It is a good time to introduce my next guest. As an Indie Author myself, it has been my mission this past year to seek out and support my fellow indie authors. In my own opinion, I can honestly say that there are many of them who truly deserve a bigger moment in the spotlight. One that should not be missed is with us today. He is, the incredible author, Bruce Blake.
Hi, Bruce! Welcome. Please share with me a bit of your story.
“About the Author”
I was what I’ve always referred to as an ‘Armed Forces brat’. My father was in the Canadian military, so I was born on the east coast (in Halifax, Nova Scotia), but moved back and forth across the country a few times. It made for an interesting upbringing, but really illustrated the ‘grass is always greener’ concept. I’m jealous of anyone born and raised in one place, but everyone I’ve met who had that experience wishes they’d moved around like me. No one’s ever happy, I guess. I finished high school with excellent marks but didn’t go on to university or college, despite everyone’s urging. I was going to be a rock star, and rock stars don’t need an education other than the good old school of hard knocks. My career as a heavy metal drummer was short-lived, but did include a week in which I survived solely on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches while on tour in northern Ontario.
More years later than I care to admit, I’m now settled in Victoria, British Columbia, with my wife (who is a burlesque performer), my 18 year old son (who has recently decided to move to China) and my 11 year old daughter (who constantly wants to add another pet to our family). I have a wonderful and always interesting life.
How long have you been writing?
That’s a tough question to answer. I started writing in grade school because I had to, like everyone else, I guess, but I enjoyed it. I recently came across some short stories I submitted to magazines years ago, and they were dated 1987, but I was really just dabbling back then. I got serious about 8 years ago, and it seems like every day that goes by, I get more serious.
What was your life like before becoming an author?
Pretty much the same as it is now, except I got more sleep back then. I still have a day job, so I get up early (5am is not unusual) to fit what I love into my day-to-day life. It’s part of being a serious author: you don’t find time to write, you make it.
Who or what inspired you to write?
I can’t really put a finger on one person, book, or happening that made me want to write, but there are a few things that come to mind that contributed. The first is the book Dawn of Fear by Susan Cooper which I read when I was young. It was the first book that made me cry, and I decided I wanted to be able to do that. It was also the first book I ever read a second time. The second thing happened in my grade 10 English class. We’d been assigned to write a short story, and I wrote one about a man who figures out that his wife has been having an affair. It was a brief but emotion-filled piece that my teacher, Mr. Black, really liked. I remember him reading his favorites to the class and he actually opened his mouth to read mine, then stopped, because he thought the subject matter might be too racy for a group of fifteen year-olds (how things have changed). That felt powerful to me, and I liked it.
Lastly, and most recently (though it’s probably a decade ago now), I read a book on writing by James Michener. I don’ remember the title of it (if anyone knows, please tell me), but it was split into how to write fiction and non-fiction. What had the most impact on me was the inclusion of some of Mr. Michener’s first drafts. They were horrible. The epiphany that good writers didn’t spew completed manuscripts from the tips of their pens on the first try was huge for me and came at a time when I was feeling down about my ability. It’s the only book I’ve ever read by James Michener, but it made a huge difference in my life.
Do you have a specific writing style or genre?
My style is pretty sparse, not fancy and literary. I’d rather give the reader a couple of small, unusual details about something and let them fill in the blanks than wax eloquent for pages about what the characters are eating or wearing. I try to live by Elmore Leonard’s 10 rules of good writing, my favorite of which is: “Try to leave out the parts readers tend to skip.” It also helps that my beta reader (my wife) hates what she calls ‘blah, blah, blah’. As for genre, most everything I write falls under the umbrella of speculative fiction; for the moment, it’s various sub-genres of fantasy, but I see some horror and perhaps sci-fi in my future.
Tell me about your latest book? What’s it about?
