Interview with Author Thomas Brigger.
It’s no surprise that Thomas Brigger wrote a fascinating novel that dives into the many facets of the human condition after learning of his multi-career layered life thus far. His debut novel, Beyond the Higher Ground, shines the light on inner demons we all face and how we end up building our own prisons sometimes. From writing short stories, to always observing people when he lived life on the road, we talked about how he got to where he is today in his writing career and what he learned from writing his first novel.
Can you tell me about yourself and how you became a writer?
I went to school to major in English, but I ended up not graduating and started a career in construction. I’ve touched most of the bases in many occupations, but I’ve always loved writing, specifically short stories. I always thought in the back of my mind I wanted to write a novel. I did a lot of business traveling; in fact, I’ve been to almost every state in the country. To pass the time, I would read a lot of novels. One night I read a bad novel and thought, “You know I bet I could do better.” So, I started writing my first book, Beyond the Higher Ground.
Let’s dive into Beyond the Higher Ground. What was your inspiration for the novel?
When doing construction work in Appalachia, I was fascinated by the people that lived there and the heartbreak that comes with the severity of the opioid crisis. With that observation in mind, I wanted to make people aware of that crisis, but didn’t’ want it to be an exposé. So, I wrote a story about a character named Tucker Mason who lost his wife and moves to Southwestern Virginia to restart his life. He takes on the challenge of managing the construction of a prison on a remote Appalachian mountaintop and finds out drugs are being smuggled through his construction site. Things start to deteriorate for him, but ultimately it does have a hopeful ending.
Is your novel character driven and based on anyone in particular in real-life?
Yes, it’s very character driven. Almost every character in the book has some element of someone I’ve met. And I also think everyone will see a little piece of yourself in the book.
What’s something you learned about yourself through writing this novel?
I learned how deep of a thinker I am. Through developing the characters, and research, there’s a certain level of sincerity that shines through. I interpret life itself different now after writing this novel, both in terms of how I see people and how I view life in general.
Who’s your favorite character, other than Tucker?
Cecil. There’s a whole chapter on his background. He’s severely crippled and sees the world through a specific lens I think everyone will find very interesting. He has the essence of a very wise and comical guy who also loves beer.
Are you working on anything else at the moment?
I’m in the process of writing another novel that I hope to get out by the end of the year. It deals with similar issues, but it’s set in the Midwest. It touches on people with PTSD, from the opioid crisis.
How was your writing process different when writing your second novel, compared to when you were writing Beyond the Higher Ground?
Consistency. This time around I’m more serious about it and much more involved. I thoroughly enjoyed writing it especially during this time of COVID-19.
What does your writing process look like?
I do a lot of writing late at night. I’m not one for making outlines and structures. I develop my plot in my head and then write. I never have writers block. If anything, I have to tell myself to go to bed at 2 am instead of staying up to write.
What’s the main takeaway you want people to have when they read your book?
There’s no end game if you’re always trying to escape adversity. There’s always hope if you’re looking ahead. As you go through the book, the highest point in the area has a prison on it—it’s symbolic for: we build our own prisons.
For more information on Thomas and his novel, visit www.beyondthehigherground.com