I present you with the latest victim of my random questions author Neil Christiansen.
‘Neil Christiansen has a way with words and imagery that pulls you into the gritty underworld of Chicago, in his modern noir thriller Dark White. Dynamic characters finding their way through the gray landscape of morality. Hold on it’s quiet the ride.’ -My Review of Dark White
Why do you write? Everyone asks this question and I don’t really understand it. I don’t think people ask singers why they sing or bricklayers why they lay bricks. I write because I’m compelled to. I have stories in my head and they belong on paper. I hope people read them and like them, but even if they don’t I still have to write them.
What do you get out of it? At the moment I get pride and my own satisfaction. I also get grief from my family…
The exploration of unique voices in storytelling is back for another Hall of Information Interview. On this occasion we are joined by author Brooklynn Dean who has mastered depth and symbolism in her unique books. From magical realism to rock and roll, you’ll find a lot more in her words than just a story.
Q1. Let’s talk about your unique writing style. Most stories have nowhere near as much depth or inner meaning as ‘The Word of the Rock God’. Part of that depth is a moral story which centres around the themes of good versus evil, temptation and even purity. This is merged with the life of a touring rock band. What influenced you to find and write this story?
“Wow, I feel very complimented by this question! Thank you for saying so.”
“Honestly, I’ve always been interested in Christianity generally and Catholicism specifically as a theological topic of study. I find the lore of the Bible so interesting— the spiritual rules/regulations, the various creatures, the way angels are meant to interact or not interact with humans, angels mutating into demons when they disobey, etc. so when I write magical realism, divine creatures are always my go-to.”
“One night I was driving home from a concert, listening to Palaye Royale, and their song “How Do You Do?” shuffled on. The first line “good morning, how do you do? I’ve been up all night looking for you.” struck me, and I began visualizing a scene in which a stranger might sit down before a person and say these words. Who would this stranger be? Why would she have been searching out this person.
“Having just seen a show, I imagined that person as a rock star. I couldn’t see the stranger who had been stalking him as just a regular old fan of his band, though, and my interests in mythology and Christianity quickly crafted this woman into a demonic figure. But then, why would a demon want him? Well, for his platform, of course, and to use to corrupt as many souls as possible, but why him? What’s so special about his platform? I won’t say here because I don’t want to give away spoilers, but the concepts of morality and good and evil have simply always been intriguing to me. And I love shy, sweet innocent men. I don’t think they get enough credit in media; often they’re relegated to being the butt of a joke or a sidekick, and that doesn’t fly with me.“
“Given that my stalker-character was demonic, it just seemed to me that Max’s innocence should’ve stemmed from his faith. I really don’t feel like I create the characters as much as I discover them. They exist somewhere separate from me, even though that place is inside my mind, and I feel like I sit down with them and let them tell me their stories.“
“One thing that seemed as important to Max as it is to me is the concept of fate and destiny. I imagine we all have a certainty destiny laid out for us, but I vehemently believe that our free will allows us to step outside of what’s been written in the stars for us if we decide to. It was important for me to express that in the text.”
I very much believe that also, we all have the ability to change the stars. It’s very interesting to see how you constructed the story, it kind of makes even more sense now. For anyone who hasn’t read ‘The Word of the Rock God’ I highly recommend it – here’s my recent review.
Q2. Are there similar themes in your other works? Please tell us more about them?
“A theme I touch on in The Word of the Rock God that I really delve into in Amethyst, 2288, and in my brand new work, Deification, is celebrity and idolization. In Rock God, Max wonders why people are his fans— do they dig into the messages of his songs and lyrics and admire him for what he’s saying, or do they simply see him as a modern deity? Do they admire him because he’s elevated above them on a stage? Does what he say matters or is it simply that he’s got a microphone in which to say it? I think we live in a society that raises us to believe we aren’t good enough (mostly for monetary gain by the major corporations of the world), and when you couple this almost-brainwashing insecurity with the loss of God (or any other deity) it creates a hole that can only be filled with the admiration of another person.”
