Nerd Chat with Thriller Writer Brett Battles + Giveaway

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these because I’m lazy selective about who I ask for a chat. Potential interviewees must go through rigorous testing to determine if they have the Cool Factor. Today’s guest, author Brett Battles, not only passed, he set a new record for most tacos eaten while trapped in a shark tank. He’s a doer of the right thing, defender of the free world, champion of justice. I’d bet if we search his place, we’d find a Brettmobile in his Brettcave.

When not world-exploring and engaging in derring do, he writes the Jonathan Quinn series about a cleaner employed by a nebulous government faction to dispose of bodies. Besides being twistily plotted and action-packed, the novels take place in exotic locales, captured in vivid details from Brett’s own travels. The third book in the series, Shadow of Betrayal, comes out in paperback tomorrow (May 25) and Brett’s giving away two signed copies.

But first, he parachuted in for a nerd chat.

PCN: Settings for your books include San Francisco, L.A., Saigon, Berlin, D.C., Singapore—all places I’ve spent time in. Why is Quinn stalking me?

BB: Simple. In Quinn’s line of work, it’s all about the preparation. Making bodies disappear is not something you just do on a lark. Knowing as much as possible about an operation is essential to performing flawlessly. That, of course, includes getting a good look at future…eh…projects. (Height, weight, that kind of thing.) Oh, and best of luck on your future travels!

Brett at the Grand Palace in Bangkok

PCN: Um, I think I’ll use the fake passport and gain 60 pounds before my next trip. Both you and Quinn travel a lot. How would he dispose of a body on a plane if he had to? No particular reason why I ask, because I never encounter annoying people on planes.

BB: Well, it’s not like you can just open a door and throw the body out. I think the key would be to make it appear to other passengers (and crew members) that the body is still alive, like he’s just dozing. But make sure his seat belt is on and his chair is all the way up so a flight attendant doesn’t try to wake him. Then it’s a quick trip to the toilet where, despite FAA regulations, you put in a call to one of your team members who then arranges to have someone pretending to be a doctor waiting at the gate. From there it’s just a case of a passenger who’s taken ill and needs assistance getting out. Done and done.

PCN: Brilliant! I’ll make note of that. I sometimes feel like a cleaner because friends often call me to get them out of jai–I mean, pick them up from airports. Are you the cleaner type, the guy who likes to get dirty, or both?

BB: Wow…it all depends on the context in which that question is asked, doesn’t it? Let’s just say I’m whatever I need to be in whatever situation I find myself. (HA! God, if only I was that clever!)

PCN: Your writing process sometimes involves sitting outside taking pictures and/or just letting a video camera capture life as it happens. What’s the juiciest thing you’ve caught on tape that ended up in one of your books?

BB: Well, there was this one time I found myself invited to a barbeque at this politician’s house, so I thought I’d take some photos and video. Who knew that when I opened the study door, I’d find him and– Wait, I forgot. By the terms of our settlement I’m not actually supposed to talk about that. Let’s just say the video function on my camera works very well in low light. I did get a photo of Paris Hilton checking out the self-help/relationship section at Barnes & Noble. True story.

PCN: She can use some self-help all right. You’ve said one of your favorite words is “kit,” because “someone who has a specific kit usually is a pro at what they do.” What’s in your writer’s kit besides giant 2.5-feet Post-Its? And why so big?

He wasn't kidding about giant

BB: I LOVE my giant Post-Its! When I’m working out the plot of a book you could come into my place and see several of them plastered on my walls. My other favorite thing is my dry erase board, also for plotting. I fill it with stuff, take a digital photo of it, transfer the photo to my iPad, then erase the board and start filling it again. My dream is to have a workspace someday where an entire wall is dry erase board. We had that at my old day job and it was AWESOME!

Here’s a partial list of my kit:

Giant Post-Its with multiple color Sharpies

Dry erase board with multiple color pens

Canon digital camera

Canon digital waterproof camera

Cheap HD palm-size video camera

iPad (I can’t believe how much I’m using this already)



Eyes for observing

Feet to wander around on

PCN: Love it. I already have eyes and feet so that gives me hope. I started reading your books after you got my attention on Twitter with tweets about burritos and grilled cheese sammys, which makes you one shrewd tweeter [he posts pictures, too]. How has social networking affected your relationship with readers?

BB: What social networking has done is not only narrow the gap between authors and readers, it’s pretty much destroyed it, which I am actually in favor of. Just yesterday I was exchanging messages on Facebook with a reader in Romania who listens to audio versions of my books. In the past, readers would have had to rely on sending letters to publishers who would then hold onto them for months before forwarding to the author. Now, my potential audience can reach me directly, and same day. Also, since writing is such a solitary task, social networks like Twitter and Facebook act as a kind of way to stay connected even when all I’m doing is writing in my dinning room. I could have dozens of conversations in a day and never actually speak a word. Wait…not sure that’s a good thing.

