Monday, 8 July 2013

Author Interview: Briana Lawrence

About the Author:


At the age of nine, like most kids, Briana Lawrence had a dream. She wanted to be the best “WRITTER” in the whole wide world. Her fourth grade class laughed and wondered how one hoped to become a “writer” if they couldn’t even spell the word. Back then her stories were created with crayons and construction paper. As she grew older they progressed into notebooks and colored ink pens of pink, blue, and purple. When she lost her older brother, Glenn Berry, in a car accident, she stopped writing.

Dreams, however, have a funny way of coming back.

Before she realized it she was grabbing her notebook and pens again. She would write stories that ranged from high school romance to her imagination running wild with the likes of Goku, Vegeta, and the other characters of Dragonball Z. This continued throughout college where she would always end up writing about the space exploits of the pilots of Gundam Wing and other works of fan fiction. Soon she realized that she wanted to do more than that. Her head was full of ideas, full of original characters and worlds that she wanted to share with others.

Thus, she stepped into an English Major with some Women’s Studies on the side.

She graduated Iowa State University in 2006 and moved to Minneapolis with her partner. Here, she tried to get into graduate school, but things didn’t pan out the way she wanted. She ended up working retail, her dream becoming buried by Black Fridays and other busy times of year. Once again, however, that dream returned. She went from immersing herself in geeky fan fiction to actually writing about the geeky things she loved for several anime and video game review sites. However, it was her discovery of National Novel Writing Month that made her go back to creating her own characters and plots.

Now, here she is, an author in the writing world.


Do you plan everything or just let the story flow?

I do both, actually.  When I get an idea for a book I make an outline for it.  I map out what I want to happen in each chapter, and I write down character names and descriptions.  So I definitely go into a book with a plan.  However, ten times out of ten when I start writing I stray off course.  But I think that’s what makes for a good book, if you just let it happen and go in the direction it chooses to go in.  Usually, I stay on course with the outline in theory.  Maybe it’ll be the right number of chapters, or maybe the first two go the way I want, but certain scenes and events will just go in all sorts of crazy directions.

Do your characters ever want to take over the story? 

My characters want to take over my life!  I’m being serious.  If I’m writing something and take a break, sometimes my characters show up with ideas in the most random places.  Grocery shopping.  The shower.  Oh man, the amount of scenes and plots that I’ve come up with in the shower!  Sometimes, I’ll be out somewhere, and I’ll see someone and think, “Oh wow that’s how I want character A to look,” or, “Character B really, really needs that hairstyle.”

While it’s good to let the story take its own course, sometimes you need to reign the characters in.  It’s important to give them equal time, or rather, enough time to make them memorable.  Even if they’re only in a scene or two, you don’t want “throw away characters.”  You don’t want someone to read your book and think, “Oh god, that guy really didn’t need to be there,” so “that guy” needs just as much attention as your main character, even if he doesn’t show up that often.

What is your favourite food?

My mother’s macaroni and cheese.  It’s this cheesy, delicious specimen of food that’s really, really good.  It’s the food I would always want her to make, and the food I’d get upset about if she made it and I wasn’t there to eat it.
 
Are you a morning person or a night owl?

A bizarre mix of both that tends to make me grumpy in the mornings before I have some sort of caffiene.  I can stay up pretty late if I’m working on something (writing or crafts), but for some reason, no matter how late I stay up, I STILL wake up early in the morning.  As I’m doing this interview, I stayed up until 3 in the morning woodburning, then woke up at 8 a.m.  That is not cool!

Where do you dream of travelling to and why?

I dream of travelling to as many places as possible.  In the U.S. and outside of the U.S.  I really want to see the world.  Even travelling through the U.S., things are different state to state.  I can only imagine how different and interesting things are outside of the U.S.  I did get to go to London to study abroad, and I think that made me want to travel more.  The different culture, and places, and food, everything was so wonderful!  I want more of that.  I’ve been living in the Midwest all of my life, and while I love it here, I am always up for going somewhere new.  Why stay in the same place all of your life?  Go out there and see something new.

Do distant places feature in your books?

Actually, “Treat Me Kindly” has an entire new world where the animals come from.  I’m planning a sequel, and I want to travel to new places to get ideas for what that world should look like.  Also, my partner and I have a joint book being published.  This is going to be a series, and we have an idea for one of the books breaking away from the Midwest and taking place somewhere new.  So yeah, distant places are important.  Just a fresh, new location can really do something special for your book.

Do you listen to music while writing?