“I think we enjoy loving each other and praising each other and feeling camaraderie— humans are social animals!— but if we feel inferior while praising someone else, we start to see them as superior to us. Celebrities have very much become modern gods, in my opinion. That’s why Amethyst’s tagline “you’re not god, but your my god” exists as it does. Our main character is extremely pessimistic and nihilistic, so when she sees someone creative and beautiful, she can’t believe he’s human. She immediately puts him on a pedestal instead of focusing on her own creative energy and becoming the god of her own life herself.”
“In 2288, this idea of hero-worship is extended to a dystopian state wherein creatives are classified as Elite and everyone is simply The Citizenship.”
These stories sound awesome. Most books have nowhere near that much depth (including mine)…
Q3. Tell us about your newest release ‘Deification’?
“Deification is most certainly an exploration of Christian creatures. As I’ve said, angels and demons and the anti-Christ are all such intriguing concepts to me. I love the idea of a great End of Days where these creatures mingle with humans on earth, where earth as we know it, is gone.”
“But my main character stemmed from a reading of A Clockwork Orange where I paused to ask myself why isn’t the evil gang leader-murderer ever a woman? Just as I enjoy giving shy guys a spotlight, I very much enjoy giving bold, unsympathetic, selfish women a place to exist too. So Torrence stepped forth from my subconscious and said, “Hey, I’ve got a tale for you. Here’s my life story.””
“I almost always find myself relating to the male character in movies which feature both male and female leads, so I try to write men and women the way I’d relate to them. It’s not the traditional view of gender norms, but I’m writing for the people who don’t see themselves in those traditional roles.”
Q4. I’ve seen on social media you mention reading the work of Anne Rice, do you have any book recommendations from authors you follow and what genres you enjoy?
“I absolutely adore Anne Rice, yes. Since so much of my answers feature idolization and worship, I’ll be the first to admit that she is my god. No doubt about it.”
“I absolutely would recommend your work, Lee, and have done so to quite a few people! I also enjoy the work of Jeremy Megargee and Gillian Dowell, two fellow indie writers whose works deserve attention.”
“Genre-wise, literary fiction is my go-to. I love purple prose, flowery language, sentences that last for paragraphs (shocker considering the length of my answers, huh?) I think everyone should sit down with a book that explores the inner-workings of the characters minds as much as it does the action of the plot. Reading a stranger’s work can become very personal when you realize how deeply the two of you can connect over whatever innately human emotion or thought or concern a fictional character is going through.“
Thank you for mentioning my work and of course recommending it. Much like you I’m all about proper sentences and the characters!
Q5. Moving away from writing and books briefly, what other interests do you have?
“Music is extremely important to me. You’ve read Rock God so I’m sure you might’ve imagined that already. I love how deeply connected, much in the way of books and writing, music and lyrics can make you feel to people you’ve never met before. I can’t tell you how many dear friends I’ve made at concerts— oh, hey, we both like Ice Nine Kills and you drove 3 hours to be here and I drove 2 and a half, and we know nothing else about each other but for the next hour we are going to drink and sing and laugh and enjoy our shared experience here. That’s beautiful. I think because of concerts, music offers a connection other art forms aren’t necessarily able to.”
“Outside of music, I love comic cons. I’m a total nerd. Give me conventions, give me horror movies, give me cosplay. I love it all.”
“And of course, I’m obsessed with cats.”
Beautiful indeed. Nothing beats live entertainment and the energy of a crowd.
Q6. Tea, coffee, beer or wine?
“Tough choice as I love three of the four. We can definitely get rid of beer. Reluctantly I’ll give up tea. I do love wine, but I’m not sure I’d survive without coffee. If I have to choose between the two, I’ll take the coffee. But this question is evil. Haha.”
Q7. Are you a morning person or a night owl?
“Absolute night owl! I hate mornings.”
Q8. You have quite an impressive social media following. What’s your strategy when it comes to social media and does it play a part in selling books?
