Monday, November 14, 2011

The Stephen Brayton Interview

Free Kittens recently caught up with Stephen L. Brayton, author of the novels, Beta and Night Shadows (both published by Echelon Press). When he isn’t writing, Brayton is also an experienced martial arts instructor, in addition to having a day job. He is a pretty busy guy, so we here at Free Kittens are pleased he took some time from his busy schedule to let us know a little more about him.

First, two obvious questions everyone's gonna ask anyway...What first inspired you to write? And when was that moment when you decide this was something you wanted to pursue?

I read mysteries (Hardy Boys, Encyclopedia Brown, Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators) as a child. I started developing my creativity with writing short skits for my sister and me to perform. I wrote a few short mystery stories featuring a Quad Cities detective but didn’t start seriously writing until at my first job out of college. I found I had a lot of free time so I would write. When I moved to Oskaloosa I decided I really wanted to create something to submit to publishers. Not knowing how to go about it, I just began the way I thought best and learned from others throughout the years.

As a writer and reader, what are your favorite genres?

I still enjoy a good mystery, thriller, police procedural, a few legal mysteries. I’ll try sci-fi if I think the book looks interesting.

Your five desert island books...

Forgive me for just a moment, but at first I thought you were asking after my five favorite books about desert islands. I wasn’t sure I had read any that would qualify unless they started writing novelizations of Gilligan’s Island episodes. Then my brain clicked and now the question is even tougher. What five books would I take to the island? I have hundreds of books in my library, many waiting to be read, so although I have a few favorites, I’m going to have to go with the next five on my list of to be read and hope the supply ship shows up soon.

How would you describe your work to someone who knows nothing about it?

Beta is the first adventure of Mallory Petersen, six foot blonde martial artist and private detective. She has a knack for attracting the odd cases but when she starts trailing after a kidnapped eight year old girl, things get serious in hurry. Humorous scenes temper the serious subject matter as Mallory uncovers a child pornography ring.

Night Shadows: Think of X-Files with a twist. A federal agent who investigates paranormal and supernatural occurrences teams with a Des Moines homicide officer trying to stop a horde of killer shadow creatures.

Action mystery fans and those who like a little fright in their stories will enjoy these.

Tell us a little about yourself. Like a lot of independently published authors, I am assuming writing is not yet a full time career. How do you pay the bills in between writing projects?

I thought about knocking over banks and convenience stores to help with finances, but those pesky cops kept showing up and ruining my plans. So, I dropped that idea and began looking into identity theft…

Wait, scratch that. Actually, I instruct martial arts four nights a week as well as a full time job in the hospitality business.

I enjoy fishing in the summer, maybe a little golf once in awhile. I’d love to find a place to restart racquetball games. I really enjoyed the exercise.

I notice on your website you are heavily into martial arts. Tell us a little about that. Has that interest influenced the types of stories you write? Do martial arts play a part in some of your tales?

I took advantage of a two weeks’ free classes back in 1990 and never looked back. I earned my black belt in a little less than three years and opened a club in 1996. In 2003, I took over the Oskaloosa club.

When I started thinking about a private investigator series I considered using the detective I had written about years before, but I was so impressed with the women in my organization, I created Mallory Petersen, fourth degree black belt. One of the challenges is to create various scenarios to show off her wide range of skills.

In your publishing/submission efforts, what's your greatest experience? What's your worst?

Well, an obvious positive would be getting accepted by Echelon Press for publication. However, in my travels and networking I’ve met so many wonderful authors and editors and so the wonderful experiences continue with those developing relationships.

I don’t know if this was the worst experience, but it sticks in my mind as one of the most disheartening. When I was still learning my craft and sending out submission queries, I tried to follow the guidelines for each publisher. One night I’m sending out email queries and I shoot one to a publisher at 9:45. Not half an hour later, I receive an email rejection. Really? How much serious consideration was given? I sighed and thought, “Live and learn.”

We all have that one story that, no matter what else we accomplish, remains the nearest and dearest in our hearts. If you could choose one story or novel or yours (published or unpublished), which would it be and why?

Each author develops an individual style and I wouldn’t want to copy anyone. I don’t want anyone to say, “Well, he writes just like(insert name here).” However, I would like to have half the talent the pair who created Ellery Queen possessed. Their stories were so fundamentally solid, complex, intriguing, and entertaining. I also admire the immense skill of H.P. Lovecraft. A true master. The language he used and the images he created were outstanding. I hope one day somebody can read my stuff and have similar thoughts.

What's your writing process? Some map out everything in advance, some wing-it. Some maintain a strict schedule, some don't. What do you do?

I want to be more disciplined and I’m always looking to have better time management to be able to write. I can’t be forced to write which why I don’t join the annual NaNo event. I just can’t write with someone constantly looking over my shoulder wondering how many words I’ve put down. I would like to have a set time each day to write, but my schedule is so full I have to wait for a few hours free at work.

Ideas will pop into my head and if they seem interesting, I’ll write them down for future reference. If one won’t leave alone, I’ll jot a few scenes, a few possible characters. If the idea starts to be look promising, I’ll see if an outline can be completed. I’ll note points of future research, questions to ask certain people. Then I’ll start thinking about character profiles, maybe a subplot. After that’s completed, it’s time to start chapter one.

Any advice to aspiring writers looking to break-in to the business?

Do your homework. Don’t worry about plot, character, queries, synopses, or anything do with story structure. Learn how to write. This means basic punctuation, grammar, and spelling. Learn how to put together a proper sentence. Learn the rules. Develop a style where you then learn when and where to break them.

Promoting your books comes with the job. What types of things do you do to let the world know about Stephen Brayton, the author?

I’m on several social networking sites. Facebook and Twitter as well as a few .ning sites and others. I’ve created a book trailer for Beta (, bookmarks, postcards, done a few blogtalkradio interviews. I’m also planning on visiting some martial arts studios and hand out material to promote the book. And of course, blog interviews. Love them!

Where can one find out more information about Stephen Brayton and his work?

Please visit my website at:, my blog at:, and if you want a book reviewd at: Plus, check me out at Facebook and Twitter. Then, tell your friends.

1 comment:

  1. Nice interview. I especially like the part about learning basic grammar. I hate to admit that after completing graduate school I still have to watch those commas and semi-colons. Note: no commas!