7 Questions With Author J Drew Brumbaugh
J Drew Brumbaugh lives in northeast Ohio where he spends his time writing sci-fi, fantasy and suspense novels. He is teaching and training at the karate dojo he founded, building a Japanese garden in his back yard, and taking walks in the local metro parks. He has six novels in print, a collection of short stories, and a co-authored children’s book. He continues to work on his next book and seems to always have several stories in various stages of completion.
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What is your definition of the first draft?
Defining first draft for me is easy. Actually living up to that definition, not so much. For me, I usually begin with a general idea of the plot and who the main characters are, though only in the broadest terms. As I begin writing, things evolve. Plot twists come up, characters begin to flesh out, new ideas try to jump in and take over the story. The tendency is to go back and change things that I’ve already written. That’s a no-no, at least for me. The one thing I keep focused on is that a first draft has only one requirement. It has to be finished, as in it has a beginning, middle, and end. I will make notes as I go to keep track of things that might need changed, but I don’t make any changes to the original first draft until I start on the second draft.
Authors versus Social Media. How do you approach the tools you have at your disposal?
These days, there are so many different social media platforms that, to cover them all, an author would either spend all their time writing, postings or have an army of assistants. It is probably suicide to ignore all the media venues so, I pick the ones I feel comfortable using, ones that seem to connect the best with my readers and then concentrate on those.
Another consideration is that, constantly flooding any site with trivial stuff can be negative so, I think it’s best to space out postings. From my point of view, I find that Facebook, Goodreads, LinkedIn and Twitter are the only ones I use on a regular basis. LinkedIn has proven useful to keep interest going for a different set of followers but my following there is much smaller than on other sites.
What should readers expect from your next novel?
My next novel will be the final book in my “Tirumfall Trilogy”. It is an epic fantasy series, connected by the characters and the world they live in, but separated by enough time between books that each book can be read independently of the others. The third book, currently titled “Key to Tirumfall,” explores the lives of two young women.
Isabella has been raised believing that she is the child of prophecy from book 2. She isn’t. Gwen, who actually is the child spoken of in the prophecy, doesn’t know it. When the truth comes out about them both, and Gwen finds the key that might unlock the secrets to the strongest magic ever known, then the fate of the world turns on what they decide to do.
What are the steps you usually take from writing your first draft to publishing?
Getting the first draft done is usually a major undertaking. Part of the reason for that, is that the plot I have in mind, almost never stays as I envisioned it and the characters begin to take on a life of their own, demanding changes as I write. Nonetheless, once that first draft is done, I’ll set it aside for a while, a few months maybe, and then redo the entire manuscript, taking into account notes I’ve made along the way.
A third draft comes next. Here, I try to polish the writing, smooth things out so it reads better, fill in descriptions and character attributes so I am getting close to a finished product. After that (or maybe after a fourth round), I send things to my editor, Carolyn B. Berg, who really whips the manuscript into shape. Almost invariably, she will point out faux pas that I am so glad don’t end up in the final manuscript. Somewhere during the last few iterations, I get with my cover designer and begin that process. The goal is to have everything done at the same time, which never happens.
How do you deal with negative feedback or negative reviews?
Negative comments and feedback come in various forms. I’ve gotten bad reviews (1 star), however, the comments make it pretty clear that the person writing the review never read the book. A pinch of salt and I move on. I have gotten bad reviews, where the reviewer admitted they didn’t really like the genre of my book. I scratch my head, wonder why they’d buy my book in the first place, and go on about my business. And then, I get negative feedback where the reviewer actually takes the time to explain what they didn’t like about the book, in a way that I can tell they did actually read the book.
I respect these people and I try to unemotionally evaluate what bothered them. Maybe, I agree with them and think their criticism probably applies to the bulk of my readers. That gives me pause to consider how to change future works. Or, finally I get negative feedback from people who aren’t really into character development and just want nonstop action. I hear them, but that’s not me. So I consider what they are saying, but am pretty sure I’ll continue to write the stories the way I want to tell them.
What’s your favorite genre as a reader?
That is a really hard question because, I go in spurts, jumping from one genre to another, binging on one, and then looking for something different and moving on to another. I love mysteries, good science fiction, fantasy, and occasionally something nonfiction. I think as a general rule, I will be reading something not in the same genre as whatever I am writing at the time.
Maybe that becomes a question of saturation. For example, I am currently writing a fantasy novel. At the same time, I have read an FTL science fiction novel, a mystery, an action/suspense novel and a nonfiction work about the Great Lakes. Not to ignore the actual question, I guess my favorite genre has to be fantasy.
Just how much research is there behind a novel? Tell us how it looks behind the scenes.
It depends on the book. For my first book, “Shepherds,” I did a lot of research because, it was based on an unique method of tuna farming, using genetically modified people (shepherds) and dolphins as herd animals. Even now I have notebooks full of information about fishing, ocean fish stocks, dolphins and fish farming. For “War Party”, I didn’t do as much research, but managed to visit the southern Utah setting and research the Paiute Indians that live there.
For the fantasy series, I did much less research because the world is my own creation and so, I felt I could pretty much make it whatever I wanted. I did build a large volume of reference materials, cities, people, kingdoms, etc. in order to be consistent throughout the three books. Somehow, that was research done in a different way.
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