Monday, October 10, 2011

Interview with mystery author Stephen Brayton

Reviews and Interviews welcomes Stephen Brayton back to talk about his newest novel, Beta.

Stephen was here in February to talk about editing and his first novel Night Shadows.

Stephen L. Brayton owns and operates Brayton’s Black Belt Academy in Oskaloosa, Iowa. He is a Fifth Degree Black Belt and certified instructor in The American Taekwondo Association.

He began writing as a child; his first short story concerned a true incident about his reactions to discipline. During high school, he wrote for the school newspaper and was a photographer for the yearbook. For a Mass Media class, he wrote and edited a video project.

In college, he began a personal journal for a writing class; said journal is ongoing. He was also a reporter for the college newspaper.

During his early twenties, while working for a Kewanee, Illinois radio station, he wrote a fantasy based story and a trilogy for a comic book.

He has written numerous short stories both horror and mystery. He has also written a paranormal mystery, entitled Night Shadows. Sequels to Nights Shadows and Beta are in rewrite/revision stages.

Welcome back to Reviews and Interviews, Stephen. Please tell us about your newest release.
Well, tomorrow is my 45th birthday. What? Not a worthwhile release? Oh, you mean the book.

Mallory Petersen is a Fourth Degree Black Belt who owns a school in Des Moines, Iowa. She is also a private investigator whose cases and clients usually come from the nuttier side of life. However, when she is hired to find a kidnapped eight year old girl, she soon discovers people involved with a child pornography ring. Using her investigative skills and her honed martial arts skills, she follows a trail around Iowa’s capital, to south central Iowa, and finally to the Quad Cities.

The subject matter being what it is, this book is not for children. However, I have tempered the serious nature with some humorous scenes.

What inspired you to write this book?
The fact my first book wasn’t going so well and I hadn’t learned enough to make the needed corrections.

The short but true answer is, I don’t really know. Maybe I heard something on the radio or read something in a magazine, but the idea hit me and the pieces started falling into place. I had the main character and a few supporting characters from the first story, so I didn’t have to start from scratch on character profiles and development.

What’s the next writing project?
I’m going to write a letter to several scientists to encourage them to find a way to extend the summer months through December because I’m really not looking forward to another Iowa winter.

Actually, I resurrected the first story, the 40,000 word pile of mush, took the main plot, added a sub-plot, a few more characters, ditched the stupid scenes, and rewrote it. I’m also working on another with a private investigator who just can’t figure out the modern technological world.

What is your biggest challenge when writing a new book? (or the biggest challenge with this book)
I have two challenges. First: The editing. Numerous re-writes and corrections drive me crazy. I love having people critique the story, though, because I get to hear suggestions and ways to improve the story. While down in Nashville in August, I talked out a story problem with a friend and she gave me some great suggestions. Now I just have to arrange them and add them to the story.

Second: Getting people to leave me alone so that I can find time to write. Usually threatening arson on their cars does the trick.

If your novels require research – please talk about the process. Do you do the research first and then write, while you’re writing, after the novel is complete and you need to fill in the gaps?
When I have the time, I like to do a research on future stories, but usually I research while I write. I’ll write the book ad leave blanks needing more information. I know what goes into the gaps but I have to make time to travel to the places I want to use to get proper descriptions. If I use actual sites, I’ll visit them to get a better sense of the neighborhood, the atmosphere, and to see if I need to change a few details to make it interesting.

Plus, by visiting places, I may come up with a completely different idea for the scene. For instance while doing research for Beta’s sequel I visited a venue usually reserved for concerts and inadvertently crashed a birthday party for a Mexican teenage girl. I’m wearing shorts, a polo shirt, and sneakers, while everybody around me is dressed in beautiful dresses and handsome western wear. I managed to get the needed information, but afterwards, though, I saw Mallory in the same circumstances. I had found a really good scene to include in the next story.

What’s your writing space like? Do you have a particular spot to write where the muse is more active? Please tell us about it.
Lounging under an umbrella on my private beach with an awesome view of the Pacific while beautiful women feed me little snacks and drinks and massage my feet… Oh, sorry, just indulging in a little fantasy.

Seriously, although I’ll head out to the park sometimes, usually, my actual writing space is a low lit motel lobby in the middle of the night. I’ve completed my employment duties, everybody is snoring in their beds, and I have the NPR station emitting classical music. I can concentrate and really get into the story…right up until some late night drunk staggers in wanting a room. Arg!

What authors do you enjoy reading within or outside of your genre?
Whoever wrote the choices on the seafood restaurant menu is to be admired.

No, really, I read Lee Child, Ellery Queen, Patterson, Elaine Viets, John Lutz, Star Trek novels, Doctor Who novels, Ridley Pearson, Preston & Child, Koontz, Owl Goingback, and many others.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers today?
Brush and floss twice a day and make sure you use a sunscreen with a high spf number.

Actually, I want to thank you for allowing me my little spot here on your site. I also hope people will buy Beta and let me know what you think of it. If you don’t like, tell me. As long as you’re nice about it, I’ll respect your opinion and hope you’ll read the next one. If you do like it, tell me, then tell your friends.

Thank you for coming back to Reviews and Interviews!


john M. Daniel said...

Terrific interview, as always. Stephen enjoys mixing happy nonsense with good sense, and the result is that crucial combination of entertainment and message.

jrlindermuth said...

Happy birthday, Stephen. If you make that letter to the scientists a petition, I'll gladly sign it.

Augie said...

Once again Stephen you did it, you made the interview lite and with're pretty good at this interviewing a great day tomorrow augie