PCN: The Deceived [second Quinn novel] won the Barry Award for Best Thriller of 2008. Ever carry the award around to get free beer or cut in line at Disneyland?

BB: Why carry it around when I have a life-size, full-color reproduction tattooed to my chest?

PCN: Wow. I didn’t know you were the guy with the Barry tattoo. You have a standalone coming out next year called No Return. Can you tease us with a storyline? How was writing it different from writing the series?

BB: Let me give it a try:

What happens when you return to your hometown after seventeen years, only to witness the crash of a Naval fighter jet? What happens when the man you tried to save from the crash isn’t the man the newspapers and Navy claimed died? What if they don’t want you talking?

And what if they aren’t the only ones?

Set in the upper Mojave Desert north of Los Angeles, No Return tells the story of television cameraman Wes Stewart and the journey home he should have never taken.

How’s that?

PCN: That’s summer-action-movie-trailer good.

BB: Okay, how is writing a standalone different from a series? Well, the biggest difference is with my series I have characters I come back to time and again. I know their stories. I know how they think. And I know how they will react in given situations. With the standalone, every character is new, as is every relationship and every reaction. I love writing both.

PCN: I like how even though you’re a thriller writer, you attended the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention this year and paraded around in your underwear. What was that about? Part of your campaign for the Mr. Romance Cover Model contest?

BB: No comment. But I should have won! Dammit!

I think he should’ve won, too, just to see what he’d do with a loin cloth and hair extensions. Deep thanks to Brett for subjecting himself to this interview and providing pictures. For more info, visit his website and Murderati, where he contributes a post every other Thursday.

Brett has generously offered to send two copies of Shadow of Betrayal to a couple lucky readers. He’ll also personalize them and his handwriting is supposedly nicer than a girl’s.

Requirements for entering the giveaway:

  • be a PCN subscriber or Twitter follower (if you tweet about this giveaway, you’ll get 3 entries)
  • leave a comment about a situation when you had to clean up someone else’s mess
  • be a U.S. or Canada resident

Giveaway ends Wednesday, June 2, 5 p.m. PST. Winners will be randomly chosen via and announced here and on Twitter. Winners will have 48 hours to claim the prize before alternate names are chosen.

Good luck!



  • Reply
    Jen Forbus
    May 24, 2010 at 6:02 am

    I took a class once where all the walls in the room were dry erase and the professor would start at the front of the room lecturing and writing notes and work his way clock-wise (always clock-wise) all the way around the room. It was probably comical to watch the students shift around in their seats as they followed the prof!

    And cleaning up messes? I have 4 cats in my house! I’m always cleaning up messes – and my laundry. I’m also always learning new ways to keep them away from things they shouldn’t have or be into. If I leave a ball of yarn within their grasp, it’s usually strewn over at least two levels of the house by the time I return. They learned how to get the top off the box I keep rags in. Now I have to regularly collect the rags that they’ve yanked out of the box and carried around the house. Little terrors I tell you! Forget about international spies – they’re nothing compared to cats! LOL

    This was fun guys! Thanks for a wonderful start to my Monday!

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      May 24, 2010 at 11:04 am

      Jen, you’re right. Your cats win over spies in the most-terrifying-messes-made contest!

      I lived in a school for a summer when I was a kid. It was GREAT having chalkboards in every room. My sibs and I would fill one up then run to the next room and draw all over the one there, too. We hadn’t run out of chalkboards by the time we moved out.

  • Reply
    May 24, 2010 at 8:40 am

    When I was in high school I worked at an apartment complex owned by a local well-to-do allied health professional. Occasionally, he would have my co-worker and me do jobs outside of our regular apartment complex duties. On one occasion it was to clean up the basement at his residence that had been flooded. First, we live in Louisiana where the water table is three inches below ground, so if one actually HAS a basement, then the phrase “flooded basement” is redundant. Actually, this was probably more of an underground storm shelter which makes more sense. Anyway, his son had made some sort of clubhouse down there with some old carpet and bean bag chairs and such. Our job was to remove and discard all the rotted, moldy stuff down there. When we lifted up the carpet I got a face full of some funky flying spores. I think that they burned out my olfactory system because for about five years after that, I had very little sense of smell.

    • Reply
      Jen Forbus
      May 24, 2010 at 9:29 am

      I think that guy who does the Dirty Jobs show on TV needs to talk to you Eddy! Ewwwww.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      May 24, 2010 at 11:06 am

      FACE FULL OF FUNKY FLYING SPORES?!!! That should be the title of a horror movie. Yikes, Eddy.

  • Reply
    May 24, 2010 at 8:46 am

    I agree that a dry erase wall would be awesome. I also tweeted about this.

    As for cleaning up someone’s mess, how about learning around lunchtime that a co-worker had dropped the ball and you had to finish a brief for the state court of appeals that HAD to be postmarked by 5pm that day or the time to appeal would expire? Yeah, that sucked.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      May 24, 2010 at 11:09 am

      Oh, not cool at all. Did co-worker have good reason for dropping the ball? If not, I’m thinking co-worker should be ex co-worker.

