Tonight, we’re joined by author, editor, and #sffwrtcht (that’s Science Fiction/Fantasy Writers Chat) moderator on Twitter Bryan Thomas Schmidt. This is the first of two interviews with Bryan. He’ll be back in October as part of the “blog tour” promoting THE WORKER PRINCE.
Born and raised in Central Kansas, Bryan Thomas Schmidt received a Bachelor of Arts in Communications-Radio-TV-Film in 1992 from California State University at Fullerton. He then spent five years working in the television and film industry on such shows as Biography, The Real West, Civil War Journal, and Brute Force: The History of Weapons At War as well as the Emmy award winning Discovery Channel documentary Titanic: The Legend Lives On.
Bryan released his first CD of original music, “Stand,” on his own label in 1998 and spent the next two years touring in support of that album.
Desiring to be more informed about theology and other topics which might help infuse his music with more depth, Bryan enrolled in seminary for the Fall of 1999. He graduated in 2002 with a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Covenant Theological Seminary in Saint Louis, Missouri.
During his time in seminary, Bryan continued to write songs, stories and articles, releasing his second CD, “Glorious: Worship,” in 2003. He also founded Anchored Music Ministries, Inc. , a 501(-c) 3 non-profit organization devoted to providing leadership development training in worship arts around the world. Since the year 2000, they have worked in 6 countries on 4 continents, including Ghana, Brazil and Mexico.
Bryan’s first devotionals were published in Secret Place magazine in 2009. His first devotions for Upper Room magazine appeared in 2010. His first published science fiction story, “Mars Base Alpha,” was published at www.sffstories.com in January 2010. His first science fiction novel, The Worker Prince, is forthcoming in October 2011. The first novel in an epic fantasy, Sandman, is currently undergoing revisions, while Bryan works on a novella and sequels to The Worker Prince.
Bryan currently resides in El Paso, Texas, with a cat, Doce, and two dogs, Louie and Amélie. His third CD, “Love Like No Other,” was released in May 2009.
ANTHONY: Hi Bryan! Thanks for agreeing to ramble with us for a little while.
BRIAN : My pleasure. Thanks for inviting me.
A: Your first book, THE NORTH STAR SERIAL PART ONE, is a compilation of the short stories you’ve written for Digital Dragon magazine. Tell us a little about the history of that project and how it moved from web to print.
B: It was suggested that my space opera style might be a good fit for Digital Dragon, which is family friendly, and hearing they were open to submissions, I decided to try and write them something. I had never written anything that short but Jay Lake advised me one of the best ways to improve your writing was to set word limits and try to meet them so I thought this was a good opportunity to put that into practice. I want a form that would be familiar to audiences, so I chose a star ship and her crew. However, wanting to avoid cliches and my own tendencies being a Star Trek fan, I made the Captain a woman, named her after my friend Mike Resnick, and decided to have her be just joining the crew so as to create a setting ripe with conflict. I also decided her crew would be international and that that would play into the story if possible. The first story was really a one off thing, but the editors liked it so much they asked me to write more. That’s how it became a serial.
A: What do you think the challenges are in writing serialized fiction of such short lengths? What did you do to deal with those challenges/restrictions?
B: Well, for one thing, I didn’t get into as much description and detail as I might in most of the NSS stories. Some were exceptions but since this was space opera, I focused instead on action and pacing, created with short descriptive bursts mixed with tense dialogue. Telling a story this short you really don’t have time to create a lot of twists and turns or subplots. You pretty much have to say this is what it is and here’s the core events and stick to that. But I challenged myself by still trying to add character development to grow and develop and even introduce characters over the series. That’s why you’ll find that in the first 13, all but two of the main crew get their subplot-like moments where they shine and we learn about their past, who they are and why they are there. In addition, I did a lot of trimming after getting the basic story down to keep it tight and fit to word length. The editors weren’t overly strict so some were slightly longer, some slightly shorter. The other challenge in writing a serial was figuring out how to make the pieces contain enough backstory but not too much that new readers could pick up what’s going on without feeling like they had to go back and reread everything that came before. You hope the story’s good enough they’d want to do that, but I wanted them to connect immediately. It helped that the first story I wrote ended up becoming episode 11, I think. I later went back and revised it though to add new stuff to tie it in closer with the other stories, including a couple crew members.
A: How much of the North Star universe do you have mapped out, and how do you work those details into the short pieces you’re writing?
B: None of it. I made it up as I went. So now, as I prepare to go back and write 12 more stories to finish the cycle, I have to reread all that and remember what I did. It was really an off the cuff thing, not at all how I’d do a novel, but I had never done a serial story before, and my typical method is let the story unfold as it comes, so that’s how the worldbuilding for this world came about.
A: What’s in store for the crew of The North Star?
B: We’re going to get to know the crew members we haven’t met yet and more about the others. Someone important will be killed and that will motivate the others as they continue the fight to its conclusion. The new crew member replacement will also have a hard time being accepted. Kryk will take over the Koreleans and bring a new ruthlessness to their tactics as well.
A: Your next book is THE WORKER PRINCE. Tell us what it’s about, and when we can expect to see it available for purchase.
