Monday, November 20, 2023

Q&A with Norman Brewer




Norman Brewer is the author of the new book January 6: A Novel. His other books include the novel Killer Politics. A retired journalist, he worked for Gannett News Service and the Des Moines Register. He lives in Portland, Oregon.


Q: Why did you decide to write an alternate history of Jan. 6, 2021?


A: Like so many people on that day I flipped on the TV to watch the president’s rally and all too soon was swept up in an unbelievable spectacle. Seeing protesters, who looked like the Heartland family and neighbors of my youth, attacking Capitol Police officers was appalling.


The day worsened when protesters morphed into a mob, invading the iconic home of our democracy. Information was too sketchy to know in real time exactly what was happening inside. Like millions of others I surfed channels for hours.


Sometime after the building had been secured, I thought about how much worse it could have been. A pack of misguided ruffians, who were willing to grind cherished freedoms under an autocratic heel, had seriously disrupted what should have been routine, though crucial, congressional business.


As we know now, several militias had made frightening preparations for blocking the peaceful transfer of the power. In hindsight, it appears, those militias lacked a coordinated plan and coordinated leadership. But what if they had had a little more time to prepare? I decided to imagine how such an outcome might look.    


Q: How did you balance the actual events with your own fictional version?


A: The book starts at the rally, protesters soon moving on the Capitol. Those unfolding events offered an opportunity to introduce characters as well as what motivated them to journey to Washington, and to acquaint readers with militias plotting violence aimed at sparking revolution.


Rally speeches give way to an imagined narrative as fictional characters – police and protesters – clash.  


Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: The ending was the first specific scene I imagined. I have no idea why. That night, a developing story line kept me awake. It held up well, but I filled in most of the details as I wrote.


I added most of the characters during the writing, too, as I decided the book needed a particular voice or political viewpoint or life experience.


While I think the assault on the Capitol and its defenders was flat wrong, and treasonous in many cases, I also can understand the pressures and frustrations that prompted so many people to be at the rally.


Most did not invade or desecrate the Capitol. Most were exercising their constitutional right to assemble. And many of their grievances (election denial excepted) deserve the attention of their government.


That said, it bothers me that so many people are now willing to excuse the violent excesses of those responsible for deaths, injuries and numerous broken lives.       


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?


A: The problems that brought people to that fateful rally have not been addressed, let alone fixed. And they won’t be anytime soon, given national discord that has made compromise a dirty word.


But specifically to the takeaway from January 6: A Novel: More immediate is the threat of autocrats who are only too ready to manipulate voters and employ the politics of fear and grievance.


Standing by to do their bidding were extremist militias, most of them on the far-right. Sure, some of those arrested, particularly the leaders, have taken a hit for their traitorous actions.


But can you believe those militias are not rebuilding? Or that extremist groups who were at the Capitol aren’t easily outnumbered by those who weren’t? Given the opportunity, they will be only too ready to step up.   


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Marketing January 6: A Novel.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Norman Brewer.


  1. What a great interview? It's not often I hear a writer of fiction talk about his/her process. Plus, is this a wonderful read.

  2. Reading it now Norm. Enjoying it thus far!

  3. Belatedly caught up with both of you anonymous commenters. Thanks for reading and, assuming you finished, I'd welcome your takes on the book.

  4. The above comment is from the author, a master of computer communication!