Author Spotlight: Jason Brannon
[box]Jason Brannon, author of The Maze, was kind enough to offer some kind words about my forthcoming novel The Bargain. I thought I’d do him a favor and give him a shout out here on my Author Spotlight feature.
Brannon has been writing and selling fiction for nearly 20 years. After spending most of his writing career crafting novels like The Cage and Lake October for the horror and dark fantasy crowd and selling more than 150 short stories to various magazines and anthologies, he felt the call to dedicate his talents to God. The Maze, his first faith-based novel, is a step in that direction. Over the years, Brannon has seen numerous works translated into German, nominated for the occasional award here and there, and even optioned for film. He currently maintains a website at www.jasonbrannon.us [/box]
ADG: How’d you get into writing? What was that process like?
JB: I started writing at age 16 in high school. I had an English teacher who was very supportive of my endeavors. That led to an editor’s position for the school literary magazine. From there, I began writing short stories and submitting them to small magazines. Once I sold my first story, I was hooked, and I’ve been at it ever since.
ADG: You’ve had a pretty long journey as a writer. Where did you come from before The Maze and what prompted your switch?
JB: I started out writing horror and dark fantasy (a la Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Clive Barker, the usual suspects from that genre). I sold quite a few short stories to magazines and anthologies, saw a lot of those stories collected into volumes, and then moved on to novels. I edited a few horror magazines, interviewed some of the genre’s biggest names, and even did some minor work for a short time for The Horror Channel. However, I was never into extreme horror, and I never felt that the horror tag placed on my stories did them justice. I was more of a Twilight Zone kinda guy (quite, brooding, atmospheric), and horror/dark fantasy was the closest thing I fit into (although most of the time I didn’t really fit there at all). My favorite writer of all time is Ray Bradbury, and that sort of tone and feel was more my speed. I was also raised in a Christian home, and somehow morals and Biblical themes always had a way of cropping up in my work. Eventually, I began to feel pulled in a different direction. I matured as both a writer and as a person and took a hard look at how I was using my talents. After some soul-searching, I decided to take my writing in a different direction. The Maze was my first effort to write fiction that combined faith and fantasy.
ADG: You’re not the only one who’s work doesn’t easily slide into the box of a particular genre. It sounds like you were writing a type of literary speculative fiction, maybe with a supernatural bent. Would you agree? Also, what would you say to writers whose work doesn’t easily fall into a particular genre?
JB: That description sums up my writing pretty well. Everything I’ve ever written or attempted to write always has some sort of speculative bent. I’ve tried writing in a variety of genres, and invariably, the idea takes a strange turn. I even tried my hand writing a romance novel once, and instead of your garden variety boy-meets-girl story, I ended up with a tale about two soul mates who kidnap Father Time and force him to turn back the clock so that they can avoid wasting many of their adult years on partners who ultimately weren’t right for them. Nicholas Sparks it wasn’t! With that said, I’d tell writers whose work doesn’t fit into a nice, tidy box that they should write what drives them. Chances are if the story is something that interests them it will interest other readers too. I think too much emphasis is placed on genre at times. A good story is a good story no matter how it’s categorized.
JB: The main idea behind The Maze is that all of our actions have consequences. Sins require punishment. We can’t just do as we please without seeing repercussions. I wanted to get that message across but in a way that readers of dark fantasy and horror might find intriguing. When my tastes began to change, and I made the conscious decision to use my talents for God, I found it difficult to locate the kinds of books I wanted to read. The Maze, in a sense, is the kind of book I had hoped to find. The story has been described by some readers as the kind of book Edgar Allan Poe and C.S. Lewis might have written in collaboration, and that basically sums up my tastes in a nutshell.
ADG: How long did it take you to write?
JB: The Maze, without a doubt, has been the most difficult of all the books I’ve written. In the course of six years the book was written, rewritten, sold to an agent who had to drop me as a client because of health reasons, lost to a hard drive crash and partially recovered, rewritten again, signed to a second agent, rewritten as a YA novel, finally sold to a publisher, rewritten several more times, and at last released.
ADG: Pretty crazy journey. I know writers who have given up on novels after hard drive crashes (interviewer’s note: I believe writers should rely heavily on cloud-based storage—see Google Drive or SkyDrive or Dropbox—to avoid these calamities). Do you feel the journey benefited the final product at all, or do you think it damaged it?
JB: I know the stories I’ve worked on the most generally end up being my best work, but I’ve never had to rewrite something as YA. First off, I agree about cloud-based storage. All of my books are backed up that way now, and it’s somewhat of a relief to know that if the Toshiba gives up the ghost all is not lost. In the case of The Maze, I think the struggles actually helped the novel in quite a few ways. Primarily, it helped me figure out what the book was about and what I was trying to say. The Maze is a pretty concept-heavy book in some ways, and I don’t think I had a good handle on that concept early on. Revisions and rewrites certainly helped to cement what the book was about and developed the rules by which the maze is governed. Another benefit of the struggle was that it forced me to examine how determined I was to make a change in my own writing and my life. At any point I could have kept writing the things I knew and was comfortable with and given up on taking my books in a new direction. However, that wasn’t where my convictions were at the time, and so I kept writing and rewriting.
ADG: You shift POV from first to third a few times. Did that give your editors any problems? Why not stay entirely in third?
JB: The shift never really seemed to be an issue. Parts of the book seemed better suited to first person because I want people who read this to use the narrative for self-reflection whenever applicable. I certainly did throughout the entire writing process. In the book, the maze is described as a mirror for the soul, and first person lends itself pretty well for that kind of introspective.
ADG: Anything else you want to say about the book?
JB: The Maze is the most difficult book I’ve written, but it’s the one I’m most proud of as well. The feedback has been amazing, and it’s gratifying to hear people talk about taking notes from your book that they will go back and study later. If I had any doubts about the direction I’ve gone with my writing, I only need to read the reviews that The Maze has received to confirm that I made the right decision.
ADG: Any upcoming projects? What do you have in the works for your fans?
JB: I’ve finished a sequel to The Maze called The Piper’s Song that picks up where The Maze left off, although there are no immediate plans for it at the moment. I’ve also finished a novel called The Tears of Nero that is best described as a healthy mixture of Indiana Jones, the television show LOST, and Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians. Also, there is movie interest in both The Maze and The Tears of Nero.
ADG: Can you give any details on production companies or option details, or are those pretty tightly wrapped up?
JB: Nothing’s set in stone at this point so I probably shouldn’t say much. Nonetheless, it’s pretty gratifying just to know there is some interest.