by C.J. Darlington
Matt Bronleewe Interview
like I’m on a creative rotisserie. One minute it’s producing
a record, the next it’s writing a few pages of my next book,
and then I jump into writing a song with a buddy or two, and then back
to books…it never ends!"
Matt Bronleewe is a recognized producer, songwriter and author. A former member of the band Jars of Clay, he has earned numerous awards producing and co-writing albums that have sold a combined total of over 20 million copies. His songs have recently been recorded by Disney pop sensations Aly & AJ, American Idol finalist Kimberley Locke, and more. Bronleewe has worked with Grammy Award-winning artists such as Michael W. Smith, International pop singer Natalie Imbruglia and Heroes star Hayden Panettiere.
Bronleewe currently resides in Brentwood, Tenn., with his wife and three children. He continues to write and produce music, and he also volunteers through his church to help disadvantaged youth in the community. Bronleewe enjoys reading, taste-testing good food and watching sports, as well as indulging his interests in art, architecture, design and science.
C.J.: Good to talk with you again, Matt! Catch us up on what’s new. Last we talked you’d just released your debut novel Illuminated.
Matt: House of Wolves is even more ambitious than Illuminated (if that’s possible!) and literally spans the globe.
How important is research for you and how often does a piece of information you dig up completely change the direction you’d originally planned for a story?
For me, research is paramount. Not only does it help to provide a sense of reality—something that’s often difficult to achieve in over-the-top thrillers—but it also fuels the thrust of the book. Just when I think I have it all figured out, I’ll find some mind-boggling piece of information that sends me (and the characters!) in a whole new direction. It’s so much fun…I feel like a real-life Indiana Jones!
Ever had any unusual or embarrassing moments while performing research? Care to share? :)
One crazy moment happened earlier this year when I was in France with my wife doing some research. We were at Montsegur, near Carcassonne in southern France, and needed to scale a short mountain to get to the ancient ruins located at the top (you’ll find out why in my next book THE DEADLY HOURS!!) While ascending the slope, which was difficult, a storm rolled in and it began to HAIL. A tricky journey just got a lot trickier! We finally made it to the ruins, which were breathtaking…such an amazing time! And I’m so glad my wife was there to share the memory!
Some of the plot twists were super fun to discover. Did you have an outline for this novel or did you take a more organic approach and wing it?
Every outline I’ve ever created gets obliterated once I jump into the story. My theory is that in order to surprise the reader, I need to be surprised too! I’ve been having a lot a fun chasing my characters rather than sending them down a pre-assigned path!
I recently read a quote from thriller writer Brad Thor where he said, “I don’t want my main character to be different at the end. I still want him committed to his ideas, to be steadfast, true and loyal.” What do you think about this? Do you want August Adams to be different at the end of each book?
If August Adams were purely noble and good, then that theory could work. BUT, August Adams has some deep character flaws, and with each journey I want him to discover something new to help mend those wounds. I think there are parts of August’s character that won’t change—he’ll probably always be a bit of a daredevil and a deal-maker—but when it comes to things like family and friendships, I hope he learns some valuable lessons!
We’d love to have a sneak peek at The Deadly Hours. What can we expect? Are you revealing which rare book will be August’s quest?
Wow, I wasn’t going to do this…but…why not!? Ha! THE DEADLY HOURS is going to deal with an ancient group of heretics known as the Cathars. They held a mysterious book called “The Book of Love”…and that’s all I can tell you right now!
How do you keep the “edge” in your stories as far as violence/adult situations without going too far?
I know there are authors out there who shoot to shock…but I haven’t felt the urge to go there. I feel like the true edge comes in the story itself. Violence, etc, can sometimes just be a distraction to that. Now, don’t get me wrong, my books end up with some high body counts, but I think that’s just the nature of a story that deals with killers and secret societies! I try to stay true to the characters and let them lead the charge. My grandma has read every book I’ve written, and I figure if she doesn’t have a problem with it, then everyone who does have a problem needs to stick with something “safer” ’cause I’m never going to write a “safe” story!!
What would you love to write someday but haven’t yet?
I have lots of ideas, but I’m fortunate to be writing exactly what I love right now!
Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what are some of your favorite bands/artists to play during the creative process?
Being a music producer/writer, I almost feel like I can’t escape having some music tied to the whole experience of writing a novel. For every August Adams book—including ILLUMINATED, HOUSE OF WOLVES, and the forthcoming THE DEADLY HOURS—soundtracks provided an awesome backdrop. I love to play each scene out like a movie in my mind, and soundtracks help extend that further. My favorite soundtrack at the moment is THE DARK KNIGHT. So amazing. The production elements are rich, and the orchestra work is exquisite. I really feel like they “tortured” each instrument in the same way the Joker tortures Batman in the movie. Great stuff!!
What motivates you to get out of bed and head to your keyboard?
Keyboard can mean two things for me: the one I’m using now, and the musical kind I use at the studio. For me, the creative juices are sparking so vividly that I never feel like I quite have enough time to get it all out. I love jumping back and forth between music and books…both are intriguing and fulfilling in completely different ways. I’m humbled by being given the opportunity to pursue both avenues. I just LOVE IT!!!!
What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started writing?
It’s funny, because a lesson I’d learned in music years ago is one I’m only recently discovering in my book writing. It’s that ideas aren’t always that precious, and that sometimes you have to junk a lot of things that are “good” in order to get to the “great” stuff. When I’m writing a song with some friends, if the chorus just isn’t coming together, then we move on…we find something better. I’m FINALLY taking that approach to writing too. If something isn’t working… a plot, a character, whatever! Then I move on…even if I’ve invested time and effort into that idea because in the end I need a GREAT BOOK, and mediocre ideas have to be set aside.
Are there any authors or books you consistently turn to for inspiration?
I love C S Lewis, Tolkien, etc. I also dig newer authors like Chabon, Lethem and Eggers.
What are your thoughts on “Christian fiction” versus “Christian worldview” fiction. How would you classify your own books?
I’m a Christian. I write fiction. That sums it up. I heard Eugene Peterson say something once that profoundly impacted me: “Christian is not an adjective.” Makes you think, doesn’t it?
What’s next for Matt Bronleewe the Writer and the Producer?
More music and books, heaped
upon music and books, stuffed with music and books! Ha!! Every day I
just keep on cranking. It’s like I’m
on a creative rotisserie. One minute it’s producing a record, the
next it’s writing a few pages of my next book, and then I jump into
writing a song with a buddy or two, and then back to books…it never
Where can we find you on a Friday night?
At home chilling with my family, or out on a date with my wife!
What will your epitaph read?
HE’S NOT HERE.
What did you eat for breakfast this morning?
Starbucks Latte. (Does that count?)
Three words that best describe you:
PASSIONATE. DRIVEN. EVER-SO-SLIGHTLY-CRAZY-IN-THE-HEAD.
You’re stranded on a desert island and can only bring three items. What are you packing?
An inflatable raft. A good book. And a Snickers (cause it really satisfies.)
What’s left unchecked in your “goals for life” list?
Being a good father and husband and friend is my goal…and those boxes can never be “checked”!
What’s currently in your CD player/iPod?
Newest records from Snow Patrol, Keane, Bloc Party, and Kings of Leon.
An encouragement: if you’re sitting out there somewhere struggling to be heard, just know that if a simple guy like me can get a shot to do this, then you can too!
C.J. Darlington is the award-winning authof of Thicker than Blood, Bound by Guilt, and Ties that Bind. She is a regular contributor to Family Fiction Digital Magazine and NovelCrossing.com. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs, a cat, and a paint horse named Sky. Visit her online at her author website. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.