The wonderful Darryl Branning has taken some time out from his writing schedule to answer a few questions for the blog! Here he is:
First up, tell the readers a little about yourself?
I started reading science fiction and fantasy when I was about twelve years old. That was in the mid 1970s, when most people had never heard of a computer, and there were only three channels on the TV. I was also an only child, so reading was a natural. That, and I often wasn’t allowed to watch TV for a week or two after I’d gotten up to the normal sorts of trouble that kids get into at that age.
Later on I learned about computers from reading Issac Asimov. I took a class in high school just to see what they were all about. We had access to a dumb terminal that was just a modem with a keyboard and paper-print output, but I can still remember the Star Trek simulation game we used to play. Science fiction is the reason I’m a computer geek today.
When, and why, did you begin writing?
I had a baby sitter who used to let me play with an old manual typewriter. It was fun, so I taught myself to touch type at a fairly early age, but the idea of actually writing something didn’t occur to me until years later when a book I had been enjoying ended in a way that I found frustrating and disappointing. (It was Childhood’s End, and I suppose I could make some meaningful connection to the title here, but I really hate the ending.)
I think the first story I ever wrote was for an assignment in the third grade, but if I remember right, I just stole one of my favorites and put it on the moon instead of in the forest. The first short story I tried to get published was in high school. I sent it to Issac Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine, and I got a very nice rejection letter out of it.
What inspired ‘Bred’?
I started with this awesome-super-powerful character who was half-demon because bad things happened to his mother before he was born. His face looked like a skull, and he would go out at nights and hunt monsters to protect the people of the city. I kept getting more ideas for more awesome-super-powerful characters, and I would write a scene or two and then file them away somewhere. I didn’t even have a plot until I pulled all of those hand written scenes out of my filing cabinet, and started typing them into my computer. I had no idea where the story was going until I made up a list of random events for one of the characters to have a prophecy about.
My inspirations came in small bursts, in learning how to limit my characters, and in remembering and practicing the advice I’d gotten from the professionals, both in person and in print. The whole book was a sort of training ground.
Were any of the characters inspired by people you know?
Not in Bred. Most of them were probably inspired by other fictional characters. I worked on a science fiction blog for a few years, and some of those characters, yeah, but I probably shouldn’t admit it.
Tell us a little about the world you created for ‘Bred’? Was that based on anything in particular?
It’s a very character driven story, and I needed a place for them to live, so it more or less grew out of that need. Even now I don’t have a very strong sense of the world. Maybe because you never know when you might have to change something to make that next scene work out. That might be a flaw in the story, but everything in the world is there for a reason. Well, except for the Vortex. The Vortex started out as a way to explain all the monsters that the main character was going to be hunting, but those scenes got cut. I guess I left in the Vortex to give it a bit of historical weight.
Tell us about the publishing process?
Deciding to self-publish the book was harder than the actual process. I had been going to small science fiction conventions for years. Writers at science fiction conventions are almost always happy to hang with, drink with, and have normal conversations with fans. I’ve heard so many horror stories about the traditional publishing industry that I was never really interested in trying my luck.
On the other hand, the term ‘self-published’ was practically an insult for many many years–probably for good reasons. Before I went ahead with the project, I gave it a lot of thought, and I did a lot of research. I eventually decided that I really didn’t have anything to lose, except possibly my non-existent reputation.
I spoke to some professional editors, and paid one of them a lot of money to put all the commas in the right places–because I’m lousy at commas. I spoke to a couple of artists, commissioned a portrait that I ended up not using, and then contacted a reasonably priced cover designer who works with indie publishers. I spent about a week formatting the book according to the Smashwords guidelines, and then I uploaded that file. I haven’t uploaded the novel to Amazon yet, but you can get the Kindle version (among others) at Smashwords.
What authors would you say have influenced you?
There are so many, but I love character driven stories, so I’d have to say those have had the most influence on my own writing. Issac Asimov, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Alan Dean Foster, Anne McCaffrey, Larry Niven, and Terry Prachett are a few of my favorites.
Do you have advice for other aspiring writers?
Write for yourself. Write the story you want to read. Make yourself happy. If you can’t do that, I don’t see the point.
Seek real and constructive criticism. Your friends and family may not be the best people to give you that.
Common writing advice is common, but it may not apply to you. One that I hear a lot is, “Learn to ignore (or turn off) your internal editor.” I don’t like that one, so I say, “Learn to work with your internal editor.”
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Read a good book. Or go dancing.
Is there anything else you would like to add to this?
Over the years I’ve studied a lot of writing texts, read a lot of stories, went to many science fiction conventions just to speak with the authors, and attended college long enough to get two writing degrees. At some point I realized that successful writers have to work way harder than most people think, and that I wasn’t sure I wanted to go down that road. I must have taken a wrong turn somewhere, because I’m working way harder at it than I ever thought I would, and I’m still not rich and famous.