Author Interview – Stephen Brayton
Another new and exciting author for The Naked Reviewers. We would love to introduce you to Stephen Brayton. I think I might want to see his fat cat.
Stephen is a Fifth Degree Black belt who owns and operates a taekwondo club in Oskaloosa, Iowa. He lives in Carlise with Thomas, a fifteen-pound cat. He lives about an hour and a half away from two supportive and loving parents and two and a half hours away from a younger sister, her husband, and three beautiful nieces.
Interview Conducted by Sherry Terry
TNR: What was the hardest thing about writing your latest action mystery?
Stephen: If you’re talking about the actual writing of the story, I think the toughest thing was filling out the day. I have read a lot of books where days or weeks go by and I wonder what the investigators do during that time period. My challenge is to fill up a day, making sure something is happening and that too much time doesn’t pass where people might ask, “Wait a minute. She was here, now she’s there and it hours later. What did she do in the intervening hours?”
TNR: Do you write in more than one genre? If so, what are they?
Stephen: I write mystery and horror. I do have a poem in the 2018 edition of Lyrical Iowa and will be in the 2019 edition. However, I tell my writers’ group I don’t write poetry. Every now and then, I think about a woman to whom I was attracted to at work. She left less than a year after I met her. I’ve thought about her every day since then. She’s 1800 miles away, and I still have feelings for her. So, when the moment is right, I jot down a few lines about her that have been considered poetry. One of those poems will go into the next edition.
TNR: Aww. What a sweet love story – you need to call her and make it come true. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Stephen: Two bits of wisdom. First, don’t quit your day job unless you’re financially set that you don’t have to work. Unless you break it big, you won’t get rich. Second – write. You might think that’s pretty obvious, but I have seen too many people say they want to be writers and have a cool idea for a story…and never pick up a pen or sit at the computer and type. You can do all the research you want on how to write, figuring out the outline and the characters, dig out information on some of the topics you might have during your story, but there comes a time when you have to turn off Facebook, turn off the phone, tell everyone to leave you alone, turn on whatever background music you like, grab your favorite drink, sit your butt in the chair, and WRITE. Once you start and you keep writing, then something happens. I was once given advice about my martial arts training and I think it goes well with a lot of things including writing: If nothing changes…nothing changes. Think about it.
TNR: Great advice! Where do you like to write? Coffee shop, comfy chair in the bedroom…?
Stephen: I go into work a couple hours early. Nobody is there until 7 and it’s usually quiet. I pull up Pandora or Accuradio and get some jazz going. Sometimes I’ll write in a restaurant or coffee shop but hardly ever at home. Too many distractions at home.
TNR: What inspired the world for your story?
Stephen: Des Moines. I use real locations, real buildings, and businesses. I visit as many as I can for details. I fictionalize any place where bad things happen. I enjoy seeking out new locations for scenes, driving around Des Moines seeking just the right locale.
TNR: Love your idea of driving around the city for unique locations. My bucket list is to visit places in my stories and for research. What’s your favorite method for coming up with names for your characters?
Stephen: I have a list of names that I use for characters. Whenever I need a name, I look through the list until one strikes me as right. What list? Only a few people know and have probably forgotten I’ve told them. It’s a list with twelve names for each year going back to 1953. Does that give you a clue? If you can’t guess, ask me the next time you see me.
TNR: I love that! How genius. What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing vs traditional publishing?
Self-publishing – You have all the control. You have the choice of editing, cover design, format, places to publish, and you keep all the profits. However, you also have to do all the promotion and make sure your product is the best it can be. I’ve reviewed self-published books and many many times I can tell it was self-published because it looks that way. Average cover, grammar/punctuation/spelling errors, problems within the story because the author probably didn’t get some story editing or critique.
Traditional – You have the advantage of finding a decent publisher who will be professional and edit and give you a decent cover design, and maybe a bit of promotion. They will format it and put it out there. However, they won’t do a lot of promotion. Yes, you share royalties but you still will have to market. The biggest problem with traditional publishing is…finding one who will accept your book. Be prepared for a plethora of rejections.
TNR: I agree. I like to self-publish as well for those very reasons. For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hardback books?
Stephen: I have a Nook because it’s more convenient for travel. However, nothing will beat the feel, the smell, and the joy of a hard/paperback.
TNR: You got that right! What do your fans mean to you?
Stephen: Fans are everything. Authors are a business. Businesses run on customers. You can do all the promotions you want, but the best marketing is word of mouth. If your customer is disappointed, then they will tell someone. Now you’ve lost two people. If you don’t communicate with your fans and your audience, they won’t care.
Build your base, work like a business. Keep in constant touch even if it’s a regular mass email to them giving them progress reports on your projects. Engage them. I’ve watched other authors and yes they’re salesmen but what’s better than saying “Hello.”? I made a sale because I talked with a guy who probably just stopped to see what all these books were.
We chatted about my work and my activities, and we chatted about him. It wasn’t just about me. People are interesting. Ask them about their job. Ask follow up questions. Ask them about their hobbies. And most of all, thank them. Whether they buy a book or walk away empty-handed you thank them.
TNR: Excellent advice! What is your best marketing tip?
Stephen: Do everything because nothing will be successful all the time. Think outside the box and go to places and events where you might not think people would be interested in books. There’s a car show in Des Moines and people have sold romance books at the event.
Hit your local farmers’ market if it’s affordable. I’m looking at a not just authors’ events but I’m going to contact a gentleman who will be hosting a martial arts tournament at a hotel to see if he’ll let me have a vendor’s table. Since my books’ main character is a martial artist/private investigator, I might draw some interest in martial arts fans.
Be sensible. Don’t just go for anything because it’s there. It also may be expensive. There’s an event next year in Des Moines that costs a lot of money. That’s not worth it because I know I will probably never recoup the cost.
TNR: More good advice! Let’s get personal. Can you tell us a brief story about a birthmark or scar you have?
Stephen: May I be allowed space to tell about a few? I have a scar on my forehead from where I fell down the basement stairs as a child. Why did my mother put me on the chair at the top of the stairs? I don’t know, but I joke that she pushed me.
A scar on my left inside forearm was from when I was locked out of the house as a child and punched through the glass door.
I have a scar on my left palm from when a dog bit me. The owner told me afterward that the dog didn’t like males. Really? She didn’t see me bend down to pet her dog? Couldn’t she have warned me before I stuck out my hand?
TNR: If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Stephen: Seafood. Any seafood. Crab, shrimp, oysters, clams, lobster.
TNR: I’m with you! I love seafood, and sushi is my first and only love. Thank you so much for stopping by and giving us a peek into your life. What a great interview!
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