Let's get to know author! This time, we're talking to writer Bryan Aiello, who writes military fiction in the US. In this short interview, you can learn a bit about Bryan's writing methods, preferences and processes. If you're writing an military fiction book, this could be the interview you've been waiting for!
How important is research to you when you're writing your first draft?
I constantly research everything in my stories. I love history and science and am always looking for ways to broaden my knowledge while fleshing out a story. One of my recent Brickmoon productions was to re-imagine Winston Churchill's time in South Africa. I started out knowing nothing, and in the end I used everything I learned to twist history. It was a lot of fun to write and listen to and I couldn't have pulled it off without detailed knowledge of the Boer war or South African regional history. Check it out here:
I liked to torture my characters...
When did you realise you wanted to be a writer? In other words, why are you a writer, and how important is it to you?
Oh man, I was eight, and I told a story at a sleepover. My friend and little brother were so engaged. I think the story was about someone going down some stairs, but I had nothing as to what was at the bottom. When I attempted to recreate it later, it became a man going up a mountain who meets Bigfoot in a blizzard. I liked to torture my characters even as a youngin.
What inspires you to write, and where do you get your ideas?
I get a tickle. Usually, the idea behind a word, or a time in history, or a bit of conversation or catching a few moments of a stranger's life. I love struggle and what makes someone break one way or another. Sometimes it's a song I've never heard makes me want to impact lives. Can writing be textural? Sometimes the need to write is like eating a good meal or touching nature. It's this thing that bubbles up, and I take it and put words to it.
Journal Prompt: let's answer Bryan's question... can writing be textural?
Do you have a schedule for writing, or do you write only when you feel inspired? How often do you manage to write and when you do, how many words can you manage in one sitting?
I write first drafts whenever I want. I publish a lot of those drafts eventually as flash fiction on my website. Those flash pieces act as seeds for other stuff. So much of my longer content spawns from little fragments. But in terms of the actual work of writing. I wake at 4am, brew coffee, and do that for as long as I can stand it. The work being the editing, and the reading, and crying, and the self-flagellation and hating everything until I've given up and attempt to sell it.
Writers are often labelled as loners and introverts; in your opinion, is there any truth to that?
I am a social monster and to love me is to lose part of your soul to my fiction. That doesn't make me a loner per se, but it does often make me lonely a lot of the time.
What would you say are the easiest and hardest things about writing a book? What do you love and hate the most about what you do?
Rewriting is a special hell. I bask in first drafts though. I love writing a story and finishing something I can share. But once I find that story, like Michelangelo said, it needs to be chipped free from the blunder that nature put around it.
Journal Prompt: if you could hand over any task or burden from the process of publishing a book to another, which task would that be and why?
Have you ever experienced "Writer's Block"? How long did it last and how did you overcome it?
I have never experienced writer's block, because I always have something to rewrite and work on. Stuck on coming up with new ideas? Find images and ideas from the world and just add to what's being offered. Finding a story is as easy as being interested in the world, and life, and people. Stories are everywhere, the hard part for me is finding the time to make them real and available to be read.
When you finish writing a book, how long do you wait before beginning the editing process and why? Do you edit your own work, or hire someone else to help you?
Longer stories are interesting. I have written many novellas at this point and two novel length pieces. Both of my longest piece have sat and ripened on my Google drive for years. I think it pays not to be too greedy with your work. Let it hang out a while and get some mould on it. Write some more pieces. Try to sell older stuff. Always be working on your writing, so when you come back around to the longer works, you are a stronger storyteller and can make it a better piece of fiction.
I think it pays not to be too greedy with your work.
Many people advise not to judge a book by its cover. As an independent author, what are your thoughts on cover quality? Would you say it plays an important role in sales?
I love graphic art. LOVE. I fully believe a picture can tell its own story. As a kid, I formed a special relationship with the cover of the books I read. They impacted the story for me. So I like to spend a lot of time working with imagery, so I can build covers that pique interest and add to the story itself.
A conversation with Bryan Aiello on YouTube - don't forget to subscribe! You can also check out Bryan's channel here: https://www.youtube.com/user/frogger65
Some people believe independent (self-published) authors produce books of poor quality in comparison to traditionally published books, often down to editing and cover design issues. What is your opinion on this; what would you say to those people as an independent author?
Pedigree is one thing the publishing industry has going for it. Professionals are paid because they do the best work possible. An indie is competing with that. Any and every mistake stands out, maybe not to everybody, but to someone, and the fewer mistakes, the better the comments and reviews and more books will sell.
What is your experience of publishing so far? How have you chosen to publish and why? What do you feel are the benefits of this method?
I've published some of my own work. I deemed it sloppy and hope to do better in the future. I have had my work published by others and have been disappointed in quality from some of them also. I think the best way to look at my publishing experience is that from each one I became a better bookmaker.
