Well, enough chatter on my part, let's get this interview started, shall we? Enjoy!
Welcome, Briana, to Inside the Writer's Mind. Thank you for joining me and sharing with your readers some little tidbits about yourself and your writing.
Same DiNamics: Tell us about yourself.
Briana Lawrence: I’m currently celebrating the mature coolness that is thirty by being a certified geek who often becomes lost in the world of anime, video games, cartoons, movies, comics, and things of that nature. Sometimes, you might catch me in costume at a convention, or woodburning, or painting. I’m sort of a mixed bag of art and nerdtasticness. I don’t think that’s a word, but it gets the point across?
SD: What got you started with writing?
BL: I wish I had a concrete answer to that. I do remember two things from my childhood. I remember being nine years old and being asked to write down what I wanted to be when I grew up. I proudly wrote down “WRITTER,”and the class laughed at me because I didn't know how to spell “writer.” I also remember making pop-up books with construction paper and glue about farm animals. I can’t, for the life of me, remember what the plot was, but I remember those pop-up books like I had just made them yesterday.
I do have some rather creative parents. My dad is an artist. He can draw and paint really well, and he use to show me tricks with shading and things like that. My mom loves to read and use to read to me a lot as a kid. The library was less than a block away from her apartment, so fun times were had by all. So, maybe that’s it? I really like making my own worlds and characters, and have been lucky enough to be around so many creative people in my life. My partner, my friends, my mother, some of the most fun I have is just bouncing ideas off of these people.
SD: Tell us about your latest release.
BL: Sure! Treat Me Kindly is an adult supernatural murder mystery with horror elements. The story takes place in current times. Mild mannered Matthew Sharpton is having the worst existence possible. He lives in his parents' basement after his fiancee upgraded to a better man. To make his father happy, he goes to a charity auction hosted by the company the old man works for. While there, he ends up bidding on a beautiful bird and taking it home. It's here that he discovers that this isn't an ordinary bird. The bird has the ability to turn just as human as Matthew -- minus the thinning hair. The woman is more than happy to belong to Matthew as long as he does one simple thing. "Treat Me Kindly."
Meanwhile, Alex Sampson is a detective assigned to a case where Frank Marko, an ex-rockstar, has been found dead in his home. The only evidence is a small butterfly that was found by the body. The strange thing about the butterfly is that it's an extinct species. After some investigating, Alex discovers that the butterfly came from the same charity auction that Matthew attended. The whispered promises of "rare" and "exotic" animals ring a deadly truth as more people in the city are killed in bizarre ways, the only evidence being some sort of remnant from an animal.
SD: How did this book come about?
BL: This book is a combination of fanfiction and National Novel Writing Month. I've been writing fanfiction for several years (I still have old notebooks somewhere full of Dragonball Z fanfiction, this was back before I knew what fanfiction was). This followed me through high school and all throughout college. I once wrote a fanfic that I never finished, an alternate universe Naruto fanfic. I got really busy with working retail and thinking that, someday, I’d be a GameStop manager. That never came to be, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise because now I’m a published author.
Something that gets talked about through the fanfiction community is National Novel Writing Month, which is a challenge to write 50,000 words in a month. I thought I’d give it a shot. So I looked at that old fanfic I wrote and completely tore it apart, for lack of better words. The only thing I kept were two of the animals that show up, an original character, and the first line in the book -- sort of, it’s a bit different in the fic. Everything else -- the crime drama, the characters, the animals -- is something I came up with during NaNoWriMo. It’s amazing to see how much this book has changed! I had some help from my mother and partner since both of them read books in the supernatural horror genre, so their advice was very much appreciated. I let them read the rough draft first and they gave me their input and suggestions, then I just went with it.
SD: What made you pick the genre you did?
BL: It just sort of happened. I don’t know what genre I was going for when I first started this, I just started writing. I knew it was going to be supernatural, at least, but as I wrote, the story got darker and more disturbing. People were being brutally killed and the animals were having some pretty gnarly transformations. I just went with it. When you write, your characters tend to guide you to where the book needs to be. I just listened to them. When your main character tells you he wants to be a detective solving some ridiculous crimes instead of the businessman he started out being, it’s best to listen to him.
SD: Is there something in your book that was particularly hard to write?
BL: Yes. Absolutely. There are some rape scenes in my book and that was pretty hard for me to write. I remember getting to that chapter and thinking, “Oh god what am I doing?” I asked myself if I wanted to take that step, if I wanted the book to be that dark, but I couldn't get the idea out of my head. I could do a quick scene change, or have the victim fight back immediately, but instead my muses told me to go for it. I wanted to show how far some of these characters took the abuse of these creatures, and how these creatures are pretty loyal until you push them too far. So then the question comes up for the main character, Alex, “Were they wrong in defending themselves against their attacker?” As a detective he knows that murder is wrong, absolutely, but if these creatures were hurt in such a way... can he really blame them?
