An Interview with Foz Meadows, author of CORAL BONES

WIN_20160116_22_18_50_ProI am SO EXCITED to have Foz Meadows drop by the blog today for an interview! Foz generously agreed to answer some questions about her wonderful novella, CORAL BONES.
Foz Meadows is a genderqueer author, blogger, essayist, reviewer and poet. In 2014, she was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer for her blog, Shattersnipe; she is also a contributing writer for The Huffington Post and Black Gate, and a contributing reviewer for Strange Horizons and Tor.com. Her third novel, An Accident of Stars, is due out from Angry Robot in 2016.


 

The Miranda in CORAL BONES is such a different Miranda than the Miranda from The Tempest, even in the flashbacks. So much sharper, and more clever, and in the present sections, she’s seen and done so much more. How did you take the source material, where Miranda is hardly even one dimensional, and flesh her out to deeper character?

The heart of all fanfiction – and let’s be honest, writing about someone else’s characters is always going to be fanfiction, even if it’s Shakespeare – especially if it’s Shakespeare, actually; we revere him now, but it’s not as if he shied away from making a dick joke or twenty back in the day – is always in the gaps. And Miranda, fundamentally, is a creature of more gaps than substance: her entire existence is conditional on her convenience to the male characters, because she was written, quite deliberately, as an idealised personification of feminine virtue. Which means, from a fanfic perspective, there are plenty of gaps to work with: all you have to do is find an entry point, and ask enough questions to get the ball rolling.

My entry point for Coral Bones was Prospero’s initial conversation with Miranda, and everything it implies. Prospero says he’s never told Miranda that she’s a princess, even though they’ve been stranded together for over a decade – and then, when her presence becomes inconvenient, he puts her to sleep. When she wakes again, it’s clear she doesn’t realise he’s responsible, which makes you wonder: how often has he done this? When did he start? And what does this say about how he’s raised Miranda? Because of the way The Tempest is structured, we’re not encouraged to think of it as challenging gender roles – Miranda’s marriage to Ferdinand rather gives the opposite impression – but the fact remains that Prospero has been raising his daughter as a single father, a task he is culturally and socially ill-equipped to perform. And he’s a nobleman, too: Miranda’s one flashback to life before the island involves multiple female servants taking care of her, so it’s reasonable to infer that Prospero, when they first arrived, was wholly out of his element.

That being so – and as the only resources at his command were magical – it makes perfect sense that, as a nobleman and a scholar, Prospero would delegate the primary care of Miranda to his androgynous servant, Ariel. Which means that, straight away, there’s going to be a tension in her that Prospero doesn’t necessarily recognise, because Ariel isn’t human – isn’t even male or female, but a genderfluid spirit – and so whatever Prospero tells his daughter about her role as a woman, which is later reflected in how she behaves with Ferdinand (and how, to a lesser extent, she behaves with him), it’s hard to imagine her being the same with Ariel when Prospero isn’t watching; that growing up under fairy guidance wouldn’t have an impact on her knowledge and curiosity. And we know, canonically, that Ariel is bound to serve Prospero, which gives them a kinship of sorts with Miranda, yet also curtails how obviously they can influence her, and in what ways.

This is what I mean when I say that Miranda’s existence, canonically, is conditional on her convenience to the male characters: all that matters is what they see of her, and so that’s all we see. But if you consider her as an individual – if you imagine her internality, separate to her perception, in the context of her raising – then you’re left to draw one of two conclusions: that either Miranda behaves as she would for a male audience at all times, even when alone, or there’s an enormous part of her that we’re not seeing, and a reason why it’s hidden. And as the second option is much more narratively interesting, even if it’s not what Shakespeare intended, that’s what I chose to write.