I listen to a lot of things while I write.  Either the T.V. or my headphones.  I have to have some kind of noise, but it has to be the kind of noise I have control over.  I can turn off the T.V. or turn down the music at any time, but if I go out to a place like Panera or something, I can’t control how noisy it gets.  If it’s music, it tends to be very random music, probably a song on repeat that I have stuck in my head.  As I write this, that song would be the opening from “Attack on Titan,” a new anime series.  For T.V., it tends to be bad talk shows or court shows or cooking reality shows.  Of, if it’s a movie, it’s a bad horror movie.  I need things that I don’t actually have to pay attention to.  As much as I love anime and action movies and old 90s cartoons, I will stop and watch for hours and hours and not get anything done.

Could you tell us a bit about your latest release?


Sure thing!  "Treat Me Kindly" is an adult supernatural murder mystery with a touch of horror.  It 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.


What drew you to the M/M genre in general?

Isn’t that the million dollar question?  I discovered it at the tender age of 16.  I was obsessed with a little anime called “Gundam Wing” and was looking up pictures and more information when I stumbled across a page about two of the male characters, Heero and Duo.  The page was talking about how the two boys were a couple and it provided some promotional pictures.  Honestly, looking back, there wasn’t anything too scandalous with the pictures (one boy had his hand on the other boy’s shoulder, small things like that) but that picture combined with the “evidence” someone listed made me think, “Oh wow, maybe they ARE together.”

I think it may have been the fact that this was so different to me.  This was the 90s and I hadn’t really been exposed to gay culture.  I can remember clearly one gay guy in one of my classes, and he was very much the sassy gay guy.  I can also remember getting a letter from a middle school friend who had moved out to California, and he had essentially come out to me and about six other people.  He was so terrified about it and all I could think was, “Why?  We’re still friends.”  I also remember a girl on my block saying she was a lesbian, but she was also with men, too, because we saw her one day and she was pregnant.  Back then, we didn’t really say a person was “bisexual,” we called them “confused” because we didn’t know what else to call them.

Predominantly, when I was growing up, the girls wanted boyfriends and the boys wanted girlfriends, so “gay” never came up.  Seeing M/M romance?  It was so different, and things I would read had these couples that went through so much crap to be together, whether it was because they were gay, or because they were gundam pilots in a war, and it was attractive.  It wasn’t the M/F romance that I would see all over the place: movies, television shows, school, and things like that.

Soon I learned about “fandom” and how fans would put characters together who weren’t actually together.  I thought, “oh how fun,” and joined it.  Then, when I turned 18, I found out that there were actual canon M/M anime and manga and... it just spiralled out of control.  

Do you write other genres besides M/M?

I do, most definitely.  My book is a supernatural thriller with some hints of horror.  I write all sorts of things, but there tends to be a M/M couple in there somewhere.  The book itself has M/F, M/M, and F/F.  I like to try and have diversity, and when I write something that has several different kinds of couples I like for them all to feel... normal?  That’s a terrible way to say it, but what I mean is that I want the gay couple and the lesbian couple to flow with the story just like the heterosexual couple does.  I like having characters feel like characters and not just “that gay guy.”  Same thing if I’m writing strictly M/M.  Yes, the couple is gay, but I want people the characters for who they are, not just because they’re gay.

Wow, as I’m writing this, I realize that I’ve come a long way from the fanfiction I would write back when I was 16.



What have you learned about writing and publishing since you first started?

I think the most important thing I learned -- which may or may not be something that aspiring authors know about -- is that the job isn’t over once the book gets accepted for publication.  There’s a ton of work that comes after that acceptance letter.  Obviously, I knew that there would be some editing involved, but then you have to think about the cover, the back of the book blurb, your author bio, your author picture, dedications, acknowledgements, and that’s all before the book gets published!   There’s a ton of work that happens after publication, which is where I am now.  You have to advertise.  Sure, your publisher will do it too, but you personally have to push the book too.  My publisher gave me free electronic copies to give to reviewers, and there are reviewers all over the place.  Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, blogs, you have to pitch the book to these people so that they want to read it.  Then there’s interviews and giveaways and all sorts of things you want to do to get yourself out there.  So it’s like, you already worked hard to present yourself to the publisher, now you and the publisher have to work to get you out into the world.  Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, conventions, just... anything and everything, you have to do it, because if you don’t love your book enough to sell it, then why should anyone be interested in picking it up?

Is there anything you would do differently?

Honestly?  I would’ve done this sooner than I did.  I was working retail for 6 years at GameStop and, at some point, I had an idea of one day becoming a manager and running my own store.  I told myself this was my dream when, deep down, I knew what I wanted to do: write.  But there are a lot of people who whisper in your ear, you know?  I think they mean well, but their words end up doing more harm than good.  “The economy is bad, you’re lucky you have a real job.”  “Do you know how many people don’t have jobs and are struggling?”  “Writing isn’t a real job, unless if you become famous and can make money.”  I got scared so I stopped trying.  Why jump into something so unpredictable when I had something secure?  Even if it didn’t make me happy, at least I could pay my bills right?  I wish I wouldn’t have been so scared, but the important thing is that I’m here now.