Find it on Kindle: All Who Wander Are Lost
My latest book, All Who Wander Are Lost, is the second book in the Icarus Fell urban fantasy series. Icarus had a tough life and things don’t go much better for him after he’s killed by a couple of muggers. The archangel Michael enlists him to become a harvester, responsible for helping souls on their way to Heaven. Without giving away too much of the first book, On Unfaithful Wings, Icarus isn’t very good at his job and people end up dead. In All Who Wander Are Lost, he feels guilty that souls were damned because of him, so he decides to go to Hell to bring them back. Not a good idea.
What was your favorite part of the book to write?
I really enjoyed writing about Hell because it gave me free rein to do whatever I wanted. How many of my readers will be able to say they’ve been to Hell and I got it wrong? That could happen if I sent him to Pittsburgh instead. Hell even ended up being something different just about every time Icarus went.
What was the hardest part to write?
This book came very easily, because it flowed from the first. The characters were mostly developed already, so it was just a matter of putting the story together, so I can’t say there was anything difficult. My current work-in-progress, however, is giving me some troubles because there are some conniving, politically motivated elements to the story; I’m not a very political person, nor a good conniver.
What do you find most rewarding in writing a book?
Finishing is very rewarding in itself. I shed a few tears of joy when I completed my first novel. The other is getting positive feedback from readers. And I don’t mean my wife, my mother-in-law, and my friends from work. There’s something special about receiving a review from someone you don’t know and finding out they really enjoyed what you wrote; it makes all the hard work worthwhile.
Do you have any other books complete or in progress?
I always have lots on the go, the difficulty for me is in deciding what to work on. I have a four part epic fantasy (Khirro’s Journey) that is more than three-quarters complete (I’m doing the final edit on the first two books right now—book one should be out by mid-September) and I’m in the planning stages of the third Icarus Fell novel. I could tell you about everything else I’ve got in the works, but we’d be here a while. Suffice it to say I have no lack of material. If you like my stuff, it is only the speed at which I write that will frustrate you.
What are your future plans in regards to writing?
Keep on keeping on. Seriously, besides the four part epic fantasy, I have plans for at least eight more novels just off the top of my head. My plan is to keep writing and eventually be able to quit my day job and do it full-time.
Are you listed on the major social networks like facebook, twitter, goodreads, etc…
Social media sites are the necessary devil for Indie authors. They take up so much time when we could be writing, but people have to be able to find us if we want them to read our work. I want people to read mine, so here’s where you can find me:
Facebook personal: http://www.facebook.com/bruce.blake.585
Facebook author page: http://www.facebook.com/BruceBlakeWrites
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
I don’t think I can answer this question without sounding like a cliché. Oh well, I love clichés. My tip for someone who wants to be published is to make sure you are putting out the best quality work you can. Write, edit, rewrite and edit again. And again. And again. Get other people whose opinions you trust to read it, then listen to their recommendations and rewrite again as necessary. If you’re not a little bit sick of your own words by the time you set it free to the world, you probably haven’t done enough editing. The manuscript for the first parts of Khirro’s Journey that I just got back from my editor was my tenth version. Number 10! If you’re an Indie author like me, it’s especially important; some readers will expect independently published books to be an inferior product—don’t fulfill their expectations.
Outside of writing, what is your most favorite thing to do and why?
I wish I could tell you I have a bunch of great hobbies that take up my time, but between writing, work, family and a production business I run with my wife, there is not a lot of free time. If I had the time, I’d probably get into photography, and I’d get back to playing drums, maybe even start a band. And I love spending time with my kids, no matter what it is we do.
Anything else you would like to add for future fans and friends.
First of all, my thanks to everyone—for reading this, for even considering one of my books. There are a lot of things out there to read, so I appreciate every set of eyes that looks at the words I’ve written.
And support Indie authors. Browse the listings on Amazon, read the free samples, and buy the ones that seem like you might like them. If you do, be sure to leave a review and let everyone you know in on how much you enjoyed it. We Indies don’t have advertising budgets to work with, so word of mouth is all we’ve got. Shout it out to the world.
Thank you, Bruce, for sharing your story. I’m looking forward to more Icarus Fell as well as your other work. I am proud to be on the list as one of your fans. Keep up the good work. J