You can find thrillers around almost every theme these days.  Forensic investigation.  Corporate espionage.  Political intrigue.  Terrorism.  I've read plenty of those books and loved them.  I can remember reading Robert Ludlum's THE CHANCELLOR MANUSCRIPT as a kid and thinking – that's what I want to do!  I want to write books like that!  Ironically, today, I'm finally in a position to do exactly that – but I find myself going in a different direction.  As a reader and writer, I've grown rather tired of "big" thriller themes, involving massive conspiracies and heroes who save the world.  Maybe it's because of the way the world has changed.  Maybe I'm getting too damn old.  You know it's a problem for me when I watch the latest James Bond film and find myself saying, "They didn't do enough with the characters"!

Instead, I find myself drawn to thrillers that are dark and intimate, played out on a smaller stage.  Where the intense plot is driven by emotions and sexuality.  Where desire tempts people across terrible lines.  Where the reader must figure out the backstory that caused relationships to implode in violence.  Where the heroes live in a world with no easy choices.  That's what I like to read.  That's what I like to write.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm a fanatic about pace.  Nothing makes me more frustrated as a reader than when a book flags in the middle or takes 100 pages to get moving.  I like to start a book on page one and keep people turning the pages until the very last twist.  But I also hope that the characters linger in the reader's mind.  If they do, well, that's empathy.







Brian Freeman is author of six psychological suspense novels, including THE BONE HOUSE, THE BURYING PLACE, IN THE DARK, STALKED, STRIPPED, and IMMORAL.  Learn more at www.bfreemanbooks.com.

One person to comment today will win a copy of THE BURYING PLACE




51 comments posted.

Re: Brian Freeman | Empathy

psychological thrillers are my favorite genre. I love them and if written right, I seriously can't put one down until it is ended. I also read alot of true crime because I think one of these days I will figure it all out. What it is that can turn a seemingly "normal" person into a killer, lol. Can you tell I took alot of Psychology in college? It absolutely fascinates me.
Your books sound wonderful and am hoping I can find them on Kindle because I may just go buy one now.
(Vicki Hancock 12:15pm August 22, 2011)

To me, as long as I am able to connect with the characters of the book, it doesn't matter how long the book is. I'm not sure if that is what you meant exactly, but it's how I feel. It wasn't that long ago that I read a book that was somewhere in the 500-600 page range. Most people wouldn't give that book a second look, but I brought it home, and was transported to another life for a little over a day. I use that term and say a little over a day because I couldn't put the book down!! I immediately connected with the main character, and went through everything with her!! I cried during the painful parts of her life, and my heart leapt for joy when she had found some happiness in her life as well. That is what a good author is supposed to do, and this one did so with flair. I read all different genres, depending on my mood. I try not to stay bogged down with just one. Now I am hoping to read your book, and get hooked with another great story line. Thank you for having the same mind-set as me, and I'm looking forward to being transported to another place again.
(Peggy Roberson 12:40pm August 22, 2011)

I get attached to well-developed characters. While being in a Writers Group for 5 years, one fellow wrote horror and by the time you turned page 2 practically everybody was killed. We told him to spend some more time on his people, but he still managed to kill them off quickly and instead went into the tools and skills of the hit-man business in extreme detail.
(Alyson Widen 12:55pm August 22, 2011)

It is all about the characters and one of the things that keep me drawn to Brian's books are the characters. I agree with his assessment ... sometimes it takes too long to become involved in books and the reader will lose interest. I stopped reading books by Tom Clancy because in one of his 1500 page behemoths, the story itself did not really get started until after page 400, the rest all being background. Another author that I have met and communicated with told me you need to get the reader hooked almost from page one. Brian hooks me, creates characters and situations which I can understand and relate to, and that is why I read his books.
(Mark Gulko 12:57pm August 22, 2011)

Oh, and BTW, I think he has a great birth date!
(Mark Gulko 12:58pm August 22, 2011)

I would love to win. Looks like a great read!
(Summer Grinstead 1:04pm August 22, 2011)

I love a great read and Brian, you provide a great read every
single time. Never a disappointing or dull moment in any of
your novels, my friend! Keep up the good work!
(Todd Barselow 1:05pm August 22, 2011)

I was strictly a non-fiction reader until I went on vacation and came across the book Immoral. I have been a huge fan ever since and have read all of Brian Freeman's books. The character and story development are amazing. The characters reach out and capture you.
(Kelly Damrow 1:14pm August 22, 2011)