Who, or what, if anything has influenced your writing?

Everything around me influences what I write.  The people I see when I go to the store.  My friends.  My family.  Political issues.  Somehow, these things just make it into my works, usually without me realizing it.  I’ll spot it when I reread it, or when I give it to my partner or mother to read before I send it out somewhere.

My biggest influence is my brother, always and forever.  He passed away when I was 13, and even now I’m still trying to do my best for him.  I always wonder if he’ll be proud of the little girl he use to tickle to death all of those years ago.  I’d like to think that he is.  I’d like to also think that he’s reading my book... and probably questioning where I get half of this stuff from.

Anything you would say to those just starting out in the craft?

Never give up.  Don’t be afraid to try, and most importantly, don’t be afraid to fail.  Rejection comes with the territory.  It’s o.k. to be upset about that rejection letter, but don’t let it stop you.  Also, don’t touch your story or respond to that letter the day you get it.  On that day, just feel sad, or pissed off, or whatever it is that you’re feeling.  Then, do whatever it is you do that puts you in a good mood.  My partner would drive around with me and we’d get ice cream and chicken nuggets, and just talk.  I’d call myself a loser and a failure and just let it all out.  It’s important to do that.  It’s important to let your feelings go for a day, then get a good night’s sleep and go at it again.

Be prepared for the naysayers.  I was an English major in college and I’ve heard it all.  English isn’t a real job.  Writing doesn’t pay.  Writing is easy.  Bullshit.  Bullshit on all of that.  Writing, or any creative field, is one of the hardest things you can jump into.  It’s hard to be creative enough to entertain people.  It’s hard to keep people engaged in something.  And even if you get your book out there, there’s no guarantee on how it’ll be received.  You’re going to get those bad reviews, and it’s important to not let them stop you.  You can’t please everyone.  Don’t let it stop you.  Just do your best, because there’s going to be people who love what you do.  I had a whole slew of rejections until I found Damnation Books.  I had a bunch of short stories rejected from Dreamspinner Press before I finally wrote something they liked and put in an anthology.  You just have to go for it.  If it’s what you want, then go for it.  

What are three words that describe you?

Just three?  Geeky.  Creative.  Determined.

What's your favourite book or who is your favourite writer?

I read a lot of manga and comics and things like that, and I have a lot of favorites.  I tend to love things that take me by surprise.  I like to be caught off guard.  I don’t like the easy stories, I don’t like things to end in a neat little package.  If the story is harsh and terrible, I don’t expect a cute, happy ending.  For example, there’s an anime series called “Madoka Magica” that looks like the cutest thing since kittens, bunnies, and puppies.  But, when you watch it, you realize that nothing about it is cute.  It’s messed up.  It’s heartbreaking.  It’s hard to watch because you get so invested and it’s not afraid to take your feelings, throw them in a blender, pour the liquid into a skillet, cook it to an unbearable boil until it evaporates into nothing.

Blurb of your latest release or coming soon book

a)  My latest release is “Treat Me Kindly,” an urban supernatural thriller with bits and pieces of horror.  Here is a snippet:

Well, this is new.

Alex Sampson is rarely speechless at a crime scene. He likes to think that he has ‘seen it all,’ if you will, but just in case, he reserves some space in his brain for the extra weird and morbid.

Seeing a man’s neck crushed like a tube of toothpaste takes up all that extra space and then some.

The man’s eyes stare blankly up at Alex, wide and pale, and when Alex leans in closer they look ready to pop out of their sockets. Claw marks brand him, carved into his crunched up neck, the marks so deep that the skin has become loose and flabby, damn near falling off the bone. There’s blood splattered all around the man, across the floor and racing up the wall and over the furniture like a modern piece of art.

Then there are the feathers, bright yellow and stained dark red and brown, scattered in the remnants of a small tornado.

Alex wants to ask questions, but he doesn’t even know where to start. He quietly watches the forensics team takes pictures, followed by quiet murmurs of “what could have done this?” It’s his job to figure that part out, to piece the evidence together. At the moment, his brain can only offer lame, piss poor answers. Some sort of animal attack? Right, because the parakeet next door suddenly had a taste for human blood and sprouted Godzilla feet to trample the man’s neck.

“Sir,” one of the officers—Tony, he remembers—walks over. The kid looks pale, a ghostly shade of white as he fidgets in front of Alex. “You should come take a look at this.”