B: The Worker Prince is my debut novel and book one of the Saga Of Davi Rhii, a story I dreamed up in my teens. I wanted to do the Moses story in the vein of Star Wars, essentially, with the big space opera, battles, interpersonal conflict, etc. all plaid out on a galactic stage. I dreamed up a planet with two suns and one group enslaving the other. I knew the hero’s father would be called Sol and the bad guy was his uncle, named Xalivar. I knew there would be some sort of Exodus but I also knew I wanted to vary from the biblical story as well, because I’m not trying to sell religion here. Ironically, when I finally sat down to write it 25 years later, the cultural context had made conflict about religion an important part of daily life in the U.S. and all of a sudden Christians found themselves being looked at with new scrutiny, often biased and assumptive in ways which I thought lent themselves to make the story’s milieu interesting and dynamic so I incorporated all that.
The book debuts at Conclave in Detroit in early October, street date Tuesday October 4, 2011. I should have preorders up on my website in mid-August though. It will be available in all ebook formats as well as trade paperback.
A: You’ve posted bits of THE WORKER PRINCE on your website. Speaking for myself, I’m intrigued by what I’ve read. From a marketing standpoint, do you think it’s been effective in building interest in the book?
B: Well, thanks, I am glad you’re intrigued. I have not gotten a lot of feedback so it’s been hard to assess the impact except that each of the excerpts got over 100 hits in less time than the previous excerpt and they continue to get hits every week. The first excerpt took a few months to reach 100. The second took a month. The third took less than two weeks. And they have all surpassed 100 now. I think that shows people like what they see and are coming back for more. And I think it also shows word of mouth. So I believe it’s been quite effective. I’ll be releasing a new excerpt this coming week introducing Xalivar finally. We’ve just seen the hero Davi, his father Sol, and a few others in previous excerpts. We’ll introduce Xalivar, then Davi’s love interest Tela as well in future excerpts. Hopefully people will enjoy those as well.
A: You also run the weekly #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction / Fantasy Writers Chat) thread on Twitter. How did that get started?
B: I was sitting around bemoaning the fact that I’ve had employment issues and, thus, money issues, and missed out on workshops and cons with authors I respect and admire. But then I noticed many of those people were on Twitter, and I was like ‘how can people like me get the chance to learn from these talented people if we can’t get to cons?’ And the idea of a 1 hour craft-focused interview thing came up and it went from there. I started with friends I knew like Sam Sykes, Blake Charlton and Mike Resnick. John Joseph Adams was dating a friend of mine (they’re now engaged) so I also asked him. Everyone I asked said yes and it just took off. It took a couple times to get the format and build up regulars but now it consistently gets a lot of hits and we get ARCS from publishers, people contact us to be on, etc. It’s a real blessing how accepted and successful it’s been and I really love doing it.
A: Dare I ask who has been your favorite guest on #sffwrtcht so far?
B: That’s probably not wise to answer. I have enjoyed all the guests for different reasons. But in particular, I will say, the chats with Lou Anders, Blake Charlton, Mike Resnick, Paul Kemp and Kevin J. Anderson were highlights for me because they are so easy to talk to and we just really relaxed and had a lot of fun.
A: Who are the upcoming guests?
B: Well the list is on the website. We’ve recently had Maurice Broaddus, Jennifer Brozek, Ken Scholes, Peter Orullian, Tim Akers, Howard Andrew Jones and John Pitts. Upcoming are Patty Jansen (8/17), Dayton Ward (8/24), Kat Richardson (8/31), Greg Van Eehouk (9/7), Daniel Polansky (0/14), Moses Siregar (9/21), Shaun Farrell of the AISFP Podcast (9/28) and Are Marmell (10/5). I’ve also discussed with Beth Meacham of TOR, who said she’d love to do it and some others like her whom I need to get scheduled.
A: And finally on that subject, where can people who missed previous chats go to read the threads?
B: Transcripts can be found via the #sffwrtcht website at: http://bryanthomasschmidt.net/sffwrtcht/ or you can read them in my column at www.graspingforthewind.com. Links to those cleaned up interviews are on the Column tab on the #sffwrtcht website.
A: Now for my usual last question: What is your favorite book, and what would you say to recommend it to someone who hasn’t read it yet?
B: It’s hard to pick one but “Lord Valentine’s Castle” is one I’ll mention. It’s Robert Silverberg’s 80s come back novel. My sister bought it for me and I’d never heard of it or Silverberg. I was like “What is this? This wasn’t on my gift list.” She said: “Just read it. The bookstore raved about it. I think you’ll like it.” That book blew me away. Silverberg’s world building continues to be a model for me. Other than Tolkein, I’d never seen world building like that. He got into horticulture, geography, etc. and really created every aspect of his world in depth. And he used it in the story. It was really influential on me. It carried me away. The book also has a theme that comes out in my own work a lot of characters finding out who they are and where they belong in the world through quests. “The Worker Prince” has that as a theme and so does my epic fantasy “Sandman” which even borrows the amnesia element from “LVC.” I have read all the Majipoor books and stories I can get ahold of, and was impressed with them all, but “LVC” is a true masterpiece, not to be missed.
A: Thanks again, Bryan, for sitting down to chat with us! I’m looking forward to our second interview, when THE WORKER PRINCE hits the stands in October.
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