      • Reply
        Brett Battles
        May 24, 2010 at 11:15 am

        I’m thinking the co-worker should be simple removed. Permanently. I know who you can call. (Okay, I don’t, but it sounds good when I say that.)

        • Reply
          Pop Culture Nerd
          May 24, 2010 at 12:16 pm

          I’ve packed my kit and am on my way.

          • Reply
            June 2, 2010 at 7:39 am

            Co-worker is ex co-worker, but only because I chose to leave the house of insanity that was that law firm. Next time I might just call on you PCN… and your kit. 😉

  • Reply
    May 24, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    LOL. When I saw “nerd chat” I thought, Yay! Love it when you do these. If Brett can eat tacos in a shark tank, I definitely need to check out his books.

    As for cleaning up someone else’s mess, a friend got into major credit card debt. I had to go in, cut up all her cards and teach her how to spend more responsibly. That was a big job but she’s on the right path now.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      May 24, 2010 at 4:57 pm

      Did I mention he was hung upside down in the tank? Multi-talented, that Brett.

      What you did for your friend was amazing. Hope she appreciates it. And you.

  • Reply
    Sophie Littlefield
    May 24, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    wow. i’ve just wasted half an hour thinking about what to put in my “kit”. great interview you guys…PCN, I think you may be that special person who can go toe-to-toe with mr. battles!

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      May 24, 2010 at 5:09 pm


      I know what you have in your kit: fabulosity.

      What happened when other people went toe-to-toe with Brett? Did they not live to tell? Must research backstory. [And Brett, SHE brought up toes, not me!]

  • Reply
    May 24, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    What a hoot. Thanks for a really fun interview, Brett & PCN. I can see why Brett passed the test.

    My clean-up duty has to do with always covering my boss’s ass while he gets the credit for everything.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      May 24, 2010 at 5:12 pm

      That’s just wrong. You should call in sick one day to see if his ass falls apart.

      Glad you enjoyed the interview!

  • Reply
    steve karrer
    May 24, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    Brett – Would No Return happen to borrow from the true story of the Navy Pilot who crashed after a heroic fight to avoid hitting an elementary school during school hours now named after him: Faller Elementary?

    • Reply
      Brett Battles
      May 26, 2010 at 5:24 pm

      Good catch, Steve! Yes. Lieutenant Faller’s crash inspired the story, but, obvious what I’m writing is completely different. Do you remember the crash? I remember the black smoke rising above town. Eerie.

  • Reply
    Shell Sherree
    May 24, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    Love those giant post-its! {Love post-its of all sizes, come to think of it, and all the better if they have pretty designs on them…}

    A thoroughly entertaining interview ~ and I’m sure Brett’s book is likewise. Thanks, PCN and Brett!

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      May 24, 2010 at 6:20 pm

      Those Post-Its are so big, Shell, I can probably use one as a mattress and still fit 9 small children around me.

  • Reply
    Brad Parks
    May 25, 2010 at 4:45 am

    Great interview! I got so engrossed, I think my kids are in the bathroom right now, playing in the toilet. So, uh, I gotta run. But great interview!

    • Reply
      Jen Forbus
      May 25, 2010 at 10:51 am

      Bet I know what mess Brad was cleaning up!

  • Reply
    May 26, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    Loved the interview. Barbara Walters pales in the shadow of your interviewing skills. As for a situation when I’ve had to clean up…I’m a mom of 3 – nuff said. Also, I’ve worked in PR for more almost 20 years. Talk about cleaning up after people. Ooo, gives me the shivers just thinking about the messes I’ve had to deal with.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      May 27, 2010 at 2:12 pm

      I’m having lunch so I don’t even want to think about the messes you’ve had to clean up in PR. And I can probably take Babs in an arm-wrestling contest but she got Hugh Jackman to give her a lap dance, which is pretty impressive.

  • Reply
    May 28, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    Too funny, Brett and PCN. You guys should do a talk show. I have a question, Where’s the picture of that Barry tattoo? 🙂

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      May 29, 2010 at 4:15 pm

      I had trouble getting a good photo, Jessie. The tat’s so big, it wraps around to his back. While he was willing to bare his chest, he draws the line at public back exposure. Sorry!

  • Reply
    May 31, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    How have I missed these? Oh, that’s right—-teaching! I do not get to read as much of what I would like when I would like. All three in paperback? I am stuffing them into my luggage for Tanzania!

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      May 31, 2010 at 7:09 pm

      Do you want me to enter you in the giveaway? You’d still have to buy the first 2 books but you can get the 3rd one free (and signed) if you win!

  • Reply
    May 31, 2010 at 7:23 pm

    Ndiyo! Ya ajobu! Still practicing Swahili….yes, wonderful!

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