Monday, October 23, 2006
Interview with Brian Reaves!
Brian Reaves has constructed an intriguing novel, complete with nail biting, heart pounding suspense and achingly realistic characters in his new book Stolen Lives. This is a quick read, folks! You won't be able to put it down - and when you finally do, you'll be begging for more!
Betsy: Welcome, Brian! Tell us, what gave you the idea for Stolen Lives?
Brian: I read about an accident on I-20 right outside of Birmingham (the actual scene of the crime in my novel). The trucker pulled over onto the car and ran over it with the trailer. No one was killed, but I found out later the report had it listed as the car’s fault. Basically, that they’d swerved under the trailer themselves. That started me along a wild line of thinking: What if the family had been killed? What if the father had been driving behind and seen it happen? What if he were a computer programmer and able to get revenge without ever being caught? It was all downhill from there.
Betsy: What schooling/experience do you have with computers that enabled you to write such a realistic story, right down to the details?
Brian: I deal with computers on a daily basis. I’m in charge of several intranets and WANS, and I’ve had my share of computer virus problems. I’ve seen a lot of wild things viruses can do, and I’ve researched them. I also talked to a lot of “white hat” hackers (the good guys who try to stop the “black hat” hackers from destroying people’s networks) and their work is really fascinating. Through a lot of reading, researching, and yes, even trying a few things out myself, I found the things that worked in the real world and I put them in the book.
Betsy: The plot for Stolen Lives is such an intricate maze of detail, surprise and secret identity. Did the plot come to you all at once, or did you have to sit down and really work at it to get it right?
Brian: I had the basic concept for the book early on, but the plot developed itself while I was writing it. I’m not one who sits down and plots every single breath a character will take before he starts writing a story. I’m that other guy…the one who buckles into the roller coaster and just sees where the ride will take him. I love the spontaneity that type of writing allows, and the plot twists really do come as a surprise even to me sometimes.
If you could see how I’d originally pictured the ending, you’d understand. I thought I knew how it would end, but as I spent time writing and developing these characters I saw places the story could go that would add depth to everything. I followed several of those trails and found (in my opinion) a stronger ending.
Several people have commented on how there really aren’t any heroes or bad guys in Stolen Lives; it’s just two guys confronting each other in their own ways. This is exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted the reader to decide who they were cheering for. Honestly, are there really any obvious bad guys in our life? Not often. Most of the time there are people we don’t like, but in their version of life we’re the bad guys. So who’s to say who’s right or wrong. This approach to the story has led to some interesting discussions over the past few weeks as people have presented who they consider the “good guy” of the tale. I prefer to think it was a clash between two guys with faults—just like you and me.
Betsy: Awesome. When did you first realize you were called to write?
Brian: I’ve always dabbled in it for years, but I think when I hit 30 I realized this could be something I did professionally. I wrote my first self-published novel then. It took three years to complete and publish because I was really a perfectionist with it. It’s so funny to me now because I look back on the story and see so many things I would change (and probably will someday). Three years later to the day, Stolen Lives came out. The problem I have now is so many ideas and not enough time to write them. God gives me story concepts (our Father is so creative!), and most of the time they become short stories, with the really juicy ones getting stuck back for novels someday.
Betsy: Good deal! So what "do's" and "don'ts" can you share with aspiring authors today?
Brian: Don’t give up. Publishing takes a while, and it may take a couple of novels before you get picked up by a publisher or agent. Stay with it!
Keep writing while you’re waiting for that “big break.” Don’t waste time in limbo. If a publisher loves a novel you’ve written, it helps to show other manuscripts finished as well. It doesn’t mean they’ll take those too, but it shows you’re serious about writing.
Go to a writer’s conference if possible. I go to the Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference, and it’s where I met my agent and my publisher. There are less expensive conferences, but the key is to get to one. It opens doors not available otherwise. The editors and publishers at the conferences are there to talk to you about your manuscript, whereas sending them unsolicited to the publisher will usually just have them returned unopened.
