Interview with Brian Black
Could you please give us a short introduction to who you are and what you’ve published so far?
Hi, my name is Brian Black. I’m mainly a science-fiction/speculative fiction author, but I will write whatever subject, setting, or genre I think makes for a good story. To date, I’ve only published the short story “Alpha Mower”, but more are to come.
What was your inspiration for 'Alpha Mower'?
Being woken up by my neighbor's lawn-mower at 7am one day. I covered my head with my pillow to try to drown out the sound, thinking to myself “Why does he have to mow his lawn now?!?” My next thought was that in the future we’re not going to mow our own lawns, we’ll have the lawn-mower equivalent of Roombas (which actually exist I found out later) to do this for us. Then I wondered what would happen if you put two of the Roombas in the same room. Would they fight over the territory? Cooperate? Get confused? I also remembered a study where robots who could learn learned to lie to each other (https://www.popsci.com/scitech/article/2009-08/evolving-robots-learn-lie-hide-resources-each-other). So, while all this is flying around in my head while I’m busy not sleeping, I asked myself what’d happen if you put two of those automated lawn-mowers on the same patch of lawn. Who would win? And then the title flashed into my head : The Alpha Mower would.
Do you do research before writing a book? How much, and how?
I probably should, and, for my first novel which is due to be set in Ancient Egypt, I will do some prior additional reading up on the subject. But, typically, I just aim to get the story down in the first draft and correct issues on subsequent drafts. If I find out that there’s a significant issue with some portion that constitutes a major issue in the story, I may end up needing to rework the plot. I’m early into my writing career, so, so far, that hasn’t happened yet.
I usually deal with any research during the process. For instance, in Alpha Mower, I had a vague notion of what weaponry the Protector mower should have. Originally, I wanted a straight laser. But on looking into the logistics of this, lasers with the capability to be used as weapons require HUGE power sources to be viable. So, I had to spend a day trying to find some alternative that could damage or even be a threat to the protagonist. I eventually settled on the Electro-Laser as I could visualize its use in the story and it was real-world viable.
How would you describe your daily writing routine?
I get up, turn up the thermostat, open the curtains, turn on music, and then make coffee. Coffee is my sanity; nothing happens before coffee! I then boot up my computer, open Firefox and Scrivener (my writing software which I highly recommend to any writers).
I had, for years, done Julia Cameron’s “Morning Pages” from her fantastic book “The Artist’s Way”. I used it for journaling, but, upon deciding to take up fiction writing again, realized it didn’t matter what specifically I wrote, so long as I did write. That then became the “tool” to address my writing.
I write first thing in the day, and the rest of the day follows after. Writing gets priority and I typically write at least 400 words before I’ll call it a day. I write more if I’m in the zone, or I really feel compelled that day, but, as long as I hit my word count, I can go into the rest of my day feeling productive.
Do you have any suggestions for those who are considering trying their hand at short stories?
When you get a funny fleeting idea for a story, write it down on a post-it note or in the notes app on your phone. It doesn’t have to be a big epic idea in order to be a good story. Let the idea run until it’s done. Not everything needs to be a 1000-page Stephen King novel. If the story is told well in 3 pages, so be it! If it takes 50, then it takes 50. Let the story itself dictate its length. You, the author, just have to be the one to carry it to the page. If you do this, the story will feel organic and won’t feel like there’s filler to the reader.
What are your most influential authors?
HP Lovecraft. Michael Moorcock, and Michael Crichton. And, I know this will polarize people, but Ayn Rand for the thoughtful component to her work, especially in The Fountainhead.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
Definitely the Elric of Melnibone series by Michael Moorcock. It’s a very brisk read. Moorcock has a much more compact prose than say an author like Tolkien. It feels like what he’s writing has a “punch” to it, and it definitely dances on the concept of morality of the main character Elric, who’s often working, against his will, for the gods of evil. I love that!
Also, I should give a nod to the book “Villains by Necessity” by Eve Forward for a similar reason. The heroes have won and the whole world’s gone good. So, it’s up to a team of the last remaining rogues on the planet to revert the balance. It was a good turning-on-its-ear of the standard fantasy tropes.
What are your plans for future projects?
I’m nearly finished with dark fantasy tragic short story titled “The Lich King”. I have another sci-fi piece titled “I Am President” on the first artificial intelligence president elected which had gained a lot of praise from the people who read and critiqued it. I had back-burnered it about 90 pages in, so I’ll probably get back to that once “The Lich King” is critiqued and edited. After that, I plan to begin a novel that I mentioned prior set in Ancient Egypt. And, beyond that? I have about 10 more short story ideas written down, so probably one or more of those. We’ll see!
Any last words, comments, suggestions?
Thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing from any of my readers. I can be reached on Twitter at @BrianBlackBooks. Have a great one!