ARTS March 6th, 2014

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Off-the-beaten-path’s a fine road for writer

Setting is the star of noir-ish tale that takes place in cottage country

Once Lawrence Park resident Rob Brunet got on to the old dirt road of his imagination, he was living his dream as a crime novelist.

He was still basking in the afterglow of getting his final manuscript, Stinking Rich, off to publisher Down and Out Books two weeks before a mid-February interview at Himalayan Java.

His noir-ish yarn is set in the Kawarthas, and is infused with Carl Hiaasen-style hijinks. When the hard copy comes out in September it will also be his first publication.

Knowing it’s his first novel begs the question: What did he do before sitting down to put digital pen to monitor paper?

Brunet was in IT, and founder of the company Clicknow.

“My kids and possibly my wife were convinced this may be a mid-life crisis,” he said, with a wry grin. “Three years in, I think they’re realizing I’m serious.”

Brunet is candid, revealing he doesn’t want to sound cliche when it comes to explaining his recent career change.

“I wrestle with this answer because so many writers say the same thing I’m about to say: When I was around 7 years old people said, you can write, and I was convinced I would be a writer of books, for a living,” he admits. “I was on that path in my 20s, but making money, doing corporate writing, and wound up doing digital media.”

Twenty years later, he’s re-entertaining his aspirations of being an author.

It hasn’t been easy though, he admits, saying there were plenty of query letters and an agent shopping his book around.

Finally, it came to Eric Campbell, of the independent publishing house Down and Out, who gave the dark satire about a biker gang, the Libidos, the green light.

“He read the manuscript, what my agent sent around, and he bought the book on that basis and he gave me the courtesy of a conversation before I gave him another draft, because we agreed the book would be better about 15,000 words shorter,” he said with a laugh.

Still, Brunet’s no newbie when it comes to publishing fiction. He has been working steady in the shorter forum, and even has a story set to be published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.

He is also hoping that Stinking Rich gives him the opportunity to extend his contract and flush out the universe he’s created in the Kawarthas, turning the book into a trilogy, with the setting as the star.

Brunet is hoping to use a Bible camp gone bad and crooked local politicians, for his next two forays into crime fiction.

“I think there’s room for sensitivities anywhere,” he said. “If I’m not using the opportunity to comment on them then it’s pure entertainment.”

As for why he wants cottage country to be front and centre, Brunet says it’s because it is an off-the-beaten-path setting.

“As I started working seriously on a novel, the novel that took root was about petty criminals in the Kawarthas, and anything else I had attempted before didn’t drive me as the one I did before,” he admitted, adding some of the locations are true to life, and others not so much. “I’ve bastardized the geography … I figure that just about anywhere you get off a highway and you find a dirt road you find an interesting landscape.”