I also decided that if I was going to write rape scenes, they were going to be as brutal as I could make them. There’s this thing that happens sometimes, where people blame the victim in regards to rape, or they try to redefine rape as not being so terrible because “the body has ways to fight it,”and nonsense like that. When I was looking over this story last year I was considering taking those scenes out. The book was getting rejections left and right and I felt that maybe I had gone too far. But then the Steubenville case happened and people were blaming the victim because of alcohol. People were actually feeling sorry for her attackers, saying how their lives were ruined now. Then, suddenly, it was election time and there were these politicians trying to define what rape is. Terms like “legitimate rape”came to be. That just decided it for me. Rape is rape, period, and its terrible no matter how you try to analyze it. Stop trying to justify it because of alcohol, or what a person wears, these things don’t mean that the victim is asking for it. You don’t ask for rape, it happens and it’s awful, period. “Asking” implies consent, and rape is NOT consensual.
SD: Tell us about your writing process.
BL: The first thing that happens is I get THE idea. I get a lot of scattered ideas, but sometimes there’s a particular idea hits me so hard that I feel the urge to write the entire book in one sitting. Usually, I’ll send my partner an email with the idea and she’ll respond back and help me flesh it out. Once it’s fleshed out, I write out an outline to put everything together. If I have an idea I really, really like, I can write out a full outline with chapters and scenes and everything. However, the outline only serves as a guide, not something that I absolutely have to abide by. As I write I usually end up steering off course. Characters speak to me, or ideas come from out of nowhere, and I end up deviating from the outline. That’s o.k. though, because it’s important to listen to your muses. The outline is just a guide, and a lot of times I’ll follow parts of it, or add to it. It’s sort of a reminder of what kind of story you want to write.
When I’m finished writing the book I get help from my mother and partner since both of them read a bunch of books in a variety of genres. I let them read my rough draft and they give great advice. My mother is the one who came up with Alex’s age. I had him much younger, but she told me that if he’s a seasoned detective he needs to be older -- especially if he’s so sarcastic and snarky. That comes from years of police work, not just a few months. My partner helped me with some of the more twisted scenes and even helped me iron out the ending. It was completely different before she got a hold of it. And let me tell you, I was pretty frustrated. No one wants to reach the end of their book only to hear the, “Hmmmm, well....” However, after sleeping on it I realized that she was right, so I changed it.
SD: What inspires you to write?
BL: Everything around me. A cool haircut, or an interesting tattoo. Conversations with friends or family. Standing in line at the grocery store. Just, everything out there is some sort of inspiration. “The character should live here,”I say as we drive around the city. “They should have lunch here,”I say as we step into a restaurant. It’s all over the place.
The biggest inspiration comes from my older brother, who passed away when I was thirteen. I’d like to think that he’s reading my work and cheering me on. I’d like to think that he’s proud of me, and if there is a higher power up there, he’s annoying the living crap out of him or her by showing off my book.
SD: What do you do when you’re not writing?
BL: This goes back to me being a geek. If I’m not writing, I’m woodburning or painting. Either that, or I’m relaxing with a video game, anime, movie, or things like that. I love going to conventions in costume and I love selling my art. Now I’m making the transition of selling my book. I’m pretty easy to please, I think, just bring home a pizza and watching some crazy anime about boys on a swim team, or teenagers fighting in a war against giant human-like titans, and I’m happy. Either that or let me swear at the game I’m trying to beat, because swearing is always involved when I game, even if it’s something deceptively easy-going like Mario. F*** Mario, and his galaxies and worlds and lands. And his karts. Especially his karts.
SD: Any other releases from you in the future?
BL: Yes! I have two for sure! I recently signed a contract with Eternal Press (a sister publisher to my current publisher “Damnation Books”) for a supernatural gay romance thriller called, Double Hue. There’s some creepy, horror like things to this book too, because I guess I can’t just write romance? I mean I have for a short story in an anthology through Dreamspinner Press, but as far as an actually book? I guess I have to creep people out?
Here’s a quick blurb about it:
When something tragic happens in your life you want nothing more than to close your eyes, go to sleep, and make all of the pain go away. For Gable Peterson it’s a little more complicated than that. When detective Maurice Ashford shows up at his door with news that his boyfriend, Avery Blair, has been found dead, Gable is left devastated. Seeking some sort of comfort Gable does the same thing he did when his grandfather died back when he was a little boy; he closes his eyes and imagines a world where it never happened.
Only, when Gable wakes up, he’s surprised to see that Avery is actually still alive.