Years ago, I encountered a striking comment on Jane Austen’s writing: that she never depicted a scene in which two men were alone together, because she was worried that, never having witnessed such a thing herself, she wouldn’t be able to depict it with any degree of accuracy. And yet her male characters are wholly three-dimensional, because – to paraphrase what Dorothy L. Sayers once famously said on the same subject – she was nonetheless aware that men are people: that, even if they behaved differently when she couldn’t see them, those differences remained salient to their personhood without invalidating her perception of them otherwise. And yet there’s a whole body of supposedly classic male writing which fails to extend the same courtesy to women: which constructs them as though their visibility to men is the be-all, end-all of their existence. Which is, partially, the fault of cultures which have, for centuries, treated women as though this were literally the case; and yet it’s also a failure of imagination and empathy in a field which, by its nature, ought to abound in both. Women have never had the luxury of forgetting that men exist in spaces where they themselves are absent, because the business undertaken in such spaces has nonetheless directly impacted their liberties. Whereas a great many men, it seems, have been able to either ignore the existence or elide the importance of women’s spaces, because they believed – however inaccurately – that nothing which went on in them was relevant to men, or represented a threat to their freedom. That’s the difference between Mr Darcy and Miranda: even when viewed by women alone, the former is written as though he still exists beyond their gaze, while the latter is presented as nothing more than a construct of male attention.

Unless, of course, we dig into the inherent contradiction of any person being thus defined, and make a new story out of it.

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What was your favorite part of writing CORAL BONES, and why?

It was immensely cathartic to write Miranda as genderqueer, but Puck was extraordinarily fun to work with, too. A Midsummer Night’s Dream has always been my favourite Shakespeare play, and I’ve got a decided soft-spot for mythology’s tricksters. Figuring out how to make Puck helpful without betraying his mischievous nature was very satisfying – as was crafting my own interpretation of the fairy courts.

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Where does CORAL BONES fit with the other novellas in the MONSTROUS LITTLE VOICES series? Did you know what the order would be when you wrote it, or was that determined after the fact?

Once the editor, David Thomas Moore, signed the five of us on for the project, he set up a group pages where we could jointly discuss the stories we wanted to tell and the characters we wanted to use, complete with his own notes about the overarching structure – history, worldbuilding, magic – for use as references. We went back and forth with our ideas, and once it was established that everything could fit together without contradiction, we went to work. I think I was vaguely aware that Coral Bones was first up chronologically, but I didn’t quite realise that meant first in the anthology until the novella was being released!

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Compared to your other work (say, your upcoming novel, AN ACCIDENT OF STARS) was it a different process to get the voice right for this piece? To get that hint of Shakespearean cadence and poetry in there without going overboard? Or do you tend to fiddle with style a lot anyway?

I was definitely worried about getting it right! I didn’t think I could pull off actual Shakespearean dialogue, so adopting a first-person poetic style seemed like a sensible way to reference the original language while still writing in my own voice. An Accident of Stars, by contrast, is written very differently – third person, multiple POVs – with an eye to different details. I’ve always had a fairly versatile writing style, but it’s definitely improved since I started immersing myself in fanfiction. The whole idea of writing something just for yourself, as a deliberate subversion of canon and convention, is immensely freeing, and it’s given me a much stronger idea of my own abilities. I heartily recommend it!

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How can readers stay in the loop and get news about your projects and releases?

I tweet, tumble and blog as Foz Meadows, which isn’t exactly a common name, so I’m pretty easy to find online. I do tend to ramble about a whole bunch of stuff, though, so anyone who’s interested purely in my fiction updates – and not, say, a lengthy paean to my feelings about Dragon Age, Teen Wolf or whatever other dumpster I’m currently occupying – might want to brace themselves.

~

Anything else you want us to know? Shout-outs? Words of wisdom?

I AM THE LIZARD QUEEN!*

*Translation: I am a terrible dork.

Author Interview: Ben Berman Ghan

I’m pumped to have Ben Berman Ghan drop by and answer some questions about his debut novel, Wychman Road! 

FB_IMG_1426542795110Ben Berman Ghan is a Canadian science fiction and fantasy writer, novelist, and student at the University of Toronto where he studies literature and English.

Wychman Road is his first novel, and the first book in his series The Wychmen Saga for Zharmae Publishing Press. When not writing, Ben is being distracted by cats, snow, and what he suspects to be aliens camping out nearby. His mind currently holds over half a century’s trivia on comic books, and he finds writing about himself in the third person very strange.


