Interview with Briana Lawrence and Jessica Walsh

July 3, 2014 Interviews 0

Interview with Briana Lawrence and Jessica WalshSeeking The Storyteller by Briana Lawrence, Jessica Walsh
Published by Solstice Horizons Genres: Fantasy
Format: eBook
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I know of the Storyteller, it whispers into the man’s ear, I’ve met him. If you promise not to kill me, I’ll take you to him.

Alix Andre DeBenit and Randall Fagan are Hunters, part of a hidden network of humans who track and kill the monsters lurking in our world so everyone else can pretend they don’t exist. But when a living shadow mentions someone called the Storyteller, Alix hesitantly decides to learn more.

They say the Storyteller lives in a massive library full of books that tell every being’s life story. He can read
these books, rewrite them and change anything he wants, even if
it’s already happened. That’s the power Alix wants, the power to bring his murdered family back and he’s determined to make the Storyteller do it.

He just has to decide if working with the very creatures he’s supposed to kill is worth it.

Interview with Briana Lawrence and Jessica Walsh

Can you talk a little about what the book is about?

Jessica: “Seeking the Storyteller” is the first in a series focusing on this creature called the Storyteller, who can read your entire life like a book and change it anyway he wants. It’s set in current times Minnesota, with supernatural elements mixed in.

Briana: There’s a group of people called “Hunters,” and the story centers around two of them: Fagan and Alix. Their job is to make sure that normal people like you and me are protected from demons (and that we’re kept in the dark about them). Things change when the Storyteller comes into the picture, because it gives Alix the chance to maybe get back the important things he’s lost in his life.

What makes your book unique?

Jessica: We have a lot of creatures people aren’t used to seeing in urban fantasy, or just fantasy in general. Aside from the Storyteller himself, we’ve placed our own spin on creatures like dragons and foxes. Also this first book lays the groundwork for some especially unique creatures which will be coming in that you haven’t seen before.

Briana: It also asks the question, “If you could change something in your life, would you?” It’s a difficult question to answer, I think. I think everyone has that one thing they wish would’ve never happened: losing a loved one, being hurt in any kind of way, I think we’ve all had days when we’re like, “I wish this would’ve never happened.” Well, with the Storyteller, that could be made possible. But then you have to wonder… what price do you have to pay to get that bad part of your life removed?

Where did you get the idea for the book?

Jessica: Briana and I have known each other since college, and we used to chat online quite a bit. Part of what we did – and still do – was roleplay with different characters and create our own plots. Those stories and characters became this series, after many years of getting to know the characters.

Briana: This is why things like fanfiction and roleplaying and stuff like that is both fun and, honestly, a great way to practice your writing. You get to be so creative along the way. We roleplayed with anime characters, video game characters, and comic book characters, and at some point we realized that we were making our own characters and our own worlds, but that fandom world was a great tool to get us started.

Is there any message you want readers to get from reading the book?

Briana: There’s quite a few, and I think saying the biggest message would be a spoiler, so I’ll keep quiet about that. However, one message that comes up in this first book that I think is important is this: don’t judge people. There are a lot of assumptions made about the creatures in this book and Alix has to, essentially, work with the creatures he hates. While his hatred is justified, at the same time he doesn’t know these creatures at all. You shouldn’t judge people based on past experiences. Just because a certain person hurt you in the past doesn’t mean that the next person who comes along is going to hurt you. It’s a hard message to learn because it’s so easy to make assumptions about people without getting to know them, but once you get to know a person you can learn so many great things about them.

How long did it take to write the book?

Jessica: I wrote the first book as part of NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – so the first draft was super quick. But honestly, it took a good year to edit it until it was completely finished.

Briana: It was kind of funny because I didn’t know she was writing it. She sent me the prologue and I was like, “Yes! Yes we need to do this!” So she wrote the first draft, then I went in and read through it, adding in parts and taking parts out. Then she read it again, and I read it again, and we discussed things and made notes. It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun at the same time because we were fine tuning something we created together.

Who is your favorite character, or what character was the most fun to write?

Jessica: My favorite is Haven and he is also the most fun for me to write. He was raised without much lasting contact, save for his dragon. So he has a unique outlook on the world and isn’t used to things being permanent in his life. Somehow he’s managed to remain hopeful about things, even with the bitter voice of his dragon, I-lyan, in the back of his head and all of his thoughts.

