Author Interview: Brian G. Wood

BrianGeoffreyWood

Brian Wood, author of Dead Roots met with me this evening to discuss writing positively, the problems with NaNoWriMo, his success in the world of self-publishing, and his systematic unwarranted torture of poor Sonic the Hedgehog.

me
All right so first of all, is this your actual first book or just the first one you’ve released to the world?

Brian Wood
I’ve been writing basically since I knew how to spell. I used to make picture books when I was in primary school, and I wrote fanfiction and a bunch of really terrible short stories when I was in high school.
I’ve done some tabletop game systems and just-
Basically I was always writing one thing or another, even if I didn’t do anything with it.

me
Tabletop game systems?

Brian Wood
D&D, LARP, that sort of thing.
My specialty was always settings rather than actual mechanics.

me
Ohhh I get it. So role playing sort of live things.
I’ve heard things about the rulebooks, but I honestly don’t know much myself.
So this was your first book?

Brian Wood
Yeah, this is the first time I really sat down and decided to do a book and do it properly.

me
How long did it take?

Brian Wood
About a year off and on.
The last four months or so was when I really knuckled down on it.

me
This isn’t even fair.
I’m going to try not to hold all this against you.

Brian Wood
Ehehe

me
I did the NaNoWriMo once and got myself through something…

Brian Wood
NaNoWriMo has its purpose, but I think it fosters a lot of bad habits. I read one forum where somebody suggested that to buff up your word count, you could give one of the characters a hyphenated name and then bam you’ve increased by 5,000 words! It doesn’t foster quality.

me
What did you try as far as getting mainstream published if you did? Also: I heard your sales are pretty good. Give us your secrets.

Brian Wood
I spent a few months submitting to agents and then I decided to do the self-publishing thing, which is a choice that i’m finding was the right one at least for this series, I think
As far as my sales secrets, I’m not smashing the records or anything but there’s been a steady uptick and basically all of my sales these days are cold sales, i.e. not friends or acquaintances who make up the majority of your early sales.
And I wrote an article about that for my blog but it basically boils down to:
First make a quality product that you’re really proud of, then be patient and do a lot of networking.

me
You talk to your Twitter followers a lot.

Brian Wood
I do, because my philosophy is just to make myself more visible to the audience and then they’ll follow the link to my books if they are interested.
Building a following is a slow business and there aren’t really any shortcuts, but you can help yourself by having a professional attitude and being really interactive.

me
My tactic is to get my famous girlfriend to link to my stuff.

Brian Wood
Yeah absolutely.
Influencers are really important.

me
So, after my review of your book you mentioned on Twitter you were glad to know that it passed muster.
I have written about this kind of thing in the past, and I went into method a lot so I’m wondering what your approach was to writing positively.

Brian Wood
I’m a male and straight and I look at women, obviously, but I’m not going to sit there and write that down because I don’t want to come off as a creep. I don’t want somebody to be reading it and think “this is how Brian Wood views women.” I keep that to myself basically.
When I describe Margaret and how she’s kind of overweight, and Tom likes it, I wanted there to be a body positivity side to that as well. The female characters are not eye candy. Tom is going to leer at them but that’s not their only purpose in the story. Sometimes that’s a conscious decision and I think I’m not giving this character enough to do so I have to go back and edit that. I’m learning as it goes.

Brian Wood contacted me over twitter after reading this interview and wanted to include the following caveat to his answer here:

I’m a little dissatisfied with my own answer regarding the “male gaze” and body positivity. I didn’t articulate it well.  It’s not about him or if he approves or not.  I don’t get into Margaret’s head really but she’s implied to be insecure.  So I suppose that was more a message to my male readers to be more accepting of different body types.

me
I liked that you made an effort toward body positivity, too. What motivates you to write queer positively?

Brian Wood
Through no conscious effort of my own, like 90% of my friends are LGBT
My two best friends in the world who I’ve known since high school eventually came out as gay and MtF trans
So queer rights and positivity are just something I’m constantly immersed in

me
Okay awesome. You did a great job of it.
And you said in a conversation we had earlier that you like to write about racial issues as well.
So, please, if you have any tips for us privileged white types on how to write racially positive
please share.
What should we avoid?

Brian Wood
It depends on what sort of story you’re trying to write and on the character’s personality

me
definitely true. What makes you cringe?

Brian Wood
I feel like media in recent years has actually been pretty good about handling African-American people, but if you give me a second I’m sure I can think of something that made me really aggravated.
I think the worst thing you can do is fetishize it which is something that occurs most often with Asian characters.
It’s easy to say you shouldn’t appeal to stereotypes but that kind of stuff usually gets sniffed out pretty quick.

me
I know a lot of this is common sense; obviously if I wouldn’t like to see every LGBT character fetishized or some sort of two-dimensional stereotypes I shouldn’t do that to anyone else, either.

