Indie Author: 10 Quick Questions with Brandon Draga
This time on 10 Quick Questions we welcome Brandon Draga, author of the Summerlark Elf and is sequels. Brandon has been in the publishing game for a little while and has something to teach us all, plus he writes well and is a super-nice fellow!
GRM: Tell us about your book.
Brandon: My first book, The Summerlark Elf, is the first in a four-book epic fantasy cycle called The Four Kingdoms Saga. It centres around a young elven woman, Enna, who has no idea she’s an elf, having been raised her whole life by humans, in a place where being an elf could get you killed.
People have likened the book and its follow-ups to Terry Brooks’ Shannara series, Weis and Hickman’s original Dragonlance books, and Michael J. Sullivan’s Riyria books. I certainly won’t claim to be on the same level of such esteemed company, but I’ll happily accept the flattery!
GRM: Where did your inspiration come from?
Brandon: I’ve always enjoyed writing, and I’ve always been a big geek, so on the one hand, writing a fantasy story always seemed a little bit inevitable. That said, about three years ago I was on a train leaving Toronto with my sister. She and I had just left a big job fair, with little to show for it. She just straight-up told me that I should write a book, that I’d be good at it. By this point in my life I had already kept two skateboarding blogs, the latter of which I was pretty proud of, but I had never thought that I’d have the time or patience to write an entire novel-length piece of fiction. That said, NaNoWriMo was coming up, so I figured why not?
My sister encouraged me to write something on-trend - something dystopian with a strong female protagonist. While I wasn’t completely opposed to the idea, I wanted to write fantasy. I had been running a D&D game for my friends and girlfriend for about a year and a half at this point, however, so maybe that was a part of it as well. That game provided several characters and locations that ended up figuring very prominently into the books.
GRM: Why did you choose to go Self-Published?
Brandon: When I finished Summerlark, it was only about 52,000 words long, which is short by most genres’ standards, let alone fantasy. I had thought of submitting it to publishers, but at the time I had no idea how the industry worked, and didn’t know anyone within it to whom I could talk, so I looked mostly at submission requirements for some of the Big Five, and was thoroughly dejected by the fact that my little book seemed basically unsellable.
Now, part of NaNoWriMo is that, if you complete your novel in time, you get special offers from a number of sponsors. One such was Amazon’s CreateSpace print-on-demand service. I looked into it, and decided that, rather than trying to pad out my story with filler just to meet a word count, I would try going it alone instead.
GRM: What was the hardest part about taking this route?
Brandon: Initially, it was just the fact that I was going in absolutely blind. I had no idea how books were marketed, how authors marketed themselves, any of it. I’ve been lucky in that my girlfriend, Deanna Laver, happens to be a great artist, and is gracious enough to consistently make my books great.
The stigma is another thing. No matter how successful some self-published writers are, readers still see self-published works by and large as inferior. It doesn’t help that chain book stores won’t regularly stock self-published books, doubly so because chain book stores are largely the only book stores left.
GRM: Morning, afternoon or evening writer?
Brandon: I used to be an evening writer, until work required that I start waking up earlier. These days it’s mostly late morning or afternoon.
GRM: Architect or Gardener? Planner or Pantser?
Brandon: Definitely an architect. Part of why I used to think I could never write a novel was because I never thought I had the patience or planning capabilities to lay a whole novel out. If we’re being honest, I still don’t think I have either of those things, but I’ve just managed to be really good at faking it!
GRM: Silence, music or what when writing?
Brandon: Ever since high school I’ve listened to music while writing. That said, what I listen to is largely dependent on what I’m writing. If I’m writing a blog post, email, interview questions, or any sort of non-fiction prose, I’m most likely listening to some old punk rock. Working on fiction, on the other hand, is a mixed bag - anything from Vivaldi or Mozart to late 90s happy hardcore techno to classic video game soundtracks, but rarely anything with lyrics.
GRM: What’s the weirdest fact or piece of information you had to research in order to write the book?
Brandon: I have two really good ones. In my second novel, The Missing Thane’s War, I introduce the Deep Dwarves, the completely subterranean cousins of the dwarves already introduced in my world. I wanted them to feel like a race that would actually exist completely underground, devoid of light, so I started researching not only subterranean animals, but the effects of similar lifestyles on humans. Turns out there was a study done that found that, without sunlight, humans fall into a sleep schedule in which they are alternately awake and sleeping for 48 hours straight.
Slightly less bizarre, but when I started working on my third novel, The Council of Tymenthia, I got into a rabbit hole researching medieval warfare and weaponry. Turns out that the Flemish had a weapon that was no more than a big, squared-off club with an iron spike protruding out the business end. It was called the goede dag, which is Dutch for “good day”. Heck of a way to greet someone.
GRM: To steal (paraphrase) from Rod Stewart, what do you wish that you know now, you knew when you started the journey to a finished and published book?
Brandon: Maybe how important the social aspect of the business is. I’ve always read fantasy books, yes, but I never made an effort to be part of the community at large until I had already published Summerlark. I’m not saying that the community hasn’t been great to me, because it has, but it probably would have been nice to have had some of the connections I have now beforehand.
GRM: You’re on a deserted island with enough food and water to survive. There no building materials around so you must wait for rescue. What three books would you have with you, to help you pass the time?
Brandon: Seeing as the complete Wheel of Time collection on Kindle probably doesn’t count...
An Affinity for Steel by Sam Sykes, because it’s the omnibus edition of his Aeon’s Gate trilogy, and would be very long and very entertaining.
Batman: Hush because it is probably my favourite Batman story arc of all time. I probably re-read it dozens of times before writing took away all the time I had to re-read stuff.
A large, blank notebook, because if I’m stuck on an island for a good long while, then I might finally have the free time I’d like to get some writing done!
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And there you go, some great and wise words from Brandon. Why not go and support him by reading the books and, most importantly, leaving a review. Enjoy.
More great authors soon!