Journal Prompt: think of something you wrote in the past that you're disappointed with. Why are you disappointed and what could you do now to make it better?
If you were asked to give advice to primary school children about writing creatively, what top tip would you share with them?
Have fun. Writing is all about sharing your perspective and imagination. Nothing should stand in the way of that. Like the shoe company says, "Just do it!"
If you were asked to give advice to secondary school children about writing creatively, what top tip would you share with them and would this differ at all to the previous question?
Learn the rules of the language in which you are writing. Write to be perfect. Read everything. Read to learn, read to enjoy. Don't forget to have fun. Fun is the magic ingredient, it makes everything better.
Fun is the magic ingredient, it makes everything better.
Lots of authors struggle to market and promote their book/s. Do you have any top tips you can share with them, and what have you found to be most effective?
No. I think marketing is voodoo magic.
What is your opinion on the benefits of writing on mental health issues including anxiety and depression? Would you recommend it as a form of self-therapy; of looking inward and reflecting? If not, why?
I think journaling is a great way to find new ideas and explore ways to live your life with less toxicity. I also think every person's pain is unique, but with similar universal themes. It's been a relief to me on many occasions to find articles and blogs that paint a happier solution then the one I was considering, so publishing those entries might not be a bad idea. I don't journal though. I just ask Google questions and read the results.
Do you believe that writing can be learned, or that you must be born with a passion and/or talent?
Storytelling is an art, maybe it comes from the soul, maybe it comes from growing up a certain way, maybe it's genetic. Writing however is a skill, a trick to be learned. Combine the two for greatness.
Do you believe that it's more challenging to write about beliefs, morals and values that conflict with your own? How do you feel about books that explore unusual, 'risky' themes? When reading these books, do you feel at all uncomfortable?
I don't usually write about myself. My characters have to be interesting to me, though, so I will let them be whatever they want. It helps to be pretty liberal. I just let my characters be people I know exist in real life, even the ones that are total pieces of shit.
World-building applies to all genres, even to those where it is not necessary for authors to create unique societies, landscapes and species. No matter your chosen genre, what top tip can you give aspiring authors when world-building?
World-building is history and anthropology, try studying Earth's. It will make building your own a lot easier and more interesting.
Journal Prompt: choose a location on Earth and research it for ten minutes. What can you find out?
How do you view and define success? What does it mean to you, and do you currently feel successful? If not, what would you need to achieve to reach success?
I do not feel successful. I do wonder sometimes whether I ever will. At the end of the day, though, we as a species are chased with the knowledge death comes, and when that day arrives, I hope I've done enough to help the incrementalism that is human progress.
What is the secret to becoming a bestselling author, if you believe there is one? Do you agree an Amazon bestselling status counts, even if that status was for a free or discounted book?
Tell a good story. Be an interesting professional artist. Be dedicated to craft. Be fucking lucky as hell.
How do you deal with rejection, criticism and bad reviews from friends, family and strangers? What would you say to someone struggling with a lack of support, or worried about online negativity?
Rejection happens, expect it, it'll happen 99.5% of the time. But that 5%... oh man it feels so good, so I keep pulling the handle back on the slot machine because a check cashed, oh what a feeling.
BONUS ROUND: Get to know Bryan
Tea, Coffee or Hot Chocolate?
Coffee, black no sugar
I am a browser of books, I want to get hooked and devour it, right now I have like twenty things open for research and nothing for pleasure. Last book reviewed was Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus
A quote you live by and why:
I don't live by a quote, but by fearing a life misspent.
Here's a word on Bryan's latest release, Sounds of Nothing: or: the unfortunate Being at war (Moments in the Chaos Book 1):
"A study in chaos, the mind, and a world at war.
On the cusp of Desert Storm, a soldier realizes a fantasy. How harmful could that be? A little indulgence before heading off to peace and liberty-protecting combat."
Bryan Aiello hosts weekly podcasts on creativity and speculative fiction and is a writer of Fantasy, Sci-fi and the Macabre.
Raised on Florida's Gulf Coast, Bryan served in the Army, graduated from the University of South Florida and now calls Brooklyn home.
For more of his fiction and links to his podcasts, visit: www.bryanaiello.com and follow him on Twitter @bryaiello.
A huge thank you to author Bryan Aiello for this interview. If you would like to learn more about his writing journey, please be sure to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org to ask your questions!
If you would like to complete and submit an interview of your own for the blog, get in touch today through this website's contact form.
Bryan's review of his Curious Cat Books interview:
"5* E. Rachael Hardcastle is an amazing human being whom I am happy to have discovered exists at the same time as me on this planet. Her knowledge and work ethic are unparalleled. Her creativity is boundless."