Let’s start with an introduction: Who is Gerald Brandt?
You sure don’t start with the easy questions, do you? Chances are you’d get different answer if you asked this on a Tuesday than if you asked on a Friday. I guess I’m a dad first and foremost. I’m quite surprised at how much my kids, not necessarily define me, but make me who I am. After that I’m an author, and last on the list I’m a computer guy. Hey, it’s a living. I rock climb, I ride motorcycles, and I walk the dog every morning.
Your new novel, The Rebel, is due to be published by DAW in November. It’s the third novel in your San Angeles series, and looks rather cool. How would you introduce the series to a potential reader, and what can fans of the first two novels expect from this latest installment?
Everyone likes to say their book is “X meets Y”, like “Bladerunner meets Snow Crash.” I tend not to do that. I describe the San Angeles series as eighty percent thriller and twenty percent science fiction, with a pace that will leave you breathless (I hope). It’s got assassins that will stop at nothing to get the job done, corporations that are as huge as they are corrupt, massive sections of land taken over by cities that reach up to seven levels high. And, in the midst of it all, a motorcycle courier that has seen too much to be left alone.
The Rebel closes this section of the San Angeles series with Kris (the courier) as the central figure. Her life has been destroyed, and all she wants to do is to be left alone. No one seems to care what she wants though.
I have a few ideas for six more novels in the same series, but we’ll all have to wait and see where that goes.
What inspired you to write the novel and series? And where do you draw your inspiration from in general?
I’ve wanted write for longer than I can remember. Somewhere in this house are a couple of Hilroy notebooks filled with incomplete stories and ideas I wrote down when I was a teenager. I was introduced to computers in grade eleven, and the writing went on the shelf. I basically did no writing, unless it was code. These days, if I’m writing code I’m not writing books, and vice versa. I find that both tasks draw from the same well, and I can’t do them at the same time. At some point in my career, I decided I needed to write again, and I started doing it seriously. Very seriously. Waking up at five AM so I could get some words down before the rest of the house woke up, joining critique groups, and doing as much writing as I could. I gave myself ten years to do something with myself. I got lucky, it took me eight years to sell my first short story, and ten years and three days to sell my first novel.
I find that inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere. For example, the hotel I stayed at during my first WorldCon is in The Operative, as is some of my rock climbing. Writers are always watching, cataloging responses and emotions. Sometimes for a specific story, but usually just to study the human condition so they can use it later.
How were you introduced to genre fiction?
I was an extremely avid reader as a child. I still am, though I don’t have as much time as I want anymore. I pretty much devoured any book I could get my hands on, whether it was genre, literary, or non-fiction. Over time, it was the genre books that kept me going, specifically the fantasy and science fiction. After awhile, that’s all I was reading. When I started writing, I copied the techniques of the writers I liked the best: Stephen R. Donaldson, David Eddings, Terry Brooks, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein. I wanted to do what they did.
How do you like being a writer and working within the publishing industry?
I love it. If I could do this full time instead of the computer work I do, I would be ecstatic. It’s stressful and hectic and fun and amazing. Sometimes all at the same time. I had the luck of signing with a major house (DAW), working with an excellent editor (Sheila Gilbert) and her team, and getting an agent that loves my work. What more could I ask for… except maybe another contract for a new trilogy?
Do you have any specific working, writing, researching practices?
I’m a big believer that you write whenever you have the chance, whether it’s in your home office, in a cramped seat on a plane, while you’re camping with the family… Just write.
When it comes to getting the story done, though, I do have things that work best for me. I have a 4×8 foot metal white board in my office. Before a word gets typed into my word processor, I write down single sentence things. It could be a scene description, a turning point, an emotion… whatever I think the story needs. I have roughly eighty of these on post-it notes stuck to the board. Over time, whatever isn’t a single sentence scene description in turned into one. Then I lay out the post-it notes in order of the story and study them, move them, change them. I do that until I have the story laid out, with its highs and lows and warts and issues. Then I move the post-it notes into a spread sheet, color coded scenes based on point of view character, and fill in some more details. Once that is done, I start writing the novel sequentially.
The outline isn’t written in stone though. Writing is a discovery as well, and those discoveries become part of the story. At some point, usually about half way through, I change the second half of the novel so the outline includes all of the new things I’ve added.
I’m still new at what I do, so the process always evolves. From what I understand by talking with more experienced authors, it could change for every book I write, forever.
When did you realize you wanted to be an author, and what was your first foray into writing? Do you still look back on it fondly?
As I mentioned earlier, I wanted to write a long time ago. Back then, I don’t think I thought of being an author. When I decided to get serious about my writing, for the sole purpose of becoming an author and being published by one of the big five, that’s exactly what I did. I wrote every day, critiqued others work which really helped me discover my own weaknesses. I started with short stories simply because I read somewhere that that was the path to take. By the time I realized it wasn’t my path, I’d already racked up a lot of rejections from Asimov’s and Analog and SF&F, plus a few others. My fastest rejection was in the minutes range from Lightspeed Magazine. Light speed indeed!
Do I look back fondly on it? It was work. Some of it hard, but every step got me closer to my goal. And yes, I enjoyed most of it.
What’s your opinion of the genre today, and where do you see your work fitting into it?
Wow, you do like the tough questions. Years ago, there were very few categories or sub-genres in fantasy or science fiction. Today there’s Urban Fantasy, grimdark, magic realism, historical, steam punk, diesel punk, etc. Even Urban Fantasy can be broken down into sub-sub-genres now. I don’t know if it’s a good thing or not, but it is what it is. As for where I fit in, I write the best novel I can and hope my readers love it. That’s the only thing I know how to do.
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline, and what are you working on at the moment?
I’ve just handed in what some call a portal fantasy to my agent, Sara Megibow at kt literary. It’s still a work in progress and currently out with my beta readers. As I work on the finishing touches on that, I am impatiently waiting to see what she thinks about it.
What are you reading at the moment (fiction, non-fiction)?
I just finished Speak to the Devil by Dave Duncan, which I enjoyed. Before that I read the first six books in Robin Hobb’s Assassin’s Apprentice series. I also re-read The Dancing Wu-Li Masters for research. I tend to not do a lot of reading while I’m writing my own novels, so I squeeze them all in when I’m between books.
If you could recommend only one novel to someone, what would it be?
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. I adore that book.
What’s something readers might be surprised to learn about you?
Well, especially for those that have met me, I am quite shy. No, really!
What are you most looking forward to in the next twelve months?
Starting the next novel. I have some ideas, but nothing firm yet. If my portal fantasy sells, the next one will be book two in that series. If not, it will be something completely new. Oh, and I’m going to see Blade Runner 2049 later this week!
Gerald Brandt‘s The Rebel is published tomorrow by DAW Books.