Brian Wood
The way I handle it personally is to acknowledge that it’s there but it serves as more of an undercurrent than really a focal point.
You can’t pretend that it doesn’t color character interaction.
Even between characters who don’t hold any active prejudice.

me
It sort of depends where they’re from too, doesn’t it?
I grew up in a racially diverse area then moved to one that wasn’t.
So I grew up in a place where my teachers, bosses, and friends were mixed groups (though it would be impossible to deny that the higher up in a company you’d go, the more white and male it got).
Once I got to a less diverse area, people could hardly talk to each other without blurting something stupid.

Brian Wood
The issue with media at the moment is honestly more of a lack of representation with regards to race than actual bad execution
Yeah it does. Since moving back to the US from New Zealand there’s been a bit of a culture shock with regards to racial awareness

me
What’s New Zealand like in that regard?

Brian Wood
New Zealand is really curious in the way that it views race
Simultaneously there’s a similar climate with regards to the Maori people and the government, where there’s a lot of past racial tension that still isn’t 100% worked out and probably never will be
But at the same time they’re extremely, like, almost bafflingly relaxed about it.
There was this animated show called Bro’Town that was produced with government arts funding and written by a Samoan comedy troupe and they just ruthlessly lampoon urban Maori and Pacific Islander culture, particularly in low-income areas. It’s a really strange and vibrant and laid back sort of attitude towards race relations that I don’t think could be emulated in the US.

me
So basically it’s your opinion that in the USA right now, the problem is mainly a lack of representation, right?

Brian Wood
For me it’s more like…
There should be more room for a show to star a person of color and the writers to not shy away from that topic without it being seen as a cry for attention.

me
Right – as though any inclusion is “special consideration” or otherwise intentional.

Brian Wood
Exactly.
And in that vein the most offensive stuff comes from the audiences, not the source material like the backlash over Rue in the Hunger Games movie.
It’s not often that I’ll be bothered by a depiction of a minority character in a movie or book or TV show but the mainstream audience’s commentary about that character can just be the vilest stuff I’ve ever seen.

me
Oh god that was awful.
That’s a really good point. The audiences are disgusting sometimes.

Brian Wood
I’m honestly more concerned with how gay people are being simultaneously idolized and then stripped of all their dignity by mainstream media.
Like, don’t get me started on Glee.

me
Yeah that’s a problem.
It gets kind of exhausting.
Tell us a little about Blood Mother!
What can I expect from the sequel?

Brian Wood
Blood Mother was a bit of a departure in tone and identity from the first one. I’d learned a ton during the experience of writing and selling the first one, and I just took a wholly different approach to writing it with regards to how I mapped out the plot and mechanically, as well.
But it’s reportedly still very much, you know, it’s still the second Tom Bell book, it has that same feel and it carries the story to a natural place.
I was a little worried at first that it might be seen as kind of an unnecessary detour because the main plot thread doesn’t link back significantly to the first book

me
Awesome. And you said when we spoke earlier that you’d be including a trans character? Is that in Blood Mother or in the third? I know anyone who reads my blog wants to know.

Brian Wood
But the characters are still coping with their experiences in Dead Roots and there’s an underlying series of events that ties it all together and leads into the third one
There is a character in the third title who is revealed to be trans and I’m going to attack that topic with all the severity and delicacy that it deserves.
It’s someone that the readers will be attached to and familiar with by the time the character is ‘outed’ to them

me
Tell us more about your third book! When is that coming out? What’s happening in it?

Brian Wood
The third one is probably about halfway through the pipeline at the moment, we’re looking at roughly a mid to late summer release I would say.
The third one is back to Japan and it’s the conclusion of the Aki/Harold story arc and their mental struggle will be fed into the horror grinder for some really nasty imagery and set pieces.
My friend called it “A suicidal road trip full of monsters and mayhem”.

me
That’s awesome.
Okay final question: I guessed that you’d been writing Invader Zim fanfic and you corrected me on Twitter, saying that you’d written Sonic the Hedgehog fanfic.

Brian Wood
ahahaha

me
My son watches Sonic fan videos on YouTube; they get into some creepy shit.
What the holy hell is wrong with Sonic fans?

Brian Wood
I have no clue, but it’s basically always been like that
The people who are in video game and anime fandom nowadays are basically mirrors of the people who were in that scene when I was in high school and it’s baffling to me how it all sort of rhymes that way.
I wrote a lot of psychological horror stuff even back then.

me
reading Dead Roots reminded me a lot of watching Evil Dead..

Brian Wood
That’s a fair comparison particularly with the tree imagery.

me
What did you do to Sonic?

Brian Wood
I took it to some very dark and gross and quite melodramatic places.

Brian Wood takes his readers to some dark and gross and melodramatic places in Dead Roots, then again in Blood Mother and soon to be again in King of Men which can be purchased by following those links on Amazon for your Kindle or in paperback, and here for your nook.

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