Stephen L. Brayton and I came to be acquainted after I published the Author Interviews in December 2012. He is a member of WANATribe and friends with Athena Brady. He is a thrice published author as well as being a Fifth Degree Black Belt in taekwondo operating his own club in the American Midwestern state of Iowa. He describes himself in this way:
I’m a reader; a writer; an instructor; a graphic designer; a lover of books, movies, wine, women, music, fine food, good humor, sunny summer days spent hiking or fishing; and I’m a catnip drug dealer to my thirteen pound cat, Thomas.
In addition to his other activities and vocations, Stephen operates two blogs:
Brayton’s Book Buzz, where he reviews books of all genres.
Brayton’s Briefs, where he discusses writing and interviews other authors.
Direct links to his own published works can be found on his self-titled site, Stephen L. Brayton. This is where you can discover more about his books, Alpha, Beta, and Night Shadows.
As it seems to happen with all these interviews, this is a more in-depth read and will take a little more time. So, if you haven’t got the time now, please bookmark it to come back later with your favorite seasonal beverage and just sit and hang out with us a while. In the meantime, Alpha, is available on Amazon in either paperback or Kindle.
Q: What genres and authors do you like and what do you like about them?
Mysteries, thrillers, horror. I also enjoy the books relating tales of somebody’s pet, a saved animal or an owl and how that animal brings comfort and joy to the owner or others. I read to escape into adventure, to solve the puzzle, to laugh and be entertained. A good story, for me, has a bit of action, maybe some humor and develops the characters in a way you can watch the progression throughout the story and maybe make a connection, in some small way, to them. I latched onto Ellery Queen, Rex Stout, and Erle Stanley Gardner early. I’m fascinated by the use of language and description from different decades. Compare these with authors like Carter Brown, Day Keene and other pulp fiction writers.
I think what makes these and other authors worthwhile is that they are consistent with their characters. You know Nero Wolfe will always act the same way in every book, or Della Street will always have the same attitude with each Perry Mason novel. This allows the reader to enjoy the novels more. Also, in many cases, the reader will see, especially in spy novels or murder mysteries, that the good guys aren’t all good all the time and the bad guys-with exceptions, of course-aren’t all bad all the time.
Q: Have you always been a writer or known you wanted to be an author? When did you realize you had a book to share with the rest of us?
As a child I’d write skits for my sister and I to perform. I also wrote shorts stories, but I didn’t get serious about writing until after college when I completed a three part introduction to a comic book. Soon after, I wrote the first in what I wanted to evolve into a series concerning my high school classmates (fictionalized, of course). When I moved to Oskaloosa and started martial arts, the writing bug hit me again and I began a new project that I would eventually see to publication.
Q: What inspires you and influences what and how you write?
When I started writing the first draft of Alpha back in the middle 90’s, I thought about using a character I had created for some short stories I wrote in my younger days. However, seeing all of the wonderful and beautiful women involved in martial arts I changed the character to a female. I’ve taken my training and what I’ve learned from those women and put many of those characteristics into her.
Of course, I get a lot of support from my parents. Years ago my dad told me I should do something with my writing as I’d completed several short stories. He still wants me to submit the series of children’s stories I wrote.
Q: Is there a particular place or space you go to for inspiration or writing?
Normally, I write in the middle of the night at work when there is nobody around. It’s quiet and I can write for hours. During the spring and summer I’ll go out to the park. The outside, the fresh air, the sunshine all work wonders. If I could find a way to pack my writing gear and my fishing gear out to a lake or pond, and do it all efficiently with no mess, that would be perfect.
Q: Is writing your only creative outlet or are there other creative endeavors or interests you pursue or practice?
As mentioned earlier, I train in martial arts, specifically, taekwondo. I earned my Fifth Degree Black Belt in 2007 and started getting serious, again, about training and exercising, last year. I’ve worked hard to lose weight, build muscle and stamina. During some of the tough moments in my regimen, I think about what my main character, Mallory Petersen, would do. How she would look at me. What encouragement she would give. Sometimes I train to impress her, to make her proud, if that makes sense. I mentioned fishing earlier which helps me to relax. Sometimes, if I have no responsibilities for the evening, I’ll find either a campsite or drive to the river and spend time building a campfire. Just to relax and not think about anything of importance. I may contemplate a story idea or a scene, but my whole goal is just to be away from everybody and everything and just relax. I love the smell of smoke in my clothes and the fire crackling with the water nearby.
Q: How do you navigate and integrate the various roles and responsibilities in your life?
Sometimes I feel as if I’m rushed because I don’t plan ahead as well as I should. My schedule has me working through the night, sleeping during the day and three nights a week I have classes to instruct or a writers’ group to attend. Somewhere in the mix I have to eat and write and read. My days off aren’t regular so visits with family aren’t as often as I would like. Sometimes during my days off I spend the entire time at home, holed up with the cat playing couch potato. It’s tough, but this year I’ve determined to change things. Try to get rid of the clutter.
