Today on the blog, I’m privileged to interview indie author Brian McBride! Brian has written two books and is avidly working on more. His debut has even won a few awards, which is incredible! Hope you enjoy the interview, and be sure to check out Brian’s books!
When did you first decide you wanted to write? Was it your first career choice or were you planning on doing something else?
B: I was probably 9 or 10 when I first decided I wanted to write my own stories. They were short children’s books about a boy and his horse solving crimes together. Very much unlike anything I write today. Haha! It wasn’t until I finished and self-published a MG Fantasy novel at 16 that I realized I really wanted to make this one of my careers. I never really saw being an author as being out-of-reach – not with the rise of the independent publishing industry these days. So, that’s always been something I’ve just known I was gonna be one day. Although, there have been long spans of time – years, even – where I was not actively working toward that. Once I published my YA debut, Love and the Sea and Everything in Between, it really pushed me to begin taking writing and publishing as seriously as I take my day job.
When did you first publish? Had you planned on self-publishing or going through a traditional publisher first?
B: I was 16 when I published for the first time – a MG fantasy named Paradox. It’s since been taken out of print, but I’m sure you can still find some of the original printings on Amazon. (I plan on doing a complete overhaul of the series in the next couple of years, though!) I briefly considered trying to get agented, but I knew my odds were slim. My grandmother, also a writer, told me about a self-publishing company that I ultimately ended up going through. It was expensive, but a good experience because now I know not to go through a self-publishing house ever again.
For my YA debut, I did query to 20 different agents and small houses. I received feedback from maybe 5 of them. Much of it was constructive and actually helped me edit Love and the Sea to make it better. In the end, I realized the appeal of publishing my novel independently. My royalties are better. I don’t have to compromise any factor of the story to fit the molds of a bit publishing house. I have complete control. Of course, there’s downsides to it to. Like, I’m responsible for 100% of the marketing. But I’m willing to put in the work.
Did you enjoy your self-publishing experience?
B: I’ve worked with various self-publishing streams, so I feel like I’ve kinda got a look at how each one works and what works best for me. I’ve tried self-publishing houses like Outskirts Press; the kind where you pay them $1500 to format, market, and distribute your book. But your royalties are so low that you’d have to sell a thousand copies just to break even. I’ve worked with Barnes & Nobles’ imprint, IngramSpark. Their quality is great! But their turnaround time is slow and their royalty percentages are poor. I’ve sold $200 worth of hardcovers for my most recent release, Every Bright and Broken Thing, but I’ll only get $45 of that for myself. Finally, I landed on Amazon KDP as my primary avenue of publication. Your royalties are as high as 70%, the publishing process is streamlined. While it’s harder to communicate with their customer service than it is with IngramSpark (who, btw, have worked very well with me!), the process is a lot easier to follow. Biggest let-down is that they don’t offer hardcovers yet! Otherwise, I’d be fully onboard with KDP. For now, I’ll go halfsies.
As far as the enjoyment goes? Yes! I enjoy it! It’s hard work, but it feels good. Any time you make a sale, you feel like you personally have accomplished something. I have fun formatting the interiors and designing my covers. I enjoy researching marketing techniques. And the feeling of setting it all up through your self publishing platform? There’s nothing like it!
You have two books out currently, is that correct? Can you give us a summary of what both are about?
B: Yes, my debut YA Contemporary novel, Love and the Sea and Everything in Between is about a college student – Adam – who is about to take his own life. When he meets the new girl – Liz – he decides to go on one last adventure with her. Soon, they realize that they’re each burdened by their pasts and they’ll each have to learn how to let themselves heal.
My sophomore novel, Every Bright and Broken Thing, is about two brothers – Liam (16) and Ezra (24) – in the wake of the loss of their mother six years ago. Liam feels abandoned by his brother, who went off to college right after their mother died. Meanwhile, he harbors a secret trauma. Ezra feels ashamed for failing to be there for his family, for failing to be the man he felt he was supposed to be. Struggling with the aftermath of decisions made, they ultimately have decide if they’re ready to come home, or if they’re going to keep running.
Are you working on anything new at the moment? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it or would you rather keep it under wraps?
B: “That’s my secret, Cap. I’m always…” working on something new. (Sorry. I had to!) So, I’m currently editing + recruiting beta readers for my third YA Contemporary novel, Sons of Slaughter. Also drafting my fourth YA novel – a thriller called Pack Animals. Sons of Slaughter is about two best friends in a small Pacific Northwest town who want to dream big, but don’t believe it’s possible. Beck battles a drunken, abusive step father. Dean grapples with the aftermath of his failed suicide attempt – word travels fast in a small town. With a literary twist, it’s a story about the battlefields that lie both within and around us. Pack Animals is about four high school outcasts in New Mexico who, after the school shooting that took the life of one of their friends, decide to take justice into their own hands and purge their town of crime. Donning their disguises and an assortment of weapons, they learn just how far they’re willing to go to keep the ones they love safe.
