Today 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! ;) )
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!