Posted on April 16, 2019 at 8:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek
Today we're interviewing Brandon Zenner, an Amazon bestselling author whose genres of choice are thrillers, crime, dystopian, science fiction, and anything with a psychological edge.
His short fiction has been published in both print and online publications, the first being submitted when he was 19 years old.
The Experiment of Dreams, his debut thriller, has reached Amazon's best seller list many times.
His second novel, Whiskey Devils, was a first place winner in the American Book Fest's Best Book Awards.
The After War, a post-apocalyptic thriller, was a semi-finalist in the BookLife Prize in Fiction, a contest run by Publishers Weekly, a finalist in the Eric Hoffer Book Award, and a finalist in the Red City Review Book Award.
SADYE: What has been the most touching or memorable piece of reader feedback you’ve received?
BRANDON: I think my favorite piece of feedback came from an editor working on The After War.
There are several villains in that book, with a man named Karl Metzger as perhaps the most sinister.
On one of her last days editing, she told me that she had a nightmare involving Karl Metzger.
I thought that was awesome. Not that I want to give people nightmares, but the fact that my characters elicit that kind of response is a good sign.
One of the more positive forms of reader feedback came from a research doctor, who asked permission to quote from The Experiment of Dreams during a speech he was giving on sleep science.
I was surprised, to say the least. The book is fiction, but much of the science presented is possible.
He was curious about the machine in the book used to record dreams. Who knows, maybe one day it will be possible!
SADYE: Tell us something about your writing process that’s unusual or that you haven’t revealed before.
BRANDON: For anyone who’s read my books, it’s no surprise that I like music.
I mention specific artists here and there, and several of my characters are enthusiasts for classical.
When I’m writing, I listen to classical music exclusively. I like it low in the background, and tend to prefer quieter violin and piano sonatas, instead of whole orchestras.
Mendelssohn, Chopin, Camille Saint-Saens, Schubert, and Beethoven have all had an impact on my writing.
Classical invokes strong emotion, but I’ve experienced many other random bits of inspiration from various genres, and sometime allude to their songs in my books.
For example, I went through a Pixies revival when I was developing Butcher Rising. I named an important location Marianna after their song, "Wave of Mutilation."
I was listening to that song, loud, while mowing my lawn, and all at once, the basic outline of how the book should be laid out rushed in my mind.
Now, whenever I hear that song, I distinctly remember the words being formed in my head, the hot sun with a gentle wind that still held a few cool notes from the early spring, and the smell of freshly cut grass mixed with the exhaust of the mower.
SADYE: Which of your characters would you most and least like to trade places with?
BRANDON: I really put my characters through hell. None of them have an easy go of things.
I tend to have an affinity with the depraved, and that comes across in a lot of my characters.
That being said, there are two who I enjoyed writing very much.
Simon Kalispell, from The After War, is one. He’s smart, young, and caring. He’s also strong, although he doesn’t understand the extent of his strength.
The other is Evan Powers, from Whiskey Devils. Evan, or simply Powers, as he is often called, is the only character in my novels that was written in first person.
It let me really get inside his head and understand his thoughts and emotions (yeah, I know, that basically means I got inside my own head, but you get the point).
Powers is something of a hippie, and has a laid-back life drinking beer and helping his roommate grow pot.
But then the Russian mob shows up, so I guess not all of his life is fun and games.
As far as what character I’d least like to trade places with, that’s tough. A lot of bad things happen in my books.
In The After War, there is a band of terrible mercenary-like survivors who do horrific things.
Some of them become pray to a man called the Doctor, who has psychopathic tendencies. I think I would least like to trade places with anyone he’s encountered.
In comparison to many of the other villains and murders that he takes up with, the Doctor has no semblance of humanity and revels in extended forms of anguish.
Yeah, I wouldn’t want to be any of his victims.
SADYE: What message or theme would you like readers to take away from your work?
BRANDON: Each book is different. For the most part, I just want to tell a compelling tale, a story that the reader will enjoy.
I did put a little extra thought when I wrote The After War and included some inspirational lines and thoughts about the nature of war.
Much is told through Simon Kalispell, who is not only a survival expert, but has a searching soul, very much interested in Buddhist philosophy.
I allude to the never-ending circle of violence, and how a new way of thinking would have to be attained in order to properly encourage a stop to it all.
This is something of an impossible task, especially given the circumstances, living two years after the fall of society.
SADYE: What experience in your past or general aspect of your life has most affected your writing?
BRANDON: Traveling has had a huge impact in my life and my writing.
I’ve been lucky to have traveled across country twice when I was younger, once with two friends, and then a second time alone.
I had little responsibility back then and no real time frame to return, although both trips were about a month long.
Many of the experiences I had camping in national parks, drinking with locals, seeing Indian reservations, and crossing large cities, come out in my writing.
There’s a scene in Whiskey Devils when a magnificent heat-lightning storm illuminates Devils Tower in Wyoming at night. That really happened.
I’ve re-created that scene in other areas of the world in my books, with colossal storms ringing across valleys and mountain ranges.
It was, and will probably always be, the most intense form of nature at its most awesome that I will ever witness.
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