I have read all Brian's books and they just keep getting
better. One thing I have always liked is that the characters
are not perfect; they make mistakes and are so human some
times it hurts.
(Anne McLauchlan 1:14pm August 22, 2011)

I have never read one of your books and now know I have been missing a real treat. The two book descriptions given are definately going to make me put this on my TBR list! I loved your interview also.
(Kathleen Bianchi 1:18pm August 22, 2011)

I love a good thriller (which Brian writes)that makes me just itch to read the last page. A really good book is one where when I finish it I feel as if I am losing a good friend. I don't want it to be over! His books deliver that.
(Barbara Seaman 1:23pm August 22, 2011)

I really like a book that promises excitement from page one on.
(Joe Bianchi 1:36pm August 22, 2011)

I deceided to start reading from Immoral and going from there. Your books sound great!
(Brittany Burns 1:39pm August 22, 2011)

This sounds like an exciting read. I have a large library in my H.S. classroom. I think the kids will love this book.
(Susan Lowther 2:03pm August 22, 2011)

My boyfriend and I love thrillers. When we win your book (positive thinking!) we'll be sure to pass it along to friends when were finished. I leave reviews on Amazon also.
(Kim Strader 2:09pm August 22, 2011)

I liked the fact that you get to the heart of your characters and empathize with them. The fact that you are able to get inside the heads of your characters is fantastic. I want to read a book like this!
(Mary Shaw 2:17pm August 22, 2011)

This sounds like a very exciting thriller, just the type I would enjoy reading. I've now added your name to the list of authors I use when I go to the bookstore.
(Anna Speed 2:30pm August 22, 2011)

I haven't read any of your books yet but your post served as an introduction to your works for me. This sounds like a great read.
(Linda Leonard 2:35pm August 22, 2011)

‘Empathy is trying on someone elses shoes – sympathy is wearing them’ Isn’t this what good quality fiction is all about? Being able to imagine your reactions to a situation and thinking through the processes. My sister and I recently had a long conversation about Serena’s actions in ‘Stalked’ and what we would do in the same situation. We both love your books and find the characters realistic even though the situations are, hopefully, ones we will never find ourselves having to endure. Keep writing please Brian x
(Linda Guest 2:38pm August 22, 2011)

Sounds like a good story.
(Sandy Giden 2:38pm August 22, 2011)

Oh YEAH, Brian. Your books are page-turners all right, every
single one of them. AND you mention "twists"? I've always
thought myself to be a pretty fair predictor, at least nearing
the ends of books. But THE BONE HOUSE??? You knocked my
socks off!!!
(Lynn Genter 2:58pm August 22, 2011)

^OOPS!^ My comment was off by one book. But the same can be
said about THE BURYING PLACE! Your endings always take my
breath away!
(Lynn Genter 3:02pm August 22, 2011)

Brian your brain is amazing! You are one of the best story
(Shelly Bustrom 3:09pm August 22, 2011)

Your books keep the reader engaged which I totally enjoy. Keep them coming!
(MaryEllen Hanneman 3:42pm August 22, 2011)

Sounds like a great read, Thanks for giving me a chance to
read it.
(Linda Hall 4:28pm August 22, 2011)

Brian, I'm curious how you chose the setting of Grand Rapids, MN. for your book. I am originally from Minnesota and had friends we used to visit in Grand Rapids, MN. It is very cold in the winters there. Your book sounds very intriguing and like a good page-turner that anyone would hate to put down. I can't wait to read it and even sooner, should I be lucky enough to win it. I haven't read any of your other books which sound really good also, and I plan to put them on my growing list of "have-to" reads!
(Linda Luinstra 4:41pm August 22, 2011)

I've read all your books Brian....psychological thrillers like yours are my favorite. Your characters are so well-developed and have their share of flaws. I feel like I know them....Stride, Serena, Maggie.....and now Cab. Your books are intense page-turners....and I look forward to each one!
(Debbie DiGirolamo 4:44pm August 22, 2011)

I love a good psychological thriller but the grand conspiracies, although fun to read, never really seem that believable. Exploring a character's motivations and psyche, as in your books, brings the character to life and resonates within long after the book is done.
(Jackie Stieghorst 4:46pm August 22, 2011)