What inspires you to write?
B: Lots of things! Sons of Slaughter was inspired 3-4 years ago by a picture I saw on Pinterest of two boys sitting in a field of grass looking out at the foggy woods. Pack Animals was inspired by an episode of NCIS about a neighborhood “superhero” group. Love and the Sea was inspired by my own experiences at my freshman year of college. For me, anything and everything can serve as inspiration! Pinterest is a huge source of it for me! But other art forms – books, movies, and shows – are as well!
Who are some authors that inspire you to become a better writer?
B: Big name authors? Pierce Brown, John Green, Ted Dekker, Travis Thrasher.
Lesser-known authors in my own personal circle? Matthew Dawkins, Olivia J Bennett, Brittney Kristina, Erin Forbes, CG Drews, Angela R Watts, and many more!
Do you have a favorite character you’ve written thus far?
B: I think Beck from Sons of Slaughter has been one of the most interesting and downright arresting characters I’ve written. But I have a soft spot for Liam from Every Bright and Broken Thing because he just needs a hug and some hot cocoa. Oh, and Theo from Every Bright as well, because he’s a side character that completely took me by surprise.
What is the hardest part about writing for you?
B: Finding the time! I work full time Monday – Friday and serve at my church on the weekends. So, often, my writing is scattered between when and where I can find the time. But, hey, it works!
How would you describe your writing style?
B: I would describe it as abrasively poetic. 🙂 I feel like, especially in Sons of Slaughter, I have this way of working words like “war, jagged, rip, bullet, bomb, howl” into a paragraph while making it read like a work of art.
Do you have a favorite snack or drink you enjoy while writing?
B: Iced Tea and Cheeze-Its!
Just because I’d like to include it for readers’ purposes, what would you say your target audience is for your books? Is there any content I should warn readers about?
B: My target audience is probably, based on the age of my characters and the issues they deal with, 14-28. Issues like domestic violence, sexual abuse/assault, depression, self-harm, anxiety, and unplanned pregnancy are just some of things that I deal with in my books.
What is some advice you can give aspiring authors out there that you wish you had known when you began your writing and publishing journey?
B: Just write. If a story isn’t flowing, right the story that’s burning on your heart! Every book I’ve written so far was set aside at some time or another as I worked on other stories. Eventually, I finished one and found that I was ready to work in the other one I had set aside. I think a lot of authors tell you to stay committed to one story, not to draft multiple stories at once. But I disagree! Writing a story that you’re stuck on or burned out on is sure to bring your creative juices to a grinding halt! So, just write. Whatever you’re inspired to write at any given time.
I’ve been following your author platform on Instagram for a little while now, and you’ve mentioned more than once how personal your books are to you. Would you mind elaborating more on this, just since I’m curious? Is it your characters that are incredibly personal to you, or your story settings, or the messages in your books, etc?
B: It’s all of the above depending on the story. Love and the Sea was based on my own college experiences and experiences with depression. In Every Bright, both brothers are practically an extension of me. And Sons of Slaughter is set in my hometown and both characters and the things they face are an extension of my own life journey.
What do you consider your definition of success, as an author? Have you reached it yet or are you still in the process of obtaining it?
B: Success, for me, is ultimately the very act of publishing the book – finding the courage to put it out there and letter others read your story, knowing there will be those who will criticize it.
Numerical success would be to sell 10-15 books a day – enough that I could reduce my hours at my day job and devote more time to college and writing. Right now, I sell an average of 2-3. So, I’m still working on building that platform that I need to continue to cultivate growth in sales.
A huge thank you to Brian for letting me interview him! If you’d like to know more about Brian and his books, check out the links below!
A winner of the 2016 Wattys Award, Brian published the award-winning Young Adult Contemporary debut, Love and the Sea and Everything in Between, in 2018.
Born and raised in Oregon, Brian moved to the San Francisco Bay Area at 16-years-old. He’s been writing since he was thirteen-years-old and has been reading for longer. Brian is pursuing a degree in Social Work, which he hopes to use to help rescue children and families. Perhaps he’ll work to better the US’s foster care system? Or maybe he’ll join an organization that fights human trafficking? A fourth generation pastor, he is deeply passionate about the Church and is also pursuing his Minister’s License. It was this passion that compelled him to launch the Pioneer Mvmt, a social-media-based faith movement. Among other things, he is also passionate about iced tea, animals, adoption, and the arts.