Monday, July 11, 2016

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Berin Stephens

Tell me a about yourself. What got you started in writing?

I was born and raised in Alaska. I am also a professional saxophone and clarinet player. I have five books out in print: Dragon War Relic, Time Gangsters, Delroy Versus the Yshtari, Tales of Myrick the (Not So) Magnifent Volume 1, and Myrick Volume 2. I also have three books published online so far: Delroy Versus the Pirates of Poughkeepsie, A Sidekick's Secrets to Saving the City, and Myrick Volume 3.

What sparked my desire to become a writer was J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. It blew my mind and I wanted to write stories just like that. Not long after, I was introduced to Asimov's Lucky Starr and the Pirates of the Asteroids, which then got me liking science fiction, too. So I dabbled with writing stories when I was in high school and then some in college, but ended up quitting for a while as I started my family and music career. It wasn't until ten years ago that I took it up again. My then teenage daughter wanted to be a writer and she introduced me to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I decided to do it along with her so that she'd have someone to commiserate with, and the rest is history. That was how Dragon War Relic got its start.

How do you schedule your writing time? When do you write?

I write in the mornings since, for one, that is when my creative mind works best. Also, I teach music lessons in the afternoons and rehearse and perform on a lot of evenings. Really, being a private music teacher is perfect for a writer because we usually have mornings available.

How and where do you write? Do you prefer a lap top or some other method of getting your words down?

I do my initial brainstorming with paper and pencil, along with my first rough outline. I guess I'm old-school in that regard. Once I get to the actual writing, I use a laptop on a desk in my bedroom. It is the quietest part of the house and I'm rarely interrupted. I am one who gets distracted easily, so if there is any music or talking going on around me, it takes me out of the zone.

What's your favorite part about writing? Your least favorite part about writing?

I love the creative part. I enjoy the brainstorming and coming up with ideas but by far my favorite part is just sitting down and hammering through the first draft. I'm a 'discovery writer' or a 'pantser', so it is fun to see where the stories go. Often, I don't know what is going to happen next, though I have found that it is important that I temper my creative ramblings with some form of outline. I'm not very good at staying on my outlines, though.

I used to hate the editing stages (yes, multiple) but I enjoy them now because I like having a polished finished product. While doing it, it seems like drudgery, so I keep reminding myself of how much better my story will be once I'm finished. What I absolutely don't like is marketing. I hatey hate hate it. I always feel like I'm nagging people to buy my book. Did I mention I hate marketing?

How did you come up with your book idea? How long did it take you to write your book?

I get ideas from just about everywhere. Several of the ideas that came up in Dragon War Relic came to me while driving home from salsa band performances in Alaska. I would listen to 'Coast to Coast AM' to help stay awake at 2 in the morning. They talked about some weird stuff that is a gold mine to a sci-fi/fantasy writer.

I also like watching documentaries. I'm watching the Ken Burns Civil War right now and it's making me think of all sorts of steam punk ideas. Really, when you think about it, the Civil War was steam punk. Biographies are also great because it can give you ideas for character building.

As far as how long it takes for me to write a book, I can generally put out a first draft in 6 to 8 weeks. My fastest was 18 days, but you'll never see that one in print. The second draft takes me the longest since that is where I'm hammering out the structure, so that usually takes 2 to 4 months. Third draft is usually 3 or 4 weeks. Drafts after that only a week each as I'm mainly working on sentence structure and grammar at that point.

What types of marketing do you do to promote your writing?

Urg. Not much right now (see #4 above). I need to get on that.

A thought from Kathryn - As a suggestion, you may want to try Marketing Your Book on a Budget. Yes, it's mine, but everything in there I've tried at one time or another. 

What are you currently working on? Do you have a new book out?

I've got a lot of irons in the fire right now. For writing, I'm working on the sequel to A Sidekick's Secrets to Saving the City. I'm also brainstorming a new idea that will hopefully turn into a middle-grade sci-fi space opera comedy. We'll see how that works out.

I'm also working on creating audiobooks of my first novel. I've done the audio already for some of my later projects, but Dragon War Relic is still my most popular book, so I figured I should go back and record it.

Get the Book at Amazon
My latest book in print is Tales of Myrick the (Not So) Magnificent Volume 2 which came out last September. There has been a change with one of my publishers so it looks like I'll have to convert my three books that are still online into print. I hope to get A Sidekick's Secrets out later this year. We'll see.

Do you have a project on the back burner? Tell me about it.

I have so many projects on the back burner that I don't know where to start. Ever since Dragon War Relic, I've been wanting to write a sequel. I have several drafts but they aren't there yet. I also have three other novels, completely different from my normal middle-grade comedy fare, in various stages of editing. One is an epic fantasy set in a WWII-like setting instead of medieval. Another is of a magic apocalypse. I'm not sure where those are going to go yet. I've been recently told by an agent that I should quit the serious dramatic stuff and stick with middle-grade comedy. I guess I'm just too immature to write that thought-provoking junk.

What would you tell a beginning writer who wants to publish but doesn't believe he/she has enough talent?

I'd say, “You don't have enough talent. Yet.” I'm not trying to be a downer, here, but I view writing like music. You don't pick up an instrument in the store one day and book a gig at Carnegie Hall the next. It takes time to develop the storytelling art. It takes practice. It takes knowledge. The power of practice is that it doesn't matter how much initial talent you have, if you have the love for the art and the desire to get good at it, you WILL have success. That's the way I started with music. I did not start out with any musical gifts whatsoever, but I loved it and stuck with it until I accidentally got good at it. The main thing is to keep learning. Read books on writing, go to writing conferences, form a writing group, and most importantly: practice, man, practice.

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A question for me:

I've been working on the concept of scene and sequel and have redefined it (musically) so that it makes more sense in my mind. I'm curious if this is something you've explored and what take you might have on it.

Wonderful question. For me, cause and effect in the scene and sequel motif is about as important as chocolate ice-cream and the way I feel during and after eating it. You wouldn't let a luscious dish of ice-cream sit on the table without eating it, would you?

Following the scene, (eating the ice-cream) the character must think about what has just happened, (the sequel) and with that comes an emotional reaction - perhaps a tirade - or they may think about what has just happened and talk to someone else about it, or they can make a decision then and there following the scene to make a change in their life.

The best scene and sequel showdown, I think, is to show cause and effect through action and dialogue. It's more about a show versus tell thing for me anyway. Why read about how someone is thinking or feeling, when you can see them experiencing the sequel in living color?

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Learn more about Berin at the following sites:

Website:




The Myrick stories on Big World Network:




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2 comments :

  1. Thanks for the opportunity. I especially love your ice cream analogy. It's an easy way to help scene and sequel make sense. I've been thinking of it like a musician as patterns of tension and release.

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