Welcome to another edition of Spotlight Saturday, where Darlene's Book Nook features authors and their books! We are joined today by author Stephen Brayton.
Welcome to Darlene's Book Nook, Stephen! Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a mild mannered newspaper photographer who recently experienced a bite from a radioactive spider and now I have the ability to…wait, that’s Spiderman. Actually, I’m just a small town guy who is a Fifth Degree Black Belt instructor in taekwondo. I share my apartment with a 13 pound cat. I’ve been in radio, graphic design, the trucking industry, and the hospitality biz. I’m an avid reader of mysteries, thrillers, and a little bit of sci-fi.
Do you recall when your interest in writing originated?
As a child I wrote scripts for skits my sister and I would perform. This evolved into short mystery stories, and when working at a radio station right out of college, I wrote my first novel length story.
Do you have a specific writing style? Do you discipline yourself to write a certain number of words daily, or does your writing ebb and flow?
My writing style is more of a feeling. I get the urge, I HAVE to write else I won’t be able to do anything else. Sometimes, I have to take a break to let ideas settle themselves into proper order, but rarely do more than a few days pass before I’m back to bringing words to life.
What is your ideal writing environment? Do you prefer music or solitude? Is there a time of day (or night) that you prefer?
My ideal writing environment would be if everyone left me alone, I had no phone, no Internet, no television, no distractions from children running around the neighborhood screaming like demon spawn, no arguing neighbors, no cars speeding through the intersection when they’re supposed to stop, and someplace with plenty of food and drink. However, that utopia doesn’t exist so I usually write at work during the night shift when it’s relatively quiet. I’ll put on NPR classical music turned low and write until I either get tired or finish my goal, usually a chapter or two.
Do you take a pen to paper the old-fashioned way, or do you use a laptop/computer?
I used to use a chalkboard, but it became so cumbersome to haul it around everywhere. Lol. Although I sometimes will start with the laptop, I prefer notepad and pen, then doing my first edit when putting it on the laptop.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
The toughest criticisms have been all the rejections from agents and publishers. They told me through their form letter type emails and postcards that I hadn’t shown them my best, that I needed to work harder, to polish up the manuscript to shine even brighter.
The best compliment people can give me is to buy the books and to tell their friends how much they enjoyed reading them. And if they want to take me out to dinner, that’d be fine, too.
Where did you come up with the idea for Beta?
I had completed a 40,000 word story entitled Alpha. After reading parts of it to my critique group, I knew I had a lot of work to do on it. However, I knew I wanted to develop Mallory Petersen into a series character. I wish I had a funny anecdote for the origin of Beta but the truth is, I don’t know. It may have been something I’d always had in mind and when the idea finally developed, it took over.
What part of Beta was the hardest to write?
The scenes with the little girl and her suffering. The subject matter is very serious and I didn’t want anyone to be so utterly reviled by it they’d put down the book and not finish it. I had to decide how much detail I wanted in the scenes. I wanted people to feel strongly for this girl, but not be turned off by my words. I had to find the line and keep on this side of it.
Are any of the characters based on someone you know?
This is a fun question because there is a lot of me in Mallory Petersen. She has a lot of my likes and dislikes, and sense of humor. I’ve given her better taekwondo skills and had her meet a romantic interest, which I can never seem to do. However, during my research, I met several people I put into the book. The rude secretary and the flustered receptionist are based on people I spoke with in my travels.
You are a Fifth-Degree Black Belt, and your protagonist, Mallory Petersen, is a Fourth-Degree Black Belt? Firstly, what is the difference between a Fifth-Degree and a Fourth-Degree Black Belt? And secondly, why did you choose to write from the point of view of a woman instead of a man?
After almost two years of training, I earned my First Degree Black Belt. Then I had to wait another year before I could test for Second. Then another two years before Third, then another three years until Fourth, and so on. Plus, my organization had certain requirements other than time I had to fulfill before I was allowed to test for each rank.
Originally, my detective was named Sam P. Petersen. He was a police officer in the Quad Cities. When I move closer to Des Moines and started martial arts, I admired the women in my organization. So, as a salute to all the talented women I see winning tournaments, instructing classes, and setting examples for others, I turned my protagonist into a taekwondo ‘babe’…if I can use that word without anyone getting kicked upside the head.
Beta is the first book in the Mallory Petersen Mystery series. What can we look forward to in the coming books?
Alien invasions and time traveling zombies. No, wait, I’m kidding. Those are what my publisher did NOT want in the next book so I had to quickly rewrite a few chapters. Kidding, again! I’d better stop before I make my publisher nervous. Seriously, Beta takes place in November. In the next book Alpha, we go back to October. Mallory finds her boyfriend murdered in front of her office building and subsequently uncovers his secret life. In her investigations, she runs up against members of a narcotics ring. Plus, she has more fun with the oddball clients and humorous scenes.
