11/28/13
katabasis_cover_biblio

Guest Post: Joseph Brassey of Mongoliad Fame!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hey everyone. As you might know, earlier this year I was commissioned by Kindle Worlds to write in the Foreworld Universe. I jumped at the chance to piggyback onto the universe of The Mongoliad. A universe already created, with an established mystique and resonance. I really enjoyed writing Kingdom of Glass, and it is still one of my favorites. Joseph Brassey was one of the original writers of The Mongoliad series, and today, he talks about his work, as part of the Writing Process blog tour.

What am I working on?
Currently, a contemporary fantasy. After three years of Foreworld Historical Fantasy, I wanted to do something off the wall, completely different, and considerably more supernatural.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
This is a weird question for me to answer, because it’s not a type of comparative thinking that comes naturally to me. “How is your cake different from those of the other bakers?” It posits. “Is it perhaps more moist? Is it’s center perhaps full of nice, creamy chocolate? Or rampaging fire-ants?”

One should always drink *red* wine when eating Rampaging Fire-Ant Cake.

Okay that’s not a perfect analogy. I like to focus on relationships. As such my work tends to be emotion driven rather than concept-driven. I have a tone I’m going for, usually, or an image, a moment, an intersection of passions and ambitions. When you pick up something of mine, you’re more than likely to find something driven by the human element. I cannot promise explanations. I often dislike them, and can seldom conjure up ones that feel emotionally satisfying. I aim to drag my reader through the flurry of events, chasing after the mad, feverish dash of the protagonists and their motives intersecting violently with adversity. Feverishness is important to me. Good writing should induce a drug-like high in its readers, I think. Bloodshed, sex, conversation, scenery, it needs to pop. It needs to sizzle and snap. I like flashy things that go “boom.”

Please, don’t take this as an advisement to roll up my books and smoke them. That won’t do it for you. Well, it might, but you’ll probably get sick.

Why do I write what I do?
Because if I didn’t, I’d be miserable. That’s blunt and simple, but it’s probably the truest answer. The other one is that I’m fascinated by interpersonal interaction. I’m obsessed with exploring the meeting place between reality and personal narrative, where they clash, and what comes about as a consequence. A lot of writers say that it’s about being “grabbed” by an idea. They’re dead on. The idea in question can be anything. Sometimes it’s a character, sometimes it’s a circumstance, sometimes it’s a dynamic. Regardless of the catalyst, the chase has to be worth it. The process is what keeps me doing this, and its function as an outlet for my emotional/mental catharsis. If the seed isn’t robust enough to sustain that role, the idea doesn’t go anywhere.

Good writing should induce a drug-like high in its readers, I think. Bloodshed, sex, conversation, scenery, it needs to pop. It needs to sizzle and snap.

How does your writing process work?
I need clarity of thought and single-minded focus in my brain-space. Now, this doesn’t necessarily have to be physical. Having a 6-month-old son has broken me of that habit, and I can shift in and out of the work-mode and the Stay-At-Home-Daddy mode as needed. What I can’t do is shift between genres or allow my brain to wander too far afield from the current work. I can only inhabit one fantastical matrix at a time, which means that it’s very hard to write more than one piece of work in a given period. Since having children, a lot of my process has changed, which has been itself a valuable learning experience because I now know that it CAN change, and that the urge to create is stronger than any inconvenience or reshuffling of priorities. These are the things that have stayed constant:

Sometimes writing feels like this.

Writing functions as the mental counterpart to intense exercise in my life (I am a fitness freak): It’s a violent, explosively cathartic, exhausting mental gymnasium where I work my brain and emotions until settled. I let myself slide into a mental state appropriate to the scene. Mood music can help, but it isn’t strictly necessary. On the bad days it’s like chipping away at a chunk of marble with a shovel. It will never be done. I will never find the beautiful face underneath. I chip away anyway. On the good days, it’s fever-pitch, dream-like. I plough through, feel every punch and find myself gritting my teeth with the protagonists, mouthing their lines, experiencing the rush of their story like a physical high. The technical detail of the process is actually hard for me to describe here, because the act of creating for me is less a set of technical specifications and plans and more a matter of balling up my emotional fists and screaming “FUCKING DO IT!” Before repeatedly loosing a savage hail of blows at a hapless page. The steel sings. The eyes burn. Sometimes the hands shake and I feel light-headed. It can be like winning a good fight: A blur of controlled, focused chaos that leaves you with bruises, but feeling like a God. It’s not always a healthy feeling. It is not hard to imagine someone developing a massive ego after doing this for a long time. Coming back down to earth is important.

 The steel sings. The eyes burn. Sometimes the hands shake and I feel light-headed.

I can’t write to please someone else. It has to be for me. I often read what people are talking about in terms of fictional themes, underlying messages, the importance of symbolism, and sometimes those discussions spark something that has me running off into the proverbial woods again, but it’s still fundamentally for me, a means to explore something that’s eating at the back of my mind, or indulging an obsession that won’t go away, or putting my personal demons on the page so I can pound them until I feel better. Life throws a lot of crap at us. Fiction is the white room where we can go and throw it all on the wall to look at and make sense of. It’s the dream-house where our angels and demons live.

