Interview: Deborah Bryan

Deborah BryanToday Jackie was kind enough to let me interview one of my favorite bloggers turned author, Deborah Bryan. Deborah writes a blog entitled The Monster in Your Closet, which is also the first book in The Glass Ball Series, and has recently published her first book The Monster’s Daughter.

Ginny Connors doesn’t believe in vampires. There’s totally a rational reason her dad is a lot more bloodthirsty and a lot less interested in food than he used to be. Still, she hangs a cross on her bedroom door. Just in case. When Ginny discovers people aren’t the guests but the main course at her father’s New Year party, she wishes she could save the day with garlic pancakes. Instead, she must face the limits of her daydreams, and attempt to stop the monster her father has become.

I was lucky enough to meet Deborah when I first started blogging and was honored when she offered the let me review her book and interview her for Literary Escapism. She truly is as wonderful a person as she is a writer! I think you’ll find that you agree! So without further adieu, my interview with Deborah Bryan

Can you tell the readers of Literary Escapism a little about yourself?
I’ve done so many weird, wonderful and unrelated things, it would be hard to boil them down to a few words! I’ll relay an anecdote from childhood, since it still tells a lot about me now.

Stephen King and Dean Koontz were my favorite authors in elementary school. My mom was fine with me reading all the horror I wanted, but commanded me never, under any circumstances, to read any Sweet Valley books. According to my mom, they filled a girl’s head with all the wrong messages about priorities.

If she didn’t want me to read Sweet Valley books, she’d have done much better to buy a whole heap of them and set them on the kitchen table under a sign labeled, “MOM’S TOP PICKS!!!”

My mom’s command filled me with a compulsion to read every single Sweet Valley book ever written, which I did covertly until my mom found a stash of them in my bedroom. She threatened to take them back to the library, following which I told her triumphantly I’d already read dozens of them. She told me she was disappointed in me but let me keep the books, which I half-correctly called a win.

If I could thank my mom now for forbidding me those books, I would. Sweet Valley’s Elizabeth Wakefield inspired me to become a writer. If I couldn’t be her, I could do that!

Much of the joy in my life today has flowed from unplanned consequences.

What made you decide to write a book?
If you count the poetry books and I Love Lucy choose-your-own-adventure books I sold to neighbors for fair fare in elementary school, base capitalism!

More than a decade after peddling my last poetry book, I was broke and without internet in rural Japan. I’d watched The Lord of the Rings trilogy dozens of times when some girlfriends dared me to ditch my beloved Gandalf and write my autobiography for NaNoWriMo 2004. I wasn’t sure I’d actually finish the project, but started it to kill some time.

I finished my autobiography 70,000 words and twelve days later. There were still so many days left in November, I figured I might as well see if I could write a book in a week. The Monster’s Daughter was my “yes” answer to that question.

I felt bad dissing Gandalf, but I don’t regret my choice.  (Lisa: Yeah I would’ve felt bad dissing Legolas.  YUM! ;) )

DBryan-Monsters DaughterThe Monster’s Daughter is such a different take on a vampire story, where did your inspiration come

I knew Ginny’s dad was a monster before I knew he was a vampire, actually!

The story is very personal for me. There was a moment in my youth where I realized my dad wasn’t actually who I wanted him to be, and that a lot of what he’d done was monstrous indeed. This revelation was painful to me, for if I was the offspring of and beloved by a monster, didn’t that make me a monster, too? The title comes from a similar reflection in the book.

Ginny’s story wasn’t a vampire one as I first conceived it. It was a coming of age tale whose villains were both literal and metaphorical. It was the vampire’s “before” and “after” states that made the vampire a perfect choice for The Monster’s Daughter. It felt a lot like my own “before” and “after,” when I realized I could never make-believe hard enough for my daydreams about my family to change the real world. I could only make a new one for myself with the pieces I had.

The main character, Ginny, is very strong and brave, do you see a lot of yourself in her?
I didn’t see it as quickly as my sisters and friends did! Back in 2004, I was actually offended when my younger sister implied Ginny was me. I reread the story a couple of years later and realized she wasn’t nearly wrong.

I love seeing Ginny characterized as “strong and brave.” I really hope a teenager who’s struggling with her own hardships will read this and understand it’s not the struggle in the middle that defines you. It’s where you take it in the end that matters.

When writing do you have a planned ending or do you just see where the story takes you?
I wrote the Glass Ball trilogy (which begins with The Monsters Daughter) over a six-week period in Japan. I wrote away almost every waking moment, slept little and almost completely ignored an old friend when he came to visit. There wasn’t a whole lot of room for planning then. It was just, in my friend’s words, “typetypetypetypetypetypetype” to get the story out. Only by typing could I discover what remained of the story.

The book I finished drafting last month was a very different matter. It started with a twenty-year-old seed of an idea, then took form as a basic outline. A month into writing that book, I described my outline as “its own standalone work of fiction.” I kept updating it anyway, because it helped me when I was floundering. “Well, shoot–they weren’t supposed to encounter an alien robot panda. Where am I supposed to go from here?” The outline would remind me where I wanted to get in the end and help me keep rerouting my writing train back toward that station.

