Over the weekend I caught up with Scott Brillon author of The Sound of Falling and asked him about his views on being an independent author and what drives him to write.
Q. Scott, what initially drove you to write a book?
A. I can’t say that I actually decide to write anything. Something occurs to me and then I sit down and scribble until it’s finished.
Q. How long have you been writing?
A. Since I was a kid. I didn’t seriously pick it up until my teens when I was trying to impress a girl…and I’ve been doing it ever since.
Q. I think we’ve all bee there! How long did it take you to write The Sound of Falling?
A. A first draft was completed in sixth months, working in notebooks. Then it took me two more years before I had a draft I would show anyone.
Q. What do you use to write your books?
A. The first draft I write by hand. and follow up drafts are on a computer. I’m working on a project right now that I’m doing on a typewriter (I have six, I collect them).
Q. What problems did you encounter?
A. I don’t believe in writer’s block. I believe that’s the result of trying to make things happen in a story as opposed to seeing what happens and letting it happen.
Q. How do you think you’ve evolved as a writer since you’ve started?
A. Originally, I think I was trying to be someone else. I was trying to write someone else’s stories. That got tiring after a while. Then, one day, I remember I was seeing in my head a kid digging in the trash and I wanted to know why he was doing that and, for better or worse, I ‘ve been writing my own stuff ever since.
Q. Is there anything you wished you’d known when you started writing?
A. Rewriting. I wish someone had sat me down a long time ago and gotten me into the habit right away. There is just something about starting fresh each time.
Q. Do you structure your plots or just go with the flow?
A. A little of both. The original ending of Falling was much different and then, I think it was the third draft, I felt it go somewhere else and I followed it.
Q. Do you work on a set amount of words per day or does it change?
A. I try to do about 1000 words a day, which isn’t really that much. If the school year is particularly overwhelming or my life, as it sometimes does, starts falling apart, then I try to get 500 words down. A little is better than nothing at all.
Q. Do you do a lot of research when writing a book?
A. Yes and no. It depends on what I’m working on. A lot of times it’s to check dates.
Q. How would you describe your writing process?
A. Drafting (in a notebook), outline (if necessary), typing, rewrite (as many times as necessary).
Q. What time of the day do you find is best to write?
A. If I’m drafting, I like to do it first thing in the morning. Usually until my hand starts hurting. On a second draft, I like working very late at night. There are usually no distractions then. On the final draft of Falling, I would start at 10 at night and go until the sun came up. I really enjoyed that.
Q. Where do you draw your inspiration from?
A. Just about everything and anything.
Q. What draws you to this genre?
A. I don’t stick to a specific genre. When the story comes I follow.
Q. Have you ever tried to write other genres?
A. I’ve recently finished a science-fiction novel and a cycle of science-fiction stories. Soon I will be starting a crime novel.
Q. Which author would compare yourself too?
A. I don’t know that I would compare my novel with anyone else’s. But I felt Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak was incredibly important to me. Stephen Chbosky’s Perks of Being a Wallflower too. Probably about a dozen others I can’t think of right now.
Q. Can you relate to any of your own stories?
A. Of course, otherwise, I wouldn’t write them. They would be someone else’s story.
Q. How many books have you written?
A. Five or six. Falling was the first one I took to publication. I also have a number of others, including a sequel to Falling, that is all at the notebook stages right now.
Q. Have you ever written in collaboration with another author?
A. No. It’s not something that interests me.
Q. Who designed your front cover?
A. I did. It’s one of my own pictures.
Q. Who was the first person you showed your novel too?
A. Originally, I had meant to show it to a very good friend of mine who had always been the best of supporters. The day I was supposed to give it to him I had brought it to my classroom. One of my students asked if she could read it, so I let her. When class was over if she asked if she could come back near the end of the day to read some more. She came back for the last class of the day and read until the final bell rang. She had read about sixty pages and she wanted to read the rest of it so I let her take it home over the winter break.
