March is here! You know what that means: winter is almost over! More importantly, it’s time for our next featured author. For the month of March, I will be featuring Graeme Brown, Fantasy writer and editor. As you’ve probably guessed by now, fantasy is one of my favorite genres, so I was excited when the author of the novella, The Pact, agreed to be featured on my blog.
Graeme Brown is a fantasy writer, editor, artist, runner, and computer programming geek, not to mention a coffee addict! A life-long lover of the fantasy genre, Graeme began writing when he was just a child. The Pact is Graeme’s first published story, and while he continues to write, he pursues his other loves: reading, historical research, learning new words, and running. For those curious about his work, visit his website: http://www.graemebrownart.com or check out his blog: A Fantasy Writing Journey: The Blog of Epic Fantasy Writer Graeme Brown or follow him on twitter:https://twitter.com/GraemeBrownWpg
Lit Chic: What made you decide to become a writer?
Graeme Brown: I’ve loved telling stories as long as I can remember. When I was in grade 3, we were asked to write a story and I found the idea fascinating—so fascinating I kept working on the story long after it was due, using the classroom’s computer whenever I could get on (that was back when they still had the giant floppy discs that were actually floppy).
I didn’t start seriously reading until 2 years later and didn’t discover fantasy books until grade 8 (that wonderful first discovery was Dennis L. McKiernan’s The Dark Tide trilogy; Lord of the Rings soon followed). Reading books made me want to write them, and it took nearly twenty years before the hundreds of first starts made it to the finish line. At that point I was hooked, and the adventure still gets more and more alluring as I go.
Lit Chic: What was the inspiration behind your first published work, The Pact.
Graeme Brown: After I put my second novel-length manuscript away, I took an outlining workshop and realized I’d never really planned a story out properly. I’d also only attempted novels, and the author who gave the workshop suggested, to get involved with publishing, we start with short stories.
The next morning on my way to work, I thought of what kind of short story I wanted to write—something fresh and unexplored, and fantasy (but not set in the world I’d been building since I was 13). The idea for The Pact was simply a premise: two boys who live on the edge of monster-filled mountains and are about to lose their home. I started exploring that, and the ideas came together quickly, and, of course, my familiar fantasy world snuck in anyway.
Lit Chic: You’ve received a lot of praise for the protagonist. Tell me about Will Lesterall and what you think makes him enjoyable to readers.
Graeme Brown: I think Will Lesterall is relatable and realistic. He’s a hero, but he’s an unlikely hero and doesn’t realize he’s one, either. Will’s heroism is something an adult, reading about what he goes through in The Pact, would marvel at. Will is also very much a 10-year-old boy, and when I wrote about Will, I became 10 again, so there is something about capturing the wonder of innocence and curiosity which readers might enjoy too.
Lit Chic: When sitting down to write, what are some things you cannot work without?
Graeme Brown: Notes, notes, and notes! I began outlining and profiling on 6”x4” sheets of paper, and, as my stories grew, I kept them organized with colored sticky tabs. Characters go in one pile, settings in another, outline frames in yet another, and I tab sub-sections for the ones that have grown large, for efficient access (i.e. primary, secondary, and tertiary characters). As the world grew I started profiles for nations, groups, religions, maps and languages as well (rendered from the three languages I’d developed quite a bit as part of my childhood world-building). All of these go in a black cue card box I like to call The Black Box, and I take it everywhere, since the urge to write can strike any time.
Lit Chic: What is your favorite part of the writing process? Your least favorite?
Graeme Brown: My favorite part happens as soon as I connect to the story’s voice. At this time, I’m writing, creating, flowing. I delete as much as I type, and in this way I feel as much a sculptor as I am artist filling a blank canvas, but the overall experience is one of relaxed focus, something enjoyable I feel I can maintain for hours on end when given the choice.
My least favorite part is stopping. I can write on a packed bus, in a comfy chair in a coffee shop, at home in bed—anywhere, really—but I find the longer I disconnect from the storytelling process the harder it is to reconnect. That said, this is not always true, as I find breaks are much needed at times, but overall I am happy as a child with his favorite toy when I have my computer in my lap and my notes at the ready.
Lit Chic: How do you promote/market your work?
Graeme Brown: I’m a believer in word-of-mouth sales and the effectiveness of visibility. My first priority is to make sure readers can find my work and purchase it with no hassle. Next I want to make sure the online experience for prospective fans is seamless, so they can move between my media presence on Twitter, my blog, and my website. It is easy to follow or subscribe to updates on my blog, so this way readers who want to see more will have updates.
