It is sometimes said that every person has at least one book in them. Well, in many cases, that’s exactly where the book should remain.
This is the second in an undetermined series of posts about the special few, the authors whose work you should be reading.
Last week, I interviewed Lyn Thorne-Alder, creator of the mystical world of Addergoole.
This week it’s the turn of Nancy Brauer and Vanessa Brooks, the duo behind Strange Little Band.
Unfortunately, Vanessa’s availability was rather limited, so special thanks to her for taking the time to answer a couple questions.
On with the interview!
AMH: To classify SLB as simply another paranormal romance doesn’t do the story justice. How would you describe the story to new readers?
NB: Aww, thanks! Vanessa and I have thought long and hard about this. We’ve come up with a subtitle of sorts and a brief blurb to whet readers’ appetites. They are, respectively, “Two psychics, one mega-corp, and all-around bad behavior,” and:
Strange Little Band is the ongoing story of Addison and Shane, two self-centered, amoral psychics who work for the cut-throat Triptych Corporation. Their insular, comfortable lives are disrupted when, due to Triptych’s machinations, they become unlikely parents. How can they raise a child when they can’t trust each other?
AMH: How long have you been posting SLB, and what advice would you share with others wishing to follow in your footsteps?
NB: We’ve been posting twice per week since May 1st. My #1 piece of advice to fellow writers is to have a buffer. In other words, have at least two posts ready to go ahead of schedule. I rarely do, so sometimes I’m scrambling an hour before deadline writing! So far it’s worked out but… ugh. Don’t put yourself through that. Trust me.
As for other bits of advice, once you’ve decided on your posting schedule, stick to it. Other online serial writers post once per week to once per month. Judging from what writers have said on Twitter, the less frequent your updates, the longer your posts. Five hundred words every other week won’t keep readers coming back for more. For comparison, SLB posts range from 500 to 1,500 words.
Speaking of readers coming back, the key to writing a serial is to end each post with a cliffhanger whenever possible. The cliffhanger doesn’t have to be a life-and-death one, but the plot must keep moving forward. Your audience has to want to know what happens next. You’re competing with millions of other websites for readers’ attention.
AMH: SLB is co-authored. How does the writing relationship between the two of you work?
NB: It’s unique. :) Vanessa and I found each other through an online role-playing game on LiveJournal. Through the game we discovered that our posts just flowed. The characters we played interacted easily and, more importantly, amusingly. We’d leave hooks for each other to continue the storyline. It was a lot of fun.
The first draft of SLB reflects that dynamic. I typically write Shane’s point-of-view, Vanessa writes Addison’s, and we share the other characters’. The story started as a giant email volley. You could get whiplash from the POV changes. Nothing was planned. The characters evolved, and we modeled a story around them.
Vanessa has less free time now, so I do all of the editing and write most of the new segments. Merging our two voices into one and rounding out the storylines are challenging but enjoyable!
AMH: Tell me about your main characters. You’ve chosen two people who have strong and manipulative personalities. How did you guys come up with them?
NB: Shane and Addison are dark, twisted versions of characters that Vanessa and I have written about before. To create Shane, I thought about what would have happened if key events in his life had gone badly. Then I plopped him at Triptych, the ruthless corporation that’s the setting of the story, where his flawed antihero-ness could flourish. And flourish it did! Shane’s a bastard, but for good reason. If you’re familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality types, he’s an INTJ from hell.
On the surface Shane’s an ordinary-looking workaholic who’s the head of Triptych’s genetics department. He loves his work and generally keeps to himself. His only social interactions outside of his department are working out in Triptych’s gym and trysts with lovers. Few people know about the abilities granted by his alien side: healing, telekinesis, and limited telepathy. Shane never knew his non-human parent, so he figured out what he was and what he can do on his own. He grew up isolated, and has a hell of a temper, too.
Shane’s slightly more at home at Triptych, where psionics are known and accepted. At the start of SLB he’s happy with his orderly, self-contained world. Addison and his son crash through Shane’s carefully erected walls. The results aren’t pretty.
VB: Addison is the “evil twin” of her “original” self in a manner of speaking. As Nancy did with Shane, I took Addison and looked at her strengths and weaknesses, and then played with what type of woman she would be if some of her “good” qualities were either played down or absent completely. The character Addison grew from was intelligent, sometimes snarky, attractive, good with people (due to her empathic and telepathic skill), and of course Homo superior. She also suffered from low self-esteem and frequently second guessed herself, and vanity was simply not a word one would ever apply to her. Lastly, she existed in a world where government (and non-government) entities would have done anything to have possession of her and her abilities, and where her intelligence and psionic skill set her apart as a “freak.”
I took away her supporting foundations, the friends and family that kept her grounded, and put her in a world where her ability would be prized and coveted, where she would be feared for her psionic ability but where such would give her power. In the world of Triptych, Addison learned at an early age that a pretty face and a little (or a lot) of manipulation, psychic and otherwise, could go a long way to getting her what she wanted. Addison was within Triptych and the machinations of that world are as natural to her as breathing.
AMH: Tell me one deep, dark secret about SLB.
NB: This is a little embarrassing, but I’m going to go for it anyway. As I said before, Vanessa and I started writing SLB for fun. Our audience was ourselves and a handful of friends. So we didn’t rein ourselves in for the romance parts. More often that not we egged each other on! We didn’t know we had it in us, being repressed Americans and all. ;)
As I’ve edited SLB, I’ve deliberately toned down the sex scenes. We’re going for no more than an MPAA R rating. A few sections may have strayed over the line. So far no one’s complained. :)
AMH: Without giving too much away, what can readers expect from future updates?
NB: Violence, name-calling, and general shenanigans. :) To quote writer/producer Tim Minear, “There will be an occasional happy, so that it might be crushed under the boot of the writer.” Characters aren’t interesting if they’re happy too often, so Vanessa and I make ours miserable on a regular basis. Addison, Shane, and a few others will get their just deserts, and Ashlynn and Jacob will grow up to be relatively well-adjusted. By Triptych standards, anyway.
AMH: So, where, when and how can readers keep up-to-date with the going-ons of Strange Little Band?
NB: Keep up with the psychic horndogs’ misadventures at http://www.strangelittleband.com. New sections are posted every Tuesday and Friday. See the site to sign up for email updates and the RSS feed. We’ve got forums, too!
AMH: Any last words?
NB: Thanks for the interview! Also, there’s lots more good web fiction, including Anna’s “Above Ground“, to be found through the Web Fiction Guide. If you find something you like, show the author some love with comments and a review. It’ll make his or her day.
Check back next week for another instalment of Café Wednesday, bringing authors to your
local coffee shop computer screen.