#blogtour #Christian #dystopian Interview with Brett Armstrong author of Day Moon @BArmstrongWV

Brett Armstrong, author of the award-winning novel, Destitutio Quod Remissio, started writing stories at age nine, penning a tale of revenge and ambition set in the last days of the Aztec Empire.  Twenty years later, he is still telling stories though admittedly his philosophy has deepened with his Christian faith and a master’s degree in creative writing.  His goal with every work is to be like a brush in the Master artist’s hand and his hope is the finished composition always reflects the design God had in mind.  He feels writing should be engaging, immersive, entertaining, and always purposeful.  Continually busy at work with one or more new novels to come, he also enjoys drawing, gardening, and playing with his beautiful wife and son.
His latest book is Day Moon (Tomorrow’s Edge Book 1).



What’s inside the mind of a Christian author?

It depends on the time of day. Life always interdicts, but I'm the type who fairly easily slips into daydreams and that usually leads to writing a story mentally, that I eventually try to get typed up. I don't really hold to any one genre in my writing. I try to seek out stories worth telling, whatever genre they fall in. When I say stories worth telling, I mean those that I feel like the Lord is leading me to, the kind that hold a kernel of insight that might benefit readers of the story as much as it would benefit me to uncover in the writing process. So at various times my mind is fixated on 4th Century AD Rome. Other times its in 2039 with the characters of my latest novel Day Moon. Then still other times it's roving into Renaissance era fantasy world of a work in progress I have. Then there are the handful of short story ideas or novel ideas that aren't fully formed yet that I pop in and out of at any given time.

What is so great about being an author?

First it's a tremendous honor to have people feel like your thoughts are worth reading and to trust you to guide them through an unknown landscape safely and to their good. I think the most rewarding part of being an author happens when someone reads the book and then tells you it really made an impact on him or her. A couple people who read my first book told me they wanted someone they each cared about to read the book, because they thought it would help those persons. That's really special and makes any struggle along the way worthwhile.

When do you hate it?

Whenever it comes time to do anything that looks like salesmanship. I'm not a very business-minded person and I don't like viewing books in terms of their bottom lines or how to boost sales and so on. It's not why I write and I try to think as little about it as possible while writing. I know that isn't the wisest way to do things if you want to get a book on the New York Times Bestseller's list, but I can't help it. I want the books to be more than a product or subject of a monetary transaction, so any time I feel like I'm starting to become a "Buy this!" advertisement I feel awful.

What is a regular writing day like for you?

A regular day consists of me going to work full time as the web designer and infectious disease data manager at the state health department. During breaks and lunch I try to do writing and writerly reading/activities. When I get off, I head home and run circles around the house playing with my little boy, who is growing up way too fast, while trying to cook dinner and help keep the house in some semblance of order.  After our little one is off to bed, my wife and I catch up on each other's days and usually watch part of a movie or something on Netflix to relax. When my wife goes to sleep, that's my pure writing time and I try to dive deep into it when I can. That usually consists of about two hours of solid writing, though on weekends I tend to do much better.

How do you handle negative reviews?

Rather poorly for about the first day or two after. I'm the type of person who wanted not just straight A's but A+'s on assignments I really cared about in school and take it very personally whenever someone doesn't like some aspect of a book I've written. Once I get past the initial shell-shock and self-deprecation and doubt, then I try to read the reviews again and glean from them something positive and something constructive to work on in the future. Then I just try not to read the reviews again, because it really just pokes at mostly healed wound at that point. Though even bad reviews are still something. Sometimes I get suspicious if I see all positive reviews for something and honestly, if you're saying something that is intended to make a deep impact on someone's life, you really can't help but have some people reject that irrespective of writing quality, which people have preferences and preconceived notions they bring along as well.

How do you handle positive reviews?

Probably equally poorly. I bounce up and down for a couple hours and re-read the review a few times. After I remember it's not about me in the first place, I get over myself and try to comb through the review for lessons to apply to writing in the future and sentiments that might be in common across other reviews, because those tell you something about what consistently comes through in your writing to those who are most likely to be an audience for the writing. Like negative reviews, I try not to re-read the review at that point, because it's a bit like staring at a bunch of ribbons or trophies. It's looking into the past and no one wins an event by obsessing over the past. Not to mention spiritually, you want to throw any laurel, however big or small, at Christ's feet, so it's really about pressing on and keeping things in perspective whether a review is good or bad.

What is the usual response when you tell a new acquaintance that you’re an author?