When school came back in all she wanted to do was talk to me about the book. I will say it was a pretty awesome feeling. She had even written a review (which I still have). She’s in college now and last winter break I gave her a copy of my new book just to get her opinion on it. Her love of that book was probably what spurred me on to publish Falling.
Q. That’s pretty amazing, have you ever dedicated a book to someone?
A. Falling was dedicated to my father. I thought of the father and son in Falling and I thought of my own father so I thought that was apt. An upcoming short story collection is dedicated to my mother. And my next novel is dedicated to my brother and sisters.
Q. How do you market your books?
A. I don’t really. It’s not something I’m particularly gifted at.
Q. How do you deal with bad reviews?
A. Rage at first. Usually followed by forgetfulness.
Q. Do you use an agent?
A. I do have an agent. Mostly, though I have no use for them.
Q. How much time do you devote to marketing your books?
A. Not much, though I’m trying. I have a full-time career as a teacher and I am very dedicated to my job.
Q. How do you get your book reviews?
A. Usually, I ask people who have read the book to post something on the site at Amazon.
Q. Do you ever run free book promotions? Have these worked for you?
A. No. I’m not sure I know how.
Q. Do you do all your own proofreading and editing?
A. Yes. I have an older Kindle that does text-to-speech and I listen to the novel and make notes.
Q. How and where are you publishing this book?
A. I published it through Amazon’s Create Space. It’s a great tool for writers like me.
Q. What are the main benefits of being an independent author?
A. It’s a hazard of working with others who will tell you that they know better than you about your work and that you should change it for a perceived improvement. And sometimes they are right. But not always, just look at how many times JK Rowling was passed on before someone had the bright idea to let a child read the book. What an agent or editor looks at is marketability but that might not be the best thing for the story you’re trying to tell.
I’ve been submitting my work for a long time now and sometimes I would hear from editors that something is too violent or those kinds of stories don’t sell, or whatever, yet some authors get away with murdering whole kindergarten classrooms and you don’t hear a word from them. The novel I’m working on right now, I know, I would be told to can the structure and just keep it simple. But that isn’t the whole story nor is it how I want to tell my story. For better or worse it’s my story and I’m telling it my way. I never understood why I had to see the editor’s point of view but they could never see mine.
Q. That makes sense. What are you reading at the moment?
A. I’ll be nice and not mention it by name. I’m not particularly thrilled about it. But I have this thing that when I start a book I have to see it through to the end. That’s how I got through Anna Karenina. It wasn’t the book so much, I actually despised Anna. I was never so glad when someone threw themselves in front of a train in my life.
Q. What was the first book you ever read?
A. I’m not sure. It might have been Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles.
Q. What is your favourite book?
A. Hands down, William Faulkner’s The Sound and The Fury. That was the first time I ever read something where I actually felt the power of the writing. The epigraph for my book comes from it.
Q. What is your favourite quote?
A. I always liked this one from Joseph Conrad. “Let them think what they like, I didn’t mean to drown myself. I meant to swim till I sank, but that’s not the same thing.”
Q. What, in your opinion. is the best book to film adaptation?
A. Stephen King’s The Dead Zone. They so rarely get King books right, just look at the ends of It and The Stand if you need convincing. For some reason, they think weird is the same thing as scary.
Q. Where do you do your best reading?
A. In my bed, with the cats sleeping on my legs.
Q. When you read do you prefer a book or a Kindle/tablet?
A. I prefer a good old paperback, but I do like the Kindle, a lot. The text-to-speech app is incredibly useful when I’m editing.
Q. Amazing! So do you have any tips for aspiring authors?
A. WRITE! Don’t go to seminars or conferences! Don’t buy books on how to write. Just sit down and get to it.
Q. Thank you, Scott, what’s coming next?
A. I’m hoping to release a short story collection (Lawn Care & Other Stories) by this summer or fall. My next novel Where the Monsters Came From will hopefully be ready next October. There is sneak peek of the first chapter on my blog on WordPress.