Have someone read your story that won’t be afraid to be honest with you about what works and what doesn’t. While nobody likes to have their stories ripped to shreds, you need truthful feedback in order to make your story the best it can be. Maybe you love a particular scene or character, while your reader finds it distracting or unnecessary. Look at it truthfully and cut if need be. But remember: you are the one who ultimately needs to be satisfied with your story. Take advice, look at your story with a critical eye, and then make your own decisions.
And be ready for rejection. Hundreds of people submit manuscripts every year, but only a handful ever gets published. If you get a spot in there, it’s a blessing from God. If not, be patient and don’t quit. As long as you keep improving, the door will open for you someday.
If all else fails and you love your story enough, don’t be afraid to self-publish it. The internet is a wonderful place that allows every author an equal chance to get their story out there. There’s no shame in self-publishing. It shows you believe in your story. And you never know what doors God will open through your book.
Betsy: Great advice, Brian. Tell us - what was it like holding your first published novel in your hands, hot off the press?
Brian: Words can’t express that moment. When I pulled the envelope out of my mailbox, I cradled it in my lap until I could get into my garage. Then I reverently opened it and just sat staring at it for a long time with a huge grin on my face. At that moment, I accepted it had really happened.
A few weeks later I went into my local Family Christian Store and found a copy sitting on their shelves. I stood there smiling and called my wife to drive down and see it for herself. I took pictures of it sitting on the shelf. Finally the manager came over to see if everything was all right. It gave me the opportunity to introduce myself, but I wondered what he was thinking.
I still remember the exact spot I was at when the editor at River Oak called to tell me they’d accepted the manuscript and were going to publish it. I pulled over because I didn’t want to take a chance of losing the cell phone signal, and we talked about the book for about twenty minutes. I drive by that spot every day on my way to work, and it never ceases to make me smile.
Betsy: That's so exciting! I would feel the same. Can you share a little of your testimony or personal faith journey with us?
Brian: I was raised in church. I thought I was serious about God, but there was a time in my teen years when I pushed a little harder than necessary sometimes. I never went wild with drugs or anything, but I wasn’t as close to God as I should have been. As I got older my relationship with God matured, and He’s proven Himself faithful time and again. God never ceases to amaze me.
Betsy: That's so awesome. Brian, what do you like to do in your spare time, outside of reading and writing?
Brian: I enjoy playing the guitar and piano, and I love to watch classic movies. Alfred Hitchcock is my favorite director of all time. His movies told an incredible story and kept people enthralled.
Betsy: Who are a few of your favorite authors?
Brian: Dean Koontz is my all-time favorite author and the man I’d most like to meet. Ray Bradbury has stirred my imagination more with his stories than anyone else. As far as Christian fiction is concerned, Eric Wilson, T.L. Hines, and Frank Peretti are all incredible storytellers and I’m hooked on everything they write. Another fresh voice who’s an incredible writer is Katie Cushman, whose first novel will be released next fall.
Betsy: Can't wait to check that out! Well, what other stories do you have in progress right now that readers might look forward to?
Brian: I just finished another novel starring Ian Richardson. It’s a supernatural thriller this time out, and not a cyber-suspense story. It’s my personal favorite story I’ve ever written, as it allows both Ian and Levi to do some serious soul-searching about what they believe and why.
I’m currently working on two novels at once. One is very exciting for me because it’s a concept that’s never been done in Christian fiction before. I don’t know how easy it will be to find a publisher willing to take a chance on it right now, but I know the market for Christian speculative fiction is slowly taking shape. The other novel is a final one with Ian. It allows me to complete his story (for now) in a way I’m really happy with.
In the midst of all this, I’m still working on my second TimeSlip novel. It’s been on the back burner for a while, but I keep adding to it as I can and hope to have it finished soon.
Betsy: Well, all I can say is, keep 'em coming! Thanks for joining us today, Brian!
For more information on Brian Reaves or his novels, check out his website at www.brianreaves.net