Like most writers, it's most often one of two very different responses. The first being, "Oh! I'm so proud of you!" where the person seems to think you've done something utterly stupendous and special (which a writer has in a sense). The second is more akin to, "Yeah. So?" where the person then begins to list everyone they've ever known with the intention of writing a book, because it is such an achievable and common thing (which it is in a sense). Usually it's other writers who have an in-between reaction that balances the two extremes.

What do you do on those days you don’t feel like writing? Do you force it or take a break?

It really depends on how sleepy I am. In all seriousness, if I'm just at an absolute road block and I don't feel the thrum of the story anymore then I take a break. I'd really have to have lost a grip on the story though for that to happen. If it is just a hard passage to write, I'll try to write around it or push through, because it's very easy once you pick up a new story that's interesting to let the one I was stymied by fall by the way side. More recently I've been trying to write several stories at the same time, so I don't leave any one fallow too long, but give myself some needed breaks to let fresh ideas work into the mix. And I do that to varying levels of success on a week-by-week basis.

Any writing quirks?

I'm awful about having a single notebook that has fragments of like five different stories scattered throughout it in a very haphazard way. I try handwrite from time to time to force myself to revise as I draft, but like I said I write more than one story at a time so a notebook quickly becomes a little hard to navigate. I'm trying to break myself of the habit by having a stack of notebooks to switch between, but even then, it gets messy.

What would you do if people around you didn’t take your writing seriously or see it as a hobby?

I'm very blessed in that I do have incredibly supportive people around me. Though to answer the question, since for so much of my life writing was a hobby (I've been writing stories since age nine) I would probably just keep at it. It's really hard for me to not talk about what I'm writing about, because for me writing a novel is a lot like reading it. When I get to a part that is exciting or unexpected, I want to tell someone! Currently my wife and mom catch all that excited chatter, but if they just quit I might have to reach out to readers who have expressed particular appreciation for my work and share with them. I think I would also work very hard to justify writing as something more than a hobby to my family by the writing I produce and letting the reception of the writing be evidence that it is meaningful.

Some authors seem to have a love-hate relationship to writing. Can you relate?

For me it's really been almost exclusively love. Of course there are things related to writing that I wish were different. For instance the amount of time I have to do. If I could add about five more hours to each day then I think I would be set.  I also, as mentioned before, do not really take to the business side of being a published author. Writing for me is an art form and a craft, but it is also an incredibly open art form that requires the participation of readers to really make it fully meaningful. The avenue by which readers join in on the artistic process, unfortunately, requires a lot of business-like activity.  I get through it, but if I could remove one aspect of writing, it would be to tone that part of publishing way down.

Do you think success as an author must be linked to money?

Not at all. A great many "classics" of Western literature were financial failures. Some of them were critical failures in their day. Some even the authors felt were a colossal disappointment. I think the only real metric for whether an author is successful or not is in the lives that are touched by the writing. If your writing affects people and makes them think and feel and then relate that to reality, then you've been quite successful. Of course everyone wants to have the financial boom and critical acclaim, but I try very hard to not fixate on that and I hope I never do however "successful" my writing becomes. Books are about writers and readers taking a journey together and so long as that happens, that is success for me.

What has writing taught you?

Patience and humility stand out to me. So often I want to have a manuscript done at a particular date and time. I want to be able send it to an agent or editor and then have it in print on my schedule, but it's not like that. You can't rush art and sometimes a story takes a long time to be properly represented by a manuscript. I have a fantasy series I've been working on for ten years now that is incredibly near and dear to me, but I've only just begun to get the manuscript for the first story into a form that I think it is truly ready to share.  And being humble enough to realize you aren't the only writer out there. The only voice or storyteller worth hearing has been good for me. With so many other writers out there that I'm suddenly aware of, I think I approach writing with the idea of how special it is for a reader to choose to pick up something I've worked on with much greater clarity. The idea that what I'm typing will be read by someone else, that they're giving their time and interest to something I've written is really incredible to consider.

Leave us with some words of wisdom.

I suppose when it comes to words of wisdom, I'll turn to a man much wiser than me: "Trust in the LORD and do not lean on your own understanding and He will make straight your paths." That's what King Solomon of Israel wrote as recorded in the book of Proverbs. Ultimately as a reader and a writer you have to have a purpose. Why am I reading and why am I writing respectively. 1924 Olympic gold medalist Eric Liddell is credited with saying, "God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure." It's like that for me and writing, and so long as I feel the Lord leading there, I'll happily follow that path. Everyone needs to resolve that question of where and what is my purpose?


Post a Comment