Can you tell us a little about your other writing projects?
I’m writing a pamphlet on how I’ve trained my cat to sit up and beg, but it’s not going so well since my cat just looks at me like I’ve lost my mind. No, really, I’m working on the sequel to my first book, Night Shadows, and another private investigator novel.
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
Knocking off banks. Hey, how else am I going to pay the bills? If you don’t tell anyone, I’ll share the take 50/50…uh, never mind. Actually, I enjoy fishing and racquetball, although since I dropped my Y membership, I have nowhere to play.
Who is your favourite author and what really strikes you about their work?
I don’t like to re-read books. I have bought so many, I’ll be on my death bed reaching for the next book to read. However, I’ve read H.P. Lovecraft several times. He was the first author I read where he didn’t reveal the monster. He used language in a way I’ve never seen duplicated. I’ve read At the Mountains of Madness at least three times and I’ve learned something new each time.
What book are you reading now?
Betty Crocker’s New Good and Easy Cookbook, published in 1962. I’m checking out the tuna puff casserole recipe…no, wait, that was for supper. I just started reading D. H. Wilson’s Robopocalypse, which looks like The Forbin Project taken to a whole new level.
Do you have any specific last thoughts that you want to say to your readers?
What I’ve always said and what I’ll always say – Thank you. Oh, and buy more of my books. The banks would also appreciate it. Lol.
Snappy questions and answers:
Favourite colour? It used to be blue, but lately I’ve been leaning toward purple.
Favourite food? Crab legs with plenty of melted butter.
Dog-lover or cat-lover? Well, my cat is staring at me so I’d better say Cats. Wait a minute…he just wants a treat, so I can say - Both. I love my kitty, but I enjoy the variety of dogs I see in the neighborhood.
Vanilla ice cream or chocolate? What boring person invented vanilla? Chocolate all the way, baby!
Your worst vice? Does not having a date for a few years count? No? Okay, I’ll have to go with fingernail biting.
Secluded mountain cabin or five-star hotel? Who’s paying the bill? Lol. I think I’d have to head for the mountain cabin.
The craziest thing I ever did was... I shaved my head this summer. But after the Nashville conference I started letting the hair grow back. Mom didn’t like the bald look.
If you could meet anyone in the world, alive or dead, who would it be? Jesus. I mean, who wouldn’t want to chat with the Big Guy. Plus, I’d give him some better shoes. Do realize how much walking he did? How many pairs of sandals did he wear out?
If I could take an all-expenses paid trip anywhere in the world, I would go to...as many places as the money allowed. Please, take me away from the upcoming Iowa winter!
Thank you so much for joining us today, Stephen! It has been a lot of fun getting to know you better, and I enjoy your sense of humour! I'm looking forward to having an opportunity to read your book!
If you would like to connect with Stephen, you can find him at the sites noted below:
Blog: Brayton's Briefs
Book reviews: Brayton's Book Buzz
Blog: Brayton's Briefs
Book reviews: Brayton's Book Buzz
Today is a very special day for Stephen, because it is RELEASE DAY for Beta!
SERIES: Mallory Petersen Mystery, Book #1
AUTHOR: Stephen L. Brayton
PUBLISHER: Echelon Press
DATE OF PUBLICATION: October 1, 2011
Mallory Petersen, private investigator/martial artist, divides her time between instructing taekwondo and her usually nutty cases. However, when she accept an assignment to find a kidnapped eight year old girl, she finds herself stepping into the dark underworld of child pornography. Using her honed martial arts skills, she jumps on the trail that will lead her around the capital city of Des Moines, Iowa, to the Quad Cities, and back again.
Stephen L. Brayton owns and operates Brayton’s Black Belt Academy in Oskaloosa, Iowa. He is a Fifth Degree Black Belt and certified instructor in The American Taekwondo Association.
He began writing as a child; his first short story concerned a true incident about his reactions to discipline. During high school, he wrote for the school newspaper and was a photographer for the yearbook. For a Mass Media class, he wrote and edited a video project.
In college, he began a personal journal for a writing class; said journal is ongoing. He was also a reporter for the college newspaper.
During his early twenties, while working for a Kewanee, Illinois radio station, he wrote a fantasy based story and a trilogy for a comic book. He has written numerous short stories both horror and mystery. He has also written a paranormal mystery, entitled Night Shadows, sequels to Nights Shadows and Beta are in rewrite/revision stages.
Stephen has generously offered to give away a copy of Beta to the first person who correctly answers the following question:
From where did Stephen choose many of the last names in his novels, Night Shadows and Beta?
Leave your answer with your email address in the comments section! The first person to correctly answer the question wins!
This giveaway is open internationally and will be open until 11:59 PM CST on Friday, October 7, 2011.