Welcome to Port Jericho! Today we are interviewing Brandon Zenner, author The After War, available-
*Brandon, where are you from?
**I live in New Jersey, a short distance from the shore (It’s nothing like that show you’re probably thinking about. I assure you.). For the past ten years, I lived in a town named Red Bank, but I’ve recently moved one town over, to Middletown. I’m about an hour south of Manhattan.
*Tell us a little about yourself: education, family life, etc.
** I’m a fortunate man. I have an amazing two year old daughter named Sadie, and have been happily married for seven years. For the past thirteen years, I’ve been working part time/full time at a busy Irish bar, called The Dublin House. It’s a good place to work, and working nights gives me the important time of the day—morning and afternoons, when my mind is sharp and active—to do the things that I love. Writing being one of them.
*What hobbies do you have, other than writing?
**At the moment, I don’t have many. Having a two year old at home is a bit time consuming. However, I’ve recently gotten back into running, which my wife and I both enjoy. So I suppose fitness is a bit of a hobby. Years ago, I used to make model ships. I do want to get back into that one day. It’s very meditative. But presently, I can’t have an assortment of razor blades and tools in easy reach of a toddler.
*Is there one person past or present you would like to meet and why?
**Hmm … that’s a tough one. I wouldn’t mind having a beer with Charles Bukowski, or walking the beaches of California with John Fante. There are a lot of people I would like to have met, I’m not sure I could narrow it down to one.
*If you could have any superpower, what would it be and how would you use it?
**That’s another tough one. If I had to pick one, I think it would be telekinesis. Moving things around with my mind seems cool. When I was young, maybe five or six, I remember staring at a battery, trying desperately to make it move. Maybe because it’s round I thought it would be easier to move than some other object. And how would I use telekinesis? To fly, of course. Now, if I could be any one superhero, I would be Superman. Because, let’s face it, that guy really hit the jackpot with his super powers.
*Who is your favorite author? What is it that really strikes you about their work?
**I don’t know if I have any one favorite. I love Charles Bukowski and John Fante for their raw honesty; I love Cormac McCarthy for his tremendous prose; I love Kurt Vonnegut for his playfulness and range of imagination; I love Ken Follett for his attention to detail; and I love Iain Banks for his gripping and disturbing storylines. I’m all over the place.
*What book(s) are you reading now?
**I just finished THE MARCH by E.L. Doctorow, and it was brilliant. My next in line is SWAN SONG by Robert R. McCammon. I’m excited to start reading; I’ve been meaning to read this book for a while.
*What new authors have captured your attention, or captivated your heart? **
Recently, I read all of Hugh Howey’s Silo series. They were excellent. I read Dust shortly after, and I’ll be sure to be reading more by him.
*What’s your favorite word? Why?
**I don’t think I favor any one specific word. But I do like short and to the point descriptions, especially about locations—Examples: ‘The vast plain,’ or, ‘The tremendous mountain range.’
*Are there any words you absolutely loathe? Why?
**Many. But for the sake of making this a short response, I loath ‘tidy.’ There’s something about it that irks me. I use sometimes in dialogue or description in reference to characters that I want the audience to feel sour towards. I also don’t like ‘immediately,’ which I’m guilty of using in my earlier novels quite a bit, but have cut back on significantly.
*What books have most influenced you?
**There are a lot. When I was younger, just about every Kurt Vonnegut novel had an influence on me. In my late teen to early twenties, John Fante’s ASK THE DUST had a huge impact on me. I suggest every young (or old) writer should read this book. Later on, Ken Follett had a big impact, particularly PILLARS OF THE EARTH. Later on I read Iain Bank’s THE WASP FACTORY, and just about every Cormac McCarthy novel. That man can do things with prose that is both haunting and beautiful.
*Do you have a mentor who has shepherded or encouraged your creativity?
**No, actually. Until I published my first novel, THE EXPERIMENT OF DREAMS, I didn’t tell anyone other than a small handful of people that I was writing. Not even my parents. It was an inward experience, and I didn’t want it affected by the outside world, or by anybody’s thoughts or suggestions.
*What challenges do you face in your writing?
