Welcome to the sixty-seventh of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, directors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. Today’s is with children’s / young adult author Bruno Stranges. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate the author further. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here.
Morgen: Hello Bruno. Please tell us how you came to be a writer.
Bruno: As a teacher I often use storytelling as a way to enhance my classroom lessons. Regardless of the subject, I found that storytelling was an excellent motivator for my students and helped to maintain interest. The summer after my first year teaching, I set a goal to write my first manuscript. I put my storytelling to the test and as a result Dr. SillyPants and the Secret Laboratory was created. I guess from then on I got the itch to write. It’s an itch I can’t scratch (I am currently working on 3 other manuscripts simultaneously) but I love it!
Morgen: Me too. (I wondered what that annoyance was :)) What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Bruno: Currently my focus is Children’s fiction (Juvenile, Middle Grade, Young Adult). I pride myself at being a young kid at heart, which has always helped me to relate with my students. I do have a number of ideas for screenplays, but that is for another life I guess.
Morgen: Or in between? Or maybe with a different name? 🙂 What have you had published to-date? If applicable, can you remember where you saw your first books on the shelves?
Bruno: Dr. SillyPants and the Secret Laboratory (Ebook, Young Adult Fiction – Action Adventure / Mystery). Mickey Angie Lowe and his Crazy Fantastic Doodle Pen (Middle Grade Fiction – Humour / Reluctant Readers).
Morgen: Wonderful titles. 🙂 How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Bruno: I spend countless hours advertising on the web. The Internet provides an abundance of opportunity for new authors to promote his or her work. I know that the completion of a novel is only half of a job done and there is much more work ahead if I want to build a following.
Morgen: That’s what I’ve found. Have you had any luck with competitions, and do you think they help with a writer’s success?
Bruno: I try to enter as many writing contests as possible (song lyrics, poetry, short stories etc.). Although I have won a few prizes and accolades for my work, I do not enter these contests for reward. I find that entering these contests helps to keep me sharp as a writer and if it is about a topic that I’m passionate about, it can be a whole lot of fun!
Morgen: It can. For me it gets me writing, and often about a topic I wouldn’t normally have thought of. And if I don’t get anywhere I still have the story (I very rarely do poetry) to submit elsewhere. A win win. Well, not exactly but… Are your books available as eBooks? If so what was your experience of that process? And do you read eBooks?
Bruno: I truly believe that ebooks will be the way of the future and the future is now. Amazon just reported that ebook sales are now outselling paperbacks. In schools, more and more students are reading electronic forms of books. Although I do own a Kindle, my wife is always hogging it so I don’t really get a chance to use it.
Morgen: I have no excuse; I live in a one-person one-dog house, and although he’s smart, he’s not that smart.
Bruno: I’ve decided that all of my works will be in ebook format at minimum price.
Morgen: I’m pretty sure that’s what I’ll do too. I was going to put the big chick lit at £2.99 but, following agent feedback (saying not to both with chick lit!), I’m going to split it into self-contained short stories instead (all but two chapters contained a different character so it’s feasible, I just need to select the best quirky guys :)), which is my first love anyway.
Bruno: The bottom line is that I want to promote reading – whether it is a paperback, ebook, magazine, blog or website. Reading is critical to achieving student success.
Morgen: So many authors (in these interviews and otherwise) have said that as a writer it’s vital to read. Changing the subject, have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Bruno: I have had a number of what I like to call ‘positive rejections’. It has always been characteristic of me to learn from my mistakes. Although I don’t view rejections as mistakes, I did use them as motivation and as a tool to learn the business better. There is a lot to be learned about the literary world. I feel that I know a whole lot more now, after all of the rejections, than I did when I first started out on my writing journey.
Morgen: That’s a great attitude to take. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Bruno: Farrah in Fairyland (Young Adult Fiction – Fantasy). This is my epic novel that takes up most of my time. Paulie Potatoes (Middle Grade Fiction – Mystery Humour). Volume 2 Mickey Angie Lowe and His Crazy Fantastic Doodle Pen.
Morgen: Do you manage to write every day? What’s the most you’ve written in a day?
Bruno: Yes I do try to write everyday to maintain my inner child. I wrote for 10 hours straight a few summers ago while up at a cottage. So peaceful – ideas flowed so freely that I didn’t want to stop out of fear that I would forget them.
Morgen: Wow. I may get away for my birthday to go somewhere and write but not sure where yet. What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
Bruno: Although I don’t really experience writer’s block, there are times when the words don’t come out quite the way I want. In the past I would stew for hours over this, now I have learned to just press pause on that section of the manuscript and move onto another. When my head is a little more clear I will then revisit the paused section. It is also common for me to bounce around between 2-3 manuscripts, which also help to keep things moving for me.