Briana: I really like Alix, actually. Alix is so bitter, but has a good reason, so on the one hand I hate that he’s so bitter but on the other hand I understand why, so its interesting seeing him progress throughout the book and the series. We have big plans for him and I’m anxious to get to them. There’s a bunch of other characters I love: Katalynne, Mira, Cyn — oh Cyn and her terrible attitude — but something about Alix, I think he really represents the feel of the book. He’s so harsh towards demons before he even gets to know them, but at the same time as you learn more about him there’s this moment of, “Oh… well jeez I can’t blame him for being so angry.”

Can you talk about how you wrote it? Did you do any outlining? Did it take you in any unexpected directions?

Jessica: Well, like I mentioned before the story has been evolving for quite a few years, so we know the background and characters pretty well. As for the actual writing of this book, I wrote it during NaNoWriMo and just went with my gut and what felt right at the time.

Briana: Then there was editing, editing, editing, and more editing. We’re actually doing that with the second book right now.

If you could go back and change anything in the novel, what would it be?

Jessica: I’m not sure that I would change anything. I read the story so many times before we published the final draft. I’m pretty happy with how it came out. Maybe I’ll have a different view when we’re a couple books in?

Briana: I agree. I think by the time we get to book seven there will be something, but for now we’re on the second book and looking at the first book, a lot, to fuel us for the second one.

How did you come up with the cover?

Jessica: Our cover artist Rainarc (http://www.rain-arc.com/) deserves most of the credit for the cover. The original concept we gave him was completely different, but he came back to us with 5 proofs and this really detailed explanation why each would and wouldn’t work. In the end we chose this one and love it.

Briana: Ironically enough, the original concept we had ended up becoming the back cover.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Jessica: I’ve been writing since as far back as I can remember and I have notebooks full of scribbled notes to go along with
it. Being a professional writer was something I considered back in high school, but college classes I took in journalism scared me away from it. It’s only recently with Briana getting published that I’ve decided to go after it again.

Briana: I remember, in 4th grade, I told my entire class that I wanted to be a writer. Except I spelled it wrong, I spelled “WRITTER” and the class laughed. One kid asked, “How are you going to be a writer when you can’t even spell it?” Well I guess that’s what spell check is for because here I am.

What was the first story that you ever wrote?

Jessica: I have no idea. More than likely it was a fanfiction based on Star Trek or Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars.

Briana: I remember writing a story about farm animals in 4th grade, it was a pop up book I made with construction paper, crayons, and glue. I’m not sure if this was the first story I ever wrote, but it’s the first I can remember.

What is your favorite genre, and why?

Jessica: Mine would have to be ‘urban supernatural’. I love reading about our current times with supernatural and fantasy elements mixed in. I love it when it makes me look at the world around me twice and wonder if maybe there might be something else in the shadows I haven’t noticed – or don’t want to notice.

Briana: I agree. I like current settings with supernatural elements. I like normal, everyday people dealing with out of the ordinary events or discovering something out of this world about themselves. I love characters with unique abilities and, most importantly, dealing with those abilities. I like the journey to greatness, sort to speak. It’s fun seeing the journey and not just the final destination.

Are there any books you are absolutely inspired by?

Jessica: That’s hard. I would have to say ‘Mists of Avalon’ for it’s amazing illustration of so many different and memorable characters. Also, probably the Hollows series by Kim Harrison for how well she portrays our world and fantasy elements mixed in as if it were natural.

Briana: Jessica reads way more than I do. I read mostly manga and comic books. Being an English major, there were so many works we read but I feel like our job was to dissect them versus reading for enjoyment, which was fine. It was interesting looking at works in a different light, I still remember reading Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and my professor made an analogy to homosexuality. I knew the story already, but not in that sort of lense, so suddenly it felt like I was reading a new story. I love that. I hope that’s something people do with our book, have all these different point of views and opinions that just keeps the story going.

What are you working on next?

Jessica: The sequel to “Seeking the Storyteller” is in it’s second draft right now, so hopefully that’ll be ready soon. We get to delve more into Alix’s story and reveal more about Haven’s past and where he came from. I’m also working on my own stand alone novel revolving around elements that bring about the end of the world.

