Today I'm happy to be interviewing fellow writer and blogger Braden Russell.
~ ~ ~
Braden Russell is an aspiring author and music instructor who writes weird speculative fiction from various Oklahoma coffee shops. He is the author of five unpublished novels, and currently plans to self-publish his first book in 2016. Story in all forms is his passion, and he discusses Charles Dickens, Brandon Sanderson, Coldplay, and Monsters, Inc. with equal enthusiasm. You can find him blogging about writerly things at his website The Storymonger.
1. (Heidi) Some differences and similarities you see between the three major forms of storytelling—literature, music, and film?
(Braden) You know, I don’t really think much about the differences and similarities between these three mediums. They’re all just story for me, and I’m passionate about all of them. I write novels to explore the big stories I have in my head, while I write songs in a more autobiographical context, based on things I’m going through at the time, trying to make a little more sense of everything. Sometimes I have a story that is so visceral and exciting, and I’m seeing scenes and hearing music in my head, and I plan to make that one a movie.
So I guess all three of those things are pretty muddled up in each other.
2. How have you seen those three mesh together in your own creative process?
(Whups, I guess I already answered this question. Heheh.)
3. When and how did you first begin telling stories (in both book and film)?
I think I wrote my first story when I was six. It was called How Jery Rat Kild the Monstar, and my mother helped me staple it together out of colored construction paper so it looked sort of like a real book. I remember telling my mom I wanted to give it to the mailman, so he could sell it to someone for me—I was quite the self-publishing entrepeneur, apparently.
4. What are you currently working on?
I’m revising my novella, The Weatherman’s Apprentice, a post-apocolyptic story about a young boy who discovers that his father actually brought on the deluge that destroyed the world. Also writing the first few chapters for an online webfiction serial called The Firewall Saga. I really like serial fiction in many forms, so I’m excited about trying my hand at it.
5. Particular authors and/or screenwriters who have influenced you?
Brandon Sanderson is a living author who has been a huge influence on my writing, and Charles Dickens is a dead one. I don’t have any favorite screenwriters, per say, but I really love Christopher Nolan as a writer/director. He is a masterful storyteller.
6. Is there a “non-writing” activity that shapes your writing?
Drinking coffee. Also sleeping. I never take naps, but I love the idea of them and hope to someday have enough time to take one.
7. Your opinion on the advantages and disadvantages of digital books?
Honestly, I really hate digital books. I have trouble focusing on them. If I’m holding an actual book in my hands, with a cover and pages and a smell, I can get into the experience of the story so much better. However, there is a huge place for digital publishing nowadays, and I do plan to e-publish my novella before I make up a print version, because people are more prone to buy an ebook written by an unheard-of author before they buy a print version.
Someday, digital books will probably make real ones extinct. I have no problem with that, as long as everybody just gives me their real books.
8. Do you ever do graphic design to help hammer out details?
I am partially colorblind, and also just generally aesthetically challenged. I don’t do ANY kind of graphic anything.
9. Do you outline? If so, in a general way or very detailed?
I adore outlines, but don’t stick to them very well. I’m a discovery-outliner, I suppose—my outline gives me a basic idea to work with, to keep momentum, and at the same time it’s general enough to let me experiment and go off on tangents.
10. Do you work on multiple projects at once?
Yes, but it’s probably not a good idea for me. In fact, it’s definitely not a good idea for me. I am the world’s worst multitasker.
11. Do you edit as you go along or wait until a project’s reached a certain definitive stage?
I edit as I go, because I can’t stand not to. I write slower that way, but my first drafts are much smoother than a lot of people’s first drafts. I know you’re not supposed to do that, but I can’t really help it, and it seems to work for me.
12. Certain themes you see surfacing and resurfacing in your work?
Redemption seems to be a pretty big theme in my stories, as well as moving on from tragedy and dealing with change. I write a lot of antiheroes.
13. A particular aspect of writing/storytelling you struggle with or a challenge you’ve overcome?
I have trouble with the pre-writing stage—taking time to really develop the story and the characters before I dive in. I’m working on that. I have a story right now that I really want to write, but I’m giving myself a good long while to mull over it before I start putting it down on paper.
14. How do you deal with feedback—particularly negative feedback?
I have pretty thick skin for negative feedback pretty well, as long as it is delivered nicely. If someone tells me they don’t like my story, and give me a good reason why, then I get to fix that problem. If I don’t agree with them, and I have a good reason for not agreeing with them, then I don’t fix it. I really haven’t had that much experience with people just being mean about my stories—I guess I’m lucky that way.
15. One thing you’ve learned from other storytellers?
That I will never be the best storyteller out there, or the worst. You can always learn something from your fellow spinners of tales, and you can usually teach them something as well.
16. A helpful nonfiction book or website?
Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott is probably my favorite book about writing, and art in general. Helping Writers Become Authors by my friend K.M. Weiland is a fantastic resource as well.
17. What do you consider one of the single most important things to remember (i.e. an attitude or technique)?
See number 15! Humility, as always, is key. You will never reach a point where you’re so good that you don’t need to learn anymore. If you think you have, you’re holding yourself back from all kinds of good things.
18. A word of encouragement for fellow writers?
Don’t get in a hurry! I have to tell this to myself all the time. If you truly have a passion for writing stories, you will become published, and people will read those stories. Keep writing, keep telling those stories, look forward to the day when you can share them with people, but don’t forget to enjoy the journey along the way.
~ ~ ~
Note from Heidi: Thanks so much for sharing today, Braden! And everyone, be sure to check out Braden's blog The Storymonger.