“I can’t say I have any real strategy. I’ll post or tweet something I think is hilarious or artistic and see a much smaller response than something I was hesitant to post at all will get. I think a big thing for me is my ability to talk to anyone as if they’re my best friend. I know a lot of writers and readers are introverted, so me saying GO TALK TO EVERYONE isn’t exactly helpful. But I really think “be yourself” is an overused cliche for a reason. When you’re fully accepting of who you are and what you like and what you think, it’s very easy for other people who enjoy those same things to find you. I’m not sure if it plays into my book sales. I have friends who buy everything I’ve ever created, and I’ve become friends with people because they’ve read my books and reached out to let me know. I like to think I’m logical and intelligent, but truly I just kind of float through life on gut feelings and meditation, and it works out pretty well for me! I know some people probably cringe at the aloofness of that ramble. I’m kind of a hippy that way.”
Excellent advice and outlook. I’m kind of just winging it on social media…
Q9. What projects are you currently working on and what can we expect to see next from Brooklynn Dean?
“I’m revisiting an old manuscript I wrote back in 2016-2017ish. It features my trademark shy guy and assertive woman pairing. It’s paranormal. A thriller of sorts, I suppose, though I’d like to try my hand at something romantic.”
Sounds awesome, looking forward to it!
Q10. Finally, a question that I ask all interviewees. If there is one sentence of advice you would give someone with dreams of becoming a writer, what would you say?
“Writing is an art form and you know your story better than anyone, so don’t let people force their own “rules” on you.”
Great advice! Thank you Brooklynn Dean for taking the time to share an insight into your unique world of story telling.
The venture of discovering unique voices extends into the important world of book blogging for this Hall of Information Interview. Blair Leftly from Feed the Crime is a prolific blogger who has contributed so much to the writing community through her passion for reading and reviewing. Her efforts have guided many readers and helped many authors including myself. It’s incredibly important that bloggers who work so hard get the coverage they deserve.
Q1. Let us jump right in and talk about reading. You dedicate an impressive amount of time to books. Have you always been an avid reader? And how many books do you read on average a month?
“For as long as I can remember I’ve always read, in school we used to have silent reading time which now looking back I seemed to be the only one who looked forward to it. My reading has taken a nose dive these last few months, I used to read at least 10 books a month where as I’m struggling to even read 1 book a week at the minute. I think I put too much pressure on myself to read a large amount each month and it’s taken it’s toll. I need to remember that it doesn’t matter how much I read each month just as long as I’m enjoying what I do read.”
1 book a week is still an incredible feat!
Q2. Of course you review these reads via your Feed the Crime blog. Please tell us more about your blogging efforts?
“I’m not afraid to admit that sometimes I find it hard to pull inspiration for enough blog posts to post each week so that is why I do take part in book memes such as Top 5 Saturday and Down The TBR Hole, they are the posts I love reading each week so it makes sense for me to take part in them. I’ve not been blogging as much the last few weeks, there’s so much going on in the world right now, I work my ass off in the lab and I’m moving house on the 25th. I love my blog and I never want it to feel like a chore, so if I don’t have enough time for everything right now then I’m ok with that, after all we’re only human.”
Q3. In recent times, you’ve branched out to read other genres as opposed to crime fiction. What other genres do you enjoy?
“Until last year I had only ever read crime fiction hence the name, however the blogging world showed me all these amazing books that have never even been on my radar before and it was so exciting! I found out that I love fantasy, sci-fi and I’d never read a vampire novel until your book Darke Blood which completely took me by surprise. My two favourite books of the year so far are actually fantasy which I never would have expected!”
Thank you for mentioning ‘DB’, of course the unexpected can bring wonderful things especially when it comes to reading.
Q4. Feed the Crime is very close to an incredible 1000 followers. What does it take to achieve such an impressive following?
“I didn’t actually get involved with the blogging community that much for the first year as I was too nervous and felt that I would never be able to fit in. I finished the first year with less than 50 followers. I think I started gaining followers more consistently from the beginning of 2019 as that’s when I was posting 3/4 times a week, as well as participating in weekly book memes and blog tours, I was starting to put my blog out there. I still can’t believe the number of followers, I used to go on all the blogs with 1000+ followers and just think there’s no way I will ever get there and now it’s so close to happening.”