 

You’ve worked on Wychman Road for a long time, right? How many iterations has it gone through? How has it evolved over time? 
Yes! Oh man, yes. I started working on the very first draft of Wychman Road right at the end of 2011. I finally had a finished version of the rough draft a year and a half later in 2013, and I was only 17 at the time. It went through a lot of changes.
One of the biggest was amendments to the timeline. Originally Joshua Jones was born in 1915 and got his powers in the midsts of the great depression. But I set it back to 1899. Joshua was also initially to act like a recovering drug addict, but I dropped that as well. Also, Christopher Patera [the main antagonist] once dressed like a flamboyant sixties gangster, but sadly it had to go as the darker, far more serious villain took his place. Nothing about the original Christopher survived from the first draft to the printed page.
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Was the friendship between Joshua and Peter always the core focus, or did that crystallize as you honed in on a final draft?
Yes! My intention was always making this book about the friendship between these two characters. This is a kind of love story, in that it isn’t a love story. I also wanted to write a friendship between two male characters where they are allowed to love each other. No ulterior motive, no manipulation or masculine sensitivity. They just love each other. I think, whatever else, I, at least, achieved the relationship I wanted.
~

I was fascinated by the glimpses we got of Thought Walker society–the truces, the arcane relationships.  Where did these ideas come from?

Thought Walker society is a marriage between Mafia movies and vampire lore. Immortality, infection, can’t enter other’s property, mixed with that strange, almost violent loyalty and structure. I have this idea that if I dive too much into the realm and politics of The Thought Walkers, it won’t be any fun (Hearing about Jedi in the originals was great, being always surrounded by them in the prequels was boring).
That being said, I am going to dig slowly into it! The mythology of Christopher and his siblings will slowly begin to affect the story more and more until the series reaches its climax. There will be six books in total; the Families will become more of a presence with each addition.
~
What’s coming in the sequel?
I think they’re a couple of ways to describe book 2. One part is very much Joshua vs. Christopher. But the second book also serves as the origin story of Allison Kair, where she came from and what happened to her and Joshua so long ago that affected them so drastically.
Additionally, now that Clair knows what’s going on around her, she will be far more active in the second book. We learn a bit more about her, and she kind of sets herself up as Joshua’s moral opponent. A part of this story is the abuse of power. Honestly, a huge part of where my idea came from was watching the original X-Men movies, and being horrified at how okay everyone was with professor X erasing people’s memories. So the Ethics of the Thought Walkers abilities is going to be a part of the sequel in a big way
~
What is your favorite thing about Wychman Road–a favorite thing to write, or character, or scene–and why?
My favorite scenes to write are always Peter and Joshua sitting on the porch of Wychman Road just talking. It’s always just a joy to write those scenes. Even though these stories are dark and full of violence and madness, they still sit down and just talk. I’m also strangely proud of a scene about halfway through the book, where Joshua realizes he’s forgotten how to hold a pen. Whenever I go over that it just breaks my heart; I just really liked it as an illustration of this person who’s so lost and so removed from the world he wants to be in he has to remember how to write his name again.
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What are you working on right now? What should readers look for from you next?
Of course, more of the Wychman Saga! book 2 is called The Army of Stone, and it should be out in the early spring of 2017. On my computer right now, I’m very close to finishing the 4th book! Outside that, there is something new that I’m working on, something far more bizarre and loopy, and full of spacemen and aliens and not a villain in sight. But I think that’s all I can say about it right now.
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How can readers stay in the loop and get news about your projects and releases?
There are a couple ways to reach me. I have a facebook page at facebook.com/wychmen & twitter @wychwords.  
I’m always happy to chat or answer questions, I’ve also got a blog at wychwords.wordpress.com where I announce stuff and share articles I’ve written for other sites.
~
Anything else you want us to know? Shout-outs? Words of wisdom?
From what I’ve seen, the greatest enemy of someone who wants to write but can’t is embarrassment. don’t be embarrassed by your ideas or your writing. someone out there is going to like it.

Here’s my review of Wychman Road, if you missed it. It’s a great read, and I’m really looking forward to the next installment of the Wychmen Saga! Also, Ben’s twitter is excellent. 

Interview: SIMONE SALMON

I’m excited to have Simone Salmon stop by my blog today and answer a few questions about her novel, Drafnel! 

CropperCapture[108]Simone Salmon, a Jamaican born New Yorker, is the mother of two sons and a Jack Russell terrier.

