I can count on one hand the number of book trailers I’ve watched. None made me want to run out and buy the book like I did after watching Conlan Brown’s book trailer of his debut novel The Firstborn. Although I read books from a wide range of genres, suspense thrillers are by far my favorite. And supernatural suspense thrillers are cherries on top of my gluttony book smorgasbord. If you enjoy a good suspense thriller than you’ll definitely want to meet my guest.
Conlan, can you start by telling us what your book, The Firstborn, is about?
The Firstborn are three ancient religious orders, gifted by God at the moment of Christ’s death to see either past, present or future. But they’ve never gotten along or understood one another. They’ve spent the last two thousand years resolving dangerous, often violent, conflicts. Today things are no different – but as a massacre draws closer they are realizing that they have to pull together, because it is going to be carried out by one of their own.
Check out the book trailer.
Where did the story idea come from?
Ideas always have multiple origins. You’re walking down the street and suddenly an iconic image smacks you in the forehead. But it’s worthless by itself, so you take it and you store it in the back of your head. It happens all the time. But a few months or years later you have another one—but this time there is some sort of connection between this idea and the other. It’s like finding a puzzle piece that has been missing from the box. This keeps happening until you have a coherent idea. Some ideas are ultimately thrown out and some change so much that they don’t resemble the original anymore—but they still are vital parts of the narrative’s formation.
As a result, I can’t say exactly where the idea came from. It rose up out of the soup like a dozen other ideas I’ve had over the years.
Ultimately the idea came together because I wanted to create an ongoing fiction franchise that anyone could feel they belong in. A world where every single perspective on life was not only valid, but deeply important—fiction that was designed to give people a common language, despite their differences.
I then tried to find a genre that I could use to articulate these goals—so I turned to what audiences were responding to. The result was the story as it is now.
Some writers describe themselves as seat-of-the-pants-writers, and others prefer to outline their story ideas before putting pen to paper. Tell us about your approach to creating the story world.
I’m a seat-of-your-pants person, but a slightly more planned writer. I’m too hyperactive to do my creative thinking simply sitting at the keyboard. I have to get up and go for a walk. There are days that I’ll walk for the better part of four hours. I’m not typing, but I am working. I come across as crazy at those moments, I think. I tend to talk to myself and make sound effects as I’m thinking. It’s not uncommon for me to go walking through my local park and have parents stare at me as I walk by with a furrowed brow, muttering to myself about the possibilities of destruction.
How much research went into creating your fictional world?
I honestly don’t know. Research is just something I do all the time. When I’m writing I simply shift the research from things that interest me (I’m currently engrossed in study out of Harvard comparing and contrasting C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud) and shift it toward finding out about the things relevant to my writing.
Your background is fascinating. I understand you were functionally illiterate until the fifth grade. What changes occurred in your life to move you from illiterate to word-loving author?
After years of not getting the education I needed from well-intentioned but ill-equipped teachers, my parents pulled from school in the fall of my fifth grade year. My mother was busy, so my grandmother (whom the book is dedicated to) got me caught up. She herself had been a teacher for more than thirty years. By that summer I leapt from behind seriously behind to being seriously ahead.
Tell us about your writing routine and schedule. Walk us through a day in the life of Conlan.
I go to my local bookstore. It’s close enough that I can walk if I need to. I set up shop in the exact same table every day (if it isn’t already taken) and I sit and stare at the screen. After a while I lockdown my computer and walk around the store, muttering and making sound effects.
Unsurprisingly, everyone who works there knows me by name.
Some writers prefer writing in the comfort of their homes while others prefer libraries, parks, or coffee shops. How about you? Where does the magic happen?
The magic happens while wandering. My favorite place is at my parents place. A big Victorian house in rural Colorado, surrounded by farms and fields. When the sun is setting I like to go walking out there. There’s a small bridge out there that I love. When I’m there I can’t help but be flooded with thoughts and ideas.
The road to publication can be long and arduous. Tell us about your journey to seeing The Firstborn in print.
Publication can be long and hard for some. It was pretty quick for me—two years or so. I shopped around some ideas, got a feel for what people liked and were looking for, and wrote the Firstborn. The idea just worked. It was almost exactly a year and a half to the day between when I wrote the first word of the book and when I signed my contract for publication. That’s pretty fast.
I’m very lucky and very blessed. I don’t feel like I deserve that kind of quick ride, especially considering how many other really great authors there are out there that have been trying to get published for decades to no avail. I only hope to be worthy of the blessings I have been so unfairly given.
Well, Conlan, the train has officially pulled into the station and I’m afraid our talk ends here. Before you leave us, can you put a smile on our faces by telling us about one of the funniest moments you’ve experienced as a writer.
Not so much funny as fun. About a month ago I was at a Christian retail show in Denver. I started talking to a woman at a booth, largely at random. We chatted for well over ten minutes before she asked me what I did. When I told her what I did she realized that she knew who I was and that she had just finished the book like a day before. It was mostly just a chance encounter with a fan, but it was really fun for both of us.