Having a planned ending and a sketch of the steps to get there also helped me balance my real life with the world I was writing. It was an adventure writing the Glass Ball trilogy without a roadmap, but mama, full-time employee me likes the semi-planned way much better!

Do you have any advice for wanna be book writers, like myself?
I love you so much for asking this question.

As I blogged after finishing my recent work in progress, my biggest advice would be to “spend less time disbelieving and more time doing!” I’ve spent a lot of my life thinking, “I could never do that!” Much like

Douglas Adams recommended for learning to fly, it’s only by doing things–standing up for myself, graduating from law school, writing a book, running a marathon–while pretending I was doing something else that I’ve actually believed I could do them.

So write 200 words today. Write 200 words tomorrow. Do it again the day after that. Keep doing that, telling yourself, “I’m just playing around with this silly idea, no pressure.” Do that enough days in a row and you’ll have a book. It won’t be publishable as is, but the good news is you learn a heck of a lot about writing by editing. Seriously. Deleting entire chapters of reflections on snowflakes is an important part of learning not to write entire chapters of reflections on snowflakes in the future.

As Nike urges, just do it! If you wait for believing you can do it to come first, you might never know the joy of looking down and realizing you’ve somehow floated yourself straight up to the clouds.

When will the next book in The Glass Ball Series be released?
I wish this were a spoken interview so I could deftly change the subject! Instead, I’ll say that I’m aiming for May 2012. The third book should also be out in 2012.

Thank you so much Deborah for allowing me to interview you for Literary Escapism!  I wish you all the luck in the world!

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  1. So many things I love about this interview. First, your picture is beautiful. What are you smiling about? Congratulations on The Monster’s Daughter and The Glass Ball Series. Love your “Well, shoot-“, I say that a lot too. Great advice. “Do”! and from your friend “typetypetypetypetypetypetype”. After TMD I look forward to reading more.

  2. Thank you for reading and for commenting! I’m not sure what I was thinking about when that picture was taken, but it’s fun to wonder.

    “Well, shoot!” has become a staple since my little one was born. Perhaps someday I’ll navigate back to more vehement speech-waters, but that’s it for now. ;)

  3. Deb, I first have to say, what a great photo! I’m with georgettesullins. I have to wonder what thoughts were going through your head when that was taken.

    This is a great interview! Consistent with your regular blog posts, you’ve shared a plenitude of insight.

    If you wait for believing you can do it to come first, you might never know the joy of looking down and realizing you’ve somehow floated yourself straight up to the clouds.

    I was raised under the school of thought that you must first be an expert at something before doing it, lest you suffer ridicule. Wrong! Only in my adulthood have I started to learn that expertise comes not solely from erudition, but from doing and learning from mistakes made in the pursuit of proficiency. Kind of like writing and editing, yeah?

    This interview is revealing and inspiring. Best of luck to you with your book(s), and well done, my friend!

  4. Can’t tell you how much I enjoyed reading your interview, Deb. Now I need to read these books, in addition to your blog. Thanks so much for sharing a bit about your process. I tell myself similar things as I write my memoir–just do it. I can do it or not do it, and worrying that I’ll fail gets me no closer to my goal.

  5. Stellar interview, and lovely photo! I’m thankful for your advice to aspiring book-writers. Sometimes when I read the words on blogs like yours of writers whom I admire, I think, “How do they do it?” I often struggle with 500 word posts; I cannot imagine penning the novel that is in my head.

    Congratulations on your achievements. I wish you continued success, in all that you do. :)

  6. Really nice interview, and I recommend everyone also checks out Deborah’s blog. And, here and now, I promise to buy any book involving an alien robot panda…

  7. A lovely interview. Love all the detail from the background, more detail about the book, to the recommendation for aspiring authors. I can just imagine you typing away in your tiny little place in Nihon:)

    Congrats on your interview and the photos is simply gorgeous!

    For those of you that haven’t met Deb on her blog or Facebook, she is wonderful across all platforms.

  8. I loved your story about your Mom and the Sweet Valley High books. Excellent interview, and I totally agree with your advice to sit down and write. Talking about it never accomplishes a thing! Great story concept, BTW.

  9. Great interview! As others have said, I now need to read your book – right after getting my own blog off the ground (hopefully), and a thousand chores related to living in a 110-year-old house with two ancient cars! But hey, if you could write all this, I can read it. ;)

  10. Great interview. Deb makes writing sound so do-able. I can write 200 words a day. I can. I’m gonna. I’m looking forward to reading “The Monster’s Daughter.”

    Kudos to the interviewer and the interviewee.

  11. What a fabulous interview! I really got a sense of you in there in a completely different way to reading your blog. I’m not into horror movies or books, but you have me hooked on this storyline! Well done. xx

  12. Chris, I spent a lot of my earlier days unwilling to try things anew because I wasn’t good at them innately. I still have to fight off that feeling these days, talking myself through the fact that instances where someone innately excels at something without work are much rarer than those where someone started out clumsy and gradually gained grace.

    (Oh, yeah, I busted out the alliteration guns!)