Simone is still working on her exit strategy from Corporate America, but in the meantime she writes novels, poetry and expands her multisensory perceptions. She is also a spiritual truth seeker who appreciates psychic phenomena and timelessness.

Music of all kinds, warm weather, lounging on the beach, and experiencing the unknown are just a few of her most favorite things.


Drafnel Cover

Pre-order the book at: Amazon | BookGoodies | Goodreads

DRAFNEL launches 8/28/2015!

There are so many moving pieces in DRAFNEL, and it’s all the more complicated by the fact that, as presented, the book is non-linear. How did you keep everything straight? What was your writing process like?

This is a fantastic question and I hope that my answer explains why. I have always wanted to write a book or poetry or short story…just about anything. After receiving a C- from my freshman English professor, I decided that maybe the writing dream needed to be shelved in pursuit of a more realistic profession: something having to do with computers. Fast forward 20+ years later, with a limited career in word processing, the writing itch started to take over again. I found a great online writing coach, the late Debra Rigas. She understood my aversion to using an outline, after my many misses with a slew of “How to Write a Novel” books. She encouraged me to not worry about where paragraphs or even chapters would end up. For instance, the last chapter that I wrote is the beginning of the first chapter in Drafnel. To be honest, many chapters and paragraphs were moved around as the story unfolded. As a matter of fact, my original intention was to write a ghost story based on very real events that occurred while living in a New York brownstone after graduating from college. However, something different unfolded the more I connected with my characters and glimpsed their worlds. The only real process I can admit to having is a commitment to non-stop writing during three one-week vacations at the Jersey Shore. The majority of the book got written by the beach over a three-year period during each of those vacations.

My best answer for your first question is that I followed Debra’s very astute suggestion and just wrote. This novel is a literal creative purge. There was no methodology for keeping everything in logical sequence. I did not have lists or journals, nor were there any character mappings. Some of the characters chose to remain undeveloped because they will appear in subsequent books in the series. I followed their energetic flow, otherwise the narratives sounded forced and felt mechanical. I found myself filled with genuine delight or surprise upon discovering why a certain event happened or even the name of a particular character. I knew nothing of implementing plots or plot twists, but that didn’t seem to matter because, as you hinted, a variety of intricate and complex moving pieces somehow weaved their way into the story.

A writer writes. So I just wrote.

I was captivated by the sections narrated by Camille’s grandmother, Catherine, which were set in Jamaica. Catherine’s character–both as a young girl and as an old woman–came through so strongly. Can you talk a little about her and how she came to be included in the book?

Catherine’s character is based on my maternal grandmother, Mavis, who passed away several years back. My grandmother, like Catherine, was adopted from India and knew very little of her own family history. The people who raised her, in Jamaica, treated her like a housemaid instead of an adopted child or sister. She shared many tragic stories of mistreatment and loss. An example is when her two year-old son was permanently removed from her care. She never knew where his father had taken him or how to locate the family. She searched for him throughout the years and did not connect with him again until a little before her death. So there are many similarities between Catherine, the character, and my grandmother.

I spent countless hours on the phone or lounging in my grandmother’s living-room couch, during occasional visits, captivated by her answers to my questions about her life. She had the best sense of humor and always made me laugh. She helped me to write this book in many different ways: through her gift for story-telling and the presence of her magnificent spirit.

Another standout for me was Kristle Franz. I won’t get into spoilers here–folks really should read the book–but that was a narrative thread that slowly built momentum and weirdness throughout. What were some influences for you? How did that character come to be?

It’s so interesting and satisfying to hear how a character affects the reader. As I wrote the story, Kristle seemed to prefer staying in the background. I guess that’s why her narrative has that slow, yet deliberate momentum you mentioned. She is loosely based on the stepmother of an acquaintance. This acquaintance happens to be the product of an extra-marital affair. She ended up being raised by her father’s wife who, understandably, resented being burdened with the daily reminder of her husband’s betrayal. Unfortunately, the child bore the brunt of this man’s deception, both in her lack of acceptance within the family and the rejection by her own mother. Kristle’s character is composite of perceptions from an outsider witnessing some of the weirdness in those relationship dynamics.

What are you working on right now? What should readers look for from you next?

