Thursday 11 June 2015

Interview With Author Christian A. Brown

Today I have a delightful guest pop by for an interview.  Author Christian A. Brown stops in to chat about his fantasy series, Four Feasts Till Darkness, and his writing. Enjoy...

Interview with Christian A. Brown

Why don’t you begin by sharing a little about yourself?

Well, I’m a writer now—officially J I don’t have any other vocation or source of income. That’s both scary and exhilarating, since I seem to have made a career out of it thus far. Prior to that, I was a fitness manager/ personal trainer for years. Physical fitness and holistic living are very important to me. I believe that an active, healthy lifestyle has helped me—along with friends and family—through some pretty rough times. I live and work in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 

You are about to launch Feast of Dreams, the sequel to Feast of Fates, the first book in your series, Four Feasts Till Darkness. Can you tell us a bit about the book and the series?

The smarty pants answer: Looking at the series as a whole, Four Feasts Till Darkness explores the demands of mortality and fate. It is a tale (one big tale spanning four rather hefty novels) of contrasts—dark and light, life and death, love and hate, technology and nature. But it is also compulsively readable—propelled by vivid, fully realized characters and action sequences and leavened by moments of humour. Finally, at its heart, this book is about love, whether twisted to hate or shining bright, and what people will do to earn and defend it.

The short answer: In the Four Feast Till Darkness series, you’ll find love, action, heroism, strong female and male leads, paranormal romance, horror* and lots of kick-assery.

*To the reader uninitiated with my work, please be aware that I tackle issues of violence, negative social constructs and morality. You will find beauty and horror in my work. When I talk about or show evil, it’s my goal to make your skin crawl. If that’s not your cup of tea, steer clear.

What was your inspiration and motivation for writing Feast of Fates, the first book in the Four Feasts Till Darkness series?

As I intimated above, my mother and I were very close. I can easily say that we were the best of friends. My mother’s journey with cancer as well as the struggles she faced as a woman, working mom, and single mom (for the latter half of my adolescence after my parents divorced) are all influences of my work. My own struggles as a biracial, gay man and experiences with racism, classism, and any kind of “ism” really are all subjects that I tackle in my writing. I’m also married to a M├ętis amputee, who brings his own slew of experience and diversity to the mix of our marriage.

Just so we’re clear, I’m not some ‘minority chaser’ who has sought out divisive relationships and experiences. Although, I haven’t shied away from such experiences, either. I consider myself lucky to have been exposed to the richness of opinions and diversity that I’ve known.

Why did you decide to write in the fantasy genre? Have you been a longtime fan of the genre?

For me, I consider what I write to be “speculative fiction,” more than hard-core fantasy. Sure there are elements of magic, and even science fiction, however, the underlying threads of my stories are ones of human drama. I like watching people doing good, bad, and questionable things. I don’t think the genre matters all that much when you write character-driven stories. I do, however, add elements of the supernatural or extreme science, because they allow me to push the limits of the perils and situations I create for my characters.

To answer your second question, I have always been a fan of the epic fantasy genre, as well as an avid fiction, suspense and horror reader. I grew up reading a broad range of literature: Dan Simmons, Timothy Findley, Margaret Atwood, Ursula K. LeGuin, Mr. King, Peter Straub and A.S. Byatt—to name a few. 

Recently there’s been much chatter on places like Twitter and Facebook about character diversity in genres like fantasy. What would you like to see as the future of gender, racial and sexual diversity in books?

Great question, and I agree that this is certainly a hot topic at the moment. For me,
I’m a product of many types of diversity, so naturally, I’m a little biased toward its inclusion in any and all genres. I think that diversity is what makes our world so incredible! It gives character and layers to otherwise “samey” voices. Currently, I think there’s this comfort zone with literature that is very much the same as the comfort zone with television (or any other form of interactive media). We read certain stories, because they’re easy, they’re rote and full of tropes. Our mind doesn’t have to work very hard to process the information at hand. I get that, and I’m responsible for indulging in that type of entertainment myself.