Alex feels for the unlucky rookie who went from the quiet death of a washed up rock-star to this massacre. He puts a hand on his shoulder as they head to the bedroom, Tony jumping a little before he offers Alex a hollow, half smile. Kid’s not going to make it. Alex can tell by the look in his eyes. He’s ready to go back to checking the parking meters on the street and hearing stories about those gruesome homicide cases instead of actually living
through them.

b)  Coming soon is “Hunters: Seeking the Storyteller,” an urban supernatural adventure book with my partner.  Here is a snippet.  It’s due out this August or September:

Alix crossed over and pulled up a chair, straddling it backward.  “There is a story I’ve heard before, during my hunts.”  Alix paused for a moment, deep blue eyes searching for the proper way to word it, “It… was a rather interesting tale and I want to know if there is any truth to it.  I want to know if there are demons who have the power to… change things."

The creature in front of him thought about that for a moment, silently rubbing his chin in an almost human behavior.  "I am assuming you mean larger things, possibly past things.  There are indeed stories of a specific type of demon who can do that.  But you won’t find him in your world."

Alix nodded.  "I figured as much.  Tell me about him."

"In my world, they call him The Storyteller.  According to our world every living thing has a book where its life and stories are recorded and written down.  These books are stored in a room.”

“A room full of books?  You mean like a library?”

“Library?”  The creature tilted its head in what Alix could only assume was a curious gesture, “Yes, I suppose that is a good word for it if these ‘libraries’ of yours are endless.”

“Endless?  No, nothing like that.”

“I see.  Well, I suppose calling it a library will do for now,” the demon chuckled before speaking again, “The Storyteller is the one who collects these books and watches over them.  But he also has the power to write new books and rewrite events.”  It stopped and tilted its head again.  Unlike the previous demons that Alix had become accustomed to killing this one seemed curious about a lot of things, particularly in Alix’s reactions during their conversation.  The empty holes in its head seemed to always be focused on Alix, studying him, its body shifting in its chair each time Alix frowned, or let out a soft breath.  Soon it spoke again, crossing its arms at its chest in the same way Alix had his arms crossed around the back of his chair, “Why?  Is there something you wanted The Storyteller to change about your story?"

"That is nothing for you to worry about,” Alix said quickly, “Where would I find him?"

The creature shook its head, the movement liquid against the rippling shadows behind him.  "You can’t.  The Storyteller doesn’t leave his ‘library’ and no one else can enter there."

Alix looked at the demon in disgust and stood up, pushing his chair aside.  "So he doesn’t actually exist and you’re wasting my time."  Turning, he moved toward the steps but stopped as the light directly above him snapped out with a small pop.  Alix glanced back at his prisoner.

"In exchange for my life.  If you swear that I will not be harmed by you or your associates, I will tell you what I know about him."

"You’ve already told me everything I need to know.  You also just said that no one could go there or see him."

"No.  I told you what my world believed.  I have met him."

c)  Also coming soon is “Double Hue,” a gay romance urban supernatural thriller with bits and pieces of horror.  Here is a snippet:

He knows that this is a dream.

He’s standing in his dorm room but everything is gray and dull like an old black and white movie.  All of his things are still there -- mini fridge, computer, giant marketing book -- but they look like they haven’t been touched in years, worn and covered in a thick blanket of dust.  There’s a knock on his door, the sound hollow, dead, and as he moves to answer it something in the back of his mind tells him that he doesn’t want to open the door.  He should stay in his room, not come out, and hide under the blankets forever.

Opening the door means disaster.  Opening the door means death.
         
But his feet are moving on their own and he opens the door, greeted to the sight of a man in a suit who shows him a badge.  It’s odd, he thinks, for the badge to be such a deep red.  It’s a stark contrast to the grainy gray world Gable’s standing in to the point of Gable squeezing his eyes shut just to adjust to the suddenly burst of color.  Aren’t most badges made in shades of brown?  Why red?  But he doesn’t get a chance to think about it, the detective is speaking and suddenly Gable finds himself trying to make out the words.

... Detect-... -rice... Ashfor-...

… hate to tell you -- then suddenly the volume is cranked up to full blast.

-- I’m sorry, son, but HE’S DEAD -- then the red begins to bleed off the badge, dripping to the floor until it starts to pull around Gable’s feet.  HE’S DEAD!

List of previous books if any

Nothing previous, everything is upcoming.  I have previous writing experience in the form of different articles and review for anime, manga, and video games.  As far as a full book goes, “Treat Me Kindly” is the first.  I do have a short story published in a gay romance anthology through Dreamspinner Press, and it was released on the same day as “Treat Me Kindly.”

Any websites/places readers can find you on the web.

Absolutely!  Please, come find me!

Facebook Author Page:  https://www.facebook.com/BrianaLawrencesPenAndPaper

Tumblr Writing Blog:  http://brichibiwritesthings.tumblr.com/

Amazon Author Page:  http://www.amazon.com/Briana-Lawrence/e/B00D9ULZ70/

 Goodreads Author Page:  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7055998.Briana_Lawrence




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