I am currently working on the next book in the series entitled, Caleb. This will be based on Catherine’s brother, who we learn little about in Drafnel. Like this book, I really won’t know much more until the story unfolds.

I’ve also been working on a non-fiction book about my experiences trusting intuition and following higher guidance. I’m hoping to get both books completed over the next twelve months.

How can readers stay in the loop and get news about your projects and releases?

Folks can look for upcoming events such as giveaways and book signings on my website: www.ssalmonauthor.com.

On social media I can be found at:

Anything else you want us to know? Shout-outs? Words of wisdom?

Don’t wait for the right time or inspiration. If you want to write a novel or do something outside of your comfort zone – just do it and be ready to experience the miracle of co-creating with the universe. Listen to your intuition and follow your gut. That guidance will open up new doors and change your reality in ways that you cannot begin to comprehend or conceive.

Shout-out to:

  1. BR Sanders for this interview and awesome review;
  2. Solstice Publishing for taking a chance on my book;
  3. Solstice editor, Laura Johnson, whose editing was everythang;
  4. Cat Castleman who brought the characters to life on the book cover;
  5. My sons, James and Jordan, for being constant inspirations and motivation;
  6. My angels, both here and beyond, for all of their assistance and guidance during this process.

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Interview: KAYTI NIKA RAET

I’m excited to have Kayti Nika Raet stop by my blog today and answer a few questions about her novel, Nikothe first installment of the Outsider Chronicles! 

FB_IMG_1433291047113

Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Kayti Nika Raet moved down South when she was 11, where she was bitten by the writing bug, as well as other, less friendly insects.

She is the author of the Outsider Chronicles, a five book series starting with NIKO and set in a world where the rain burns like acid and flesh eating monsters roam.

She’s also a reviewer for Readers’ Favorite and has her own Youtube Channel: Kayti Edition.

When she is not hard at work on her fourth book she has fun reading, listening to K-pop, and photography.

Kayti lives in Milledgeville, Georgia.


The worldbuilding in NIKO is meticulous, and the fact that it’s the first in a series suggest that what’s been revealed about the Slithers, Amaryllis city, the Circles, the acid rain, etc, is only the tip of the iceberg. Did you plan the arc of the entire series before you wrote NIKO, or did you figure out it was a series as you wrote the first book?

Thank you! 🙂 I started Niko wanting it to be a series. It was actually one of my writing goals since I sucked at sequels, and what’s a series if not multiple sequels? But I’m a total pantser who hates outlines (hisssss), so the first draft was written without any concrete ideas for a series arc. I was just writing a story and having loads of fun.

It wasn’t until I started doing the second and third draft that I hashed out a vague arc (seriously, it’s about five words) that I wouldn’t feel constricted by. Each book has it’s own individual arc that helps keep me on course. Mostly.
It’s been a learning experience. I’m not only finding out new things about my characters with each book, but I’m also discovering things about myself as a writer.

~

Where did the initial idea for NIKO come from? How did you get the idea for the series?

There’s no one, concrete, idea that got Niko going, it was a lot of little things coming together. A doodle with the word Harmony Nickle on it. A love of squicky, gory, weird you out horror. A dislike for the slew of YA that seemed to encourage girls to belittle themselves, and be ‘likable’ and ‘relatable’. My twisted sense of humor. Manga and action movie fangirling. Random song lyrics… and science facts… and randomness… But at the core of it all was the desire for a story that I would want to read. Hopefully it’s something that lots of other people like reading too.

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I haven’t had a chance to pick up the rest of the book yet but PLEASE tell me we haven’t seen the last of Norm and Lo!

They’re great aren’t they?

Did you know, Lola Pon is named after the amazing authors Malinda Lo and Cindy Pon?

*mild fan girl moment*

Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to properly reintroduce them yet, but I plan to.

I love them.

~

What are you working on right now? What should readers look for from you next?

Right now, I’m taking a little break to relax and recharge before diving into the big finale that is book 5. I have a slight idea how I want things to go and I can’t wait to get started.

There have been a few other stories buzzing around in my head as well, but they’ve been a little evasive when it comes to the getting word on paper part.

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How can readers stay in the loop and get news about your projects and releases?