Briana: There’s the sequel to “Seeking the Storyteller,” then there’s a little horror story I came up with that I want to finish. There’s also an erotica story I’m working on, too, because I guess my muses insist that I write in a variety of genres. I’m also editing manuscripts for Damnation Books/Eternal Press, and it’s really cool seeing how creative other people are.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Jessica: My advice will always be to write. Just write. Don’t worry about editing or publishing, just write it first. Once you have it all down on paper, then you can move on with those other things. But the most important thing will always be to write the story first. Because if you don’t write it, then there’s nothing to work on and move forward with.

Briana: Don’t be discouraged if you hear the word “no.” If someone tells you you can’t do something, work harder to prove them wrong. Also, part of publishing is, unfortunately, rejection. But don’t let that stop you either. You’re allowed to feel sad about it, but don’t let it stop you. I call this the “chicken nugget trip.” My first book, “Treat Me Kindly,” was rejected ten times. Jessica would come home and I would be in this huge funk. The solution? Get out of the house. We’d drive around, get chicken nuggets, and just have a good night. Step away from your work for a moment, but don’t leave it permanently. Step away, take a breath, relax, then come back to it.

Also, when you do get published (because you will!), don’t think that the job is over. You still need to promote your work. Your publisher will help, but no one can tell your story better than you, so you have to keep working. This is a job where you work at it constantly, but if it’s something you really want it’ll feel so good to work at getting your work out there.

How do you juggle writing with family time?

Jessica: We’re both pretty busy people, but family wise it’s just the two of us, so there isn’t too much to juggle. I think I’ve gotten pretty good at spreading my time between writing, editing and crafting. I can’t finish some things as quickly as I’d like to, but I wouldn’t want to give any of it up.

Briana: I feel the same way. It’s an interesting, but fun, dance of figuring out what to do next and when and how much time to spend on it. But since this is me working at my dream, I’m more than happy to take it on. You can check out all of our adventures at our website, which has links to pretty much every form of social network you can find us at (http://www.sewntogetherreflections.com/)

About Briana Lawrence

At the age of nine, like most kids, Briana Lawrence had a dream. She wanted to be the best “WRITTER” in the whole wide world. Her fourth grade class laughed and wondered how one hoped to become a “writer” if they couldn’t even spell the word. Back then her stories were created with crayons and construction paper. As she grew older they progressed into notebooks and colored ink pens of pink, blue, and purple. When she lost her older brother, Glenn Berry, in a car accident, she stopped writing.

Dreams, however, have a funny way of coming back.

Before she realized it she was grabbing her notebook and pens again. She would write stories that ranged from high school romance to her imagination running wild with the likes of Goku, Vegeta, and the other characters of Dragonball Z. This continued throughout college where she would always end up writing about the space exploits of the pilots of Gundam Wing and other works of fan fiction. Soon she realized that she wanted to do more than that. Her head was full of ideas, full of original characters and worlds that she wanted to share with others.

Thus, she stepped into an English Major with some Women’s Studies on the side.

She graduated Iowa State University in 2006 and moved to Minneapolis with her partner. Here, she tried to get into graduate school, but things didn’t pan out the way she wanted. She ended up working retail, her dream becoming buried by Black Fridays and other busy times of year. Once again, however, that dream returned. She went from immersing herself in geeky fan fiction to actually writing about the geeky things she loved for several anime and video game review sites. However, it was her discovery of National Novel Writing Month that made her go back to creating her own characters and plots.

Now, here she is, an author in the writing world.

About Jessica Walsh

My life is a flurry of writing, art and creativity. You can usually find me reading a book, scribbling notes in a notebook for future creations, typing on a laptop with music blaring in my ears or buried in my basement watching documentaries and sitting behind a sewing machine.

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember and have boxes of old notebooks in horrible handwriting to prove it. Only recently have I stumbled back into writing and finishing my ideas.

Seeking the Storyteller is the first novel I’ve published; with my partner in crime and life, Briana Lawrence. I also write horror, fantasy, supernatural and occasionally romance pieces which I am currently shopping around through contests and publishers.

(My opinions and views are my own – and may not necessarily represent companies or publishers I work for.)

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