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Brhi Stokes

‘I’m terrible at tooting my own horn.’

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In the beginning…tell me what made you decide to start writing?

To be honest, writing is just something I’ve always done. I distinctly remember becoming old enough to read and swiftly transitioning to the one who read the children’s stories, rather than was read to. I don’t think I could stop it if I could – late last year I wandered myself through 45,000 words of a book I had no intention to write because the first scene wouldn’t leave me alone.

Are there any authors or artists who influence(d) you?

There’s a bunch of great authors that I love. I write a lot of urban fantasy, so you can imagine influences like Neil Gaiman and (lesser-known but wonderful) Sergei Lukyanenko have been a huge part of my reading life over the past 10 years or so. Before that (and someone I still read when I’m in the mood for high fantasy) is Tamora Pierce, whose YA series had a big impact on me (particularly the Immortals series).

Tell me about your book.

Welcome to a city wreathed in fog and darkness.A city from which there may be no escape.Welcome to CALIGATION.

A city of the bizarre and the unfamiliar, inhabited by monstrous beasts and people with unnatural gifts. A city of tall glass spires mingling with old gothic architecture, where wild animals roam alongside the populace.  This is where Ripley Mason awakens after the car accident.

University dropout, casual drinker, and newly fledged hitchhiker, Ripley is tired of the daily grind of study, drink, repeat. Only halfway done with a degree he never chose, Ripley heads north to see if life won’t throw him something less monotonous.

Early into his journey, Ripley suffers a brutal car accident and awakens in a rundown hospital. Nervous, he ventures into dark, unfamiliar streets and comes face to face with indescribable beasts. Thrown into a world of the supernatural, Ripley fights to discover where he is, how he came to be here and, most importantly, if he can even get home.

All he knows of this place is a single word:C A L I G A T I O N.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Oh man… where to start. The fantasy ‘novel’ I wrote when I was 13? The novel-and-a-half I wrote when I was 16 and spent years trying to fix before realising I just had to let it (and its half-done sequel) go? None of which will ever see the light of day.

I also have the aforementioned 45,000 words of YA fantasy which I will, eventually, finish and release. We should talk about that instead…

What’s your opinion on the practice of ‘banning’ books?

We had a great chat about this in a class during my first degree (journalism) about whether the works of Marquis de Sade (from whose name we derive the word ‘sadism’ and who wrote about a number of horrific things) should be banned. I think, if there are things being written about which may be too intense for most people, they should be discussed. I have no problems with a warning being placed on books, so that people know what they’re getting into. However, I do not believe they should be banned (after all, a great number of very good books were banned in the US that are no longer such, including Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs).

Tell me about a principal character in your book(s). What makes them memorable?

I’m terrible at tooting my own horn. I suppose I’m quite fond of Ripley, the main character in Caligation, purely because of the amount of thought that went into his character. He’s just an ordinary dude. Which meant that I had to know him inside and out (quirks, speech patterns, nervous habits, etc) to make him feel like a real person. I undergo the same process with all characters I write, but I really enjoyed piecing together Ripley’s emotional journey and how he develops by the end of the book.

Indie, or traditionally published – and why?

Indie. I have a full-time profession and prefer the freedom of setting my own deadlines.

It’s said that to write well, you need to read a lot. What do you think?

Yes. You learn flow and grammar from what you read. I think any profession or art can grow by taking in (or watching) accomplished people work. Writing is no different.

Tell me what you feel the worst, and the best, aspects of being an author are, and why.

The worst is marketing. As I mentioned above, I hate promoting myself (and being self-published involves a lot of that), I feel grubby when I do it, and desperate. The best is the feedback I get. People I’ve never met, who have no reason to tell me my book is good, have given it 5 stars and told me they loved it. Caligation’s received a really good reception so far, and nothing makes me happier than hearing how someone enjoyed it.

Are you a plotter, or a pantser? What do you think of the opposite approach?

I’m a horrendous flip-flopper and have done both. I’ve actually found the best way, for me, is a mix of both. I’ll have an idea and start writing. As I write, I simultaneously make notes in a separate file about what has happened in the scenes I’ve done (so I can keep track) and jot down ideas for things to come. By about 1/3 of the book written I tend to have the entire plot detailed. I don’t mind the pantsing, however I encourage pantsers to keep a separate doc where they note what’s happened in each scene because (as an ex-pantser) I can tell you there’s nothing worse than wanting to add a new part and having no idea what each chapter even contains.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Only if it works. I have a big ol’ nerdy easter egg in Caligation that no one’s picked up on. Maybe I made it too subtle? It was really for my own amusement, anyway. It has to do with naming conventions in one paragraph.

Tell me about one favourite hobby or pastime that isn’t writing or reading.

I play tabletop RPGs with my husband and friends. We’ve played a 4-year Vampire the Masquerade campaign, a bunch of DnD one-shots and small serial games and are currently 5th level in a (hopefully) long-standing Pathfinder game. We also super dig Shadowrun.

What are you writing at the moment?

I’m gearing up for NaNoWriMo so I can work on the first of a serial-esque series. Then I should really finish that YA fantasy I’m halfway through.

What’s your opinion on the belief that indie books are badly edited and lower quality than traditionally published?

Oh, it’s true. But not true of every indie. The problem is sorting out who has taken the time to get professional editing and who hasn’t. Pulp Grind Press are actually one of a few small companies that works to help identify quality indie work, check them out if you have time.

What is your favourite genre to write, and why?

I feel like I have to say urban fantasy, given it’s my primary genre. But I don’t mean the type that’s just paranormal romance in the wrong section. I mean modern settings which involve fantasy.

If you could, would you live in the world you’ve created? Why / why not?

Caligation is gritty, dirty, dangerous and a political nightmare. But I’d love to be a feranthrope, so sure, why the hell not.

If you could go back to the start of your writing career, what is the one piece of advice you’d give yourself?

Learn to let things go sooner rather than later.

Do you listen to music when you write, and if so, what do you like?

Okay. I’ll try to be brief here. I love music. Years ago, my husband and I started using it for our tabletop sessions. We wrote scenes to certain songs and gave NPCs recognisable themes, etc. I do the same when I write. Each POV character in Caligation had a band that I’d listen to when I wrote their scenes, to get into the mood.

Ripley’s ‘theme’, so to speak, is Skin Graph by Silversun Pickups.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

That I don’t know shit about grammar. And that commas don’t go everywhere. Caligation was definitely a big step in my writing process.

Tell me three unique things about you.

(I’m terrible at these)

1) I’ve lived in 3 different countries but manage to only speak one language fluently.

2) I have pet rats, and love snakes and reptiles (though have never owned any).

3) My wedding dress was black.

Brhi, thank you for participating in Galaxy of Authors!

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