Sounds like a thrilling read
(Catherine Myers 4:56pm August 22, 2011)

Sounds like a read to keep you up at night and not want to put the book down untill the very end@
(Darci Paice 5:01pm August 22, 2011)

One of the things I really enjoy about your books is the characters are realistic with real human feelings and imperfections. This makes the story so much more believable - as you read you almost feel like you are there. Truly consuming you in the story.
(Julie Fogarty 5:31pm August 22, 2011)

There is absolutely nothing better than a psychological
(Tanja Haack 5:36pm August 22, 2011)

I agree with you about a book having to catch me from page 1 and continue...no lagging, no delay in interest, etc.
I really enjoy psychological thrillers, too!
(Leanna Morris 6:59pm August 22, 2011)

I would love to read this book...sounds just like my cup of tea!
(Diana Corlett 7:19pm August 22, 2011)

Anyone who picks up a Brian Freeman book will not be disappointed. He just keeps getting better and better. I wait patiently for the next book to come out. He makes them so real. Thank you Brian, I share your name with all I can as one of my all time favorite authors!
(Rita Hall 7:38pm August 22, 2011)

I enjoy psychological thrillers... depending on my mood... I can finish one in a day...
(May Pau 10:22pm August 22, 2011)

I am always looking for new authors to read. I love psychological thrillers. Thanks for the giveaway.
(Jennifer Beyer 10:30pm August 22, 2011)

My favorite read is a good mystery or thriller and Brian never fails to provide that and more. Keep on writing and I will keep on reading them. Thanks for the contest!
(Teresa Ward 10:31pm August 22, 2011)

I love a good thriller. Your books all look amazing.
(Mary Preston 4:00am August 23, 2011)

I've been reading your books since Immoral, and so appreciate the care you put into your fiction. The best thrillers/fantasies/romances/mysteries/whatever all transcend genre to speak to our hearts and qualify as good stories. Although I enjoy action in a book, it takes more than nonstop movement to grab a heart. I think you own the formula.
(Janet Martin 8:01am August 23, 2011)

I would love to add your thriller to my library!
Pat Braden patty5419@hotmail.com
(Patricia Braden 8:16am August 23, 2011)

A book with great characters that is still a page turner is always a good read.
(Shirley Nienkark 9:41am August 23, 2011)

This is one of the reasons I do love Goodreads, I am introduced to authors I've never known or have ever had the chance to read their works. As with winning a book not long ago from Sandra Brown, (Thriller, etc.), now I've bought several of her books and loving them.

I will look for your books!!!
(Joanne Bozik 12:26pm August 23, 2011)

Brian since you like psychological thrillers you might like to read a book I just
finished reading titled Still Missing by Chevy Stevens. Can't remember when I've
read such a good first novel that stayed with me long after I'd finished it.
(Jackie Wisherd 4:42pm August 23, 2011)

I love books that keep me from my sleep lol. Just have to read one more paragraph, one more page, one more chapter!! Your books sound like real page turners!
(Jeanne Sheats 4:50pm August 23, 2011)

Thanks so much for the thoughtful comments, everyone! I really enjoyed Jackie's remark about exploring the character's psyche rather than relying on grand conspiracies. That's exactly my philosophy. I want drama that emerges out of the emotions, secrets, and backgrounds of real, complex human characters. I hope you all enjoy my books! Be sure to write to me at brian@bfreemanbooks.com or join me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bfreemanfans. I love chatting with readers.
(Brian Freeman 4:55pm August 23, 2011)

It's been a while since I've been able to sit and read. I'd really like to try after reading Brian's section on his character development. I'm just afraid it could get toooo personal...LOL.
(Sheila Calabretta 10:01pm August 23, 2011)

Why is it I never heard of Brian Freeman?? I love his type of books, and reading the exerpts I am soooo excited to try them out. Headed to the bookstore this weekend. Woo Hoo!
(Stephanie Strausberger 9:24am August 24, 2011)

I'm glad I read "The Bone House" on a cruise. Had the time to finish it in one day.
(Mary Primorac 3:27pm August 24, 2011)

I tell everyone I know to read your books. Every page is a page turner. Thank you for the wonderful reads.
(Sharon Baker 9:42am August 26, 2011)

I haven't read any of your books but I would love to read a good "page turner"! Your right, they don't do enough for the character in those movies it's just all action.
(Brenda Rupp 7:00pm August 28, 2011)

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