With this in place, I look for every opportunity I can to be a guest on someone’s blog, and I do the reverse, with my Author in the Spotlight feature, so that I can provide readers who follow my blog not just with updates on me but on other fantasy writers they may also find interesting.
My platform goal is to be a good host. I’m looking to build relationships before sales, and firmly believe this is fundamental to promotion, not just to keep me from turning people off with a broken-record sales pitch, but for my own sanity—promotion without this genuine element, to me, drains my soul away.
Lit Chic: Please tell me more about the Champagne Book Group and why you decided to work with them in publishing and promoting your work?
Graeme Brown: I met Ellen, the owner of Champagne Book Group, at a local sci-fi / fantasy convention in Winnipeg in 2012. The idea of an ebook publisher seemed strange to me at the time, and I was in transition between novel number one and novel number two, with my sights set on the formidable New York fortress.
The next year I attended again and Ellen gave a workshop on writing query letters and synopses. At the time, an agent in New York was looking at my second book and I had just finished writing The Pact. I was impressed by Ellen’s business acumen, and by the display of print books, so I decided to send The Pact along, following her submission requirements to a T. This seemed a good choice, since The Pact, at 17,000 words, was too long to be a short story in most magazines, but too short to be a novella for a print publisher. Shortly after this, the agent in New York rejected my manuscript and I moved on, instead, to writing a sequel for The Pact.
Lit Chic: You are also an editor for Champagne Book Group and are open to submissions. What kind of works are you looking for?
Graeme Brown: I’d love to see submissions from aspiring fantasy writers and am actively looking to build the collection of titles for the Burst imprint. I am particularly interested in character-driven fantasy with a rich, detailed world, historical realism, and series potential. Please visit the submission guidelines page for Champagne Books and follow all the instructions carefully before submitting anything to me.
I am also available for hire as an independent editor, but please note you cannot query me with something for publication then ask for independent editing, or vice versa. Please inquire for rates if you are interested in hiring my services privately.
If you would like some tips on the craft of storytelling, I offer a weekly workshop for free.
Lit Chic: How are some ways that you connect with and/or help other writers?
Graeme Brown: At the end of 2013, after working for four months on revisions for my current writing project, I realized I needed a last push. So, I called out to all my writer friends to join me on #writingmarathon2013 on Twitter. There was a big turnout, I wrote for 26 hours straight (okay, I had a dinner break, and a shower at 4am to keep myself awake for the last push), and not only did I get my novel finished and submitted, but three other writers finished drafts too!
Many writers wanted me to keep these up, so I’ve set up 4 writing events for this year, with a final writing marathon to ring in 2015. (You can read about these on my blog under the Live Writing Events section.)
I also set up #writersinoffice for writers who want to join me regularly. So far I have several regulars who like to tweet under that hashtag and we cheer each other on. I hope the trend will grow because it’s lots of fun, especially since it’s not competitive.
At conventions, I give talks on outlining or promotion, and I offer writers a free online editing workshop called Storybuilder Inc., which you can find at worldsoftheimagination.com. I also mentor a writer, which I find very rewarding because it’s a chance to short cut another away from several of the common mistakes I made without guidance, and in the process reflect on ways I can improve my own method.
Lit Chic: For you, what is the greatest reward/biggest downfall of writing?
Graeme Brown: To me the money end of writing can be the biggest downfall. The more time I can spend on writing, the better quality I can present readers, but much of my time is devoted to promotion and making a living. This is a downfall to writing in general, I think, because I’m not the first author to complain about this.
The biggest reward to me would be when readers have complimented my efforts by buying my books—enough of them to allow me to work full time on nothing but writing. Every sale I make and every good review I receive is rewarding because it means I am connecting to readers and moving toward building the community I’d like to build—one comprising those who love the stories I write and will be hiring me, through their faithful purchases, to write more.
That’s it folks! I hope you enjoyed this month’s featured author. I strongly encourage you to check out his website and his blog if you are interested in connecting with an enthusiastic artist.
If you, yourself, are interested in being featured on my blog or know a writer/blogger/editor you would like to promote, please contact me via e-mail provided in the tab to the left. I’m always interested in meeting new people and connecting writers to readers, readers to writers, and writers to editors.