This week, I’m thrilled to present an interview with new author Brandon R. Luffman. Enjoy!
1. When did you start writing?
Like a lot of folks, I started writing when I was young. Primarily, it was in the 6th grade that I discovered writing was something that I could enjoy.
More specifically, my enjoyment of writing comes from being able to impact someone else through my work. The ability to elicit an emotional response, or to simply share the experience of a story, is the key for me. Presenting a piece
of short fiction to my 6th grade class was my first encounter with this phenomenon, and I’ve loved that feeling ever since.
2. Are you a pantser or a planner?
I am totally a pantser. I’ve tried plotting and planning in the past, and it’s always resulted in the story dying. I need that sense of not knowing what’s coming next in order to keep things moving. It’s also a lot easier for my characters to come to life that way. When I write, I’m sort of “roleplaying” my characters as I go, never really knowing what they might do next until it happens.
The closest I’ve ever come to actually planning a whole story in advance is with my short story, “Out After Dark”. It’s quite short though, so I’m not sure it counts. In that case, I had the idea for the story and how I wanted it to end before I ever sat down to write it. I had sort of a vague mental outline, although I hadn’t written anything down in advance.
3. Can you give us an idea of your writing process?
Usually, I just sit down and start writing. There’s always some seed, some little embryo of the story. But that’s often not much – maybe a bit of opening dialog, or a partially formed scene in my mind. With “Frostwalker”, it was a late night trip to the mailbox. It was winter and probably around 2 or 3 in the morning. There were leaves on the ground and they were covered in frost. With each step I took, my feet would slip, just slightly, on the frosted leaves. I was hit with this mental image of a guy walking the same way, on frosted leaves, but not in any place as safe and familiar as a trip to the mailbox. What was he doing out so late at night? Where was he going? Was he frightened? Was he being compelled to make the trip?
That idea bounced around in my head for a while. They usually do. They have to ferment and age a bit, I think. But, about a year later, I started writing the story and just kept writing until I had over 80,000 words. The book’s title doesn’t actually come from that scene, oddly enough, but it fits well.
After the first draft was done, I handed it off to my beta readers. Once I had their feedback, I went in and started cleaning it up. Fixing typos, adjusting this or that, making sure the continuity was good – all the things that editing entails.
And, that was how my process used to be. I’ve since added a new step, and it’s incredibly important. I had thought that after five or six drafts, “Frostwalker” was ready to go. I was going to format it up for eBook release and put it out there. However, I had the good fortune of running into not one, but two excellent editors who I met on Twitter. They took a look at the manuscript and told me what I had already known, but wasn’t admitting to myself: The book was in pretty good shape, but it was not finished!
There really is no substitute for having your work gone over by a good editor! I know, I know, it costs money! Everyone knows that authors don’t have money. Money is practically a mythological creature to authors – the rare and elusive “fiscal solvency”, the legendary “paycheck”.
However, not all editors are ridiculously expensive. I had talked to one who had wanted thousands of dollars to edit “Frostwalker”. That was why I had decided to forego an editor in the beginning. But I found that not all editors are like that and the cost of not having an editor may be a great deal more than the cost of hiring one.
So, that is a part of the process now. Idea – First Draft – Beta Readers – Edits – Editor – More Edits. After the editor makes a pass, I make changes, then send it back and they spot-check the areas that are changed. Back and forth like this a few times, and a story is done!
Back in February of 2012, I actually did a blog post about this, if you’re interested.
4. Which authors have influenced your work?
At the top of the list, I would have to say Stephen King. There are insights in his work that my mind really keys into. The stories may be about sprawling horrors from beyond space, or just a rabid dog, but the characters are where his stories really live. It’s that human aspect, being able to let the reader identify with those characters, that makes the stories work. Another thing from King’s work that I love is his sense of humor. He has a twisted one, but it really takes things to a new level. It’s the sort of dry wit that I love.
Another strong influence for me is Dean Koontz. The influences of his work are harder for me to pin down, but when I read his work, or the work of King, it makes me want to write!
There are others who have shaped me in subtle ways, just by virtue of being strong writers who I enjoy reading. Arthur C. Clarke, Tad Williams, Jim Butcher, and David Weber, just to name a few.
