An Interview with Charlie Brooks
I emailed Charlie Brooks a couple months back, and he sent me the answers to these questions…and then I promptly lost his email in a flood of other emails about other topics. However, I DID put on my calendar that his next book is coming out June 20th, and seeing that reminded me that I had this email tucked away somewhere. Yay.
AW: Which author wasn’t your greatest inspiration, but did make you think, “Maybe I could be an author”?
Charlie: Even though I don’t think I’ve read any of his novels, John Grisham. I watched him give an interview in which he discussed the value of having another job so you don’t have to rely on writing to pay the bills early on. Had I not understood that and believed that you had to either be a career writer or nothing, I probably wouldn’t have persevered once I realized that fiction wasn’t going to pay my bills.
AW: Tell me about the first time you thought, “Wow. I’m a real author!”
Charlie: My short story “Fantasy as you Like It” was accepted for publication in the 2006 Chaffin Journal. When I got my copy, I noticed a little asterisk by the title that indicated it had won the Chaffin Award for Fiction. It was the first time I realized that my stories could stand out and speak to people on a deep level.
AW: What’s the oddest part about your routine that you simply must do in order to sit down and write?
Charlie: I get most productive if I write away from home. This might mean bringing my laptop with me on the bus, or sitting down before work and hammering out a few pages. When I worked at a convenience store, I scribbled down chapters in pen on blank receipt tape. In finishing the draft of my first novel, Shadowslayers, I booked an hour at a public library so I could hammer out the last few pages away from the comforts of home.
AW: What is your biggest writing obstacle?
Charlie: I hit major blocks when I try to think of what will sell first. Worrying about whether a piece might get picked up by a publisher causes me to doubt myself during the early stages of a draft and keeps me from pushing things the way I should. I’m much better if I tune the idea of making a sale out and focus on the fiction itself.
AW: How do you prefer to network, and what impact do you think those avenues have had on your sales?
Charlie: I enjoy multi-author events, either at bookstores or libraries. They give me a chance to share my work with an audience, chat with other authors, and hear about others’ experience in the industry. Often, we wind up swapping signed copies of books, so I expand my reading list while also meeting new friends and reaching out to a new audience.
AW: What is one mistake you’ve made in your publishing career that you’d like to warn other authors off of?
Charlie: The biggest mistake I made was not fully vetting the publisher of my first novel, Shadowslayers. I was so excited to get an acceptance letter, and I thought it was my big break. I’m proud of the novel, but the editing process was rushed and the paperback was done on the cheap. The cover image is badly pixelated and the glue binding fell apart easily.
The publishing company was very dodgy about paying royalties and ultimately wound up as the target of a criminal investigation. In the end, I wound up giving up my royalties in order to get the publication rights to the book back as the company went under.
It’s very tempting to immediately sign a publishing contract when it finally comes your way. But make sure to vet the publisher.
AW: Is there any advice you’d like to give to a new writer?
Charlie: Read, write, and learn. The more focused you become at writing, the more you notice literary techniques that you might have otherwise missed. It’s like watching a magic show after you’ve learned some sleight of hand—suddenly, you can spot the razzle dazzle that you missed before.
AW: What are you currently reading?
Charlie: I’m reading L. Frank Baum’s Oz series as bedtime stories to my kids. I’m currently up to the seventh book, The Patchwork Girl of Oz. In some future story, I hope to catch the magical logic and sense of whimsy that Baum brought to each book in the series.
AW: Have any super fans found you yet, and if so, what sort of things have they done that seem surreal to you!
Charlie: One of my son’s classmates read the Greystone Valley series, gave me feedback, and has been encouraging me to write a third novel. Every time I do a book signing, I usually get to sit down with one or two kids who get really engaged and tell me about everything they’re current reading. Avid young readers are probably the most interesting people on the planet.
AW: When people read your books, what do you want their greatest take-away to be?
Charlie: No matter what kind of story I tell, I want the audience to understand why I told it. The goal might have been just to throw some pretty-sounding words together, or I might be trying to make people deeper truths about themselves. Even if I fail to make a cogent point, I at least want readers to understand why I wrote a piece.
You can read my review of Greystone Valley here.
Charlie Brooks is an award-winning author, avid comic book collector, husband, father, and lifelong Vermonter. His accolades include the Chaffin Award for Fiction for his short story “Fantasy as you Like It” (published as Charlie Martin) and the New Millennium Writings Fiction Award for his tale “Eight-Bit Heaven.” In addition to a wide array of magazine articles, short stories, and gaming products, his novels include the fantasy epic Shadowslayers, the dystopian sci-fi story Reality Check, and a pair of young adult fantasy novels: Greystone Valley and Conquest of Greystone Valley. For a full listing of publications, awards, and musings, please visit ChBrooks.com.
You can find Charlie:
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Hello! I’m Adriel Wiggins, wife, mother of three, bibliophile, art geek, and all around student. I’ve been on a quest all of my life to learn as much as I possibly can about everything I possibly can. This has helped me tremendously in what eventually became my life’s purpose: to help other people become the best version of themselves. It is in that line that I became an assistant.
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