Actually, I’ve done a lot better job of developing a strategy for marketing for my books. With the second book I sweated through a blog tour that had me stressed. This time I’ve spread things out a bit, done more personal appearances. I can do that since this latest book is a paperback and not an eBook. I’m actually having fun with this one.
I think that’s the key. Having fun. I have fun instructing kids and adults in taekwondo – and believe me, there are days when I’d rather stay home – and I always feel good at the end of the evening when classes are over. I feel good when I’m done with my workouts because I know I’ve improved my health. I try to have fun in my job, as boring as the hours can be, by working on ways to become more efficient.
Q: How did the journey of writing and publishing this book grow or change you?
When I read the first couple chapters to a critique group back in 2000, I realized I had a lot to learn about writing. However, I had already done many things listed in the how-to books. For instance, I created a character profile for Mallory before I read it in a book that I should have one. It just made sense to me.
I learn from other writers since we’re all going through a similar process. Recently, from my latest critique group, I realized I had become too comfortable with Mallory, and have written her in a way that isn’t believable. I forgot she has failures and worries and does suffer. She’s isn’t superwoman and I can’t write her that way. I have to show she gets hurt and can come back from sometimes horrific events.
Q: How would you describe your life’s journey from a Healing and Recovery perspective?
Trying to find the right path for both. I’ve heard about, read about, and listen to many people’s opinions about the paths to happiness and contentment and though I agree with them I really haven’t found the right path for me. I’m constantly healing and recovering from one situation or another, much of it financially related.
Yes, I have God (although the relationship isn’t as good as it should be), and family, a few friends, but nobody really close to me. It’s difficult to express myself emotionally unless through my writing. Journals entries and stories. I’ve joked in other blogs about hoping pretty girls will knock on my door and invite them to say hello at me at book signings or conferences, but the truth is, I’d like someone special to hang around with, to share experiences with. My cat, as much of a buddy as he is, just doesn’t cut it. My family and friends go only so far. There are many times when I wish to be alone and will even leave town to be alone. I don’t want to be around people. But I remember how happy I was when I was in a relationship.
It’s tough and sometimes I don’t handle it very well. I’m smart enough not to delve into destructive practices (i.e. drug/alcohol) because they won’t solve the problem. But as I mentioned earlier, I’m still looking for the right solution. I’m the only one who can change things, but a little help from a girlfriend might make it easier. I see others with families and couples happy together and I want that.
Or maybe I’m full of crap and don’t know what I’m talking about and should learn to live and be happy with the way things are. I’m making light of the above. I could be right or wrong about the whole thing. See, I’m still looking for the right path.
9) Where did you get your strength and encouragement from when going through the experiences that brought you to where you are today?
A little help from friends and family and God. I’ve also learned not to be too disappointed when people don’t assist after they’ve offered or come through when expected. I’ve probably disappointed many people so I can’t come down on those who fail me. I work around it, try to make things happen by my actions.
I have a friend from high school. I won’t mention his name but I’ve turned to him and poured out my heart on several occasions. The best thing he has done for me is to listen and give it to me straight. Usually, what he tells me are things I already know but reinforcing. Maybe afterward I’ll feel better, and the next I’ll still falter, but the no nonsense words from him always help.
Q: What do you want readers to take away with them from reading your words?
My Mallory Petersen stories are action mysteries. There is some humor in the midst of the serious subject matters. Mallory revels in the highs and goes into a tailspin in the lows. I’ve taken her to some pretty devastating depths physically and emotionally. She suffers physical pain and emotional scars. However, she has a support team of students, instructors, an office manager, cops, and a boyfriend, all who are loyal and honest and will never let her down. She has an inner strength that has gotten her out of some tough scrapes and situations and though she may be affected by them, sometimes long term, she comes out on top.
I envy Mallory and want to be like her. I hope people can see what she endures and can look at their own world and to discover their own support team. Find their own inner strength. You may not win all of the time and may lose loved ones or friends. You may be criticized and shunned by your actions. But if you can come out on top and have a personal victory, that’s what counts. That’s what I teach in my taekwondo classes-a personal victory doesn’t have to shine or get you famous or rich, but it’s a victory nonetheless and you should be proud of it. Mallory faces daily challenges and sometimes she is hurt by what life throws at her. You face them too. Mallory also has a number of victories to celebrate and so should you.
Q: What other projects can we expect to see from you in the future or are already out there?
Well, my next Mallory book takes her down to her lowest level yet. This time, she won’t recover as quickly and probably will have problems for years to come because of what happens.
I’m also in the editing/rewrite stages of a mystery tentatively called New Year Gone, about a world weary PI looking for a missing teenager. This book was a complete change of characters from others I’ve written. Subtle humor, a lot of soul searching by the main character, his insights into the world and the people around him.
Oh, and I mustn’t forget the Mallory Petersen short stories to start in the May issue of Taekwondo Times Magazine.
This concludes this week’s Author Interview with Stephen L Brayton. I hope you all enjoyed reading it and will visit Stephen on his blogs and website. Also, please check out his books, specifically Alpha on Amazon.