5. What are your plans/future projects/new releases that we should be aware of?
Well, right now, “Frostwalker” is still the focus. It’s getting into the final editing stages, but there are also other tasks that will have to be done once the story itself is locked in. Things like formatting it for various ebook formats, putting together the press/media kit, promotional materials, and so on. I can’t say when it will be released, but I’m thinking sometime in the first half of 2013 – perhaps as early as March, but I can’t say with any surety just yet.
In the meantime, I’ve been working on short stories. On January 11th, I released “The Card”. That story is a short piece I’ve been describing as something with a classic pulp horror feel, but in a modern format. It’s available through Amazon and Smashwords, as well as the various retailers that Smashwords sends books to – Kobo, Sony, iTunes, etc. Some of these latter may not have it available yet, but I’ll be posting about it on Facebook and Twitter when they get it in.
In addition to that one, there’s one that I’m working on that’s a bit of a western with a dystopian, near-future feel. The working title is “A Man With A Gun” and, honestly, I’ve not been nearly so diligent about working on this story as I should have. It’s still in progress, but probably only 25% completed. That’s my primary project right now, in between working on various bits of “Frostwalker”.
There is one other short that I’ve got finished, but haven’t released yet. It’s a short vignette involving a mentally disturbed and violent man pursuing a victim, entitled “Good Guys”. It’s really short though – sort of “overweight micro-fiction”. I’m unsure about the future for this piece. I may release it myself, but for now I’m shopping it around to short story markets. If it sells, then great! If not, it’ll be released either alone or as part of a collection eventually. I’m eager to get it out there, to get that buzz from sharing my work with others, but for now I’m trying to decide the best way to do that.
Aside from those projects, there are a few other things on the back burner – pieces that may or may not be finished someday. One that may interest readers is a longer version of “Out After Dark”. The short story was intended from the start to be exactly what it is, really no more than a short scene. However, once it was finished, people kept telling me that they wanted more. I have to admit that those characters really do want to show me a lot more of their story. The current draft of the long version of “Out After Dark” stands at around 14,000 words, but hasn’t been worked on for a little over a year. I think there’s a great story in there, but it’s been back-burnered for quite a while. If I finish it, I think it will ultimately be at least a novella, and quite possibly a full-length novel.
6. Any tips for new writers?
While I’ve been writing since I was a kid, I’ve only been pursuing it seriously for a year or so. I tend to think of myself as a new writer. However, there are three things that I know are of key importance:
Writers must write. I know it sounds a little silly, but we really do have to buckle-down and do the writing. Too often, we talk about “someday” or “when I find the time”. We don’t have that long. Sit down and start writing – a lot!
Writers must read. Reading feeds your muse. Once you begin writing seriously, you’ll start to see reading in a different way. The same joy and entertainment is there, but there are new layers to the experience. A writer reads with a writer’s eye, and the more you write the more you’ll experience that new depth. Likewise, the more you read, the more tools you’re putting in your writer’s toolbox, that set of skills that writers use to do what they do. I believe it was Stephen King, in his book On Writing who described a writer’s skills as a toolbox, and it really is an apt description.
Third, you must hire an editor. Seriously, you need one. We all do!
7. Any tips for old writers?
While it would be presumptuous of me to offer advice to veterans in the field, if you’re a writer who has been at it for a long time and you haven’t found success yet, keep going! Don’t stop writing – ever. Maybe you haven’t had your big break. Maybe you haven’t hit your stride. Maybe the world just isn’t ready for your work yet. Some of the big names in the history of fiction didn’t see fame until after they were gone, but we cherish their work today. Never stop writing!
Born in Statesboro, Georgia in 1976, Brandon Luffman was raised in rural North Carolina from the time he was old enough to walk. In the sixth grade he discovered The Chronicles Of Narnia. Soon after that, he was on to Stephen King and Arthur C. Clarke. At the same time, he was making his first forays into writing fiction. After creating a series of short fantasy pieces for a class assignment that were received with praise, he was hooked on writing fiction for the entertainment of others. Now Brandon writes supernatural horror as well as fantasy, science fiction, and other genres. His short fiction is available online in various formats. Brandon still lives on the family farm in northwestern North Carolina with his wife and family. Taking inspiration from his homeland, he brings southern sensibilities and a modern flair to these classic genre themes. His upcoming survival horror novel, Frostwalker, is expected to be released in 2013.