At least, that’s what it is for me.

Joseph Brassey lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife, son, and two cats. In his spare time, he trains in, and teaches, medieval martial arts to members of the armed forces. He has lived on both sides of the continental United States and has worked everywhere from a local newspaper to the frameshop of a crafts store to the smoke-belching interior of a house-siding factory with questionable safety policies. His newest novel is Katabasis. Have a look!

11/20/13
muse

My Writing Process–Blog Tour

So i’m taking part in a round-robin blog tour in which writers talk about how they write what they write. It’s a lot of fun, and I want to thank fellow historical writer Adam Haviaras for inviting me. Adam has guest posted here before. He is a ridiculously well-schooled historian and archaeologist and his wonderful writing reflects this. Check out his blog and his books if you love historical fantasy.

Now, about my writing process . . .

 

What am I working on?
At the moment, I am writing the third and final book in The Scourge trilogy. I’m having a great time with this book and I think it might be the best of the three.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
 I have a hard time speaking in broad terms about the genre of my work. I have two series, one that is epic fantasy and another that is historical fantasy. Both series are gritty and as realistic as I could make them. There are no unicorns in either book. Um. Okay, there’s a unicorn in the Scourge, but not a real one. There are no mages hurling fireballs and no elves. Definitely no elves. My work tends to be grounded in history, with bits of the paranormal here and there. The protagonists are usually disillusioned and dispirited, but with a fierce, burning passion that drives them ever onward. There is usually a bit of romance, and many times a bit of violence, and always a healthy dose of black humor.

Why do I write what I do?
I love history, particularly medieval history. I think contemporary people are boring. We dress in dull clothes. We talk about boring things. We have no strong convictions or traditions. Even our wars are boring. People in the Middle Ages didn’t have Wal-Mart or Movember, or even National Secretaries Day. They had craftsmen selling their wares. Their mustaches and beards were a lifelong thing. And a secretary was someone you entrusted with a deep, dark and powerful secret. Medieval soldiers wore armor and stared into the eyes of their enemies as they killed them. Women wore the most beautiful clothing in history and plotted with the best of conspirators. Politicians argued over which of them would lead the first rank of men into the enemy lines. Men fought for honor. Hell, men *had* honor (some men anyway). And horses. They all rode horses, for God’s sake. How can you not write about that sort of time period?

My muse cries when I don’t listen.

How does your writing process work?
I have to have inspiration to write. Something has to kindle the firewood in my brain. A good opening line. An interesting character. An image. The best of my works write themselves. The idea sustains itself. The firewood comes from thin air and the story burns like a furnace. The worst require work. Lots and lots of work.

I start most stories in the same way these days. I get an idea and think about it for a time. The protagonist is important. I need to know what type of person he or she is, and what he or she is trying to accomplish. Then, I throw everything I can at them, to keep them from accomplishing their goal. I come up with a general outline and maybe a scene outline, and then start writing. Sometimes half the scenes I planned actually make it into the book. Other times, only one or two make it.

If the story is sound, the motivation strong and the conflicts believable, then the story will tell itself. You have to listen while you write. Sometimes you step off the path, and the story will tell you to come back. If you don’t listen, you will get lost. If you do listen, you will find your story. Yeah, that’s really a vague and cheesy answer, isn’t it? But there’s truth in it. If you think about the story, really think, the answers will present themselves. The more you listen, the more ideas will come to you. Think about your story in your car. At the grocery store. In the shower. Odd things will pop into your head and you will kick at them to see if they are solid. And all those little, random ideas will come together in your novel in a way that you could never have thought of just sitting at your computer. I could talk about this for days, but I won’t. Just listen. That’s the most important part of writing. Listen. Yoda voice: Listen, you must.

Next week, my friends and fellow 47North writers, Richard Ellis Preston, Mark T. Barnes and Joseph Brassey will continue this blog tour. (I will host Joseph’s post here). Here’s all you need to know about them:

Richard Ellis Preston, Jr. is a science fiction writer who loves the zeitgeist of steampunk. Although he grew up in both the United States and Canada he prefers to think of himself as British. He attended the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, where he earned an Honors B.A. in English with a Minor in Anthropology. He has lived on Prince Edward Island, excavated a 400 year old Huron Indian skeleton and attended a sperm whale autopsy. Richard currently resides in California.

Mark Barnes was born in Sydney, Australia, in September of 1966. A strong athlete, he was also drawn to the arts at a young age, penning his first short story as a seven-year-old. He worked in finance and advertising before establishing himself in IT services management. Currently he owns and operates a freelance organizational change consultancy. In 2005, when Mark was selected to attend the Clarion South residential short story workshop, he began to write with the intention of making it more than a hobby. Since that time, Mark has published a number of short stories, worked as a freelance script editor, and has driven creative consultancy for a television series.

Joseph Brassey lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife, son, and two cats. In his spare time, he trains in, and teaches, medieval martial arts to members of the armed forces. He has lived on both sides of the continental United States and has worked everywhere from a local newspaper to the frameshop of a crafts store to the smoke-belching interior of a house-siding factory with questionable safety policies.