That is quite incredible and goes to show that consistent content and participation work in building a following!
Q5. Where did blogging begin for Blair?
“I first started my blog in September 2017 not long after I started having seizures, I had to leave my job as I worked in a children’s play centre and I had 2 fits in front of children. When it was diagnosed as epilepsy I had to surrender my driving license and sell my car, so I was in a really low place with too much time in my head. My friend suggested that I find somewhere to review all the books that I’d been reading and after some research that’s how Feed The Crime happened.”
Q6. Moving away from books and blogging, do you have any interests outside of being an awesome blogger? You’ve mentioned WWE once or twice; something I used to follow religiously and more casually these days. Do you have a favourite WWE performer?
“I don’t have very many interests outside of books and blogging to be honest. Me and my partner have been to see WWE live here in Liverpool twice and it was an amazing experience, we were stood at the ramp so we were able to see each performer up close, it’s something I will never forget. In terms of favourite performer, that’s like asking me to pick my favourite book I can’t just have one haha!”
“Female I would say Becky Lynch, I loved her old steampunk style and lass kicker attitude. Male I have two, Roman Reigns and Goldberg they are just legends no doubt about it.”
Excellent choices. I will have to agree with you on Becky Lynch, she is the lass kicker!
Q7. Tea, coffee, beer or wine?
“Hmmm this is a tough one it definitely depends where I am, at home I drink gallons of tea, if I’m catching up with friends or writing blogs in coffee shops then I normally drink a Caramel Macchiato. Of course after a stressful day or week at work then a cold beer is just what the doctor ordered!”
Q8. Back to books. Do you have a short list of must read books that everyone should experience?
“The books that I think are must reads won’t be to everyone’s taste, so I’ve picked 4 different genres.”
– “The Joona Linna series by Lars Kepler (This my favourite translated series that I would love to see more people read)”
– “You Let Me In by Lucy Clarke (This had me hooked and I was stood up shouting by the end)”
– “The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson (He is my favourite non-fiction author, If you love Louis Theroux documentaries then you need to read his books)”
– “The Teleporter by Lee Hall (Of course I had to include this book as I had so much fun reading it, it’s hard for a book to make me laugh but this did it!)”
Its an honor to be a part of this list. thank you.
Q9. What are you currently reading/plan to read next?
“I’m currently listening to the audiobook of Written in Blood by Chris Carter which is number 11 in the Robert Hunter series. The series as a whole is addictive but extremely gruesome and not for the faint-hearted!”
Q10. And finally, in one sentence, what advice would you give to someone just starting their blogging journey?
“Don’t ever feel alone, embrace the book community, find blogs that interest you and comment on them, you can make so many friendships that way, also don’t be afraid to ask questions.”
Wonderful advice and a unique insight into reading and book blogging from Blair of Feed the Crime. Thank for sharing and for the continual support of the writing and blogging community.
An inspiring array of modern life lessons told from experience with a spiritual outlook…
From the opening pages its clear to see that Donald Lee is a tenured teacher and has used his many experiences to create what is a gem of a book about so much in life with music/performance teaching being the theme.
It consists of short parables that present readers with insightful lessons on many different subjects ranging from time management, knowledge, belief, having fun, performing, forgiveness, failure and so much more (50 in total) – all of which come from the authors time spent teaching band. Every parable begins with a quote from an inspirational figure and closes with a reflection that galvanizes the lesson and an overall insight on each subject. The main insight is spiritual growth and this book will help you look towards being happier, peaceful and successful in whatever you tackle.
There are a heap of self help and spiritual type books out there that cater to certain subjects but this one you’ll find has mass appeal across ages, beliefs and walks of life to provide spiritual insight on ourselves and others. It’s inclusive to anyone much like music and teaching. Everyone will find something to relate to in this book that has meaning and inspiration because we are all in the big band of life together!
‘What you seek is within you, not without you…’
5 Stars – I thoroughly enjoyed this. Thank you to the author for reaching out and providing a copy in exchange for a review – all thoughts are my own! Reviews left via amazon and Goodreads…