I’m everywhere (okay, that’s a lie. But I’m ALMOST everywhere. Close enough.)

You can follow me on

Twitter: https://twitter.com/knrwrites

Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/kaytinikaraetbooks

My blog that I really need to update more often: http://kaytinikaraet.com

My second blog with the two lovely authors Madhuri Blaylock and L. J. K. Oliva #WriteBitch4Life
http://writebitches.com

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Anything else you want us to know? Shout-outs? Words of wisdom?

Oh my god, shout outs! I’ll curb my enthusiasm and keep it to three authors you definitely should read.

Madhuri Blaylock made the dedication of one of my books and if you read any of her works you’ll see why. She’s the author of The Sanctum Trilogy and the upcoming Keepers Series with the first book, DUTCH about to set the world on fire.

Kendall Bailey really came through with some awesome editing and helped beef up some of the sci-fi elements in NIKO. He wrote a great crime thriller called The Dead Don’t Speak.

Suanne Laqueur is someone I bumped into recently, and her book The Man I Love is all kinds of awesome. I don’t usually read contemporary romances, but that book… asdfghjkl!

And for the words of wisdom bit, I’m going to crib from one of the greats.

quotes-451


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An Interview with Brian C. Baer

I’m excited to have Brian C. Baer stop by my blog today and answer a few questions about his novel, Bad Publicity! 

Brian C. Baer is a graduate of the Creative Writing program at Eastern Washington University. After teaching English in Prague, London, and Manchester, UK, he has now settled in Spokane,
Washington. Bad Publicity is his first novel.


BadPublicity_BrianCBaer

click through to purchase

A major theme in Bad Publicity was secrets–their commodification, their destructive potential, the ethics of uncovering them versus leaving them alone. Can you speak to this what drove you to write about this?

Secrets and that hidden side of everyone has interested me for as long as I can remember. That, along with an interest in journalists, can probably be blamed on reading Superman comics as kid.

Everyone has secrets; they can be simple and benign or very much the opposite, but they are always nobody else’s business. Still, nothing is more intriguing. Modern day “entertainment journalism” struck me as the best way to explore this sort of voyeurism.

I was really interested in the way Madame Blue and the other ghosts played out through the course of the book. Especially with Fitzgerald, who was a new sort of medium. Can you talk a little bit more about your worldbuilding? What was it like in the afterlife for Madame Blue and the other ghosts? What was up with Fitzgerald’s ‘sensitivity’ for lack of a better word?

I didn’t get into the details of the ghosts or Fitzgerald’s gifts in the book, because those ideas are just so cool and I didn’t want to sidetrack the main story too much. To me, the ghosts are just a series of echoes. When you die, you can’t do anything new, but the person you were and the things you did keep ringing out. What makes Madame Blue different is a sense of agency; she is very much stuck in that one facet of her personality, but she has more control and can make more of an impact. And she gets this power from (what she perceives to be) love.

‘Sensitivity’ is actually the best word for what Fitzgerald does. He’s sensitive enough to hear those echoes, but not strong enough to keep himself separate from everything he hears. He’s an overly sensitive guy who loses himself in the thoughts of un-real people. In other words, he’s a writer.

Which came first–Jackson Hardy being a tabloid reporter or the ghosts? Or did the two sides of the plot develop together?

Those two concepts were there from the get-go. The book came from a short story I wrote about a ghost love-triangle. Jackson has this ghost he uses for his job, and the two of them developed a relationship without him realizing it. She fawns over him, but she also fills a void in his life. Then he meets a cute girl and everything goes to hell. Those two’s connection is what made me want to expand the story more.

What are you working on right now? What should readers look for from you next?

I’m in that fun process of struggling to write and over-thinking the sophomore project. I’ve been doing some travel writing and blogging for the ComicBookMedia.com site in the meanwhile, but I’m finally buckling down and working on the next novel. With any luck, it’ll be a slacker farce full of cults, military-industrial complex conspiracies, and slightly too much nostalgia for the mid-90s.

How can readers stay in the loop and get news about your projects and releases?

Well, I spend too much time on Twitter, if that’s what you mean. Follow me @BrianCBaer.

Do you have any final thoughts or words of wisdom you want to share?

Just “Never trust anyone who offers you words of wisdom”.