Morgen: Absolutely. The best way to keep fresh. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Bruno: I do a little bit of both. For some of my manuscripts (Dr. SillyPants and the Secret Laboratory) I will sit down and write a basic chapter-by-chapter summary. When I’m in a particularly crazy mood however, I like to sit down and just write to see what type of ride my mind will take me on. Mickey Angie Lowe and His Crazy Fantastic Doodle Pen was written in this style during a month of complete craziness.
Morgen: How do you create your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Bruno: I try to incorporate characteristics of the people I know in my own life into my manuscripts. I find that this helps to keep the characters genuine and hopefully relatable.
Morgen: They certainly sound amusing. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Bruno: I will re-write, re-work, edit and edit some more. I guess a writer is never really fully satisfied.
Morgen: But you have to learn when to stop. What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
Bruno: For me it is finding an uninterrupted time to write. Usually when my son is having his nap. Luckily, I am usually able to pick up where I left off and tap into my creative brain immediately.
Morgen: Me too generally. Do you write on paper or do you prefer a computer?
Bruno: Laptop, iPad, iPod – whatever electronic device I can get my hands on. My penmanship is horrible.
Morgen: Mine isn’t too bad, just slower. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Bruno: A combination of first person and third person. I haven’t tried second person, but I am wiling to try anything.
Morgen: It’s great! I love starting with random sentence starts (one that springs to mind is “As you stare at the old wooden box…”) – I’ve put loads on this blog’s sentencestarts page. 🙂 Do you use prologues / epilogues? What do you think of the use of them?
Bruno: I wrote a warning at the beginning of Mickey Angie Lowe and His Crazy Fantastic Doodle Pen. I wanted my readers to know write off the bat that this book was different than other books they have read in the past. I realize that most children would rather play video games than read a book, which is why I decided to interweave some entertainment throughout the story.
Morgen: You have to keep their attention and yes, it’s especially hard these days (unless they’re avid bibliophiles). What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Bruno: There isn’t enough time during the day to keep up with all the ideas that come to me.
Morgen: I hear that so often and know how it feels (late nights / early mornings so don’t suit me). If anything, what has been your biggest surprise about writing?
Bruno: I guess I have become a little bit of a perfectionist. I want to provide my readers with a quality story. I owe it to them, after all they could be reading or doing something else.
Morgen: Quality vs quantity every time. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Bruno: Tap into your inner creativity and never let it go. Look around, you never know what is going to inspire you.
Morgen: I was asked where I get my ideas from and some authors dread the question (I suppose they’ve been asked too many times). For me it comes from anything from a newspaper cutting to a splash of rain on the ground that looks like something. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how invaluable do you find them?
Bruno: Yes, I have a Facebook page, I tweet and I have a blog. As I stated earlier, if I am not using the web to promote my work, I’m not doing my job.
Morgen: That’s what I’ve learned… that you only really get out what you put in. Where can we find out about you and your work?
Bruno: My Blog: http://drsillypants.blogspot.com and Amazon Author’s Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B004X684TG
Morgen: What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Bruno: The future is bright for writers, we just have to go with the flow, stay one step ahead, not be afraid to take some risks and continue to be on the pulse of what readers want.
Morgen: Perseverance is key. Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Bruno: Excerpt from Mickey Angie Lowe and His Crazy Fantastic Doodle Pen:
The other children hate me, but I don’t really care. At first I used to care – I thought being popular was important. Then I saw how all those cootie-faced girls followed Franky Fingers everywhere he went. No thank-you!
It also doesn’t help that everyone is afraid of me – how ridiculous. Just because I bopped a kid or two in the head. Trust me, they deserved it, calling me Angie – I warned them that I hate the name. My name is Mickey Angie Lowe, but just call me Mic and we will have no problems.
Now most kids just leave me alone and this is fine by me. It leaves more time for me to doodle. Doodling is the best thing to do to get through those boring days at school. That is until one of my doodles went horribly wrong. This Viking Beast tried to eat me, strange looking birds tried to drop these massive boulders on my head, a weird-looking blubber guy followed me everywhere I went and I couldn’t find the portal to get back home!
Sorry I’ll get to that a little later in the book. That is if you can even call this a book at all. Sure there is writing, it has a cool cover and there is a story with many characters including heroes and villains. However, this is far from a normal book and far from a normal story. More accurately this is a crazy, high speed, sweat-seeping story.
Morgen: Great hook. We sympathise with the character straight away although I’m not a child I can still relate to him… that’s what works in a book. 🙂 Thanks Bruno.
B.R. Stranges is from Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. He dabbles in everything from short stories, to poetry, to song lyrics, to picture books, to all kinds of fiction, and movie scripts. He wishes his writer’s voice would give him a break every now and then, but, oh, who is he kidding – he loves it! Many of his story ideas are derived from his obsession with strange films and documentaries. His biggest inspiration however, is his students. Stranges has been an elementary school teacher for eight years and loves using his storytelling ability to motivate in the classroom.
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