**Right now there are several, and I think they are the same for most writers. The first is time. There’s just not enough of it, and creating a novel needs a lot of time. The second is marketing. I had no idea how hard it would be to market my books until I was knee-deep in it, and trying to figure things out. I jumped into independent publishing without a clue, and later spent a lot of time (and still do) trying to figure out how to market and sell my books.
*What is your ideal writing time?
**For a rough draft, about an hour or two after I wake up. Morning or early afternoon. The same goes with editing, but that can be more relaxed. I don’t like the nights, although I sometimes don’t have a choice. I edited and proofed much of my last two novels very late at night, from three to five A.M., when I was getting home from my job at the bar. It’s exhausting; I go to bed with my mind active and don’t sleep well.
*What writing tools do you prefer?
**I use a Mac. I have Scrivener, but I still use word. One day I’ll give scrivener a shot. A pen and paper are still the best tools of them all. I’m a bit weird with pens, I use Cross with a medium ink; I think they’re called the Century Classics. One is sleek and black, the other has a cap. I also have an old-fashioned typewriter that I used to use all the time. It’s a great tool. There is no erase button on a typewriter, you have to be careful and focused.
*What advice can you offer to other writers?
**I don’t think I’m in much of a position to be giving advice. But I meet a lot of people who want to write, yet haven’t started. About half the people I meet from working at the bar, who find out that I write, tell me that they always wanted to be a writer, they have a book in them, they just can’t seem to type it out, etc., etc., and then they stare off with a forlorn look in their eyes like it’s the white whale of their existence. Here’s my advice to them: stop feeling sorry for yourself and living in the past—sit down and write. Sounds easy, right? It’s the hardest thing to do before you actually start doing it. There is so much doubt and uncertainty. It took me years to start THE AFTER WAR, all because of fear. I had an idea in my mind and I wasn’t sure if it would translate to paper how I wanted. So I waited and waited. And then I heard the same advice that I’m giving now—sit down and get the word out. It doesn’t matter how the word appear, just get them on paper. You can tool around with it later. In the end, you’ll read and re-read, and change so much of your original manuscript that whole paragraphs will be burned in your memory for the rest of your life. For the first draft of your first book, it might come out as just a template. For THE AFTER WAR, I wrote the whole thing, all 150,000 words, and then put it aside. I didn’t look at that draft ever again, but started from scratch months later, and re-wrote the entire 150,000 words. I didn’t stress about the time it took to write that first draft—what was important was that I got the words on the page.
*What writingcraft books are your most treasured resources?
**Stephen King’s ON WRITING, and the old favorite of everyone, Strunk and White’s THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE. Those are the only two writingcraft books I’ve read from cover to cover.
*How did you come up with the title?
**For THE AFTER WAR, my original title was CHAOS, but in the end I didn’t like CHAOS. I wrote down fifty-plus titles, and spent months nitpicking, and going back and forth with a few friends. THE AFTER WAR was the clear winner, because it fit the book well. It’s somewhat a play on words, being that the book takes place after a major war, but also, there is a war to comes after a cataclysmic event.
*What, if any, message would you like your readers to take away from THE AFTER WAR?
**I’m not sure I could answer that, it will be different for each reader, which is half of the fun.
*Did you learn anything from writing THE AFTER WAR?
**Many things. Mostly that writing may be tough, but marketing, and the things that come after the book is written, are much harder.
*What are your current works in progress?
**I’m in-between projects at the moment, and plan on taking a month or two off. I’ll start again in the fall. I need a break; I’ve launched two books in less than a year.
*Would you be willing to share a little of this current work in progress with us?
**They are all concepts at the moment. I have ideas for several novels, in several genres (they can all loosely be herded into Thrillers). I can’t say anything concrete, but there are many characters in THE AFTER WAR that I think could make interesting stories of their own, independent of each other. There are two for sure that I have been thinking over.
*Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
**As always, I am extremely appreciative by the support I’ve received. I had no idea when I launched my first novel how it would be received, and I’m still shocked at all of the positivity I get from my readers who have either reached out directly, through my email list, Goodreads, or by posting humbling reviews.
*Do you have any of the following that you would like to include?
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/brandon.zenner