Also, my partner and I have a joint book we've been working on for years that’s being published by Alpha Wolf Publishing. While Treat Me Kindly, was an unfinished fanfic, this joint book is from years of my partner and I roleplaying with characters. We started out in a long distance relationship and this roleplay was our way of keeping in touch with one another. Now, it’s being published -- after being polished up, of course.
This book is a planned series, so far we have seven mapped out but the first should be coming out this year. The first book is called Hunters: Seeking the Storyteller. It’s a modern day supernatural adventure series and isn't nearly as dark as my solo works... so far. Who knows what the future will bring.
I know of the Storyteller, it whispers into the man’s ear, I've met him. If you promise not to kill me, I’ll take you to him.
Alix Andre DeBenit and Randall Fagan live in Minneapolis, Minnesota, as part of a hidden network of hunters who track down and kill demons and other monsters so the rest of the Twin Cities can go on believing that such creatures don’t exist. When Alix finds out about a creature called the Storyteller, who can read and alter people’s lives as simple as reading a book, he decides to take a chance and go against his beliefs to find this creature. Demons and monsters might be what he’s trained to kill, but if one of them can help him regain his lost family, then he’s willing to travel to their world and step into a fight far out of his depth just for that small chance.
SD: Any advice for other writers out there?
BL: Don’t be afraid to take a chance. Writing is difficult and unpredictable, but don’t be afraid to go for it. I spent six years working retail because it was “stable.” It was a for sure paycheck, so why would I ever want to give that up? As soon as there are problems with the economy people get scared, and they should be scared, but not at the expense of their happiness. If you’re unhappy with something you shouldn't be doing it. Or, if you have to do it, don’t forget to take some time to focus on that thing you love. The mistake I made wasn't necessarily working retail because I did need a job, the mistake I made was letting it consume my life. I did do reviews on anime and manga and video games, but I should’ve spent as much time on the writing aspect of my life as I did the retail aspect. When I came home from work I should’ve been on my computer. But retail is draining, and hard work, and over the years I was so unhappy with it. That unhappiness sort of refueled my dream though. I jumped into doing National Novel Writing Month and actually started looking at publishers. My advice, however, is to not wait that long. Don’t wait until things are unbearable to do what you love.
I’m not saying quit what you’re doing, you do have to be smart about it. It takes time to get that book done, more time to find a publisher, and even more time to get it out to everyone. It’s not something you jump into for the big bucks, not right away. It can take months for a publisher to get back to you, and you might not hear “yes”right away. Those stories you see about big name authors getting rejections left and right? All true. But don’t let that stop you. It’s a part of the process. Not everyone is going to like what you’re sending, but you have to keep going. Allow yourself a little (and I mean little) bit of time to be sad. Use that time to step away from writing and just go out and do something you like. Cheer yourself up. Then, after a good night’s sleep, dust yourself off and try again.
Also, do NOT compromise your story just to get it out there. Granted, you will have an editor, but the editor’s job is to make corrections where needed (grammar and such) and point out things that need to change. For example, my editor pointed out something with two of the main characters in Treat Me Kindly that didn't actually have to be there. I was adding romance near the end of the book and it felt tacked on, because they hadn't been romantic for like 180 pages, so why do it now when there was only 30 pages left to go? That is what the editor does. They point out inconsistencies and things like that, they don’t want you to change the entire book (because, if they didn't like the book, they wouldn't have said yes in the first place). They want to make your book stronger. If you really feel strongly about keeping something in your book, you can talk to them about it and they’ll listen.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions. If there’s something in your contract you don’t understand, or something you see online about the publisher or editor or whatever that makes you feel uneasy, don’t be afraid to speak up about it. It’s great to be published, but you need to find the publisher that fits you. If that publisher really wants you on their team, they will respond to you and talk with you about any questions and concerns you have. Always do research before you sign anything.
It’s a lot of hard work, which is why when you hear things like “writing is easy”it’s a load of crap. Even after you go through all of this and the book comes out there’s a lot of work to do. You have to push that book. Your publisher will, but you have to as well. f you thought you spent a bunch of time sending the book to people BEFORE it was published, just wait until AFTER it gets published. I don’t think I've emailed so many people in my life! And you have to be patient, because you’re not the only person playing the email game. Thankfully, there is a huge, huge network of places to go. People love writers who are just starting, because they want to help them get out there. If you can’t get a review, do an interview, a blog tour, a giveaway, a book spotlight. Do everything you can. Hit up local places in your city, hit up places online, just go everywhere you can. It’s like being a salesman, but for yourself. You have to advertise yourself as much as you advertise the book.
SD: Where can we find you online?
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/Brian
Tumblr Writing Blog: http://brichibiwritesthings.tu
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Briana-L
Goodreads Author Page: http://www.goodreads.com/autho
What a great interview! It's fantastic learning how every author differs in their writing and their approach. I love learning what inspires them to write and to continue doing so. Sometimes there's a message that authors need to share with readers.