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Big Ass Shark: an interview with Briar Lee Mitchell [SPOILERS]

July 25, 2014

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Book: Big Ass Shark

Author: Briar Lee Mitchell

Publisher: Permuted Press

Plot: There’s a shark. It’s big.

Details: This isn’t a review, but I have mixed my thoughts on the book into the questions, and Briar was kind enough to answer them without getting pissed off.

In short: the book is good.

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Oli: The tone seemed to be somewhere between jaws and piranha(not the pervy remake). Was that intentional?
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Briar Lee Mitchell: No, just started with the story and let the characters take me where they wanted to go.
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Oli: I’ve often heard that line…’the characters took me where they wanted to go’. How exactly does that happen? Which parts did the characters not follow your plot outline?
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Briar: When I write, I know the beginning and most of the ending. As the characters come to life in my head, sometimes things they do or say can lead to interesting side stories to develop or help explain major plot points. Letting characters do that is one of my favorite things about writing. Rigid outlines make me crazy.
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Oli: The main character was a wannabe actress called misty. One scientist was a grumpy Scot(at first). The biggest prick was a Japanese guy who harpoons a whale. Did you know you were skating so close to parody?
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Briar: There was intentional humor…however no, I wasn’t picking on any groups when I selected good guys/bad guys. If it looks like parody, that is unintentional.

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Oli: I usually assume there’s a reason a character has the job they have. I figured Misty was an aspiring actress as this type of character is typically dumb and killed off fairly quickly [with or without clothes]. Similar to Buffy and the cheerleader stereotype. Was this the reason or am I way off?
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Briar: She could be similar to Buffy I guess…she certainly wasn’t killed off and I hope I didn’t do anything to make her seem bimbo-ish, because I never saw her that way. I chose her profession because it seemed pretty far off from having any life experiences to deal with the appearance of a shark like that and then, having to make some radical decisions to save people she didn’t even know.
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Oli: I liked the pace of the story but also the fact that you didn’t kill off people every five minutes. People died but it was implied most of the time. How hard was it to restrain yourself?
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Briar: That is a WONDERFUL question. It would have been so easy to toss people in the water and drag out their deaths tossing out every scary adjective in the book as they watched this truck sized thing swim around them…however, when I write, the characters are very real to me and I just couldn’t see how adding more deaths would make an encounter with a shark this size any less frightening for the final moments of the book. I would have liked to have written the story out to be a bit longer…however, I am considering a sequel.
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Oli: The ending did seem a bit rushed, not in a fatal way, but it did make some character reversals seem a bit sudden e.g. Riggs. Was someone holding a gun to your head and saying, ‘finish. Now.’?
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Briar: No, sometimes I rush to the end a bit. Originally, I wrote this story as a screenplay and then did a novelization of it…so, I put some dramatic character arcs in there…especially Riggs. But I guess I’m not alone. Stephen King rushes his endings, which seems funny, since his books would choke the average horse they are so thick. I remember reading “IT” when it first came out. I was actually up in New England, and, it was Halloween.  I read and read, and kept reading…and the story kept twisting and turning with all of these fantastic things…then in just the last couple of pages a big spider came out and ate them all. What?!  LOL
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Oli: Were you tempted to have the shark tear through the swimmers at the start?
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Briar: LOL, nope. That actually never entered my mind. The moment was all about one person having seen this HUGE improbable thing, and then being faced with what to do about it. I felt like the story was more interesting when just the reader and one person in the book knew Ghostie was out there.
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Oli: Back to the Japanese guy…were you worried that people would call you racist for making him Japanese? Or do you just see him as prick who happens to be Japanese?
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Briar: He was just a prick that happens to be Japanese.
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Oli: You reveal character through action and how they react when a big fucking shark is chasing them. As a result it sometimes felt a little short on depth. For example, Peter the news reporter was fun but a little one note. Did you have to sacrifice some depth for the sake of plot?
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Briar: Actually, that was one area of the book I felt I should have pushed a bit more in hindsight. I did leave a lot out about that character to keep him transparent and on the funny side, however, I do think that I could have expanded a bit more about these characters. I made the choice to keep the action moving steadily along, and so, sacrificed too much there.
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Oli: Can you tell us what you left out in terms of Peter or some of the other characters? E.g. did Haruki do charity work back in Japan?
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Briar: Haruki really wasn’t a bad guy, just loved big, weird, exotic animals and bringing them to people in his theme park. That was his passion. Peter I would like to do more with, and if I do a sequel, which I am seriously considering, then I would like to develop Peter more.
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Oli: Near the end, one of the characters does something I didn’t buy. They were terrified of the shark but still went onto a little boat knowing the shark was underneath the waves. There was a reason given…that the humans were worse than the shark, but I wasn’t convinced. Did you find it hard to balance plot with reality i.e. Putting characters in danger when a normal person would stay far away?
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Briar: Sometimes I think you have to try and suspend disbelief here and there. I did have to get someone over there, and the character who went became the obvious choice…since, in her previous life, before all of this started, she would never have done such a thing and did have the biggest arc.
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Oli: The shark was really well realised. It actually felt like a character with a brain instead of a hungry monster. Do you know many sharks?
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Briar: I have been a fan of sharks for many years. I find them fascinating! Our seas need all of their denizens to maintain a healthy environment, even the apex predators. To me they are mysterious, beautiful and perfectly designed for their environments…like gliding, majestic missiles.
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Oli: Were you tempted to write a ridiculous action scene in there somewhere? Shark biting airplane maybe?
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Briar: How funny! I hate to admit it, but no, I did not. I actually tried to imagine Ghostie as being real and something like that would have been beneath her.
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Oli: Will there be a ‘bigger Ass shark’ in the near future?
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Briar: I am considering it, yes!
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Oli: What might happen? The Freddy movies used to kill off the previous movie’s heroine in the next one…
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Briar: Aha! I cannot share that with you.  🙂   I do want to write more about Ghostie and Misty though…and some of those other characters. I became close with them and enjoy writing about them. I have no formula for this. When I have the idea ready…the beginning and the ending for another story that would be compelling enough to write and have folks read, then I will find out what happens to Misty.
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For details on how to get a copy of Big Ass Shark and other decent books, go to the permuted press site, especially if you like apocalypses.
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