However, what I think diversity brings to the table are those other viewpoints and arguments—those elements that challenge us in positive ways. We live very insular, curated lives these days. So much so that we can become oblivious to what is really happening in the world. We need to read, see and hear things that take us out of our comfort zone. That’s how we grow as human beings. That’s how we learn to live in a global village and to work through our differences in age, race, class, sex, orientation and all the rest. You don’t have to like your neighbour, you don’t have to invite them to dinner and hang out with them every day, though you should learn how to respect him or her. Diversity, and an exposure to differing opinions, religions and lifestyles other than our own should be looked at as an opportunity to better know ourselves and our neighbour, and not as an attack on our values.

I have a number of diverse characters in the Four Feasts Till Darkness series that are representative of what I’ve just mentioned: working mothers (some of which are villainous), disenfranchised youths, indigenous people suffering under colonial rule—a hot topic in Canada at the moment, on account of the Residential School ruling. I don’t start out with a checklist for diversity, though when writing a world, a believable world, I find it impossible to avoid its inclusion.

What are your greatest challenges when writing? Do you find that fantasy has particular challenges unique to the genre?

I think the juggling act between continuously writing>editing>PR engagements was a balance that I struggled to achieve for a while. I also learned that you simply cannot do everything yourself—even if you’re a control freak like me J Defer to experts, friends and loved-ones for support. That’s what we (humans) are here for: to help each other through this rather messy thing called life.

Do you have any anecdotal tidbits or funny writing stories you’d like to share?

Years back, when I first sought an editor for the distant ancestor of what would become Feast of Fates, I sat down, compiled a list of names and meant to cold call each one until I found the right person. First call I made, someone picked up right away, and I hurried to finish scarfing down the spinach shake I had been slurping. The fellow was very professional, even though I was questionably so. He suggested I send in my manuscript for an assessment, and I did so without thinking. Once I hit send, the panic set in and I wondered what the F I’d just done. I freaked out, called my sister and we did some Googling. Turns out, I had made contact with the—at the time—president of the editor’s association of Canada. Luck, surely graced me on that occasion. A lot of success comes from luck, though I’ve learned that hard work can make up the difference. I rushed into a lot of things at first, which I’ve since learned not to do. 

One other tip that is a no-brainer, though it never hurts to repeat it for newer authors: never respond to a negative review. Unless what the reviewer says is slanderous, and there are legal grounds for your concern/ complaint, once your work is out there in the world, that’s it. People can read it and critique it as they will. For every ten people that love your work, one will loathe it. At least I feel that’s the ideal ratio for which to strive. 

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

I’m an exercise nut: 5-6 times each week—weights, cardio, plyometric drills, the works. Our bodies are the most amazing machines and we should take care of them for as long as we can. One day, I’ll be old and broken down like everyone else—I have no illusions about a vampire lover saving me from the mortal coil. Until that day (or my vampire lover), I intend to treat my body with the finest care. What else…Hmm…I’m a crazy-cat-person. I have two furry darlings that I adore: Persey (Persephone) and Zeus. I spend whatever time with my family I can. Oh, and I absolutely love Penny Dreadful. What ghastly good fun that show can be! I also binge-watched the whole season of Grace and Frankie the other day, and enjoyed that immensely. Netflix is quickly becoming the new home for diversity-based and stereotype-challenging programming.

What’s next for you?

Well, Feast of Fates is about to hit nationwide retail distribution through Chapters and Indigo here in Canada, so that’s certainly exciting! Also, Feast of Dreams will be out by the end of June. And finally, the third manuscript is nearly finished its 3rd draft and will then be off to the editors, copy-editors and such over the next few months. I would like to have the 3rd book out in time for Christmas, and the final chapter in the tale ready for early 2016. So lots of interesting things are on the horizon for fans of my work. For more information on my world and weirdness, click on over to: 

I keep a regular Sunday blog and I’m always chatting about tropes, female agency in fantasy and whatever else I believe needs fixing in the world J Thank you so much for you time, I really enjoyed this interview. All the best to you and your readers. 

You can also follow Christian on Twitter and Facebook

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