    Thank you so much for reading, commenting and for being both a friend and an inspiration.

  13. Kathy, thank you for reading and for taking the time out to say you enjoyed this–I appreciate it!

    I can do it or not do it, and worrying that I’ll fail gets me no closer to my goal.
    Exactly so! It was a friend of mine who introduced me to the idea of feelings “just” being feelings. He said it in the specific context of weight loss, when he was 75-80 pounds of a current 120ish pounds into doctor-mandated weight loss. He said something like: “Laziness is just a feeling,” which got a whole bunch of wheels turning in my brain. Since then, I’m trying to make sure I proceed not on feeling alone, although I do want to understand where a feeling’s coming from when it’s more complex than do-not-want-ness. :)

    I love reading the glimpses you’re showing of the book you’re building, bit by patient bit.

  14. Jess, thank you on too many fronts to name, starting with the blogging award you made for me some months back! I may have to upload that to Facebook (with proper attribution) tonight or tomorrow.

    When I think of everything you’re doing right now, it amazes me that you have time for 500-word posts. You’re splitting your time between a dozen endeavors, each of which is difficult. I’m glad you take out the time for writing, and I hope you keep doing that . . . even if it’s only five minutes a day!

    I love it when a few of those words land on your blog, but you know best where your words belong. :)

    Congratulations on your achievements. I wish you continued success, in all that you do. :)
    Seconding all of this as re: you. You’re a pretty amazing lady yourself, and I’m looking forward to seeing the future benefits that’ll flow from all your efforts!

  15. Matt, thank you! I should warn you that Elelu (working title only) does not involve any actual robot pandas, although occasionally–in fits of aggravation at how slow writing it was proving–I wanted to throw some into the mix to end the story early!

  16. Matt, thank you! I should warn you that Elelu (working title only) does not involve any actual robot pandas, although occasionally–in fits of aggravation at how slow writing it was proving–I wanted to throw some into the mix to end the story early!

    Shannon, thank you so much for your kind words here, as well as sharing this interview elsewhere. I’m very grateful.

    I love that you can picture me in my tiny studio in Nihon, furnished with very little not found in hyaku-en shops. I was so lonely at the time that I bought a potted tree for the express purpose of keeping me company, but there are many good memories, too.

    I’m glad I got the chance to write out this tale as I did!

    Shelley Munro, while there can be some good in talking, it’s definitely not getting stuff written! Thank you for reading, and for sharing your thoughts.

  17. What an absolutely stunning picture of you Deb! I remember you telling me about this interview in an email awhile back. It’s wonderful! I had no idea that you wrote The Monster’s Daughter in such a short amount of time! (Which is, by the way, a wonderful book!) You are amazing and I can’t wait to read the rest of the trilogy! :)

  18. Wonderful interview, Deb. Love the picture of you. Interesting to read how your life led you to become a writer. Your advice about writing a book is something I will take to heart. Thank you for the inspiration!

  19. Deb is one of my favorite bloggers/authors, whose talent is as pure and magical as she is! :o) Loved this interview; I’m always dying to know if writers use outlines, and it’s also fascinating to learn more about what inspires them.

  20. Terrific interview! Deborah is a favorite blog buddy/friend and I always enjoy the way she shares her life stories with all of us. Kudos on a wonderful interview… Deborah, you need to add that picture to your blog… it’s so sweet! :-)

  21. What a wonderful interview! I actually won Deb’s book in a contest, and I really enjoyed reading it. We’ve never talked about it – though we have talked and emailed! I always thought Ginny was a lot like Deb, but then I was recently told by Kristen Lamb that our protagonists always have a bit more of us in them then other characters. Interesting to know that Deb did not recognize herself in her own character.

    I’ll be interested to read the next two books. Especially knowing the different processes that Deb used to create each book. I am a plotter for sure. I can’t imagine writing a book without knowing my ending. I know it works for some pantsers, but not this chick.

    Deb, you know I adore you and I’m so proud to call you friend. You done good, baby! ;-)

  22. Great interview! I can certainly attest to Deb’s idea of writing 200 words today, then 200 tomorrow, and so on. She gave me this suggestion back when I was having trouble getting words on the page. It made a lot of sense to me–even I could write 200 words a day. I did it, and I’m happy to say that I’m still writing daily!

    And to Deb: I absolutely love the picture! Like someone above commented, I really want to know what you were thinking when it was taken! :)

  23. Sprinkles, I had to make up for all the time I didn’t spend writing it in editing time, but I did indeed write it in less than a week! ;)

    My goal was to dive “back” into editing the second one this morning, by which I mean: start my 31st minute of editing in the last two months. *headdesk*

    Thank you so much for reading. ♥

    Maineiac, I’m glad you read and found something of use here! I look forward to reading your non-blog works, when they’re released–and, of course, to reading all your blog works in the interim, and after!

    Julie, I love this comment so much, its opener just became TMiYC’s new status. You know what I also love? You. Your positivity. Your guilty pleasures. The guest entry going up soon. The fact you read my blog and have now read TMD, and sent me that fabulous letter afterward. I guess what I’m driving at here is that, where you’re concerned, there’s lots for which to thankful.

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